Now we have a scientific explanation for why most discussions on social media platforms such as Facebook eventually descend into the darkness of an argument. A study by the University of California Berkeley and the University of Chicago suggests that we are less likely to dismiss someone’s observations and arguments if we listened to them or watched the person speak aloud in person, rather than read what they write on Facebook.

In the study called “The Humanizing Voice: Speech Can Reveal, and Text Conceal, The Presence of a Thoughtful Mind in The Midst of Disagreement", which has been published in journal Psychological Science, the researchers monitored the reactions of 300 respondents as they read, watched videos, or listened to arguments on topics such as war, abortion and music.

The scientists suggest that those who disagreed with the argument tended to “dehumanise" the subject in general, but this happened far less frequently when people heard the other person’s voice or saw them speak.

“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. Because another person’s mind cannot be experienced directly, its quality must be inferred from indirect cues"—this is in reference to the aspect of communication when it is written instead of spoken. The results suggest that the medium through which people communicate may significantly influence the impressions they form of each other in an argument, and the tendency to question the other party becomes “significantly tempered by giving them, quite literally, a voice", says the study.

Hence, the next time you seem to be getting into an argument with someone or start to question their mental capabilities, just take a step back for a second, close your eyes and imagine how you would react to a friend if the same debate was happening in person or in a voice conversation.