See Also: Book Notes, (me), Notes on Consciousness, Happiness Hypothesis, Consciousness and the Brain, Barrett:HEAM, 7.5 Brain Lessons, Allostasis, Neuroscience of Human Relationships, Thinking, Fast and Slow

The Power of Us

Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony
by Jay J. Van Bavel and Dominic J. Packer

Little, Brown Spark publishers, September 2021 website with summaries

One key idea from this book is that two rival groups will not think poorly of each other by default. Disliking members of the out-group needs to be cultivated and reinforced.

Principles of Identity (p.31)
1) the groups people belong to are fundamental to their sense of self...
2) people have a remarkable readiness to find collective solidarity with others, even if only temporariliy
3) when a particular social identity is salient and active, it can have a profound effect on people's goals, emotions, and behaviors [jch and cognitive skills and implicit biases]
4) most people will conform to the norms associated with an active identity and try to act in ways they believe will advance its interests, making personal sacrifices if necessary.

These are various quotes that I want to be able to refer to. They are grouped: Optimal Distinctiveness, Racism, Trust in Institutions, The Hive Switch, Nonviolent Protests Work Better, Leadership, Inequality.

This is not a summary in any way, shape or form. There are a few key take aways for me: humans are intrinsically aware of in-groups and out-groups. However, our sense of our in-group is VERY flexible. Here is a fun example that demonstrates if concept of "salient and active identity":

p. 183 "British football fans do not have the best reputation. but they are willing to help their own. Mark Levine and colleagues invited Manchester United fans to his psychological laboratory at the University of Lancaster. They arrived and completed a series of tasks designed to remind them of how much they loved Manchester United and being a fan of the team. Then they were asked to walk to another building to complete the study. On the way they encountered an emergency. A young man ran out across the path ahead of them, tripped, fell, and clutched his ankle, moaning in pain. Would they help this man in distress?"

[YES! if they were wearing a Manchester United jersey (92%) else if Liverpool or plain shirt only 33% of the time. However, if the tasks reminded them of how much they loved the "beautiful game", then they were equally likely to help the Liverpool fan. Plain shirt was still out of luck]

This illustrates the concept of "salient and active identity". The first group is primed by activating their Man U identities. The second group is primed to have their futball (soccer) fan identity be "salient and active".

p.157 "The psychology of social identity can be used to bridge divides rather than create them. Given our species' capacity to form identities around new groups, finding different ways of dividing up the social world can have positive effects. Indeed, creating new identities can reshape the automatic mind."

The intro describes one author's experience with the difference between a random group of people and that same group that had experienced a scary flight.

p.14 "common experience that everyone had been through was a foundation for a momentary collective bond and a sense of community. The passengers had survived something stressful and unique together. When the plane landed, everybody applauded. For a while together, they had shared an identity."

Many other examples of the forming of group identities.

Group Identity can cloud our judgement - true for both left & right. Several examples. One had identical questions on gun control with switch in outcomes to prove gun control was effective or ineffective.

p.94 "Even among the most mathematically skilled participants in the study, partisans were 45 percent more likely to answer the gun-control question incorrectly when the right answer challenged their political beliefs. In short, their political identity seemed to make them dumber."

p.47 "kids have social identities too and use similar cues to guide their eating. One series of studies with young children found that kids as young as one year old used social identity cues to determine what to eat. When the infants were given a choice between two foods, they chose the one endorsed by someone who spoke their native language and turner up their noses at the one that had been endorsed by someone speaking a foreign language."

p.25 "Some groups have individualistic norms. For example, the American identity has a strong independent streak, emphasizing the importance of personal autonomy, responsibility, and individual rights and deemphasizing the importance of consensus and cohesion. What does this mean for strongly identified Americans? Their level of identification should lead them to conform more to the norms of the group, making them strive to be even more individualistic."

p.20 De Cremer & Van Vugt "social value orientation" "As an example, think about which of the following options you would choose. Option A gives you and your partner 500 points each. Option B gives you 560 points and your partner 300. Option C gives you 400 points and your partner 100. Which would you choose?" A) cooperative / pro-social b) individualistic or C) competitive orientation.

p.65 Why do we conform? 1) Peer Pressure, 2) Informational Influence - assume others are a good source of information, 3) Express Valued Identities - conform to the groups norms. [ Swathmore Asch ]

p.81 "Peer review is not perfect, but it provides a remarkable antidote to groupthink. Receiving reviews from scientists who disagree about the strengths and weaknesses of your paper can be annoying (trust us, we get irritated too!). Harnessing a diversity of opinions can also slow down the publication process. But when you get a vaccination, fly in a plane, or turn on your computer, you can thank the peer-review process for improving the scientific foundations behind modern medicine and technology."

p.120 "Society might be better served if political symbols were removed from news reports and interviews; this might focus audiences on details of policy proposals rather than partisan loyalties. In normal conversation. people often lead with their identities. This can promote transparency and provide standing on certain issues, but it may also close minds and foster disagreement. We might want to think twice before invoking our political identities if we're aiming to talk across a divide."

p.120 Erin Rossiter randomly assigned a set of Republicans and Democrats to engage in short online chats about political or nonpolitical topics. Regard-less of what they talked about, participants who had engaged in digital communication with a political out-group member later felt more positively toward the out-group than people who had not had these conversations.

Optimal Distinctiveness

p.128 "We believe, for example. that Apple became one of the world's largest companies not only through technical savvy but by creating in many consumers a deep sense of identification with its products. Like Molson Canadian. Apple built an identity that meets a psychological need for optimal distinctiveness — the feeling that you simultaneously belong and stand out from others. It's a potent cocktail."

p.139 "The psychological magic of optimal distinctiveness helps us understand why music fans will brag that they liked a famous band or musician "before they were big" and why people love to cheer for the underdog. By definition, underdogs are likely to lose and might seem like a bad place to align your identity, since they will leave you crying into your beer more often than not. But we have found that people who have a heightened need for distinctiveness are more likely to identify with underdogs."

p.133 "Joining groups is good for your health because, among other things, it satisfies core human motivations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dom and a group of colleagues examined how social identities embedded in people's local communities were associated with poor mental-health outcomes like stress and depression. From April to October of 2020, we observed that people who felt more connected to their communities — especially those who believed that members of their communities were rallying to support one another during the crisis — experienced less stress and depression over time."

p.147 "Experiments ... find that while people still have plenty of positive feelings toward fellow in-group members, they don't trust them more than out-group members when their own identity is not visible. Knowing that an in-group member is aware that the two of you belong to the same group is the key to unlocking cooperation."

[jch: Also, we can have the benefit of the in-group and feel neutral towards out-group members until it becomes part of the group norm to make the out-group wicked.]


p.153 "if humans were truly hardwired for racism, we would expect that our species had evolved in environments where it was adaptive to differentiate among and discriminate against people from other races. Yet from everything we know about human evolution, this is unlikely."

p.154 "The drive to defend group hierarchies is what political psychologist Jim Sidanius described as an orientation toward social dominance. This tendency provides the psychological foundation for much of the racism that exists around the globe. From this perspective. racism is not grounded in genetic racial differences, despite what White supremacists would have you believe. Instead, it is built on mental tendencies to carve the world into groups and defend inequitable systems and power disparities."

p.160 "Each subject's brain responses reflected the person's new identity as a Leopard or a Tiger. Unlike in previous studies, we could see that our participants were not responding to the race of the faces but to their new group identity — their team. More specifically, we observed greater activity in our participants' amygdalae when they saw members of their in-group compared to members of the out-group—and, critically, this occurred regardless of their teammates' race. Now that another identity was central to the situation, race had little to no bearing on how their brains responded to the faces."

p.161 "In one of the largest studies, involving more than seventeen thousand participants, Calvin Lai and his colleagues tested seventeen different possible strategies for reducing implicit racial bias. They found that shifting group boundaries to form new identities, as we had done, was one of the most effective. Mere membership in a group is sufficient to change one's identity and preferences. It can bridge old divides, like race, while creating new ones. In this way, identity is, of course, a mixed blessing—it can bring you closer to a stranger but also push you away from a neighbor."

Trust in Institutions

p.170 "Cleaning up our institutions and improving technology to reduce disparate treatment of different groups is a moral imperative."

p.171 "Without effective institutions, people may opt to restrict their circle of trust to those with whom they already have a connection, either in the form of a personal relationship or through a shared social identity. They may choose to selectively hire, do business, or otherwise affiliate with people like themselves because it feels like a safer bet. But where there are effective institutions that support good behavior across whole societies, the circle of trust can safely open up to include people without prior personal or group connections. Perhaps for this reason, we have found that the more people trust important social institutions, including the government, legal system, and police, the more comfortable they are interacting with members of other racial groups."

p.262 "Boundaries become perilous when leaders define outsiders as threats, convincing followers that they pose a significant, even existential, danger to the beloved group. The peril is often particularly acute when leaders' rhetoric excludes people who would otherwise be included in the group. Throughout history, all manner of minority groups, including immigrants, Jews, and sexual minorities, have been targeted in this way. It is not uncommon to see groups on a trajectory toward violence starting to refer to people they have defined as outsiders as being traitors or something less than human: parasites, rats, or cockroaches."

The Hive Switch

Haidt used the Hive Switch metaphor to describe the switch from collection of individuals to a cohesive team. Hive aka, Group Solidarity

p.188 "To create feelings of solidarity in the collaborative groups, we told them that they would be competing against other teams on the problem-solving tasks. We also put some money on the line: if their team was ranked in the top 5 percent of all teams, they would receive a two-hundred-dollar bonus to be split equally among them (fifty dollars each). We then asked them to create a team name and had them tap along in unison to some funky music while facing one another. Moving to music is an ancient tool for helping people feel a sense of collective purpose."

p.189..191 [discussion of experiments that measure brain synchrony and how it increases team performance]

p.191 "Change happens when people find solidarity with one another and fight for it"

Nonviolent Protests Work Better

p.199 "The tactics used by protesters and resistance movements seem to matter a great deal for instigating change. Political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan examined the effectiveness of social movements in countries around the world between the years 1900 and 2006.27 They compared the success rate of violent versus nonviolent campaigns. Contrary to the intuition that deep changes come about only at the barrel of a gun, they found that over this long period of history, nonviolent campaigns were significantly more successful than violent ones. Whereas violent campaigns succeeded 26 percent of the time, nonviolent ones succeeded about 53 per-cent of the time! Nonviolence was twice as effective at producing change.

p.201 Omar Wasow's "analysis suggests that nonviolent protests in a U.S. county increased the number of people voting for Democrats (who were generally in favor of expanding civil rights) by about 1.6 percent. But violent protests decreased the number of people voting for Democrats by anywhere from 2.2 to 5.4 percent.


p.230 Amy Edmondson "observed that surgical teams where members had a voice and felt comfortable speaking up were more successful at adopting the new lifesaving technique. ... some surgeons, the team leaders, were better at creating this type of psychological safety than others. ... invested more energy communicating the importance of their mission ... worked harder to reduce power disparities within their teams ... choosing to adapt and move on when a team member made a mistake rather than calling the individual out."

p.230 "But one thing did predict team success. The research team at Google concluded that group dynamics were actually the key to team success. In particular, their data revealed that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team effective. The best teams provided a supportive environment in which people could voice alternative perspectives without fear of negative consequences.

p.249 "Trust in leaders matters beyond the trust that people who share an identity have in each other. Kurt Dirks, a scientist at Simon Fraser University, convinced the head coaches of thirty men's NCAA basketball teams to let him survey their players before the start of the conference season.18 Three hundred and thirty players rated how much they trusted their coach, among other things."

p.250 "In other words, trusting their leaders allows groups to capitalize on the benefits of having a leader in the first place. There is someone to set the direction and make key decisions so the rest of the team can buckle down and do their jobs. It is not a shock, therefore, that research in the workplace shows that trust in leaders is associated with a number of good things, including better job performance, more altruism, higher satisfaction and commitment, and lower turnover."

p.250 "Believing that our leaders are doing good things for us... is one key reason we trust them. Research suggests that another important factor is how "prototypic" they are — or how much they appear to be one of us. When people identify with a group, they perceive key characteristics of the group to be self-defining. If a core component of your group's identity involves being conscientious or competitive or curious, you will tend to see yourself that way."

p.251 "most trusted and influential leaders are not the most average of group members and they are not just trying to fit in. Instead, they are among those who best capture the essence of who the group members think they are, or who they want to be. Indeed, leaders often achieve this in an exaggerated fashion by being more like "one of us" than the rest of the group: a living, breathing encapsulation of the group's social identity."

p.252 "The concept of procedural justice recognizes that there is a difference between the way leaders make decisions and the actual decisions they make—and followers care a lot about both of these things.24 Making decisions in a procedurally just way is key to securing and maintaining trust. Even when people do not like a decision, it is more palatable if it is made in a way that they see as fair. They are more willing to accept outcomes contrary to their interests, such as not getting a promotion or a job, as long as they think the process was fair."


p. 265 "tend to have more violent crime, higher infant mortality, more mental illness, and lower life expectancy. The same sorts of relationships hold if you compare American states; for instance, rich but unequal California has worse outcomes on these metrics than poorer but more equal Iowa. In fact, this comparison makes a key point: It seems that inequality rather than poverty is often more powerfully associated with negative outcomes at the societal level. Societies do worse when the incomes and assets of the rich are wildly divergent from those of the poor and, increasingly, the middle class." 2021-11-19 jch