by Joe Martino, The Pulse:
- The Facts:
- Humans are hardwired to think categorically and basically. With traits that almost instantaneously divide others into Us or Them.
- Studies have shown that oxytocin enhances our Us vs Them biological trait. In both ‘good’ ways and ‘bad’ ways.
- These biological traits can be reinforced with propaganda.
- The good news is, it’s very easy to adjust who we see as Us and Them, and perhaps transcend it all together.
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- Reflect On:
- Consciousness is the power here. Why can’t we extend our worldview of who we are into oneness and interconnection?
- Why must we fight to shut off our wonder and hold to petty differences?
- Is it time to cut memes and 15 second videos clips in favor of deeper and more meaningful content?
Are we hardwired to categorize each other into ‘Us vs Them?’ Simply put, yes. But this hardwiring is remarkably easy to break. It’s time we equip ourselves with the knowledge and tools to do so.
Why? Well, anything from powerful governments to mainstream and alternative media is consistently trying to divide us by focusing aggressively on our differences. A look at what occurred during COVID was the ability for powerful people to drive and control a narrative by confusing and divide the masses, ultimately to bring about greater authoritarian policy and control.
When we know how these mechanisms work and focus our consciousness in an effective way, these attempts to divide fail.
First a quick story.
When we first launched our membership I hired marketing teams to help. They would always tell me “in the sales messaging we need to create an ‘Us vs Them dynamic’ in order to get people to buy.” I resisted.
I felt like that wasn’t necessary and also contrary to our mission of unifying people to create a better world. But, the marketers were right. When we would A/B test sales messaging without ‘Us vs Them’ compared to sales messaging with it, the ‘Us vs Them’ messaging always won.
I have to admit this made me a bit sad. Was I thinking too idealistically about human beings? Maybe. But I always asked ‘Why doesn’t Us vs Them messaging work on me?” Before you suggest I’m naive and think “of course the messaging works on you,” read to the end of this piece. You’ll see how simply it is for this messaging not to work on anyone should they choose.
Neuroscience suggests that this Us vs Them biological trait developed thousands of years ago. As you might imagine, it had much to do with survival in much different times than we live in today.
It essentially states that human beings are primed to make very basic and categorical Us vs Them judgments. In fact, your brain is processing these Us vs Them differences in a twentieth of a second. These noticed differences are your classically promoted artificial constructs of: ethnicity, gender, skin color, age, socioeconomic class, and even something like sports team preference.
(I say artificial because social constructs tell us we should focus on these as differences. We don’t actually have to see them as differences as we are ALL one species. Other animals do not engage their Us vs Them biology within their species – only we do – and it’s a taught behaviour.)
All of this is enhanced by a multi-purposed hormone in our brain called Oxytocin.
Oxytocin has been shown to be a wonderful hormone for connecting and bonding with others that we know in our communities, ‘Us’. It’s often referred to as the love hormone or connection hormone. It essentially heightens meaningful connections with our in-group.
But on the flip side, studies have shown that when it comes to people who we see as strangers (Them), oxytocin creates a decrease in cooperation and increases envy when people are struggling. Further, it pushes one to gloat when they are ‘winning.’ In fact, there are many ways in which oxytocin is linked to dividing ourselves from ‘Them’ and keeping it that way.