But what exactly is this seemingly natural tendency to sort others into "kinds"? This question forms the core of Us and Them, which explores the conscious and unconscious ways in which people classify one anotherand more importantwhy. How humans can use this propensity constructively, rather than destructively, remains a central issue of our time, argues David Berreby, a veteran science journalist. Although this penchant may be hardwired into our brains, ultimately we choose how to live. Religious strife, political conflict and clan rivalries boil down to individual behavior.
Berreby says the sciences of brain and mind offer "a new way to look at love of country, at culture, at religion (and at hatred too)." Researchers are starting to understand "how and why people think and feel in tribes, and why all of us are capable of both tribal good and tribal evil." Advances are allowing scientists to grapple with such questions as "Why cant we all get along?" Berreby investigates the social, psychological and neurological mechanisms that move humans to categorize. For example, he considers how codes in the nervous system predispose us to organize perceptions, including ones that help us feel how other people feel. Sciences assault on our beliefs about race, religion and nationalism has shown that even much of "common sense" is both blind and cruel. Berreby reminds us that not long ago North Americans held by common sense that slavery was natural, women should not vote and only heterosexuals deserved respect. "Good riddance to all that," he says. Still, attitudes die hard. "A white person and a black person in todays New York City can agree over coffee that race is all in your mind," Berreby contends. "But when they leave Starbucks and raise their hands to hail a taxi, the white person is more likely to get a cab. In that moment, race is as real as gravity."
Given our drive to categorize, Berreby reflects thoughtfully on how to do so responsibly. "The Us-Them code does not own you," he concludes. "You own it."
I've had this book on my shelf since the fall, waiting until the school year was over so I could get to it and several other books. Read morePublished on June 15, 2008 by Nate McVaugh
"Us and Them" by David Berreby explores the human faculty for seeing other people as members of groups with group characteristics, or as Berreby calls them, Human Kinds. Read morePublished on July 19, 2007 by Herbert V. Leighton
There is plenty of excellent material to read here. The substance is good, but the form is bad. Major areas of concern:
a. Read more
This book opened my eyes to the extraordinarily inherent propensity for people to accept stereotypes uncritically. Read morePublished on May 24, 2006 by M. A. Rivera
Us And Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind isn't the New Age title it sounds to be: it's a survey of how science addresses issues of group identity, using new findings from... Read morePublished on March 2, 2006 by Midwest Book Review