Science Reveals that Justice Activists
The Most Rational People Around
I have looked at myself and the way I think and make judgements and some of this is like looking in the mirror. I’m not alone in Weirderland
A University of Chicago study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has revealed that people who are more sensitive to the ideas of fairness and equity are driven by logic, not emotion.
Social science has spent decades focused on the role of emotion in activist movements. For example, a 1996 study of the 1960s civil rights movement analysed the use of songs and speeches to express anger, solidarity and hope by Freedom Riders to encourage others to become involved in the movement on an emotional basis. Similarly, New York University sociologist Jeff Goodwin wrote in his 2001 book on the subject that animal rights supporters “describe their journey into activism in terms of their emotional attachment to animals.”
But, as many activists have long been saying, seeking equity in life is not an emotional argument – it just plain makes sense!
According to the study, when people who are more responsive to injustice see things happen that they find morally wrong, such as abuse or race-based inequality, their minds respond by accessing the sections of the brain responsible for logic and reasoning. When they view examples of people acting morally just, such as giving equal rights to a marginalized group or protecting animals from harm, their brains respond in the same way.
As Erin Brodwin explains:
A team of researchers led by University of Chicago neuroscientist Jean Decety monitored participants’ brain activity using an fMRI while they watched videos of people exhibiting morally good or bad behavior. One of the clips showed someone putting money in a beggar’s cup, for example, while another showed someone violently kicking the cup away. Those who said they felt more emotionally triggered by the action on the screen also exhibited more action in the areas of their brain associated with planning, organizing and logical thinking.
“Decety’s contributions are clearly important and potentially foundational,” New York University psychology professor John T. Jost, who was not involved in the study, told Mic. The research could have major impacts on how human rights and environmentalist organizations engage with the public to gather support for their causes. If they listen to the study, they will appeal to people’s sense of logic and reason rather than to their emotions.
This has been borne out in recent years, with efforts to combat global warming seeing a surge in public support after scientists and statisticians began publishing data about how much sea levels and temperatures would rise instead of sad polar bears on a floating iceberg.
But more than that, this data can be used to combat the appalling treatment of justice activists by the mainstream media – lambasted with the same tired abuse from the Million Man March, through the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, to the Occupy Movement, readily absorbed and reiterated by disengaged and resigned fellow citizens who could and should be providing support and solidarity. We shouldn’t need science to tell us that standing against injustice is rational, but we do. Consider yourselves told.