This is part one of what I'm going to say about the issue at hand. This is about the in-group/out-group dynamic in general. And this is apropos to anyone who "pathologizes" (a real psychological term) members of the out-group.
As an introduction:
I'm once again going to point to this review of Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow
Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:
Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious.
Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.
Why do I cite this so often?
-In general it's a very important concept. If you understand it, it explains a lot. Daniel Kahneman's work, in total, is extremely important and enlightening.
Why I'm citing it here:
-It's apropos to the subject at hand, because you have to think about psychology in System 2. It's far too common that people rely on System 1, for reasons I touched on.
FE warns us what happens when people use System 1 when thinking about physics, optics and so on. Pretty much the same thing can happen when we use System 1 to think about psychology.
-It's apropos to the subject at hand because:
The in-group/out-group dynamic involves people thinking largely in System 1, and limiting System 2 to formulating aggressive tactics to use against out-group members.
Speculation can be important if it's done with a serious mind. This is an example of early speculation on the in-group/out-group dynamic.
Not stupidity but aggression that actually changes the way the brain works.
I'm going to talk about present day in-group/out-group dynamic theory in terms of three branches of experimental psychology:
-Social psychology describes it in terms of observable behavior.
-Cognitive-neuroscience describes what is happening in the brain.
-Evolutionary psychology attempts to explain why it developed. Why this trait was selected for, and what purpose it serves. This is the most speculative approach.
By 1963 the basic social psychology model of the in-group/out-group dynamic was maturing past early speculation. It was based on empirical studies.
Robert Bierstedt, from
Chapter 10, "Groups," in
The Social Order
, McGraw-Hill, 1963, pp. 306-11
1. In-group members tend to stereotype those who are in the out-group.
2. Any threat, imaginary or real, from an out-group tends to intensify the cohesion and the solidarity of the in-group.
This social psychology definition is taken from Wikipedia:
Discrimination between in-groups and out-groups is a matter of favoritism towards an in-group and the absence of equivalent favoritism towards an out-group.
Out-group derogation is the phenomenon in which an out-group is perceived as being threatening to the members of an in-group.
This phenomenon often accompanies in-group favoritism, as it requires one to have an affinity towards their in-group. Some research suggests that out-group derogation occurs when an out-group is perceived as blocking or hindering the goals of an in-group
. It has also been argued that out-group derogation is a natural consequence of the categorization process.
The following material is from a present day systematic review. It is from the cognitive-neuroscience perspective - what's going on in the brain when we react against an out-group due to increased threat, real or imaginary.
This systematic review is simplified, and has one distortion that neuroscientists would recognize as shorthand and translate. Neuroscientists don't speak in terms of brain structures in isolation from a larger circuit - e.g. the amygdala does this and the insula does that. They speak in terms of systems or circuits.
The important concept here is that the human brain can switch into a different mode of thought by inhibiting some systems and disinhibiting (activating) others.
Amygdala - Activation. Threat perception. Looking at the face of an out-group member activates a circuit that increases the feeling that you are being threatened/in danger. And everything that goes with it. Because we have the capacity to visualize and to imagine, just thinking about a member of the out-group can trigger threat perception.
People are usually highly sensitive to menaces and attacks from outgroup members against the ingroup because they could pose an existential threat.
Fusiform face area - Inhibited. The face of an out-group member is not recognized as an individual. But as a stereotyped member of the out-group as a whole.
Anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula -
Inhibited. Reduced empathy for out-group members.
(aka Theory of Mind) - our ability to explain and predict other people’s behavior by attributing to them independent mental states, such as beliefs, intentions and desires. The two most common brain areas reliably involved in mentalizing are the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and temporoparietal junction
Medial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal junction - inhibited. We have no insight into the true mental states such as beliefs, intentions and desires of an out-group member. Without this insight we substitute our own stereotyped attributions. In other words, pathological, automatic, inferior, immoral thought processes.
- For in-group members we feel greater moral sensitivity. In other words, we have their best interests at heart. We choose behaviors, that will enhance their well-being. We also attribute the same feeling to members of our in-group. They have our best interests at heart. (Is this love?)
Lateral orbitofrontal cortex - inhibited. We believe out-group members wish us harm and we plan ways to do them harm.
- We feel good.
Lateral orbitofrontal cortex, striatum - Activated.
We feel good when members of our in-group are doing well, and when out-group members are suffering.
- When thinking about the core beliefs of an in-group (for example UFOlogy) System 2 thinking is suppressed. People tend to indulge in all the cognitive biases that Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman identified; e.g. confirmation bias, the framing effect. A group effort to build a cohesive story is made, and anything that goes against the cohesive story is dismissed. System 2 thinking is only used to construct sophistries to defend the core belief, or to originate schemes to harm someone who questions it.
When dealing with subjects that have nothing to do with the core beliefs of the in-group, a person can be quite rational and intelligent. (Maybe even a PhD in physics or engineering?)
An addition to what is mentioned in this article:
Functional Dissociation of the Posterior and Anterior Insula in Moral Disgusthttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992674/
... the PI [posterior Insula} component represents people’s basic moral disgust that is directly embodied by the sensory components of physical disgust, whereas the AI [anterior insula] components represent a secondary level of moral disgust that is related to the affective components of physical disgust.
... disgust in response to moral violations is built on more basic types of disgust (such as the disgust associated with distaste for food and body waste products) and how it develops a more integrative and abstract form of mental representation.
In other words, one of the original functions of the insula was to warn mammalian organisms that something was unfit to eat or come into contact with. The visceral emotion of disgust.
In humans, (and other mammals?) this physical disgust function has been expanded to give us a feeling of moral disgust. The universal feeling of bad and good. "Food good! Fire bad!"
We feel the same bodily sensations when thinking about bad people as we do when we encounter some physical thing that is disgusting. "You're shitty. You're a vomit. You're a maggot."
A prime environmental factor in increasing in-group/out-group aggression in any social mammal is decreasing resources - e.g. food, water. For most social mammals this takes the form of fighting for resources that decline due to natural forces; e.g. drought. Humans have the ability to plan and the social cohesion to take away access to resources.
This extends to core beliefs of a person and of the in-group. People become aggressive when they perceive that someone - or an outgroup - is attempting to take away a core belief.
In the case of UFOlogists, their core belief about UFOs - they are mysterious, and cosmically important - is threatened by Skeptical debunking. Skeptics are trying to take away an important resource. A core belief.
Skeptics perceive that UFOlogists are trying to take away Rationality. Skeptics as a group highly value rationality. Much more than the average person. It's a core belief.
Thus in-group/out-group aggression is triggered. Once that begins it's easy to get caught up in it, and it's difficult to stop or even to moderate.
According to Evolutionary Psychology - the most speculative of the three types of psychology I'm dealing with here:
The function of in-group cohesion and out-group aggression, the reason why it was selected for, is this:
Groups who increase their own cohesion and cooperate to reduce the population of another group by killing members of the other group (or otherwise reduce their numbers by restricting resources) more effectively pass on their their in-group/out-group dynamic genes.
A group with genes for in-group cohesion and for out-group aggression increases. A group without such genes decreases.
Speculation? Sure. But I think this is pretty solid speculation.
We don't usually kill UFOlogists or Flat Earthers, and they don't usually kill us but...