People instinctively crave order, familiarity and stability. But why?
From an evolutionary and historic standpoint, unpredictability was a major survival threat. In order to hunt and gather successfully while working in groups, ancient people needed the ability to trust their follow man and predict the behaviors of predators and pray.
This largely explains why people engage in “othering” which is defined as treating people from another group as fundamentally different from and/or generally inferior to the group you belong to. More specifically, it is when people view members of their own group as complex and diverse while viewing members of another group as “all the same”.
We regularly see this occur with racial and gender bias, but it goes beyond that. People naturally lump things into groups and label them.
Going back to hunter and gatherer days, a person’s survival depended on their ability to know what kinds of plants or animals were safe to interact with and which were dangerous. There was no time to investigate if the large cat fifty meters away was “one of the friendly ones”. All large cats were grouped as a threat. Failing to make this grouping could lead to death.
The same stereotyping would be applied to other human beings. Since people needed a strong group dynamic to survive, the group needed to be trustworthy. Thus, group “rules” would exist to ensure enough predictability. On a hunt, every man knows what to expect from the men around him. He trusts them not to turn against him or do anything unexpected. The success of the group on a hunt and general survived depended upon their ability to trust each other.
If a group of hunters were to run into another group of people they never met before and could not communicate with, it was seen as an immediate threat. The treat came from the lack of established trust.
From a survived stand point, you are better off assuming something you’ve never experienced before is a threat to you than assuming it is harmless. If you’re wrong about the treat, no harm is usually done (to you). If you’re wrong about the lack of a threat, you might die. And this is why “curiously killed the cat”.
Much of this psychological programing remains today. It continues to cause social conflict, war, and “us vs. them” thinking.
If you bring any large number of complete strangers together into one place, they will naturally organize themselves into groups. At least initially. Often those who look most alike will gravitate towards each other. Men and women will also form same sex groups. Older people will gravitate to other older people. Long people will do the same. People dressed in a similar way will likely gravitate to each other as well.
Why is this important? Because understanding human nature is important. Many of the world’s problems are blamed on certain “groups” of people being “the problem”. This could be political parties, religious groups, racial groups, etc. We blame the problems of the world on groups and inferior systems. Yet, we often forget about basic human nature as a major factor.
Our tendency to see our own group as “better” means most people don’t cast any blame upon themselves or their “group” as contributing to the problems of the world. Most or all of the blame is projected outward, leading to social conflict. Social conflict forces people to “take sides” even more. This may lead to deeper divides and more intense conflict. Ultimately, more problems are created as a result.