Power of Compassion
The mechanisms at work in people’s reactions to affirmative action, welfare and Obamacare make up LaBouff’s third line of research. After seven studies, he and his colleague observed that racial attitudes tended to explain reactions to Obamacare and similar programs. As with the Muslim bias, LaBouff found that education could be used to reduce the bias.
“We were interested in the barriers and why they opposed the programs,” he says. “Over time, we got interested in how we could fix the opposition. After the original research, we ultimately found that the more people are presented with education about the groups that needed help, the more their prejudices are reduced and the more they are interested in helping those groups.”
LaBouff has found that the source of bias, whether driven by an inflated self-image, religion or racial attitudes, can be addressed and remedied through education, positive experience and other elements of the compassion sought by the world’s religions.
“We are starting to understand the functional role that religion plays in larger issues, so that we can apply that knowledge to policy decisions on a number of levels,” LaBouff says. “Ultimately, all the lines of research are pointed at investigating and understanding about how religion plays into these intergroup relationships. These relations drive our political decisions and influence our social behavior, including whom we spend time with, where we choose to live, the causes we choose to support.”