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The Family/Tribe Bias

Updated: Feb 22

(For more on family, click here)


Our pets love us very much, don't they? When they are on good terms with us, they are more than willing to show affection towards us in many ways, from climbing on our chests to licking us. Why do they love us so much when there are many other people they can love?

The answer is simply because we are an integral part of their family. If it weren't for us, they would either be on the streets or, worse than that, be put to rest. If, however, they were raised by other people, they would treat them (the other people) the same way they treat us -- as their masters, or at least as their true family members.

This bias isn't only true about pets, but it could also be true for humans. If we had different parents and never knew our "true" parents as much as our formers, would we treat the same people the same way in an alternate reality? If we go on the internet and say something triggering, and someone, at the age of our parents, would respond, would they respond the same way if they were our father or mother?

This bias shows us that we are "tribal" creatures, even if we're not social. Unless we have no family or friends whatsoever, and don't want either of thos, we have a need to surround ourselves with people we know. And these people slowly become our "tribe", the circle of people we acknowledge as being one of "us" and our "identity". And if these people are not a part of said "tribe", then we would treat them far differently than if it weren't the case.

When it comes to treating other people, it is very hard to do so equally, especially if they are dear to us in any way. It is therefore quite difficult to say that we are objective when judging other people, because there are some biases that exist along the way that bring us difficulty in judging them objectively, AKA, without any emotional or social bias.

In order to overcome this bias, one must see other people as if they were not their sons, daughters, family members, and so on. This also includes people we have unequal respect for, or love very dearly, such as a romantic partner. But still, the question remains -- why overcome such bias when we can continue loving those who are dear to us?

The answer is -- because statements are best judged beyond the person who said them. When we let our emotional biases misjudge statements said by others, our own perspective of that statement becomes "corrupted"; should someone we don't know say the same statement, our judgment will surely change as long as we treat some people as better than others.

Objective judgment of other people is difficult in general, even if they are not of our family or "tribe", as they could have certain labels that could influence our perception of them. As long as we won't see people beyond the labels that represent them, objective evaluation of them and their statements would be very difficult to achieve.

Pets, on the contrary, need these labels as they help them identify between friend and foe, other people and their masters, but we humans, as long as we don't live in an anarchy, don't require such labels as much as they do, as the law (at best) protects and punishes us equally.

Should the respect of other people go beyond our evaluation of their words? Is it better to tell them the truth when it comes to your thoughts, or preserve their respect, due to their close relations with you? Beyond basic respect I at least believe that, as philosophers, we shouldn't overlook this bias.

That is because the truth does not care for love, loyalty, or deep respect, if these values overcome it. If we are to face rejection as a result, then at least we were honest about our thoughts and about what we have seen to be the truth. Of course, that is said beyond basic respect, and not without any respect at all (unless you're a jerk I guess).

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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