Friday, January 14, 2011

Oxytocin Knows Not Diversity...

Human ethnocentrism—the tendency to view one's group as centrally important and superior to other groups—creates intergroup bias that fuels prejudice, xenophobia, and intergroup violence. Grounded in the idea that ethnocentrism also facilitates within-group trust, cooperation, and coordination, we conjecture that ethnocentrism may be modulated by brain oxytocin, a peptide shown to promote cooperation among in-group members. In double-blind, placebo-controlled designs, males self-administered oxytocin or placebo and privately performed computer-guided tasks to gauge different manifestations of ethnocentric in-group favoritism as well as out-group derogation. Experiments 1 and 2 used the Implicit Association Test to assess in-group favoritism and out-group derogation. Experiment 3 used the infrahumanization task to assess the extent to which humans ascribe secondary, uniquely human emotions to their in-group and to an out-group. Experiments 4 and 5 confronted participants with the option to save the life of a larger collective by sacrificing one individual, nominated as in-group or as out-group. Results show that oxytocin creates intergroup bias because oxytocin motivates in-group favoritism and, to a lesser extent, out-group derogation. These findings call into question the view of oxytocin as an indiscriminate “love drug” or “cuddle chemical” and suggest that oxytocin has a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.

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This goes along with research which shows that the more diverse a neighborhood, area or society is, the more conflict and violence it has.

This study is a survey of people living in 41 different American communities that run from racially homogeneous rural South Dakota to San Francisco, which is one of the most racially mixed places on earth. The clearest finding was that the more diverse the area, the less people trusted each other. The graph on page three represents this by showing the 41 areas on a plot, with trust of other races on the vertical axis and an index of homogeneity on the horizontal axis.

(Prof. Putnam measured homogeneity with what is called a Herfindahl index, which is the likelihood that two randomly selected people in a given area—in this case a census tract—will be of the same race. A value of 1.00 means there is a 100 percent chance they will be the same, and a value of 0.50 means only a 50 percent chance.)

The study divided people into four groups—white, black, Hispanic, Asian—and asked whether they trusted the other groups. The percentage that said they trusted the other three groups “a lot” is on the vertical axis. Rural South Dakota and Lewiston, Maine, over to the right, were about as pure white as it was possible to be (this was in 2000, before Somalis converged on Lewiston because of its generous welfare—see “Lewiston Update,” AR, Aug. 2007) and had some of the highest levels of trust in “other races.” As diversity increases towards the left, trust in other races decreases.

The second graph, on page four, is a similar plot, except that the question was whether respondents trusted their neighbors “a lot.” Prof. Putnam recognizes that people usually have neighbors like themselves, so this question can be seen as an indication of trust not only in neighbors but in people like oneself. As the graph shows, people in virtually all areas are more likely to say they trust their neighbors “a lot” than to say they trust people of other races “a lot,” but again, the more diversity, the less trust.

The third graph, on page five, shows the results of asking whether people trust members of their own race “a lot.” Prof. Putnam points out that if diversity makes people distrust people of other races, it might be expected to increase their trust in people of their own race—and here is the surprise: Diversity reduces trust in everyone, even in people of one’s own race. This is what leads to Prof. Putnam’s widely quoted conclusion that diversity makes people behave like turtles—they pull into their shells. On the basis of other survey data, he lists other unhappy consequences for people who must live with diversity:

• Lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media.

• Lower political efficacy—that is, confidence in their own influence.

• Lower frequency of registering to vote, but more interest and knowledge about politics and more participation in protest marches and social reform groups.

• Less expectation that others will cooperate to solve dilemmas of collective action (e.g., voluntary conservation to ease a water or energy shortage).

• Less likelihood of working on a community project.

• Fewer close friends and confidants.

• Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life.

• More time spent watching television and more agreement that “television is my most important form of entertainment.”

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