In this post we’ll deep dive into the Us Versus Them Mentality by defining exactly what the phenomenon is, the psychology behind it as well as how to overcome it.
What Is The Us Versus Them Mentality?
The Us Versus Them Mentality refers to the human tendency to view the social world in terms of an ingroup ― Us ― and an outgroup ― them.
It is a way of thinking that drives people to behave favourably to people that belong to their ingroups and unfavourably to people that belong to outgroups. This creates divide along the lines of race, sex, age and socioeconomic class etc.
Us Versus Them Table Comparison
|Act Favourably||Act Unfavourably|
|Move Towards||Move Away From|
The Psychology Of Us Versus Them
There are three primary forces that drive the Us Versus Them Mentality. They are association, categorisation and identification. Below we’ll unpack each in more detail.
The brain is ultimately designed to make you survive so it does two things; it predicts and it protects. It predicts what’s going to happen in your environment and then it initiates behaviours to protect you.
Consequently, it likes familiarity because it’s predictable and it hates unfamiliarity because it’s unpredictable.
Hence why we behave favourably to people we are familiar and have things in common with as they are seen as safe (Us) and unfavourably to people we are unfamiliar and don’t have things in common with as they are seen as unsafe (Them).
Over the course of evolution, humans evolved cognitive biases (mental shortcuts) that enabled us to make quick decisions, allowing us to conserve mental energy and protect the brain from overload. One of the biases that we evolved was stereotypes ― the tendency to categorise people.
While stereotypes were a necessary adaptation of our ancient past, they distort our reality and how we perceive, experience and interact with the world around us.
For example, when forming stereotypes, the brain discards nuances. Naturally, as a result, the stereotypes that we create aren’t always accurate.
Whatever you identify, whether it be a mental or physical construct, your brain perceives it as essential to your survival. Thus, people that you identify with become Us and people that you don’t identify with become Them.
Whenever your identity is challenged, your brain perceives that your survival is at risk and so it initiates hostile behaviours to protect you.
Hence why opposing countries fight eachother, opposing political parties abuse eachother and opposing football fans hate eachother.
How To Overcome Us Versus Them Mentality
The Us Versus Them Mentality is neither good nor bad, it’s how we harness it that matters.
The key to overcoming the Us Versus Them Mentality is first to become aware of the phenomenon and second to have a mindset of inclusiveness.
The key to overcoming us versus them is to focus more on similarities over differences.
The Us Versus Them Mentality describes the human tendency to view the social world in terms of an ingroup and an outgroup.
The Us Versus Them Mentality drives us to behave favourably to people that we consider as part of ingroup and unfavourably to people that we consider as part of outgroups.