Russia, Tribalism, and $500,000

Clinical psychologist Hector Garcia and Peter Montoya engage in a conversation about politics and tribalism, how our ancient psychology is influencing our political behaviors today, and the real winners of a divided America.

I have learned all the cognitive biases, I’ve seen them, and there’s obviously there’s hundreds of them. It’s amazing you start reading when you go. I didn’t know there was a bias, but I’ve done it before.

And then there was a bias that then before and you can look at, I think some of the ones that are really well known are a confirmation bias. Obscure mistakes. And there’s one called in-group-out-group. And when I first learned about the cognitive biases, I kind of learned them as all this long, long list.

And now the more I look at it, I really look at the in-group-out-group bias, which is your tribal bias is actually a master bias. I think it actually controls a lot of the other biases beneath it. So I’m coming to believe that first we choose our tribe, which is we belong to.

And we ask oftentimes wonder, you know, why do we have this confirmation bias? And one argument is, is it saves energy? So if we all are ever doing is confirm what we already know. It takes less processing power, less food, less energy to process our brains.

But I also think the other reason probably is, is as long as we’re being allegiant to our tribe, we’re less likely to be thrown out. So maybe one of the reasons that we have confirmation bias that we use motivated reasoning to rationale why our tribe is good is not only to save on a little bit of our calories in our brain, but maybe it also helped us survive by being loyal to our tribes. Absolutely. I could not agree more. I think that’s one of the most important understandings that I think the world can arrive at just because of how vulnerable those political biases can make us as as we saw from the 2016 election forward. Yeah, I think so, too. So there’s a popular meme that goes around and the mean goes like this. Racism isn’t you’re not born a racist. You’re taught it. And I’ve seen that since I was a kid. And I always thought, oh, my gosh, that’s absurd.

Right? You know, racism is taught. And now I actually think exactly the opposite. I think that tribalism is our default setting. And I keep looking at all the different institutions in our country and our communities around the world that have to constantly reinforce that we are all human.

And so I thought about it. We look at when we first started going to school and we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance means that we have all this common tribal identity. It’s another way of saying, OK, well, everyone in this classroom, everyone in my school, everyone in the country, we’re all actually equal. We’re all the same, we’re told as part of our history that all men are created equal in our country. Another way of saying everyone is equal in our country. These are all people of our tribe. We watch Sesame Street and we’re taught that we have different colored monsters.

And we’re all taught that we have to share with one another. OK, everyone’s sharing. We have this kind of collective idea. It’s because that this tribalism, this desire to kind of peel off and take care of our own smaller groups is our default setting.

And to somebody who’s listening, this is going. Yeah, Peter, I don’t do that. I’ve evolved. OK. Have you ever been to a cocktail party or a networking meeting, looked around the room and been judgmental about the people in the room?

That is your tribalism. That is it. Right there you’re going. Not my person. Might be my person. That’s my person. Not my person. I’ll talk to them. That is actually it. And you can see it in real time.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, sure. You put people in different colored T-shirts and they will start forming groups and forming tribes just based on the color of their T-shirts, you know. But when you take a step back and look at the course of humanity, I will say this just to add a you know, a positive view,

you know, I would say an accurate view of humanity on a broad scale. We have become more and more and more civil with one another since the days of our hunter gatherer ancestors. You know, research finds that, you know, warfare was pretty much continuous among our tribalistic ancestors.

And that’s you write in your book that maybe up to 30 percent or 35 percent may have died of violence. Is that where I read that fact, looking at looking at, you know, death rates of contemporary hunter gatherers?

And that’s that’s men, men from these tribes at the hands of other men, you know, intertribal violence. Yeah. So that kind that was one of the pressures that that shaped this tribalism. Right. But but as time went on and we develop things like centralized government laws and other other facets of modern society, we’ve been able.

To get along a lot better with one another. You know, warfare has to decline tremendously for a good look at this. Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels Of Our Nature. And we’re able to form these amazingly large societies, hundreds of millions, billions of people, you know, so so we’ve come a long way.

But, you know, the 2016 election in the past, you know, for the four years following that just showed us how quickly that fabric can can, you know, dissolve. Yes. You know, it can become unraveled so quickly suggesting like we have this volatile, tribalistic psychology that given the right manipulations can spring forward and it can spring forward quickly. So overall, we’re marching towards that. But we need to focus on that just given its destructive power, that it’s righteous and moral to attack the other side. So I hear this a lot. You know, I want to fight for my country.

And fighting for my country means arguing with people, defending people, yelling at people, demonizing, vilifying, slurring, slandering other Americans. Just so we’re clear about that. That is not helping your country at all. We attack ideas. We don’t attack people.

Right now, as we in America the last five years have been in practical gridlock where we’re attacking each other, the parties that are winning because we’re attacking each other are the following. China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, our enemies, our competitors are sitting on the sidelines just relishing watching us attack one another.

We are doing more harm to ourselves than any other outside terrorist organization could ever do to us. Well, there’s there’s there’s certainly, you know, a lot of evidence to suggest that our competitors would like to see us tear one another apart and certainly had contributed to that by, you know, flooding social media with memes to incite our, you know, our tribalistic hatreds. So so I think that’s a fair point. So you’re right. I think they spent five hundred thous and dollars in 2016. They got the absolute deal of the century. They took us off the world stage for four or five years with a relatively small investment.

It’s awful. It’s terrible. That’s a bargain for them. Boy, half a million dollars. That’s, I mean, that’s incredibly easy to do. Then if that is the case, I remember going in here, it wasn’t listening to a lecture in 2015 and he was taught was not an expert on the economy and also on Russia.

And he said, listen, people, Russia is not a big deal. They’re not a problem. The United States had at the time, it was like twenty two trillion dollars in GDP. He said Russia was a two point one trillion dollar GDP, but they just lost their oil revenue.

And now there are only a one point two trillion dollar GDP. They just are worth worrying about. Boy, was he wrong. Right, right, right. So so that’s, you know, something I often try to express, if we don’t understand, are our tribalistic psychology or other facets of our evolved psychology.

Others will understand and understand it better than us. They’re going to use it to manipulate us, either outsiders or those, you know, within our nation’s borders who, you know, have something to gain. If you are more committed to national unity than partisanship, please check out my book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation.

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