Ethnocentricism and Xenophobia May Be Useful

The Automatic Activation of Political Attitudes: A Psychophysiological Examination of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis,” by James Morris et al, Political Psychology, December 2003, Vol. 24 p 727,

Characterizing reciprocity in groups: Information-seeking in a public goods game,” by Robert Kuzban and Peter DeScioli, (Submitted), 2005, alternate draft at

The Bias Finders: A Test of Unconscious Attitudes Polarizes Psychologists,” by Bruce Bower, Science News, Vol. 169 No. 16, 22 April 2006,

Resilience and Zarathustra,” by Stephen DeAngelis, Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, 12 September 2006,

The Evolution of Ethnocentricism,” by Ross Hammond and Robert Axelrod, scheduled in Journal of Conflict Resolution, December 2006,

In his latest blog post, Steve DeAngelis notes that

The basic tenets of the faith have universal appeal — “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” — and they have served the faithful well. The sect believes strongly in free will, which has resulted in many marrying outside the faith. Collectively, as noted above, they have yet to deal successfully with the consequences of using that free will. Right now those consequences include a sure end to the faith as its numbers shrink to levels that will make it unsustainable. A resilient strategy is one that includes a way to grow. Such a strategy is flexible and adaptable. Since many Zorastrian priests see theirs as an ethnic faith (ethnicity is not an adaptable trait), it forces strategic rigidity and keeps the sect on its downward trend.

I’m not exactly sure what he means by “adaptable” — the dictionary merely defines the word as Capable of adapting or of being adapted., a broad category that would include spandrels and other organizational drift wood. And unlike resilience, resiliency, and agility, I didn’t operationalize it, so I don’t have a way to objective measure how “adaptable” something is.

Xenophobic Enclaves in the Ethnocentric

Perhaps he means “adaptive” (rational in use) or “adapted” (rational in design), but even here the claim is questionable. For instance, recent mathematical modeling has shown that xenophobic organizations may benefit from positive group selection (Hammond and Axelrod 2006):

We also show that ethnocentrism can support contingent cooperation in the form of in-group favoritism without requiring mechanisms such as reciprocity (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981), reputation (Nowak and Sigmund 1998), conformity (Boyd and Richerson 1985, Simon 1990), or leadership (Roosens 1989). (6) … Not only is ethnocentrism the dominant strategy, but cooperation (donation) is also the dominant behavioral choice: fully 74% of interactions are cooperative (Table 1, row a). (8) … In fact, the ability to distinguish between groups can be regarded as a basis for social capital within a group (Coleman 1990, Putnam 2000). (10)

Real-world evidence on the utility of ethnocriticism and xenophobia can be found in Iraq.

The rest of my notes are below the fold:

These differences suggest that automatic, implicit evaluations were made to strongly positive and negative political stimuli, and that these evaluations affected the subsequent processing of a high valence adjective. (Morris et al 2003 2)

As a consequence of this reliance on introspection, much of what we as political scientists claim to know about public opinion and electoral behavior and how we model the expression of political beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral dispositions is based almost exclusively on what considerations come to mind consciously when respondents are asked who, what, why questions. (Morris et al 2003 3)

Current theorizing in the cognitive sciences backed up by hundreds of well crafted behavioral studies in social and cognitive psychology posits a dual process model that distinguishes between automatic and deliberative processing in the formation and expression of beliefs, attitudes, and behavior (Brewer, 1988). Dual processing models contrast automatic processes, in which thoughts, feelings, and intentions come to mind spontaneously on a time scale of milliseconds, with the deliberative, cognitively demanding processes people engage in when they have the time, cognitive resources, and motivation to construct a response. Dual-process models contrasting conscious and unconscious processes in thinking, reasoning, and action are not preeminent in social psychology (Bargh 1997, Kunda 1999). (Morris et al 2003 3)

In real life, thinking, feeling and acting are only untied in pathological cases (Damasio, 1994). (Morris et al 2003 3)

Labeling one mode of processing “deliberate” emphasizes the reflective, consciously controlled character of one’s responses to an object – whether person, place, event, thing, or idea – which generally (but not necessarily) involves verbal reasoning. Other descriptors of the poles on what is surely a continuum (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990) are: controlled vs. automatic (Bargh, 1997; Fazio, 1986); central vs. peripheral (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986); systematic vs. heuristic (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993); conscious vs. unconscious (James, 1890); explicit vs. implicit (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Deliberative processes are cognitively effortful, time consuming, demanding of attention, and often premised on a memory search for relevant facts and considerations (Neely, 1976; 1977). Conversely, automatic processes – whether the immediate activation of cognitive associations (e.g., George W. Bush is President), or the spontaneous activation of affect (terrorists are evil), or the habitual actions that operate “mindlessly” (Langer, 1989; Bargh, 1994) – are involuntary, fast, immediate, top of the head, and can be evoked even when the individual’s attention is focused elsewhere. (Morris et al 2003 4)

Automaticity has been demonstrated in:
· judgment (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995);
· attitude formation (Betsch et al., 2001);
· the expression of attitudes (Bargh, 1994; Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, & Kardes, 1986);
· stereotyping (Devine, 1989; Davidio, Evans, and Tyler, 1986);
· self-esteem (Greenwald & Pratkanis, 1984);
· evaluations of political candidates, issues, groups, and symbols (Lodge & Taber, 2000, 2001); and
· many other aspects of social cognition (see Bargh, 1997; Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (Morris et al 2003 4)

A cornerstone of any model of political reasoning is the citizen’s preexisting knowledge and predilections. These longterm factors, functionally speaking, require a vast long-term memory (LTM) for storing facts, beliefs, and predispositions, and a mechanism for “moving” one’s knowledge about leaders, parties, and issues from LTM into working memory (WM) where it can be attended to (Rumelhart & Norman, 1977; Sanford, 1986). Attention is very limited, perhaps to the magic number 7±2 bits or chunks of information, hence the need for heuristics and other simplifying mechanisms for thinking and reasoning. LTM is organized associatively, and it is useful to think of knowledge structures metaphorically in LTM as a configuration of nodes linked to one another in a network of associations (or if you prefer as neurons “bundled” together by weighted connections (Read & Miller, 1998; Smith, 1996)). (Morris et al 2003 5)

But how is information moved from LTM into WM? Spreading activation provides the mechanism. A node in LTM switches from being dormant to a state of readiness with the potential to be moved into WM when it receives activation, either because it is a direct object of thought processes or because it is closely linked to an object of thought. (Morris et al 2003 5)

For example, more than three-quarters of white and Asian test takers in the United States display an unconscious tendency to value white people over black people. Roughly half of black test takers show a pro-white bias as well. (Bower 2006)

In particular, Nosek cites Yale University psychologist T. Andrew Poehlman’s unpublished statistical review of 61 studies. It finds that IAT scores do better than self-reports at forecasting results of lab tests of behavior motivated by stereotypes and racial attitudes. (Bower 2006)

In contrast, in predicting choices of consumer products and political candidates, self-reports prove superior to IAT scores, according to Poehlman’s review. (Bower 2006)

In the experiment at the University of Southampton in England, each participant read an account of how one group, depicted as savage and ruthless, invaded and slaughtered the other, portrayed as civilized and peaceful.

The participants then read a series of names on a computer screen. Niffite names featured a double consonant and ended in “nif,” such as Eskannif. Luupite names included a double vowel and ended in “lup,” such as Neenolup. Each name from the designated invading group was preceded by a subliminally presented negative word, such as barbaric. Each name from the victim group was preceded by a subliminally presented positive word, such as benevolent.

Immediately afterward, students reported not only a conscious preference for the peaceful group but also displayed an implicit preference for it over the invading group on an IAT.

In further experiments at universities in Germany and the United States, students were told about Niffites and Luupites as in previous tests. They then either were informed that a computer error had accidentally switched descriptions of the imaginary groups or were given a new passage to read that described how historical forces had turned the victims into vengeful aggressors, while the original invaders became peaceful.

Self-reported opinions about the groups usually reversed at that point, says Gregg. In contrast, original implicit attitudes toward the groups remained largely the same, Gregg’s team reports in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (Bower 2006)

Racist views held by volunteers primarily reflect an implicit tendency to view blacks negatively, regardless of the volunteers’ opinion about whites, he and his coworkers propose in the March Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. (Bower 2006)

Volunteers who easily paired black names with negative words frequently scored high on a questionnaire probing for negative attitudes about blacks, regardless of how quickly they associated white names with positive or negative words. (Bower 2006)

In a 2001 study, De Houwer administered a British-foreigner IAT to British participants. Volunteers more easily associated British citizens, ranging from the revered Queen Mother to a notorious mass murderer, with pleasant words. In contrast, they more easily linked an array of foreigners, from the celebrated Albert Einstein to the despised Adolf Hitler, to unpleasant words. (Bower 2006)

Volunteers score lower on implicit racial bias if their associations concern only personal preferences, Fazio contends. In a 2004 investigation, he and his Ohio State colleague Michael A. Olson developed a “personalized IAT,” which required associating black and white names with positive or negative words under the headings either of “I like” or “I don’t like.” The investigators found that while most white volunteers displayed implicit bias against blacks on a traditional IAT, far fewer displayed implicit bias on the personalized test.

Even more disturbing is preliminary evidence that people can easily fake their IAT scores. In a 2005 study, Klaus Fiedler of the University of Heidelberg in Germany administered an IAT of implicit attitudes toward Germans and Turks to 198 German volunteers. He then asked participants to retake the test and fake their responses but offered no specific instructions on how to do so.

Most people reversed their IAT scores, usually by hesitating before responding to associations that they had previously made more quickly. Two experienced IAT testers who examined the results found it nearly impossible to identify IAT fakers, Fiedler says. (Bower 2006)

Many people react to black faces or names on an IAT test with compassion and guilt over African-Americans’ past and current plight, a response that could slow their speed in associating blacks with positive words just as surely as deep-seated hostility toward African-Americans could, Mitchell and Tetlock suggest. (Bower 2006)

We found evidence for the hypothesis that adding a cost to view information decreases aggregate contributions, probably because the motivation to induce others’ reciprocal contributions diminishes under these conditions. (Kurzban and DeScioli 2)

Reciprocity has been shown to be important in the context of dyadic cooperative relationships (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992; Parks & Rumble, 2001) and is coming to occupy a prominent position in the context of understanding behavior in groups as well (Gintis, 2000). (Kurzban and DeScioli 3)

This is complicated further by the fact that recent data imply substantial heterogeneity, and that different people consistently employ different reciprocal strategies (Fischbacher, Giichter & Fehr, 2001; Kurzban & Houser, 2001) (Kurzban and DeScioli 3)

Finally, players are willing to endure costs to punish those who contribute relatively little to the public good, hinting at anger at a betrayal of trust (Fehr & Gachter, 2002; Yamgishi, 1986). (Kurzban and DeScioli 5)

Assume that reciprocal motives include both 1) the preference for contributing as a positive function of others’ contributions and 2) contributing to induce others to contribute. If so, – contributions should decrease when the role of these motivations are inhibited. (Kurzban and DeScioli 7)

Research in economics and psychology has recently begun to take more seriously the idea that individual differences among participants might be important in understanding and modeling behavior and dynamics in experimental games, including social dilemmas (e.g., Koole, Jager, van den Berg, Vlek, & Hofstee, 2001). (Kurzban and DeScioli 9)

At the end of the experiment participants completed a trust scale (Couch & Jones, 1997). (Kurzban and DeScioli 11)

These two findings -that both information preference and willingness to pay for informationw ere correlatedw ith contributionp atterns- add to the weight of evidence that there are “types” of players in public goods environments (Kurzban & Houser, in press; Fishbacher et al, 2001) and that these types have potentially, important effects on dynamics of play. (Kurzban and DeScioli 19)

We included a standard self-report measure of trust, but, as with earlier research (Kurzban & Houser, 2001), we found that self-report measures did a relatively poor job predicting play. However, recent work suggests that in Japan, trust scalesd o predicts omed ifferencesin play in public goodsg ames( Ishii & Kurzban,i n prep.) (Kurzban and DeScioli 20-21)

This result obtained because different types fared differently depending on the composition of the groups into which they were placed. (Kurzban and DeScioli 21)

Empirical evidence suggests that a predisposition to favor ingroups can be easily triggered by even arbitrary group distinctions, and that preferential cooperation within groups occurs even when it is individually costly. (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 2)

Behaviors associated with ethnocentrism include cooperative relations within the group and the absence of cooperative relations with out-groups (LeVine and Campbell 1972). Ethnocentric behaviors are based on group boundaries that are typically defined by one or more observable characteristics (such as language, accent, physical features, or religion) regarded as indicating common descent (Sumner 1906, Hirshfeld 1996, Kurzban, Tooby, and Cosmides 2001). Such behaviors often also have a strong territorial component (Sumner 1906). Ethnocentrism has been implicated not only in ethnic conflict (Brewer 1979, Chirot and Seligman 2001), instability of democratic institutions (Rabushka and Shepsle 1972) and war (van der Dennen 1995), but also consumer choice (Klein and Ettenson 1999) and voting (Kinder 1998). Although ethnocentrism is sometimes used to refer to a wide range of discriminatory behaviors, we will focus on ethnocentric behavior defined as in-group favoritism. This definition is consistent with research in anthropology and psychology that differentiates, both empirically and causally, between in-group favoritism (“ethnocentrism”) and out-group hostility (“xenophobia”) (Ray and Lovejoy 1986, Struch and Schwartz 1989, Cashdan 2001, Hewstone et al. 2002, Brown 2004). (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 3)

Laboratory results, for example, suggest that behaviors of in-group favoritism can be easily triggered by even the most trivial and arbitrary group definitions (Tajfel 1970, Tajfel et al. 1971). Behaviors favoring in-groups are also found to be widespread even when they are individually costly, and even in the absence of opportunities for reciprocity or direct self-interested gain (Ferguson and Kelly 1964, Kramer and Brewer 1984, Brewer and Kramer 1986). Studies in cognitive psychology find that categorization and discrimination based on group boundaries is often rapid and even pre-conscious (Dovidio and Gaertner 1993, Lamont and Molnar 2002). (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 4)

Our model is abstract and is not intended as a realistic portrayal of specific social behaviors, and the evolutionary framework we use is an approach that has proven useful for studying adaptation in general (Boyd and Richerson 1985, Axelrod 1986, Nowak and Sigmund 1998, Riolo et al. 2001). Recent evidence also suggests that an evolutionary approach may be appropriate as more than a modeling convenience. In political science, current research suggests that a number of political beliefs and behaviors may be influenced by heritable tendencies that are selected for evolutionarily (Alford, Funk, and Hibbing 2005). The existence of broad and potentially heritable universals of the human mind has long been accepted in the study of psychology, and in anthropology as well there is increasing focus on universals of human thinking that result from evolution and are believed to leave the human mind “prepared to think” in a particular fashion and “predisposed” to react in certain ways (Brown 2004, Wrangham 2004). (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 4-5)

It is important to note that the evolution of a predisposition to favor in-groups is not necessarily predictive of observed behavior—such predispositions can be trumped by more complex reasoning (Kurzban, Tooby, and Cosmides 2001). (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 5)

We define group membership as the possession of a specific “color” of this single observable, heritable trait (or “tag”). Those individuals in the model who share ones color are one’s “in-group”. (Hammond and Axelrod 2006 5)