Us and Them: The Science of Identity

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Nov 24, 2008 - Psychology - 370 pages
3 Reviews
Democrat and Republican. Meat Eaters and Vegetarians. Black and White. As human beings we sort ourselves into groups. And once we identify ourselves as a member of a particular group—say, Red Sox fans—we tend to feel more comfortable with others of our own kind, rather than, say, Yankees fans. Yet we all belong to multiple groups at the same time—one might be a woman, a mother, an American, a violinist. How do we decide which identities matter and why they matter so much? And what makes us willing to die for, or to kill for, a religion, a nation, or a race?
            In this award-winning book, David Berreby describes how twenty-first-century science is addressing these age-old questions. Ably linking neuroscience, social psychology, anthropology, and other fields, Us and Them investigates humanity’s “tribal mind” and how this alters our thoughts, affects our health, and is manipulated for good and ill. From the medical effects of stress to the rhetoric of politics, our perceptions of group identity affect every part of our lives. Science, Berreby argues, shows how this part of human nature is both unexpectedly important and surprisingly misunderstood.
            Humans need our tribal sense—it tells us who we are, how we should behave, and links us to others as well as the past and future. Some condemn this instinct, while others celebrate it. Berreby offers in Us and Them a third alternative: how we can accept and understand our inescapable tribal mind.
“[A] brave book. . . . Berreby’s quest is to understand what he sees as a fundamental human urge to classify and identify with ‘human kinds.’”—Henry Gee, Scientific American

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - EmreSevinc - LibraryThing

This book gave me the solid background to think more deeply on social psychology. I was intrigued to learn about the details of social psychology of experiments conducted decades ago. For anyone who ... Read full review

The Science of Identity Foundation for Why We Act

User Review  - crimsonrush - Borders

This book is unlike other sociology type of books. This book informs you. Why do we bond with others more? Why are we attracted to those who love the same things you do? And why do we let these things ... Read full review


One Thats Our Biggest Difference
Two There Are Few Questions More Curious Than This
Three Counting and Measuring
Four Birds of a Feather
Five Mind Sight and Kind Sight
Six Looking for the Codes
Seven How Mind Makes World
Eleven No Humans Involved
Twelve Dont Be a Stranger
Thirteen Hazings and Conversions
Fourteen The Heads on the Poles
Fifteen Species of Darwinism
Notes and References

Eight Inventing Tradition in Oklahoma or What I Did on My Summer Vacation
Nine Them We Burn
Ten Our Common Humanity Makes Us Weep

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About the author (2008)

David Berreby has written about the intersection of science, culture, and politics for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Slate, Discover, Smithsonian, The Sciences and many other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.    

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