The news from 1954? There is an underlying tendency in humans to think and act in racially biased ways. Well, duh.
Humans seem to have a natural ability to lump things into groups. Family. Friends. Colors. Those with money. Those without. There’s a reason why stupid people hang together. They’re comfortable in their own group.
This natural tendency causes untold conflict with the most enlightened among us, so says Gordon Allport in his 1954 book, The Nature of Prejudice. Since then, neuroscience has matured sufficiently to point out that we react differently to different people. Well, ditto duh.
Studies and research now show that humans of one race react differently when shown photos or images of those of another race. I don’t know about you, but my pulse goes up when I see Halle Berry or Beyonce, but does nothing when I see Ryan Seacrest. Of course, my pulse might also go up if I ran into Mister-T in a dark alley. But not if I ran into Ryan Seacrest in the same alley.
The research must be pretty good to figure that out.
Physiological and psychological testing shows that humans are pre-programmed to seek out and identify the differences we see in others. Therefore, we pre-judge people based on what we perceive, rather than what they are. It’s the cover of the book telling us what’s not necessarily inside.
The new phrase for prejudice is ‘ethnocentric behavior‘ and it is hard wired into our brains. But parts of our brains help us to overcome such an innate and inherited trait, which is why blatant prejudice is no longer acceptable. Despite what we are originally, apparently we have the capability to become more than we once were.
Or less. It works both ways. While an inherited tendency to be prejudiced against any but our own kind may exist, that doesn’t mean that some humans don’t try to make it worse. Much worse. Hence the hatred that exists both within the races and between the races.
Is there a solution to this inbred and historically damaging trait and tendency to distinguish ourselves from others? How do we overcome The Selfish Gene? More to come, in Part 2.