This study comes as a confirmation for other that took place over the years. People have always confronted with homophobia, xenophobia, racism and intolerance or even hate towards minorities and so on.
Through the study of the brain, neurobiologists have shown in the past that people can actually empathize with people coming from the group they were intolerant towards provided that they will have positive social interactions with them. This seems to be the key factor that can lead to a peaceful existence.
Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America published a study in this December called “How learning shapes the Empathic brain” and this study aimed at revealing that people who will share common experiences with someone from the other group can trigger a learning effect in the brain, which will make empathy to appear.
The experiment put one group in the uncomfortable position of receiving painful shocks in their hands and it was told that other member of their own or a group sharing their values could spare them of the pain simply by paying some money. It was measured the impact of the pain in the brain of those that watched and it showed that the pain resented by strangers coming from the other group only triggered mild brain activities.
It was only after several positive experiences, in which one group would constantly saving the other from the pain, that significant responses in the brain were being detected. Neuroscientist Grit Hein declared: “These results reveal that positive experiences with a stranger are transferred to other members of this group and increase the empathy for them.”
This goes to show that hate is a learning process and it is most likely developed during childhood. This translates in homophobic parents raising homophobic children. It also goes to show that whatever you may have learned, you can unlearn it, once you have reached the conclusion that it is inconsistent with the social and human values in the society you live in.
But does this mean that you should subject homophobes to “gay experiences”? Obviously that is not the case. Rather, those who manifest intolerance and hate should socialize more with the one in the opposite camp and learn that we are all united by the same feelings, hopes and aspirations. We are all humans and we have the same rights and obligations.
So next time you meet a homophobe, take him out for a beer.