Escalating social polarization, occurring globally and characterized by increasingly divergent views on key issues, is straining societal bonds and communication. To counter this, it’s crucial to encourage practices that promote understanding and respectful discourse among those with differing views. This project aims to explore the potential of intentional listening – actively seeking discomfort when listening to opposing views – as a tool to enhance empathy and foster more tolerant and inclusive societies. I hypothesize that understanding the personal benefits of intentional listening can lead to better listening habits, increasing empathy for diverse individuals. We will conduct experiments with Jewish-Israeli participants to investigate if intentional listening can increase empathy for Palestinian-Israelis and for people with diverse disabilities. We will also explore the biological mechanisms behind this, such as increased biological synchrony when listening intentionally. Finally, we will assess the real-life and long-term effects of intentional listening on empathy through a 13-week listening course. The anticipated outcomes of this research will contribute to social and affective psychology, political psychology and social neuroscience, and importantly, offer practical strategies for fostering compassionate communities in various social environments.

Anat Perry, PhD

Hebrew University

Convening Faculty, Grantee