Bill Moyers once quipped, “Civilization is a thin veneer of agreeable behavior stretched across the passions of the human heart.” Among the most persistent of these dark passions is ingroup favoritism. Christian versus Muslim, black versus white, liberal versus conservative—anywhere one group outnumbers the other, we typically see the minority get snubbed, insulted, or physically attacked by the majority. Psychologist D.B. Krupp and mathematician Peter Taylor of Queen’s University in Ontario recently published a theoretical model of how strife tends to develop between unequal groups. Their work supports the controversial claim that prejudicial violence is at least partially rooted in behavioral genetics. If correct, this provides one explanation for the persistence of ethnic conflict—not an excuse for intolerance.
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