Myth: Humans Celebrate Diversity and Respect the Point of View of Others

#Science

Fri, Aug 26th, 2011 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

The truth is that we stick to our social groups and then believe that everyone else is wrong just because they are others. No other reason.

Case in point is a study that was conducted in 1954, in eastern Oklahoma's Robber Cave, where two "tribes" of children nearly killed each other.

The neighboring tribes were unaware of each other's existence. Separately, they lived among nature, played games, constructed shelters, prepared food -- they knew peace. Each culture developed its own norms and rules of conduct. Each culture arrived at novel solutions to survival-critical problems. Each culture named the creeks and rocks and dangerous places, and those names were known to all. They helped each other and watched out for the well-being of the tribal members.

But when the two groups became aware of each other, they started to get very competitive with their "enemy". When one group discovered the other had a name, the Rattlers, they named themselves the Eagles, an animal they believed ate snakes, competing against each other in games of baseball.

Eventually, however, the experiment went out of control, with the children violently attacking their enemies' camp in what eventually became a systematic, tactical warfare:

Some of the Eagles boys discovered the Rattlers' flag standing unguarded on the baseball field. They discussed what to do and decided it should be ripped from the ground. Once they had it, a possession of the enemy, a symbol of their tribe, they decided to burn it. They then put its scorched remains back in place and sang Taps. Later, the Rattlers saw the atrocity and organized a raid in which they stole the Eagles' flag and burned it as payback. When the Eagles discovered the revenge burning, the leader issued a challenge -- a face off. The two leaders then met with their followers watching and prepared to fight, but the scientists intervened. That night, the Rattlers dressed in war paint and raided the Eagles' cabins, turning over beds and tearing apart mosquito netting. The staff again intervened when the two groups started circling and gathering rocks. The next day, the Rattlers painted one of the Eagle boy's stolen blue jeans with insults and paraded it in front of the enemy's camp like a flag. The Eagles waited until the Rattlers were eating and conducted a retaliatory raid and then ran back to their cabin to set up defenses. They filled socks with rocks and waited. The camp staff, once again, intervened and convinced the Rattlers not to counterattack. The raids continued, and the interventions too, and eventually the Rattlers stole the Eagles knives and medals. The Eagles, determined to retrieve them, formed an organized war party with assigned roles and planned tactical maneuvers. The two groups finally fought in open combat. The scientists broke up the fights. Fearing the two tribes might murder someone, they moved the groups' camps away from each other.

The experiment was, obviously, terminated, but the scietists learnt some interesting -- and disturbing -- concepts of how humanity forms groups and how we react to anything that's different: we call it stupid and then we try to kill it.

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