Psychology of Social Connection

Perspective Taking: We Do It All the Time… or Do We?

February 19th, 2022 · 24 Comments


The football team at Harvard comes from different parts of the country and all walks of life. When we arrived on campus freshman year, none of us really had anything in common outside of football. Due to the fact that football is a fall sport, we arrived on campus just a few weeks before the season was set to start, and nobody really knew each other. This posed a challenge for us because the sport requires a tremendous amount of teamwork to win games. One of the ways we were able to engineer connections with each other before the season started was mind perception. The paper “From Mind Perception to Mental Connection” (Wheatley et al., 2012) discusses how shared past experiences allow people to form a social bond almost instantaneously. In the case of our team this shared experience was playing football and lifting weights since we were all in middle school. During our down time we would all talk about our experiences playing football in various parts of the country and this really allowed all of us to become closer. These shared experiences really helped us to understand how others were feeling and what others were thinking. This allowed us to work our hardest every day even if we had to wake up at 4:30 for practice or practice in the extreme heat or cold because we all understood it was a grind for everyone and we were all in pursuit of a common goal, an Ivy League Championship. It also allowed us to have a better connection on the field, helping us to execute plays quicker and more effectively.

Wheatley goes on to discuss how synchrony can strengthen these bonds, and additional research done by Wiltermuth and Heath (2009) supports these claims. The results showed that participants who perform synchronous physical activity are more apt to perform cooperatively toward their common goal (Wiltermuth & Heath, 2009, as cited in Wheatley et al., 2012). The idea of performing as a cohesive group is extremely important in football, especially across the offensive line. On the offensive line all five players perform the same exact action as each other on every play, trying to work together to block a path through the defense for the running back. If one person messes up and is not doing the same thing as everyone else then the play is completely ruined. At the beginning of the season nobody on the offensive line really had a great mental connection and a lot of plays got messed up. But as we continued to practice and work together, we were able to perform our jobs with less instruction and communication due to the fact that we knew what the others were thinking as the play developed.

Our team had an overwhelming positive experience with mind perception as we were able to come together and form virtually instantaneous bonds through these shared experiences and synchronous physical activity. The more we shared with each other and the more time we spent together, the more we were able to understand and predict how others on the team felt and how they would act. Our season started off very well, but we lost a few close games which eliminated us from contention in the Ivy League Championship. However, we still managed to blow out Yale at Fenway in front of our home crowd. As our time at Harvard progressed our team became significantly closer and our record since freshman year got progressively better.

[Do Yeon]

As mentioned above, mind perception can bring people together. However, there are also limits to mind perception, one of which is that it can perpetuate the distance people feel towards another. This “distance” can be particularly harmful when thinking about the treatment and experiences of groups that deviate from societal norms and expectations. For example, those who identify as sexual minorities face substantial discrimination and stigma from multiple levels, including through interpersonal interactions (e.g., family, co-workers, classmates) and on a structural level (e.g., social norms, laws and policies).

When Castro and Zautra (2016) discuss the idea of resilience in relation to mentalization, they establish that having strong social connections are a necessary key to resilience and that a way to forge these meaningful social connections is through mentalization. This was supported by researchers who conducted a diary study, finding that people who had an increased sense of social connectedness were able to recover from “negative emotional experiences” faster than those with comparatively less social connectedness (Ong & Allaire, 2005, as cited in Castro & Zautra, 2016). However, resilience, as defined here, operates under the assertion that it is not achievable without close social connections. This definition of resilience would render people who belong to stigmatized groups (e.g., a sexual minority group) and may not live in a tolerating community, thus lack a strong support system, unable to be “resilient.” In addition, this idea of resilience overemphasizes the point that with meaningful close relationships, one can overcome/avoid being adversely impacted by negative experiences. Within the context of stigmatized groups, arguing that resilience results from simply having and maintaining positive close relationships places the burden of coping with negative experiences onto those experiencing them, instead of to the people and/or institutions that are perpetuating the stigma they face.

Given this, I began to wonder about the ways that mentalization could be used/studied that could flip this burden over to the sources/perpetrators of stigma and discrimination instead. Thus, I found the ways that mentalizing could be used to work towards this to be particularly engaging.

Because mentalizing requires one to infer what others are thinking and feeling (Waytz & Epley, 2012) it becomes more difficult to do so as the other person becomes increasingly different from oneself. The more different someone is from oneself, the more difficult it can be to understand what they have been through, how their experiences have impacted them, and the perspective they approach problems with. Someone who does not identify as belonging to a sexual minority group could not think like or navigate the world as someone who belongs to a sexual minority population would, with one reason being that the concerns and experiences that individuals who are a sexual minority face can be different than those of people who are cis and heteronormative. It is also more difficult because stigmatized populations often have widespread stereotypes and assumptions made about them, which could cloud or influence the mentalization process.

When someone is not perceived as a part of one’s group, it becomes easier to dehumanize them (Waytz & Epley, 2012), which can lead to these groups more easily perpetrating “negative experiences” towards the groups they dehumanize. On the other hand, humanizing someone requires one to recognize that others also have emotions, goals, and struggles, just as they do themselves (Castro & Zautra, 2016). There is research that showed that across participants of differing racial groups, simply wondering about the other’s favorite vegetable was able to humanize them (Wheeler & Fiske, 2005, as cited in Castro & Zautra, 2016).

The use of mentalizing within this sort of research, is a branch of mind perception research that diverges from placing the burden of implementing a solution to “negative experiences” solely onto stigmatized groups. While doing these readings, and writing this post, it was clear to me how powerful mentalizing is, with the ability to help us forge close connections and great teamwork, but also the ability to enable the dehumanization of others. This makes it that much more important that we are aware of the ways this process can be beneficial and productive as well as biased and harmful as we continue to learn about and discuss social connections.



Castro, S. A., & Zautra, A. J. (2016). Humanization of social relations: Nourishing health and resilience through greater humanity. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 36(2), 64–80.

Waytz, A., & Epley, N. (2012). Social connection enables dehumanization. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 70–76.

Wheatley, T., Kang, O., Parkinson, C., & Looser, C. E. (2012). From mind perception to mental connection: Synchrony as a mechanism for social understanding. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(8), 589-606.

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24 responses so far ↓

  • Lane // Feb 19th 2022 at 9:33 pm

    Reading Pat’s post about football made me reflect on perspective-taking in my own athletic experience and I’ve found it interesting in how athletes seem to be able to dehumanize their opponents before and during a game, but as soon as a match is over, a switch often seems to turn off and suddenly they treat their opponents with respect and even compassion.
    In my experience, the dehumanization of an opposing team or player has often even been encouraged before a game. It made sense too. Distancing oneself from the competition made it easier to be merciless on the field. It’s definitely a lot harder to embrace the objective of crushing your opponent if you still view your opponent as that nice kid who works at the local homeless shelter and writes letters to his grandma every month. Far easier to view him as an obstacle or, better yet, an enemy. Finding small reasons to get angry at him can even offer an adrenaline rush and enhance your performance. And yet, fast forward to the end of a game, and a pressure valve is released. Everyone shakes hands, some hug it out, and others even genuinely compliment their opponents for their performance during the game. Perhaps the reason for this is that sports are ultimately a game with relatively small and temporary stakes. But that can’t be the complete picture because there are professional athletes whose identities and livelihoods are tied to their performance, and, at least on from the outside, it appears as though they humanize their opponents at the conclusion of a competition. I’m thus curious what situational or psychological factors enable to these major shifts in mindset to occur, and whether these factors can be applied in practice to reduce dehumanization between groups in other settings.

  • Jessica Lee // Feb 19th 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you both for sharing your experiences and reflections on mind perception! It was really interesting to read about both the upsides and potential negative consequences of perspective taking in regards to building and maintaining social relationships.

    Patrick, your experiences playing football made me think about my different athletic experiences as a former competitive fencer and dancer. Although fencing is an individual sport, we trained as a team. Similar to your experiences in football, the more time we spent with each other, the more we bonded due to the vast amount of shared experiences we held as a team. Understanding how my teammates would act allowed us to grow as individual fencers, as the more we engaged in perspective taking, the better we would be able to predict our teammate’s (or “opponent’s”) next move on the strip. Synchrony played a larger role in my experiences on a dance team. We had to perform as an identical, cohesive unit. When we danced, performed, and competed routines, I could definitely feel my team’s energy and experience the mental connection you described.

    Do Yeon, you bring a really interesting perspective to mind perception by challenging the definition of resilience and different groups’ abilities to create strong social connections. Minority groups are at a disadvantage in building resilience, especially if they hold vastly divergent lived experiences from others in their community. It is alarming to me to learn how mind perception and mentalizing can be used both as a tool for building positive social and relational experiences, but also be used to reinforce systemic discrimination, marginalization, and dehumanization.

  • Andrea Liu // Feb 20th 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Patrick and Do Yeon, thanks for sharing this! It’s interesting to think how physical action can improve social connection—the shared experience of tough workouts, early mornings, and big games are likely a major contributing factor in bringing the entire team together. It’s also important for the safety of the team members, to understand what others are doing, to make sure you all stay as safe as possible! That being said, there are also numerous opportunities, sadly, for there to actively not use mind perception. Mentalizing is a powerful tool, as Do Yeon says, to make sure we as human beings recognize those like us, another important trait for us to survive evolutionarily. Even understanding that people are outside our own groups means that we have a guidance for our survival, which also unfortunately means sowing division in the present day as well.

  • Tom Aicardi // Feb 20th 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Pat and Do Yeon, thank you for your insightful posts! The contrast between how mind perception can help people form social bonds, but also further exacerbate the “distance” that people experience as part of a social group was very interesting and resonated with me. In response to Pat’s description of how mind perception brings people together and helps them work collaboratively in respect to athletics, through playing sports during the majority of my life, I experienced a similar situation. Throughout my life, I typically found that my closest friends were the ones that I played sports with whether it was football, baseball, or track and field. This is very likely because of the shared experiences and the collaborative goal that comes with being teammates, similar to how Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009 state that strong bonds are formed through working with each other towards a common goal. As Do Yeon mentioned, mind perception also has limits and can make people feel ostracized from different groups when there is not much in common between people. I noticed that this was the case when I first arrived on Harvard’s campus Freshman year as it seemed much easier to form friendships and to hold conversations with people who have big similarities such as similar hometown locations, background, and interests compared to forming relationships with those who do not have some similarities. This is exemplified through Waytz and Epley’s 2012 article which discusses how it is more difficult to infer and pick up on non-verbal communication when there are vast differences. It is more difficult to determine whether someone is truly interested in a conversation when there are a lot of differences.

  • Stephanie // Feb 20th 2022 at 4:37 pm

    Great blog post Patrick and Do Yeon, thank you for sharing your experiences and insights! In terms of Patrick’s blog post I think that I can relate to a lot of the experiences that he talks about with his team. It is interesting to see how a team grows over the course of a season and after having spent more time together on and off the field. With more time comes more past experiences, which I definitely think bonds the team and makes people work together better on the field as well as relate and become much closer off of the field. I also see this idea of past experiences being shown each year when you get a whole new class of freshman. At first it is hard for them to relate and bond with us because the other three grades have had much more time together. But after a bit of time and synchrony, they are able to fit right in.

    In terms of Do Yeon’s post, it made me think about my own experiences with mind perception and dehumanization. I think that even though a person is obviously unable to relate to every group, learning and exposing yourself to those groups is very important in mind perception and mentalizing. In high school, we spent a lot of time learning about different groups (whether it was racial or sexual) to better understand others as well as close that so called “distance.” Whether it was sharing experiences of different groups or learning more about what those groups feel and experience, we were able to mentalize and recognize people in order to understand them more.

  • Helena Jiang // Feb 20th 2022 at 5:06 pm

    Patrick, Do Yeon, thank you both so much for this incredibly interesting and insightful blog post.

    Patrick, it’s so interesting to see how you guys came together on a shared background, and how it was a lot easier for you all to come together and do this since mind perception can be easier with common experiences. It also is very interesting to already start roping things in from last week as well, as mind perception is often easier because you all are imitating one another in the sense that you are all waking up at the same time, practicing together, and moving together. It’s also so amazing to see everything in action, especially during Harvard Yale, and congrats on that game! Definitely made Harvard proud 🙂

    Do Yeon, it is so insightful that you bring up the negative aspect of mind perception, as part of putting yourself into someone’s shoes and realizing what you have in common, is also realizing your differences, and what they don’t understand about you as well as what you don’t understand about them. You bring up a really interesting point regarding the definition of resilience as defined in Castro & Zautra’s paper, and you provide a seamless transition into the concept of dehumanization. Your statement brings up a lot of engaging thought, and I found myself wondering while reading through these papers, I thought that society often has very similar thoughts and is simply structured this way; how is this affecting how these people who belong to stigmatized groups? Your blog post certainly started to turn the gears in my brain, so thank you both to Patrick and Do Yeon!

  • Patrick S // Feb 21st 2022 at 9:00 am

    Thank you for this amazing blog post! Your writing about how sharing common experiences, especially through collective physical perseverance, could help to form and strengthen bonds was something that I could relate to. Many of us have probably experienced that exercise as a solitary task can seem daunting. However, undergoing rigorous physical training with others can not only make the task easier, but also strengthen bonds with others through shared competitiveness, friendship, and struggle. However, Do Yeon raises the point that being in a shared group does not always lead to feelings of stronger connection. While we often think of being in groups that are similar in nature (where we have the same backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, etc.) as some thing that is identity affirming, it can also lead to cases where we stigmatize others who are different from us.

  • Sofie Fella // Feb 21st 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Patrick – Your part writing about the football team and the shared experiences bringing you all closer made me think of my rugby team. Sometimes I wonder if sports that involve more contact can affect the closeness of the team just due to how the shared experience is something other people don’t typically engage in and involves even more risk. I think about how going to a movie theater and watching a movie with a bunch of strangers in in a way also a shared experience (probably why we do it in the first place, to feel more connected in life, even with strangers). But that type of shared experience is so different from being on a same football or rugby team as someone, not just because of being closer to people but the activity you’re participating in being aligned to achieve the same goal, putting your body on the line to help another teammate, and the shared experience feeling like a part of your identity. If we go to see a movie at a movie theater, that’s a casual leisure activity and we don’t really attribute that to a big part of our identity. But if a shared experience is playing rugby or football, something we value as part of who we are, and then we have teammates who also place that same level of value on the shared experience, I would imagine the mental connection to be much stronger.

  • Summer Cai // Feb 21st 2022 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you Patrick and Do Yeon for this post!
    Do Yeon, I really liked your point that emphasizing individual resilience places an unfair “burden of coping with negative experiences onto those experiencing them, instead of to the people and/or institutions that are perpetuating the stigma they face”. This reminds me of the case of Daniel from the Castro & Zautra paper. Many times, how we think of others and ourselves is a mirror of how we’ve been treated. Growing up in similar circumstances and sharing similar genes, Daniel and Victoria were influenced differently by their early experiences. While Daniel learned to manipulate and disregard others from his grandpa, Victoria learned how to care and love others from her grandma. Their early models of social connections lead to different choices and results. I think instead of focusing on the fact that Daniel’s outcome would have been better if he had a few more friends, we should ask why can’t we foster an environment where everyone can have a caring and loving role model?
    It is shocking and a little disheartening to me when I read that social connection (something we value deeply) increases dehumanization of distant others. I wonder if we can find a balance between forming social groups and maintaining our empathy for others? Do Yeon mentioned that “simply wondering about other’s vegetable” enabled humanizing which is a good start but seems to be too little to break down the wall.
    Patrick mentioned that physical activities like waking up around the same time, lifting weights together, training together can very effectively bring people together. I wonder if we can apply this to breaking down social cliques as well. In my experience, simply doing the same activities together make me feel more comfortable with and like people more. Yet, I feel sometimes even within a club, groups of similar individuals will still stick together. I’m wondering if this is true in your experiences as well? What can we do or should we do anything about this?

  • Jonathan Yuan // Feb 21st 2022 at 2:54 pm

    Patrick and Do Yeon, thank you so much for this post! It was so insightful to hear about the ways that mind perception influences your experiences and complicates how we interact with members of our communities!

    Patrick, I found your analysis of the connection between mind perception and shared experiences to be incredibly compelling. I’ve also found in my past experiences in high school and college that shared experiences truly allow for a greater sense of connection, mostly because of the common understanding of what being in those specific situations is like. I also find it super interesting how the research shows that synchronous activities help to forge stronger connections, especially given the material about imitation from last week. It seems like these two concepts really go hand in hand and allow us to better understand the minds of those around us.

    Do Yeon, your ideas are incredibly relevant and important to discuss. I really appreciate how you challenge the notion that mind perception is a solely positive force, because of the implications of dehumanization from not giving the same mind perception to those who are similar and different from ourselves. I also really like your point about shifting the burden of reducing stigma away from marginalized communities. I was also compelled by the fact that asking simple questions about an unfamiliar other encouraged greater humanization; I wonder about institutional structures or strategies that can promote this practice of humanization to stop the sectionalization of society and encourage more inclusive practices. I will definitely continue to do more research on the complexities of mentalizing and will take these lessons in my day-to-day interactions.

    Thank you both again for your amazing post!

  • Michael Pankowski // Feb 21st 2022 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks a lot for your piece connecting this research to your experiences on the football team. I think connecting this research to your experiences on the football team really helps to bring the research to life. I think your perspective of playing on the offensive line is especially relevant because, as you point out, everyone has to do the same thing on every play and if they don’t the whole play gets messed up. I can imagine the difficulty that would come from this early in freshman year as not only do you have to meet and get along with a bunch of new people but for you on the offensive line, you have to work in sync with them too. And based on your blog post, it seems you were definitely able to make it work! I think it makes sense that you all came together based on your love of football, and I’m sure sharing stories with the other players allowed everyone to feel comfortable and connected, leading to success on the field. Great stuff — thanks for sharing!

    Do Yeon,
    Thanks for your post! I think you brought up a lot of great points on how the research can lack understanding of the situations of stigmatized groups. I agree with you that Castro and Zautra (2016)’s finding that strong social connections can foster resilience ignores the struggles of stigmatized groups who might not have sufficient support in their communities. I wonder how the authors would address this point, and I believe more research should be done to see what these findings would be when focusing on stigmatized groups. I’m greatly encouraged by Wheeler & Fiske (2005)’s finding that a person wondering what another’s favorite vegetable was was enough for them to humanize them. While we have a long way to go in society’s humanizing of every group of people, this finding shows that teaching people how to humanize others may take less effort and time that people may think. I believe humanization should be taught in elementary schools because practices like this are simple and easy to incorporate into a curriculum and could have far reaching effects for raising children in every location to understand the humanity of every person. Thanks for your fantastic post!

  • Gayoung Choi // Feb 21st 2022 at 4:57 pm

    Patrick and Doyeon, I really enjoyed your blog. They’re based on different aspects of mind perception, but both are so relatable.

    Although I’m not an athlete at the moment, Patrick’s experience resonates with me. I am a musician in a mariachi band at Harvard; unlike my band members, I had no connection to Mexican culture or mariachi music prior to coming to Harvard. But because we are all musicians, we had that common experience, and making music—while is not as physically demanding as football is—requires a lot of synchrony. I wonder, based on this blog, whether imagining myself as a guitar player (I play violin) and vice versa would help with connection and further cohesiveness of the group. I feel like it would be worth trying out.

    Do Yeon’s explanation of lack of mind perception reminded me of stigmatization of mental health conditions that I learned in another psychology class. A study we read about found that people who were more exposed to those with mental health conditions were less likely to stigmatize and support favorable policies. Before we can go so far as to think about mind perception, I think an important first step is to think about how to expose people to sexual minorities, for instance, in a way that’s beneficial but also ethical and non-invasive.

  • Lake De La Fuente // Feb 21st 2022 at 5:40 pm

    This was such an intriguing post Patrick and Do Yeon, I found myself connecting to your stories a lot through reading.

    Simarlily to Patrick, I shared past experiences with my teammates. In our case, it was lacrosse, running/lifting weights from an early age. We too talked about lacrosse from different areas, sharing game stories from our high schools. Some of us played together on club/travel teams in tournaments or even against one another before coming to Harvard. This all has made us closer as a team as our like mindedness proved to hold in the toughest conditions. As you mentioned, early extreme cold practices are a grind for everyone. However, we understand each other’s thoughts and know we all are in this for the same goal; an Ivy League Championship. To go further, performing as a cohesive group is extremely important in lacrosse too. Our offense is composed of six guys; three midfielders and three attack. For us, if the offense doesn’t flow because one person is not moving/cutting correctly, then the entire offense is hurt. And likewise to you, the more we play with each other in our specific positions (midfield/attack) or as the entire offense – we are able to play faster from learning one’s tendencies and understanding each other’s thoughts. This is our first season in two years and we plan to show the amount of work we have put in for this moment.

    On another note, I don’t think we have had a time in society like now in which negative experiences Do Yeon brings to attention has feasted on all other experiences. Social media has truly transformed the culture and tends to make the average person not feel good about themselves through low self esteem/motivation. I hope our generation makes significant changes in regards to helping everyone’s mental health. Thank y’all for sharing this!

  • Sierra Agarwal // Feb 21st 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for this blog, Patrick and Do Yeon! Patrick, reading about your experiences with football remind me a lot about my experiences with playing lacrosse here at school. Your point about everyone playing and lifting weights since they were young definitely is something that my teammates and I automatically had in common when we all came here. It’s interesting to reflect back on how girls who I used to think I had nothing else in common with besides playing a sport and lifting weights, how much our lives are so similar outside of our sport, and how our sport was just the first talking point to many other conversations we share. Second, your point about the early mornings and sharing a common goal about an Ivy League Championship is definitely something that I am reminded of every day, and having my teammates by my side only reinforce that goal and want me to pursue it even more. No matter the age, background, or someone’s path on how they got to where they are today, once on the team together, all of those goals, hopes and dreams go from being individual to team oriented, and I think that these shared experiences really play into mind perception.

    Do Yeon, your point about resilience in relation to mentalization made me think about the different types of close social connections in my own life, and how overcoming tougher times was made easier when I felt that I had a strong support system around me. Moreso, I enjoyed how you brought up the statement about how even with close relationships established, individuals will avoid the effects of negative experiences. I agree with this point more than anything because it is extremely important to understand that even though on the surface and in perspective someone may have close relationships established, there could be a number of other circumstances outside of what is known that is contributing to the individuals’ well-being and how they are affected.

    This blog was very enjoyable to read, and I am excited to talk about it more in class!

  • Mitchell // Feb 21st 2022 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you both for the blog post!

    I have always found that sharing a common goal brings people much closer together. I feel that especially at Harvard and high school, many friend groups are formed due to being on the same sports team or in a club. Even for myself, most of my closest friends are my teammates as I am training with them all year towards a common goal such as an Ivy League or National Title. Facing adversity or sharing a success creates very substantial shared experiences that cannot be replicated through everyday socializing. Mind perception allows for deep bonds to be formed with others through these shared experiences.

    I have also found that even just going to the gym with a friend is much more enjoyable for me as I get to share a workout and goal with another person. I think it is a very common and innate desire to want to have a companion or group alongside yourself when you are doing any form of activity or endeavor that allows for others to join you.

  • Olivia Zhang // Feb 21st 2022 at 10:45 pm

    Patrick, reading about your positive experience with mind perception with your team, which first bonded over shared experiences from the past and continued to synchronize via time together at Harvard, prompted me to reflect on the groups of people in my personal life, and whether I’ve had any similar experience. Reading Orion’s story really brought my focus to my own blocking group.

    We’ve been together since freshman year, and still live together, and I have been both fascinated by and grateful for the fact that we are each such different people – different interests, studies, careers, friends, personalities, the list goes on – and yet we continue to come together and coexist, to share energy and empathy and emotions. In part due to our class focus on mind perception and perspective taking, I’ve really noticed – and appreciated – how each time I have a longer conversation with a blockmate/blockmates, I learn something new about their perspective, or how a mindset has changed, or how I’ve changed, how our interpretations of the same topic are different and how they’re similar…

    That we still have so much to learn about each other regarding our perspectives and perceptions of our lives – i.e. actively mentalizing and trying to empathize in new ways as we encounter new obstacles and choices – in part because we don’t actually have that much common ground (relatively), is truly comforting and exciting. This unit and your discussions here on humanization and mind perception have opened my eyes to a fruitful way of approaching my interactions with others and viewing social dynamics in the world.

  • Georgia Steigerwald // Feb 21st 2022 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you so much Patrick and Do Yeon!

    Patrick, I really appreciated the way you incorporated your personal experience playing football to synchrony. Being together through practices, lifts, and even engaging with each other off the field seems to have really made an impact on bringing you all closer together. Did you ever experience the opposite of this type of synchrony? Were there any times/activities that made you feel less connected to your teammates?

    Do Yeon, thank you so much for shining the spotlight on the way we often address the discrimination of sexual minorities. It’s clear there is plenty of room for improvement. If you had to make a recommendation for a small step(s) that could be implemented, what would it be?

  • Spencer Carter // Feb 22nd 2022 at 2:01 pm


    I really enjoyed your piece! I thought it was very impressive that you and your teammates were able to bond quickly in spite of coming from vastly different backgrounds, using football as a catalyst for connection. Your experience reminded me of the famous “Robbers Cave experiment” in psychology, in which boys at a summer camp were divided into two separate groups (the Eagles and the Rattlers), between which a rivalry developed. I bring this study up because I think that your experienced highlighted two of the key findings from the study. First, the study found that simply being part of the same group or team (even if group membership is arbitrarily assigned) is enough to induce a sense of shared identity, just as you and your teammates experienced. And second, the study found that an effective way to reduce group rivalry is to have competing groups work toward a shared goal, much as you and your teammates did, in spite of your differences.

    Do Yeon,

    I was struck by a fact that you reported in your second to last paragraph: that simply thinking about what another person’s favorite vegetable is is enough to humanize them. This really made me consider what it means to dehumanize a person. If something as basic as thinking about what vegetables someone likes is a step in the right direction, then the extent to which we dehumanize people and ignore their thoughts and feelings is even greater than I realized.

  • Maya Dubin // Feb 22nd 2022 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post – Patrick, Do Yeon, Kara, and Orion. I really appreciated how you wove in your personal experiences with some concrete findings from the papers this week.

    Patrick – I really enjoyed how you discussed your personal experience with football and how that relates to mind perception. I also found myself reflecting on my experience on sports teams and how a social bond is formed when one sets their mind on a common goal. Additionally, I was fascinated to learn more about how synchronous physical activity allow people to work towards a common goal. I definitely think the idea of a shared past experience transcends sports as I have seen many examples of this in my own life and those close to me. I am interested to learn more about this in the context of grief as I have found that grieving with another person who has shared this experience can transform this experience and create immeasurable bonds.

    Do Yeon – I thought your take on mind perception as not always a positive experience was extremely fascinating. I agree that focusing on the similarities and shared experiences to boost social connection can lead to individuals who “deviate from societal norms and expectations” to be discriminated. This is especially true when it comes to mentalizing and how this action becomes more difficult as we become different from one another. I also thought your reflection on the definition of resilience to be compelling and emphasize your point further that stigmatized groups become increasingly disconnected if we put into action this idea of mind perception and its connection to social belonging.

  • Iris // Feb 22nd 2022 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you both for sharing your thoughts! Do Yeon, I think your writing on mind perception and resilience as occasional burdens to be shouldered is really interesting. I’m curious, first of all, about the distinction between being a “perpetrator of stigma” and just being… not part of a minority group. When a power dynamic between groups is present (as it is, in your example, between those who are and aren’t sexual minorities), is it always stigma to prefer people who are within your own group? Is the burden always de facto on the group with more stigma? Conversely, is the more moral answer always that the burden should go on the group with power? I’m interested in the ramifications of your thoughts on queer-only spaces, and in whether a) groups are generally obligated to make an effort to humanize those outside their groups, or b) people in power are obligated to humanize those with less power, regardless of group affiliation.

    I don’t think this comment makes any sense. Many apologies for that. But thank you again for sharing—really interesting content!

  • Anthony Nelson // Mar 8th 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Pat and Do Yeon thank you for your posts! Don Yeo stated that there is a limit on mind perception. Despite the positive view of it as a tool to bring people together it can also be used to target and isolate people. I felt the increased ability to relate and meet people when at sporting events because most athletes have similar viewpoints about competition. Therefore the similarities between sports and competition usually create a basis for conversation, which then helps foster friendships. Compared to those who have little in common, this makes it a bit harder to create a friendship. Along with this, I can relate very deeply to the point Pat made about how mind perception in the arena of sports helps foster community and better performance collaboratively. I have been playing sports since I could walk, so this point rings very true. It is imperative to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your teammates to be able to accommodate their needs. This would then in result help you two foster a bond and create a better collaborative environment for all participating. Wiltermuth and Heath (2009). stated that stronger bonds were made by those working with others towards a common goal. This is pretty accurate because all of my extremely close childhood friends all played sports with me at some point. Growing up and playing sports helped me understand their lives far more than any conversation could.

  • Arlo Sims // May 5th 2022 at 5:11 pm

    It’s quite interesting considering emotional resilience and being able to overcome emotions faster if you have a stronger social community and connections. I feel like I’ve observed this in my own life. During freshman year I felt much more connected to Harvard’s social life and culture, as a new most of the freshman and felt like a part of the community. I also was quite happy, and generally the bad interactions I had with other people didn’t feel as deep or painful. Now I feel somewhat on the outskirts of Harvard culture. When I’m at a Harvard event I feel slightly left out, or out of place. I generally feel a bit less emotionally stable at Harvard events as well, as if at any moment I could want to leave and feel completely uncomfortable. It definitely feels like there is a connection between the out of place feeling and my emotional stability.

  • Esther Xiang // May 14th 2022 at 10:10 pm

    This was such a good read! I love how y’all related it back to your own personal experiences!

    Do Yeon: I appreciate how you shared more about the lack of mind perception and how we frequently approach discrimination. There is still much to be done in terms of humanizing marginalized communities. I strongly believe that diversity is defined by radical empathy – what I mean by this is that diversity is not an empty word. Diversity requires intentional action that is taken with the end goal of creating deep understanding of the lived experiences of our fellow human beings. Diversity does not end with understanding – it transforms into mobilization that ensures marginalized voices are not just heard but amplified. This type of real and authentic diversity is increasingly necessary in our world, considering that minority voices have been pushed out of the narrative for so long. Our narratives and experiences are immensely powerful and create connections in a world that can feel divided. These stories not only need but deserve to be centered in our society today.

  • // Jun 16th 2022 at 6:28 am

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