How Our Mind Defaultly Built For Supporting & Defending Group Racism/Discrimination

Recent events, shown that racism and discrimination could cause many unethical acts and even wars. Usually, those events are triggered by groups of people that provoking hate speech and disrespect acts toward another group. The acts and wars could be between groups of religions, races, ethnic, and communities.

Basically, the title of this post expresses my opinion of how our minds are perfectly built, with countless of mental processes that made us support and defending racism/discrimination.

The first concept that I want to share with you is in-group favoritism. This concept will be the basic concept that will manifest itself toward another concept that I will explain later in the post. In a nutshell, in-group favoritism (in-group-out-group bias) could be explained in one simple sentence which is “We like ourselves, we dislike them.” But in a more scientific definition from an article named Preferences and beliefs in ingroup favoritism, in-group favoritism is “people consistently act more prosocially towards ingroup members than outgroup members.”

We did it all the time, not necessarily toward something serious like race, religion, ethnic, etc. But toward something really simple such as other families, social groups, sport club fans, communities, even something irrational such as our dislike toward other people that uses the product of the competitor of our favorite brand. For example Apple fans toward Samsung users.

This bias made us automatically hate each other even if the reason is completely irrational and doesn’t make any sense. This is why sometimes when people promoting their hate speech toward another group, their argument tend to be random that designed to insult the targeted groups rather than fact-based arguments.

Now, If you are really paying attention when reading this post, you might start to become aware that there are no singular pronouns (he, she, and I) in the last 270 words. Primarily, that is my generalization toward the subject we are discussing. Most of the time, events that are related to racism and discrimination are caused by a group of people, rather an individual.

That’s not an accident, that’s because something that’s called group polarization. According to David G. Myers and Helmut Lamm in their paper called The Group Polarization Phenomenon, “The average postgroup response will tend to be more extreme in the same direction as the average of the pregroup responses.” That means when people with the same ideology binds together, their decision/action will become more extreme.

Cass Sunstein in his paper named The Law of Group Polarization gave a very good example of group polarization. He wrote “For example, people who are opposed to the minimum wage are likely, after talking to each other, to be still more opposed; people who tend to support gun control are likely, after discussion, to support gun control with considerable enthusiasm; people who believe that global warming is a serious problem are likely, after discussion, to insist on severe measures to prevent global warming.”


So, the moment when a supremacist or anyone who discriminate affiliates together into some sort of group, they will become more aggressive, radical, and irrational. This could be really dangerous and could trigger the riot and chaotic events that we have been seeing in the past decade.

The last concept that I wanted to explain is cognitive dissonance. But before explaining it, let me tells you the story when Leon Festinger discover this phenomenon. In the 1950s, there is a group that called them self the seekers who led by Marian Keech. She claimed that she was told by aliens that there will be an apocalypse that will destroy the earth on December 21, 1954. But, anyone who follows and become the seekers will be saved. A lot of people believe in that prophecy and even sold their houses, leave their jobs, even their family to accommodate them self to become the seekers.

So they gather around and wish to be saved by aliens the day when they believe to be the apocalypse. But as we know, nothing happened that day. Before continuing the story I have to ask you a question. What do you think is the reaction of the followers reacting to the falseness of the prophecy? If you thought that they will be mad and angry to Marian Keech. You are completely wrong. They were actually celebrating, they thought that their prayers impressed god, so god cancels the apocalypse and saved the earth.

This showed us the power of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the need of consistency when we have 2 or more ideas that oppose each other. Because our brain needs of consistency, we usually make a rationale that condones an idea and suppress the ideas that contradict it. In this example, because the seekers already have this big emotional attachment to the prophecy, they denied that their prophecy is wrong even though they know it’s wrong. So what could they do? They made excuses to defend the prophecy.

If we already have this huge attachment or huge involvement in the group of supremacists, we will be denying and attacking the fact that opposes our belief. This action will close your mind to many other explanations and point of view. Just like a conspiracy theorist defend their own theory. That I explain pretty thoroughly in my first post named How Conspiracy Theories Are Made – From psychological perspectives part 1. Up in this stage of denial, we already brainwashed by the group. We are not rational anymore, our brain now functions like a lawyer who defends his/her wrong client.

To prevent it, we need to be aware of this bias and to control ourselves so we will not succumb into this brainwashing radical group. But it doesn’t mean that those groups are wrong. We are living in the world of democracy so we must respect them. We must look neutrally, for the public goods. We need to thinking exploratory (to explore and investigate) rather than thinking confirmatory (motivated reasoning to confirm).

So what do you think about the concept that I just told you? Do you agree or disagree? Please tell us what you think in the comment box below!


Everett, J. A., Faber, N. S., & Crockett, M. (2015). Preferences and beliefs in ingroup favoritism. Retrieved from

Group polarization. (2017, October 03). Retrieved from

In-group favoritism. (2017, October 06). Retrieved from

Mooney, C. (2017, June 25). The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science. Retrieved from

Myers, D. G., & Lamm, H. (1976). The group polarization phenomenon. Psychological Bulletin, 83(4), 602-627. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.83.4.602

Self-affirmation. (2017, September 13). Retrieved from

Sunstein, C. R. (1999). The law of group polarization. Law School, University of Chicago.

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