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Us and Them: The Science of Identity
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Us and Them: The Science of Identity

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  161 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Democrat and Republican. Meat Eaters and Vegetarians. Black and White. As human beings we sort ourselves into groups. And once we identify ourselves as a member of a particular group—say, Red Sox fans—we tend to feel more comfortable with others of our own kind, rather than, say, Yankees fans. Yet we all belong to multiple groups at the same time—one might be a woman, a mo ...more
Paperback, 396 pages
Published November 24th 2008 by University Of Chicago Press (first published September 1st 2005)
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Bob Nichols
Berreby provides a detailed and up-to-date review of the literature that describes our tribal nature in all of its facets. His examples are straightforward and highlight what most can readily understand.

The author's underlying theme is that despite all the problems created by our tribal nature, we can transcend them by choosing for "human kind." The "Us-Them code does not own you; you own it," he writes. "This power to believe in human kinds, and to love or hate them, is part of your human natu
"No dog quits her humans because they have converted to Catholicism or put a peace sign on their lawn... only human beings trust symbols to tell who is kin and who is a friend."

In this book, Berreby uses psychology, sociology and neuroscience to explore our need to divide humankind into human-kinds... the Us and Them of the title. He believes this is a basically innate desire, below conscious thought and is related to the brain circuitry involved in learning and following rules. He spends some t
Apr 26, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Us and Them totally blew me a way. This is a fantastic exploration of neuropsychcology, social psych, group dynamics, cognitive psych, motivations, game theory and on and on.

Berreby's book led to a spate of blog posts for me and directly impacted how I work with my clients.

Years of study and work have made me very familiar with the elements of this book, but Us and Them ties them into a neat, readable package.

I've already passed this around the office. My copy is littered with margin notes. All
Jan 11, 2009 Richard marked it as to-read-3rd  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: New York Academy of Science's "Science and the City"
The author was interviewed by the New York Academy of Science's Science and the City program in early 2006. Their website provides a flash video of his presentation, as well as a downloadable podcast and extensive notes and a bibliography.
Jun 05, 2013 Mafalda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mafalda by: Lisbon
Social science is not, by any means, my area of expertise. But, as a human being, I'm curious in trying to understand why people feel such a strong urge to propel their "tribal mind", deliberately associating themselves with people that are similar to them, even if that similarity is just apparent and very insignificant in terms of substance.

It was a very interesting read, non-fiction of course.
Nov 27, 2007 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cordelia Person and Dan Berger
He does a good job of explaining why we think in human kinds and actually offers an interesting counter point to Steven Pinker in the Blank State when he says that prejudices are just good statistics from common people. Nice read.
Jan 12, 2009 Meen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: Richard
This is the human tendency we have to grow beyond.
Adrian Verster
Jan 17, 2016 Adrian Verster rated it liked it
This book touches on a fascinating topic, which is how we understand who is like us and who is unlike us. It approaches the topic from a number of different perspectives: psychology, anthropology, neuroscience and other, in order to try and give an understanding of this phenomenon.

I enjoyed most of the book, it's filled with nuggets of interesting information on the notion of identity, things that I would not have considered otherwise. For example, in medieval France there was a sort of ethnic m
Jan 03, 2009 Res rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
About our perception of what the author calls 'human kinds' (from racial groups to rival sports fans) -- where it might come from, how it might function, etc.

There's apparently quite a controversy about this. I'm not equipped to make any intelligent judgment about which side is right and wrong, and thus I feel I should mistrust the way this book mostly rings true for me.

The author's view is a fairly optimistic one. It's difficult, or maybe impossible, to prevent people from sorting everyone into
Jan 04, 2011 Lynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting theories on how and why humans divide into 'tribes' - including but not limited to race, ethnicity, politics, the list goes on and on. The author explains how tribes help us find our place in the world but that they can also be self-limiting and destructive. And, even though we may understand the concept and that placing ourselves in tribes can be a negative thing, it's impossible to stop!
Sep 06, 2007 Arielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great gift from an intern. At first I thought it was going to be another "it's out biology, so suck it up" tome that I would have oodles of problems with. But aside from some "scientists are the best kind of people" threats early on, I quite liked it. Now I'm just curious what someone who's not, ehm, white might think of it.
Matt Motyl
Jan 02, 2012 Matt Motyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an excellent interdisciplinary explanation for why people form groups and why those groups tend towards conflict with each other. During the first 95% of the book, I was enthralled. The concluding chapter was underwhelming, lacking a powerful take-home message.

Oct 09, 2012 Nick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
While an intriguing discussion of human behavior in the vein of Gladwell's "The Tipping Point", "Us and Them" could have used more editing to avoid reading like a sometimes disjointed collection of research abstracts stitched together with stock transitions.
May 29, 2013 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Older Brother
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dana Larose
May 01, 2011 Dana Larose marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Saw this at a used bookstore/coffee shop and it looked pretty neat.
Feb 11, 2012 Kyle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read as part of my Communication Studies course at the University of Oregon, 2010
Josh Alexander
Aug 10, 2009 Josh Alexander marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: integral
c.f. SD Purple
Feb 24, 2010 Ifedayo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I've always wondered who books like this are aimed at.
Jun 08, 2010 alayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book to do a book report on in one of my classes. It was really interesting and makes you really think about how you think.
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“I'll probably regret saying this, but...for me kin have always been bad news. Warmth and hope came from strangers as they became friends, mentors, allies, etc., while family is the shared trait of those who diminish my happiness and augment my griefs. I know in my bones that blood is not thicker than water.” 3 likes
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