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Why your brain hates other people
Material posted: Publication date: 30-08-2017
As a child, I saw a version of the movie "planet of the apes" from 1968. As a future primatologist I was mesmerized. Many years later I found the anecdote about the film: in the afternoon the people who were playing the chimps and the people who played gorillas, ate in separate groups.

They say that "In this world there's two kinds of people: those who divide people into two types and those who do not share". Actually the first kind of people much more. And the consequences of dividing people into "us" and "our", members of our group and the others, humans and "others" can be very serious.

All people spend the dividing line "friend/foe" by race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and so on. And this is not good. We do this amazingly quickly and efficiently from a neurobiological point of view. We have a complicated taxonomy and classification of the ways in which we slander "them". We do this with the variability ranging from small minute of aggression to the savage massacre. And we constantly determine what is wrong with "them" based on pure emotion, followed by a primitive rationalization, which we confuse with rationality. Sad.

But, most importantly, there is reason for optimism. For the most part because all of us have in mind there are many different definitions we/they. "They" in one case, may be belonging to the category "we" in another, and the transition from there to here can take a moment. So there is hope that with the help of the science fraternity and xenophobia can be toned down, possibly even to such an extent that Hollywood chimpanzees and gorillas are able to dine together.

The power of the idea "theirs" against "outsiders"

Substantial evidence suggests that the division of the world into their own and others deeply ingrained in our brain, and is an ancient evolutionary heritage. To begin, we note that we define the differences between friend and foe with incredible speed. Put the person in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scanner that detects activity in different parts of the brain under certain circumstances. Quickly show him the photos so that each one was delayed by only 50 milliseconds – 1 / 20th of a second is barely higher than the detection level. It is noteworthy that even in such a situation the brain will process images of others not as their own.

This effect was comprehensively investigated in relation to different races. Quickly show the person pictures of people or another race, and, on average, when viewing images of people of another race the person was excited the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear, anxiety and aggression. Moreover, the faces of people of other races less activate fusiform cortexspecialized for face detection. in addition, people are worse at remembering faces of other races. The movie, in which the person's hand was pricked with a needle, is "isomorphic reflex", which activates part of the motor area of the cortex related to hand movements and hand twitches of the beholder – if the film does not show the hand of a man of another race, in which case this effect is much weaker.

Error of the brain associated with the division into Us and Them also shows the hormone oxytocin. He is known for his participation in social activity – it causes people to become more trusting, helpful and generous. But it only affects your behavior towards the people in your group. In relation to outsiders it has the opposite effect.

Automatic, unconscious nature of the reaction/another evidence of the deep nature of this mechanism. This can be demonstrated with a hell of a clever test for hidden Association. Let's say you are strongly opposed to trolls, and I think that they are below people. This can be detected by a test on a hidden Association where subjects look at images of people or trolls, combined with the words positive or negative in nature. These pairs can support your inclination (for example, the human face and the word "fair", the face of the Troll and the word "insidious"), or may be incompatible with it. And people need a little more time, a fraction of a second to the processing of contradictory pairs. This happens automatically – you do not become angry about the business practices of the Troll or the Troll clans of cruelty at the Battle of Globule in 1523. You process images and words, and your antaraloka tendency causes you to subconsciously stay because of the dissonance between Troll with a "beautiful" or "smelly".

We are not alone who shares all on their own/others'. It is no secret that other primates can perform a cruel separation/another. Chimps get together and systematically destroy the males of the neighboring group. Recent work, adapting the test for hidden associations to other species, indicate that even other primates have hidden negative associations with strangers. Macaque-rhesus or look at the images of the members of the group, or at the images of outsiders, paired with pictures of things with positive or negative connotations. Macaques look longer at pairs that do not correspond to their inclinations (for example, images of members of their group, paired with the image of spiders). These macaques are not just fighting with the neighbors over resources – they link them with negative associations. "Those guys are like nasty spiders and we, we are like fragrant fruit".

How much the concept/another rooted in the brain, manifests itself through speed and a minimal set of incentives for the treatment group differences within the brain; a tendency to build groups based on arbitrary criteria, and vesting of these criteria supposedly rational sense; the unconscious automation of such a process; the vestiges of other primates. As we will see, what we typically think about her, but not about other people, fair enough.

The nature of their

From different cultures and throughout history people belonging to the group, consider in the superior key – we are the right, smart, moral and worthy. Also included inflating the benefits of the inherent features of its – rationalization of why our food tastes better, music more inspiring, the language is more logical or poetic.

Belonging to their implies the existence of obligations to the representatives of the group – for example, during the study at a sports stadium, a scientist, pretending to be a fan and dressed in a sweater one of the teams, are more likely to have received help from another fan of this team than the fans of the opponent.

Intra-group favoritism raises the main question – do we need to have their it was all good by maximizing the level of wealth, or simply better than others, by maximizing the difference between us and them?

We usually declare the commitment to the first embodiment, but may secretly desire a second. It could be a boon in a challenging race defeat a hated rival to a third party will be as welcome as the victory of their team, and sports fans both activate the same brain areas responsible for reward, and the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. But sometimes the choice "better than" instead of "well" can lead to disaster. It is hardly necessary to enjoy the win in the Third World war, if we have two mud huts and three torches, and they have – only one of the two.

One of the most socially oriented of our actions against the members of the group – a willingness to forgive offenses. When others do something wrong that triggered the essentialism – this is because they are in fact, always was and always will be. When your wrong, we are inclined to situational interpretations – we usually are not, and here you have extenuating circumstances explaining why we did so. Situational explanations of misconduct, explain why lawyers look for jurors who will consider the defendant as one of their own.

Something else very interesting can happen when someone opens the offense up dirt on her, confirming the negative stereotype. Internal shame can lead to cruel punishments that benefit outsiders. To take Rudolph Giuliani [American politician, mayor of new York between 1994 and 2001 from the Republican party – approx. transl.], growing up in Brooklyn to Italian-American enclave, ruled by organized crime (the father Giuliani was in for armed robbery, and then worked for a mafia loan shark). Giuliani became famous in 1985 as a Prosecutor, blamed the heads of the "five families" in court against the mafia, which, in effect, destroyed them. He wanted to disprove the stereotype, according to which "Italian American" was synonymous with organized crime: "If a successful prosecution is not enough to eliminate associated with the mafia prejudice, then probably nothing will eliminate it". If you want someone to fiercely judged the member of the mafia, find a proud Italian American who angered the stereotypes created by the mafia.

Thus belong to the original brings with it a list of expectations and obligations. Is it possible to switch from one category to another of his? It's easy to do in sports is when a player moves to another club, he is not serving as a fifth column, bad playing specifically to his old team the advantage. In the center of the contractual relationship is the equivalence of employer and employed.

At the other end of the scale is belonging to their own, not subject to discussion. People don't move from Shiites to Sunnis, the Iraqi Kurds by Sami reindeer herders. Rare Kurd wants to be the Lapp, and his ancestors would probably roll over in their graves when she touched her first deer. Defectors often taking revenge on those from whom they seceded – Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced in Sudan to die in 2014 because he converted to Christianity and met with suspicion by those to whom they are joined.

The nature of foreign

Consciously or emotionally we don't like strangers?

Cognitive justification of the division into friends/strangers easily formulated. The ruling classes do amazing somersaults to justify their status quo. Also have to exert effort to justify the good of others, helped us in anything: "Oh, this alien is different from the rest."

To represent others in a threatening light requires cognitive subtlety. The fear of being robbed by a stranger is replete with hypocrisy and particularism. But to be afraid that other people will take our jobs, to be manipulated by banks to dilute our gene pool, etc., required in economy, sociology and political science.

When the Confederate General was wounded during the civil war, he made a secret Masonic sign that is recognized officer of the Union who protected him and sent him to the Union hospital.

Despite the role of reasoning, the essence of the division on their/others emotional and automatic, and it is described by statements such as: "I can't say exactly why, but wrong when others do it." Jonathan Haidt from new York University showed that often the arguments are excuses experienced in the past feelings and intuition, and need to convince themselves of the rationality of our choice.

This can be demonstrated in studies using brain imaging. When a person sees the face of another, his amygdala aktiviziruyutsya. And this happens much earlier (on the time scale of the brain) activation of the cortex responsible for conscious reasoning. Emotions are triggered first.

The most convincing evidence that a negative relation to others appears during emotional, automatic processing, is that supposedly rational arguments about other people can be subconsciously manipulated. Here's an example of the results of the experiments. Subjects show slides with photos of little-known countries; if between slides will appear in human faces, expressing fear, and for such short periods that they can be perceived only subconsciously, that the subjects remain more negative impression of the country as a whole. The location next to the stinking garbage makes people more conservative refers to the characteristics of representatives of other groups. Christians worse to say about those who do not belong to that religion, if they just went by the Church. In another study, people who commute to work by train, at bus stops, in places, predominantly white population, filled out questionnaires about political affiliations. Then half of the stations in the next two weeks every day there is a couple Mexicans. They were conservatively dressed and quietly spoken. Interestingly, the presence of such pairs led to the fact that people have more support for reducing legal immigration from Mexico and a law designating English as an official language, and less to support Amnesty for illegal immigrants. However, their attitude towards Asians, blacks or Arabs has not changed. In the other researched revealed that women during ovulation a more negative attitude to men.

In other words, our intuitive and emotional relationship to others due to hidden forces whose existence we never suspected. And then our consciousness to strive to catch up with the emotional "I", creating a set of facts or credible fake, explaining why we hate others. It's kind of a vriant of such cognitive distortions as the tendency to confirm our point of view: remember to support the view of the facts is better than to refute; to check things so that the results supported but did not refute the hypothesis; more skeptical about the results that you don't like than what you like.

The heterogeneity of foreign

Of course, different types of others cause different feelings (and various neurobiological responses). Most often, strangers see each other menacing, evil and unworthy of trust. In economic games, people relate to members of other races as less worthy of trust or reciprocity. White people think that blacks face angrier than those of whites, and more likely to attribute evil faces uncertain race to race other than themselves.

But other people evoke not only a sense of a threat; sometimes it's disgust. Here comes the part of the brain called the Insula shareor an island. In mammals, it reacts to the taste or smell of decay, and cause stomach cramps and vomiting. In other words, it protects animals from toxic food. However, the people she manages in disgust associated not only with feelings but also with morality – if the subjects remember any vile act, or see an image repulsive from a moral point of view of actions, they activated the island. Therefore, there is no metaphor that we are sick of disgusting from a moral point of view of things. And strangers, aversive, activate islet is not less than the amygdala.

It is difficult to experience unpleasant feelings at an intuitive level in relation to others; the island is hard to deal with the disgust associated with abstract beliefs of another group. Markers/another provide the basis for this. Now, if we say that our disgust in relation to others is because they eat disgusting, sacred or very cute things, doused in disgusting flavors, vulgar dress – this features the island of swallow with ease. In the words of the psychologist Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania: "Disgust is an ethnic marker or sign of belonging to a group." The decision on what other people eat disgusting things, easier solution, that other people have disgusting ideas, for example, in the field of deontology.

And there are others that can be fun – that is, to use humor as a weapon. When a foreign group makes fun of our group is the weapon of the weak foes, trying to weaken the chain of command. But when our group makes fun of others – it reinforces negative stereotypes and hierarchy.

Strangers also often seen as more homogeneous than their own, with simplistic emotions and a decreased sensitivity to pain. For example, whether it is Ancient Rome, medieval Europe, Imperial China, or the antebellum South, the elite is supporting stereotypes for slaves – they are stupid, like children, incapable of independence.

Thus, the different aliens are of different types, but with a single entity – they're menacing and evil, disgusting and repulsive, primitive and undifferentiated.

Cold and/or incompetent

The important work of Susan Fiske of Princeton University studying the systematics of others who are in our minds. She found that we try to divide others into categories according to two axes: the heat (whether a person or a group of enemies, or friends, willing good or evil) and competence (how effectively can a person or group to do it).

These axes are independent. Ask the subject to assess anyone; if you give him hints on the status of a person, it affects the ratings on a scale of competence, but not warmth. If you give him a hint of competitiveness, the effect is the opposite. These two axes form a matrix with four corners. We judge ourselves as highly on the scale of the warmth and competence scale (in/In). Americans usually appreciate good Christians, blacks, professionals and the middle class.

There is the other extreme, the low assessment on the warmth and competence (h/H). These ratings are assigned to homeless and addicts.

There is an area of high warmth and low competence (In/H) – people with mental health problems, disabled, decrepit old men. Low warmth and high competence (N/In) is how people from "developing countries" appreciate the Europeans colonized them (here, competence is not a set of skills or knowledge, and the efficiency with which people, say, steal the land of your ancestors), and how many minorities, the USA are white. It was a hostile stereotype that Asians are in the US, Jews in Europe, Indians in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, the Chinese in Indonesia, the rich and the poor – they are cold, greedy, closed in the circle, but if you fall seriously ill, go to the doctor.

One extreme case is a persistent feeling. (For example, your) pride. Present – envy and indignation. A/N – sorry. N/N – disgust. Viewing people category N/N activates the amygdala and Insula, but not the fusiform gyrus, responsible for face recognition; the same thing happens, for example, from viewing photos of the wounds, the affected larvae. On the contrary, viewing images of people categories N/or/N activates the emotional and cognitive part of the frontal cortex.

Situated between the extremes cause their own characteristic reactions. The people causing the feelings between pity and pride, causing the desire to help. Between pity and disgust lives desire to humiliate and kick. Between pride and envy is the desire to attract and to benefit. Between envy and disgust – the most hostile desire to attack.

Most of all I like to change anyone's division into categories. The most understandable change is a change of status high warmth and high competence (in/In):

  • From/to In/N: one of the parents is sinking into dementia, is the desire to take care of him.
  • From/to N/To a business partner, years of theft which had just opened. Betrayal.
  • From/to h/H: a rare case when a successful friend something terrible happened and now he's homeless. Disgust, mixed with surprise – what went wrong?

Another is the transition from N/a to N/V. When in the 60s I was a kid, parochial American attitudes toward Japan belonged to the first category. The shadow of the Second World gave rise to hostility and contempt, and the label "Made in Japan" refers to the cheap plastic junk. And then suddenly "Made in Japan" came to mean an advantage over American automakers.

When homeless man spends a lot of effort to return someone's wallet, and you realize that it is more honest to your friends is the transition from N/N/N.

More interesting is the transition from N/a to N/N, causing a gloating exultation and help explain why persecution of groups present usually involves humiliation and their relegation to a status of n/N. During the Cultural revolution in China, representatives of the elite first rejected putting in shutovskie caps, and then sent to labour camps. The Nazis got rid of mentally ill people, already belonging to the category N/N, just killing them; in contrast, the treatment of Jews (H/V) before death included the wearing of yellow arm bandages, trimming beards, scrubbing sidewalks with toothbrushes in sight of the jeering crowds. When IDI Amin expelled tens of thousands of Indo-Pakistani nationals (N) from Uganda in the 1970-ies, first he gave his army the opportunity to Rob, beat and rape them. The most barbaric human behaviors associated with the transfer of others from the category of N/a category N/N.

Difficulties with the separation of other categories full. There is a phenomenon of begrudging respect, even a sense of partnership with the enemy. Apocryphal example are the aces of the First World, where the people trying to kill each other, slips "his" spark. "Oh, Monsieur, another time I would love to discuss with you Aeronautics a bottle of good wine." "Baron, I'm honored that you hit me." And yet there are difficulties with the separation of economic and cultural enemies, new and old, distant foreign and local, who lives next door. Ho Chi Minh[President, Democratic Republic of Vietnam – approx. transl.] during the American military action in Vietnam, rejected the help of the Chinese, arguing: "the Americans leave in a year or ten, and the Chinese, if they let remain for a thousand years."

And then there are the amazing and strange phenomenon when a member of a group of strangers brings with it negative stereotypes associated with their group, and prefer members of your group. It showed psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in his "study of dolls," conducted in the 1940-ies. Then black children as white, preferred to play with white dolls and not black and white gave a more positive performance. In the proceedings of brown V. the Ministry of education mentioned that this effect is most pronounced for black children in schools with segregation. Or consider the case of a man, sharply protesting against gay rights, who is probably a closet homosexual – the Mobius strip in the world pathologies, indicating the awareness that you belong to the clan of the terrible strangers. We are far overtaken even such complex manifestations of the psyche of monkeys, like the connection people's monkeys with spiders when indulging their psychological moods associated with the division of the world into friends and foes.

The diversity of its

We also recognize that other people belong to different categories, and changing ideas about which ones have the most value. Not surprisingly, most of these thoughts connected with the race, and we are trying to understand whether such a division into categories takes precedence over the others.

The superiority of the race has the appeal of folk wisdom. First, race is a biological attribute, it is striking identity, calling the arguments in the spirit of essentialism. Moreover, humans evolved in environments in which the differing color of the skin clearly indicates belonging to a stranger. And then, in a large percentage of cultures before contact with Western civilization there was a status divide by skin color.

However, the evidence suggests the opposite. First, although the differences of the races there are obvious biological points race is a biological continuum, rather than a clear category. For example, unless you specifically do not pick up your data, then genetic variation within races usually will be as strong as the differences between the races. And this is not surprising, if you think about diversity within racial categories – to compare, say, Sicilians and Swedes.

In addition, race can not cope with the role of a fixed classification. At different times during the history of the United States of Mexicans and Armenians were considered races; southern Italians and Northern Europeans classified in different ways; people with one black and seven white great-great-grandfather was considered to be white in Oregon, but not in Florida. This race is a product of culture.

It is not surprising that racial dichotomy friend/foe often yields to other classifications. In one study, subjects looked at images of people, white or black, associated with claims, and then they had to remember which race was associated with some statement. Racial categorization was automatic – if the subject was confused in accessories quotes, right and wrong person, most likely, belonged to the same race. Then half of black and white images were dressed in the same visible yellow shirt, the other half is in grey. Now subjects often confuse approval according to the color of the shirt. Also inhibits sexual the reclassification of unconscious racial categorization. After all, race in the history of hominids appeared relatively recently (perhaps only a few tens of thousand years ago), and all of our ancestors, almost up to the ciliates shoes, different attitude to different sexes.

An important study Mary Wheeler, who studied the activation of the amygdala to images of people of another race, have shown how the categorization. When subjects were asked to look at the point that is visible in each image, the faces of other races, the amygdala is not activated. The second group was to assess how facial images older than a certain age, and in this experiment, the amygdala was activated. The third group before the photo showed a picture of a vegetable, and were offered to evaluate whether this person vegetable. As a result, the amygdala alone.

Why? You look at strangers and think about what food they like. Can you imagine how they shop or order in restaurants. In the best case, you decide what you share with them the addiction to vegetables – there will be a slight convergence of friends and foes. At worst you decide are distinguishable enough peace to someone else, in the history hardly examples of blood spilled because of hatred between followers of broccoli and cauliflower. The most important thing you are representing someone else's for lunch, enjoying the food, I think about him as a personality is the best way to ease automatic categorization/another.

Quick categorization can occur at the most tough, is unlikely, and acute situations:

  • At the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Lewis Armistead was mortally wounded. Lying on the battlefield, he gave the secret Masonic signal, hoping that will recognize another member of this society. And learned officer of the Union Hiram Bingham, who defended him and brought to the hospital Union. Instantly the category/another scale Union/Confederation faded before a Mason/non-Mason.
  • During WWII the British commandos kidnapped the German General Heinrich Kreipe on Crete, and then followed a dangerous 18-day transfer to the Bank for a meeting with a British ship. Once the team noticed the snow on the highest peak of Crete. Kreipe muttered to himself in Latin, the first line of the odes of Horace, dedicated snow-covered mountain. British commander Patrick Lee Fermor immediately continued the quote. Two people realized that, in the words of the Lee Fermor, "drank from the same fountains." Re-categorization. Lee Fermor traced to Kripa cured wounds and ensure his safety. They talked, and after the war, and several decades later was found on the Greek TV. "No offense," said Cripe, praising them as "a daring operation".
  • Finally, in the Christmas truce in the First World who fought each other the soldiers in the trenches spent the day in hymns, prayers and fun with each other, played football, exchanged gifts and tried to extend the truce. It took only one day to the confrontation of the British and Germans was replaced by the understanding that this is a confrontation between the soldiers and the officers in the rear, forcing us to kill each other.

In our minds there are a lot of dichotomies, and those that seem to be unavoidable and critical in the right circumstances, can instantly disappear.

Reducing the impact of division on your/someone else

How can we get rid of these dichotomies? There are options.

Contact. Prolonged contact with other people can affect categorization/another. In the 1950s, psychologist Gordon Allport proposed the "theory of contact". Its the wrong option: gather friends and foes together (for example, adolescents of two warring Nations summer camp), and then the hostility will disappear, and the similarity begins to dominate, and it's gonna be "their". A more correct option: gather together friends and foes in the specific conditions and either something similar, or the situation will explode and will only get worse.

An example of an effective specific conditions: the parties are roughly the same in numbers, I treat everybody equally clearly, the contact lasts a long time on neutral territory, there are meaningful tasks that all work together (for example, the transformation of meadows in the football field).

And even then the effect is usually limited, their own and others quickly lose their connection, the changes are short and sometimes it turns out that "I hate these strangers, but one of them who I met last summer, basically normal guy." A fundamental change in the relationship occurs at really long-term contacts. Then there is progress.

The approach to the subconscious. If you want to reduce the impact of unconscious categorization/another, one way is to provide a counterexample to the stereotype (e.g., everyone's favorite star from the camp of the foe). Another approach is to make the implicit explicit; specify people for their cognitive distortions. Another powerful tool is the conversation from a different angle. Imagine that you are them, and tell us what you are unhappy. What do you feel? If you feel resentment, some time after them?

Replacement essentialism individuation. In one study, white subjects were asked how they feel about racial differences. Half initially inclined to essentialism, declaring that "scientists have found a genetic confirmation of the distinction of races". The other half learned that "scientists have found that the differences between races has no genetic basis". And the second half expressed less agreement with the inequality of the races.

Reducing hierarchy. Too developed the hierarchy reinforce the differences/another for those at the top justify their status back, tell bottom, and the latter considered the ruling class with respect to low warmth/high competence. For example, there is a cultural trope suggests that poor people are more careless, they are closer to real life and is able to enjoy her simple pleasures, and the rich unhappy, experiencing stress and are under pressure to perform. Similarly, the myth of "they are poor, but full of love," considers the poor to the classification of high-warmth/low-competence. In one study of 37 countries found that the greater the income gap between rich and poor, the more wealthy support this point of view.


From excessive barbarism to minor troubles, delivered microaggressions, division on and another's leads to a large number of unpleasant consequences. But I don't think the goal is to "cure" the habit to divide people into categories of friend/foe (not to mention the fact that the presence of almond is not available).

I tend to be alone – a lot of time I spent living in a tent in Africa, studying other species. But most of my happy moments are associated with the feeling that I'm feeling, what I am, I'm safe and not alone, that I was a part of something bigger and around me, the feeling that I am on the right side and I'm good. For some separation/another I – a nerdy, meek, amorphous pacifist – ready to kill and die.

If we accept as a given that different parties will always be, very difficult to be on the side of "good." Not to trust essentialism. Remember that rationality is often only a rationalization, an attempt to catch up with the subconscious forces of whose existence we do not suspect. To focus on common goals. To practice the side view. To engage in individuation. And remember how often in history is really a malicious alien was hiding and set up some third party.

And while make way for the people on whose cars sticker emblazoned "bullies suck" and remind everyone that in this struggle we are on the same side, against Lord Voldemort and Slytherin house.

Translation prepared


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