Tribalism pp 23-48 | Cite as

Threat and the Tribal Self



We see much of the world of politics today as TRIBAL, but this is truer and a part of our genetic makeup than we actually realize. We are not genetically built for living alone. Our tendency to form strong social groups is one of the most fundamental adaptive aspects of human survival. Those humans whose genes disposed them to solitude would have never survived in the harsh environmental landscape with animals many times fiercer and stronger than humans, in times of scarcity of food sources, or the threat of other warring tribes. Evolutionary pressures led to adaptions toward being cooperative, following group norms, being loyal, and being open to sharing resources. At the same time, they signal our fear of outsiders and strong in-group versus out-group aspects of our human nature which cause us to respond with aggression and violence.

Coming to terms with our tribal behavior requires an understanding of the context in which most of human evolution occurred. Already in the human remains found at Terra Amata, France, our ancestors 400,000 years ago were living in groups, with collections of families seeking the survival, protection, and sustenance that the tribe could provide. Our several hundred thousand years of existence in small tribes means that our genetics are built to sustain and protect the tribe and to be ultrasensitive to any threats to the tribe.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behaviorial SciencesRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA

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