In this episode, Olga Khazan talks about how weirdos and outsiders progress us as humankind. Listen to her speak about outcast's bonding tendencies, changing social norms, and the relationship between weirdness and creativity.
Publish Date: Feb 05, 2021
basically well, you write about gender issues a bit. What air this. What are the ones that are most on your mind these days? Well, I mean, yeah, So speaking of, I mean, gender issues like so, a major reason why we have Trump is that a lot of people don't think women would make a good president. And the reason for that is that we've never had a female president. So when people think about presidents, they think about white men. And that's another example of how people really like to keep things the same and really, like Thio uphold the norm When you think about like, how could someone as qualified as Hillary Clinton lose to trump? A lot of that could be explained by sexism and a lot of why someone like Elizabeth Warren could lose to Biden can also be, unfortunately explained by sexism. But sexism is a type of norm. My book doesn't explain literally everything in the world, but it does kind of you can see glimmers of this desire for conformity in current events, too. When did we become so hateful toward outsiders that you put this within a historical context, which I thought was really interesting. How did we go from the whale party to fascism? So there's this, like debate among scholars about whether people were always xenophobic or whether that started kind of recently. And so there's like, some interesting research on how, like, actually, if you just let society do kind of whatever, right? If you just, like, let people hang out and chill and, like, not have money or work or rules, they'll just have a big whale party. And like a big orgy where they just hang out and eat whale and like, have sex with each other. I'm literally like talking about that's been observed. And so do Wales taste good to these whale hunters? They dio I personally go and enjoy it. But have you tried it? I have tried. Well, yeah, anyway. Yeah, well party. Yeah, eso. But you know what s So What they found, though, is that Is that really sense of like I don't like people who are different from May started with farming because farming is when you really started having tracts of land that were yours. You started having resource is that were yours and you had to kind of cultivate a little plot and take care of your own little tribe and your own little community. And you couldn't just have, like, random bands of humans traveling around together and like being chill and like having a whale party because you had Teoh. You know, it wasn't a whale party. It was It was a harvest and it had to be coordinated. And it could only, you know, go towards so many people. And usually those people were going to be people who look like you are part of it due to history. But Charlie are tribal instincts run very deep, evolutionary wise and, uh, coded into our biology in a lot of ways to want to categorize things in that way. But the idea of being actively hateful towards outsiders because there's nothing to say that we have to be hateful towards our our group. Yeah, I mean, but people historically are. I think there was one study that found that people have similar reactions to homeless people that they do tow like a dirty bathroom. People just really, really don't especially low what we would typically associate with, like a low status person in society, people just have really negative reactions to to out groups like that, Yes, so we have this kind of built in bias. But then we also have all these more evolved capacities toe override it and to see people in a more thoughtful way and a more enlightened way and a more holistic way. I'm fascinated with try and understand the difference between those who immediately react to what they're most sub cortical structures telling them without thinking it through it all, or without thinking and those who then actually activate that prefrontal cortex and like, well, hold up like maybe I'm actually over generalizing here in this moment. It's tough. Yeah, I mean, I think it's it's really tough to Dio. I think people do over generalized, and it takes a lot of self control and sort of meta cognition to say to yourself, like Wait, maybe I'm wrong and like, you know, about this like giant group that I fear, and you don't see a lot of that happening from either honestly, either political side, any kind of group. It tends to get very tribal very quickly, and people have very, very negative feelings toward the opposite group. So while it's definitely possible to be enlightened and think like, Well, they're not all like that. Maybe I can think about some good members of this group. Most people, unfortunately, just don't do that. No, and you're seeing it all over the news in every direction, right? Right. I tweeted something the other day that social scientists having a field day right now with seeing everything we've ever studied in our entire careers, just playing itself out in a magnified way and right in front of our TV screens. Tribal warfare, competitiveness, racism, discrimination, virtue signaling. I mean, so this goes on and on and on. It's fascinating to watch, and not just fasting. But as a social scientist, who cares? I want to see what I could do to actually change it. So let's let's just keep going down the list because, you know, there's lots of things that along the lines of what we're talking about, you report some studies that show that Americans view immigrants who speak English more favorably than those who speak other languages. That's sort of automatic reaction. Yeah, I mean, so this is this is sort of an extension of what I was talking about earlier, which is that there's this kind of logical explanation for anti immigrant sentiment, which is, well, we want to protect American jobs. But in fact, people have more negative reactions when the immigrant is more culturally distant from American culture. So people tend to have more negative reactions toward Mexican immigrants than British immigrants because the Mexican immigrant is more culturally distinct from us, and it activates that kind of inner sense of like, You know, I don't like this. This person is different. That is super interesting. That study one of the studies you cited specifically compared British immigrants to Mexican immigrants. No, that's just an example I used. Right now. I don't remember the two immigrant groups from that research in particular, but regardless that the study did compare English speaking to non English speaking immigrants, I believe that Sorry, I would have toe look that up later and and let you know precisely what they compared. I believe it was the cultural distance that mattered, and I believe there was other research on