Why are some people so good at understanding others, while others struggle? Previous explanations have focused on genetic evolution, but new theories suggest that understanding others is also a product of cultural learning. This project will answer two questions: First, how does cultural learning contribute to understanding others? Second, can we design interventions to boost the ability to understand others?
To answer these questions we will carry out a series of lab-based experiments and real-world intervention studies which test the predictions of the cultural learning account, and apply these findings to boost understanding between groups who currently have little understanding of each others' thoughts and feelings.
This project is needed from a scientific perspective, to provide an empirical test of new theories of cultural evolution; and from a societal perspective, to provide ways to reverse the ever-growing polarisation between different groups.
The project will produce both academic and broader societal outputs which will lead to increased understanding between individuals. Societal impact will be realised with a series of workshops, open-access essays for online platforms, and a dedicated website with bespoke animations summarising the work. An intervention manual will also be made freely available, enabling others to implement the intervention techniques designed as part of the planned programme of work.