The Psychology Of Attacking “Iran”

A recent study found that the more we see people as part of a coherent group, the more harshly we judge their actions. David Berreby applies the findings to the rhetorical build-up around Iran:

[I]t's not hard to see that we tend to see nations—especially far-off, unfamiliar nations—as unitary creatures, with feelings, thoughts and plans. It's embedded in our language about states, which unthinkingly uses phrases like "France wants to get out of Afghanistan" or "China fears dissent," assuming this is just a kind of metonymy (like saying "the White House reacted to the charges" to save time). This study suggests this mental habit isn't just a bit of poetic license, but rather a dangerous penchant of the mind.

So as the war drums beat around Iran, it might be worth trying to correct for your built-in bias to be harsh toward entities made of people. The next time someone explains why the West might need to attack, try substituting "Farhadi and his family" for "Iran" and see how that feels.

Or this 13-year-old Iranian singing Adele.