Aarhus University Seal

“Us and Them”

IMC Tuesday Seminar: Talk by Uta Frith and Chris Frith

Info about event

Time

Tuesday 4 October 2022,  at 11:00 - 12:30

Location

Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1483, room 312

Uta Frith and Chris Frith

Abstract
Most animals recognise the members of their group by familiarity and ‘like-me’ similarity. From early on in life, humans automatically classify strangers as outgroup members if they look different, have a different dialect, or sing different songs. Like other social animals, humans show a preference to learn from members of their ingroup and strive to be like them. Thus, our behaviour is affected by the behaviour of members of our own ingroup rather than by members of an outgroup. 

‘Minimal group’ experiments show that ingroups and outgroups can be created on the spot and in an arbitrary fashion. Ingroups thrive by enhancing their distinction from outgroups. Our identification with our own group goes hand in hand with differentiation from others. This is supported by the mechanism of over-imitation, a behaviour that seems unique to humans and is foundational of the use of customs and rituals that look irrational to outsiders. Ingroups tend to be persistent. One reason is that we have a strong drive to be affiliated coupled with fear of exclusion. If we are excluded, unconscious mimicry acts as a means of appeasement and allows us to gain readmission to the group. Support for the ingroup goes together with hostility to outgroups. Outgroups are perceived as competitors and this competition enhances ingroup altruism as well as outgroup hostility. Hence, one of the evolutionary advantages for groups is that we work best together when we compete with an outgroup.

 

About the speakers

Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL and Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy, University of London