Embracing difference is vital for our success as a species, but it places extra demands on the brain. Here’s how to get better at it
Most people enjoy variety. We like to eat different foods from meal to meal. We wear different clothes. We like to try new activities and visit new places, which may be hard to remember right now in our tiny, socially isolated rooms, but it’s true. Likewise, with too little variety we become bored. Your favourite food might be duck à l’orange, but you wouldn’t want to eat it for three meals a day, every day.
Nevertheless, there’s one place we tend to dislike variety, and that’s in each other. We often have a hard time with people who look different from us, practise different rituals, wear unfamiliar clothes, or hold beliefs or values that we do not share.
Lisa Feldman Barrett is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, Boston, and the author of Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain