Taking Another Person’s Perspective Doesn’t Help You Understand Them

To understand someone, we should not imagine their point of view but make the effort to “get” their perspective.Pixabay / Public Domain

No moral advice is perfectly sound. The Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is only as wise as the person following it.

A more modern-sounding tip—take the perspective of others—can seem like an improvement. It was Dale Carnegie’s (it is “a formula that will work wonders for you”), and Barack Obama trotted it out at the United Nations when discussing Israel and Palestine (“the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes”). Perspective-taking avoids the Golden Rule’s flaw—its effect doesn’t hinge on the integrity of the person considering it. And it’s an inducement to selflessness, in that you’re encouraged to exchange your frame of reference for that of another. Perspective-taking increases the odds you’ll with the person whose shoes you’re stepping into, on your own biases and , and automatic expressions of racial bias.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus10 min read
The Spirit Of The Inquisition Lives In Science: What a 16th-century scientist can tell us about the fate of a physicist like David Bohm.
I’ve been talking to Jerome Cardano for years now. What’s more, he talks back to me—in a voice that often drips with gentle mockery. He clearly thinks my sanity is as precarious as his always was. Jerome was Europe’s pre-eminent inventor, physician,
Nautilus8 min readPsychology
The Unique Neurology of the Sports Fan’s Brain: Why we get off on the game—and are better off for it.
Sports fans aren’t typically in the mood for academic research in the minutes before a big game. But Paul Bernhardt, an aspiring young behavioral scientist at Georgia State University, was determined. Armed with a bag of sterile vials, Bernhardt inch
Nautilus13 min read
Six Degrees of Separation at Burning Man: What our experiment in the desert taught us about social networks and human cooperation.
Today the alkaline desert is quiet. The roar of techno music and flamethrowers has been replaced with the soft clink of rakes and trash cans. Thousands of people put aside their hangovers to methodically clean the desert. After a dedicated communal c