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  • Cited by 17
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2021
Print publication year:
2021
Online ISBN:
9781108863254

Book description

What causes some people to stand in solidarity with those from other races, religions, or nationalities, even when that solidarity does not seem to benefit the individual or their group? Seeing Us in Them examines outgroup empathy as a powerful predisposition in politics that pushes individuals to see past social divisions and work together in complex, multicultural societies. It also reveals racial/ethnic intergroup differences in this predisposition, rooted in early patterns of socialization and collective memory. Outgroup empathy explains why African Americans vehemently oppose the border wall and profiling of Arabs, why Latinos are welcoming of Syrian refugees and support humanitarian assistance, why some white Americans march in support of Black Lives Matter through a pandemic, and even why many British citizens oppose Brexit. Outgroup empathy is not naïve; rather it is a rational and necessary force that helps build trust and maintain stable democratic norms of compromise and reciprocity.

Awards

Winner, 2022 Best Book Award, American Political Science Association

Co-winner, 2022 Experimental Research Best Book Award, American Political Science Association

Winner, 2022 David O. Sears Award, International Society of Political Psychology

Winner, 2022 Robert E. Lane Award, American Political Science Association

Reviews

‘In Seeing Us in Them, Sirin, Valentino and Villalobos introduce a novel theory of group empathy which helps answer the puzzle of why individuals sometimes support policies that do not advantage their own group. This is a fresh, innovative, and much-needed exploration in an area of work that has predominantly focused on factors that lead to negative inter-group relations. The authors draw from a rich trove of data to explore both the causes and consequences of group empathy across a range of contexts and country settings. It is a must read for anyone interested in understanding factors that improve intergroup relations and is particularly important given the contemporary political climate.’

Jennifer L. Merolla - University of California, Riverside

‘Empathy - the ability to put one’s self in the place of another - is a topic too often overlooked in academia and too seldom practiced in political life. Using carefully-designed experiments and the tools of social and political psychology, the authors bring new insight to empathy and its important role in politics.’

Kristen Renwick Monroe - University of California, Irvine

‘In terms of its intellectual contribution, the book makes a large and well-timed contribution to our understanding of an understudied phenomenon - how empathy for groups acts as a buffer to group conflict, incivility, and polarization. We know why groups hate each other, but very little about prosocial behaviors, such as empathy and cooperation. Now we know what most social scientists have been missing all these years.’

Mark Peffley - University of Kentucky

‘In Seeing Us in Them: Social Divisions and the Politics of Group Empathy, Sirin, Valentino, and Villalobos investigate an essential topic - attitudes toward people who are outside of one’s immediate identity group. The authors develop an original theory about the sources and consequences of outgroup empathy, which holds that people who have experienced discrimination and other forms of unfair treatment will be more likely to care about the well-being of people in other marginalized groups. Using an array of empirical tests, the authors show that group empathy is a key predictor of attitudes towards migrants and refugees, support for Black Lives Matter, perceptions of the #MeToo movement, and more. Sirin et al.’s theory of empathy, and new measures of it, have potentially wide applications in offering tools for analyzing identity divides in many parts of the world.’

Source: American Political Science Association

‘This book asks the question: What causes some people to stand in solidarity with those from other races, religions, or nationalities, even when that solidarity does not seem to benefit the individual or their group? The book is grounded in heart-breaking stories of racism and discrimination, but it doesn’t feel like a pessimistic book. In fact, it reads like an optimistic book that sets up outgroup empathy as a powerful predisposition that pushes individuals to see past social divisions and encourage norms of reciprocity. For me, this work showcases the benefits of writing a book to fully flesh out a novel theory in a way that no single article ever could. It slowly and methodically tests its argument through creative experimentation that examines arguments and counter-arguments in different contexts and countries.’

Ryan Shandler - University of Oxford, on behalf of the David O. Sears Book Award Committee Source: International Society of Political Psychology

‘Seeing Us in Them is one of the few political psychology books that accomplishes the rare feat of making an original theoretical contribution to both political science and social psychology. Engaging the idea of racial empathy, Sirin, Valentino, and Villalobos explain differences in how dominant and subordinate groups use empathy in their assessments of marginalized racial out-groups. The argument is well-grounded in the political psychology literature and its measure, the Group Empathy Index, is novel and well-conceived. Its principle theoretical offering, that the effect of empathy is conditional on a group’s status within the social hierarchy, challenges decades of social psychological research and highlights the importance of politics in conditioning the relevance of psychological processes on individual judgments. Seeing Us in Them will shape our understanding of inter-group relations for years to come.’

Source: American Political Science Association

‘In Seeing Us in Them, Sirin, Valentino, and Villalobos develop a theory of group empathy-the ability and motivation to care about members of outgroups. The authors carefully construct and test a new measure of the central concept, the Group Empathy Index, which consists of cognitive and affective elements (extant), catalyzed by the motivation to care (novel). They then examine the new concept in seven nationally representative studies as well as a number of smaller studies, employing survey experiments on the topics of discrimination in airport security, maltreatment in immigrant detention, and humanitarian intervention against repressive authoritarian governments. The experiments are carefully carried out and demonstrate that group empathy shapes how people think about policies that might help outgroup members in distress. Importantly, while group empathy is a key driver of policy attitudes across the board, members of minority groups are substantially more likely to extend it.’

Source: American Political Science Association

‘Using an array of empirical tests, the authors show that group empathy is a key predictor of attitudes towards migrants and refugees, support for Black Lives Matter, perceptions of the #MeToo movement, and more. Sirin et al.’s theory of empathy, and new measures of it, have potentially wide applications in offering tools for analyzing identity divides in many parts of the world. Moreover, at a time in U.S. politics when polarization is driving people further apart, Seeing Us in Them draws attention to a fundamental human quality - empathy - that could help knit us back together.’

Source: American Political Science Association

‘The book is grounded in heart-breaking stories of racism and discrimination, but it doesn’t feel like a pessimistic book. In fact, it reads like an optimistic book that sets up outgroup empathy as a powerful predisposition that pushes individuals to see past social divisions and encourage norms of reciprocity. For me, this work showcases the benefits of writing a book to fully flesh out a novel theory in a way that no single article ever could. It slowly and methodically tests its argument through creative experimentation that examines arguments and counter-arguments in different contexts and countries. To my colleagues who disparage the benefits of writing a book, I offer this item as evidence of what a book can achieve - inserting a ground-breaking concept into an academic tradition where it is evermore difficult to cut through the myriad new theories that emerge.’

Ryan Shandler - University of Oxford

‘The experiments are carefully carried out and demonstrate that group empathy shapes how people think about policies that might help outgroup members in distress. Importantly, while group empathy is a key driver of policy attitudes across the board, members of minority groups are substantially more likely to extend it. Altogether, the authors demonstrate that group empathy matters for public opinion about immigration, humanitarian intervention, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, environmental disaster relief, terrorism, welfare, Brexit (in the UK), and foreign aid policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing Us in Them shows that empathy for outgroups is a powerful concept that carries the potential for improving our understanding of public opinion broadly.’

Source: American Political Science Association

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