Biological conditioning of xenophobia


“Dr Kurzban observes that the three criteria on which people routinely, and often prejudicially, assess each other are sex, age and race. Judgments based on sex and age make Darwinian sense, because people have evolved in a context where these things matter. But until long-distance transport was invented, few people would have come across members of other races. Dr Kurzban believes that perceptions of racial difference are caused by the overstimulation of what might be called an “otherness detector” in the human mind. This is there to sort genuine strangers, who will need to work hard to prove they are trustworthy, from those who are merely unfamiliar members of the clan. It will latch on to anything unusual and obvious—and there is little that is more obvious than skin colour. But other things, such as an odd accent, will do equally well. Indeed, Dr Dunbar thinks that the speed with which accents evolve demonstrates that they are used in precisely this sort of way.” (Carr, 2005, p. 11).

Why most people trust less people who look different from them?

What information do we use to classify someone as stranger?

What reasons may have lead the human mind toward a bias against strangers?

If such a bias exist, how does it affect our current interaction?

What consequences emerge for social policy, e.g., in education, immigration, criminal law?

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