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You're One of Us, Or You're Not

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

In Group Bias is favoring people from one’s group rather than outsiders. We tend to stick with whom we know and relate to, rather than people who we don’t know. This phenomenon, studied by social psychologists for decades, creates a tendency for us to evaluate people outside our group with a heightened criticism compared to those in our group. It can also influence us to allocate resources--like give more attention or money or fame or support--to those in our group rather than others.

Ever been to a sporting event? We cheer our home team on, but we share disdain or dislike for the other team. We are displaying In Group Bias, or favoritism.

In Group Bias is a cousin of our brain-based survival instincts. For millennia, we lived in small hunter-gatherer groups. It was tough out there. When we came upon other groups, we had to be very wary lest our resources be devoured, or our goods be stolen, or our lives be lost. Because it was an effective way to survive the harsh environment of our ancestors, being inherently biased against "the other" became a beneficial trait. If they didn't look like us, they weren't us. Also, it benefitted us to support to those in our in-group, as it would help us climb the social ladder and make us more important or more valuable in our group. In Group Bias can be seen in young babies and and is today a major cause of the inherent prejudices we all show from a young age (see links below).

Today, we usually and thankfully don't have to worry about basic survival, ie, food, water, safety. But despite this, we still have deep instincts to protect what we consider "our own kind." When we feel threatened, we double down. This can get out of hand, of course, and as a consequence we are faced with war, famine, conflict, violence. When we blindly react to our biases, we can hurt others unnecessarily.

When we are under stress, being vigilant about harmful instincts like the In Group Bias can be critical to making compassionate, mature choices. Being wise means knowing where we come from and our tendencies to create our own realities and make our own decisions, even when they are impacted by biases.

For further reading and watching:

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

In Group Bias in babies:

In Group and Human Nature:

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