Next time you’re inclined to spend hours arguing with a Facebook friend, or even a stranger, in the comments of a post, take a moment to close your laptop or shut off your phone screen. Why, you ask? Because according to science, you’d be better off listening to each other—literally—instead.
According to a new study from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Chicago, you’re less likely to dismiss someone’s argument if you listened to or watched the person speak aloud than if you were to read their argument—even if the words are identical.
In the study, called “The Humanizing Voice: Speech Can Reveal, and Text Conceal, The Presence of a Thoughtful Mind in The Midst of Disagreement,”300 people either read, watched videos of, or listened to arguments on topics such as war, abortion, and music. Afterward, they were asked to judge the people with opinions they disagreed with. While those in disagreement tended to dehumanize their subject, between the people who read arguments and those who listened to or watched people speak, the latter groups were less likely to dismiss them.
Juliana Schroeder, an assistant professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told the Washington Post that the topic was sparked when one of the researchers noticed the difference in reaction he had between reading and listening to a politician’s statement.
Schroeder and her team also conducted a similar experiment in which 600 people rated eight communicators discussing their support for one of the two main 2016 presidential election candidates. And again, while the judges disagreed with the people with opinions contrary to theirs, those judgments were softer when the arguments were seen or heard.
“When two people hold different beliefs, there is a tendency not only to recognize a difference of opinion but also to denigrate the mind of one’s opposition,” the study reports. “Because another person’s mind cannot be experienced directly, its quality must be inferred from indirect cues” from someone’s voice that are lost in written communication.