Skip to main content

Us and Them

The Science of Identity

With an new Preface by David Berreby
Democrat and Republican. Meat Eaters and Vegetarians. Black and White. As human beings we sort ourselves into groups. And once we identify ourselves as a member of a particular group—say, Red Sox fans—we tend to feel more comfortable with others of our own kind, rather than, say, Yankees fans. Yet we all belong to multiple groups at the same time—one might be a woman, a mother, an American, a violinist. How do we decide which identities matter and why they matter so much? And what makes us willing to die for, or to kill for, a religion, a nation, or a race?
            In this award-winning book, David Berreby describes how twenty-first-century science is addressing these age-old questions. Ably linking neuroscience, social psychology, anthropology, and other fields, Us and Them investigates humanity’s “tribal mind” and how this alters our thoughts, affects our health, and is manipulated for good and ill. From the medical effects of stress to the rhetoric of politics, our perceptions of group identity affect every part of our lives. Science, Berreby argues, shows how this part of human nature is both unexpectedly important and surprisingly misunderstood.
            Humans need our tribal sense—it tells us who we are, how we should behave, and links us to others as well as the past and future. Some condemn this instinct, while others celebrate it. Berreby offers in Us and Them a third alternative: how we can accept and understand our inescapable tribal mind.
“[A] brave book. . . . Berreby’s quest is to understand what he sees as a fundamental human urge to classify and identify with ‘human kinds.’”—Henry Gee, Scientific American

396 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005, 2008

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Biological Sciences: Ecology

Cognitive Science: General Works


"At over 300 pages of densely packed, scholarly-yet-accessible text Us & Them takes focused attention. Bereby takes his time and makes his case. If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s breezy bestseller, Blink, and wanted a meatier discussion of the same points, Us & Them will satisfy."

Jodi Forschmeidt | Metapsychology

“What exactly is this seemingly natural tendency to sort others into ‘kinds’? This question forms the core of Us and Them, which explores the conscious and unconscious ways in which people classify one another—and more important—why.”

Richard Lipkin | Scientific American Mind

“We leap to categorize people. . . . Berreby uses mind and brain science to investigate why the human tendency to typecast is so powerful—and apparently so automatic.”

Psychology Today

“[A] brave book. . . . Berreby’s quest is to understand what he sees as a fundamental human urge to classify and identify with ‘human kinds.’”

Henry Gee | Scientific American

Table of Contents



One      "That’s Our Biggest Difference"

Two      "There Are Few Questions More Curious Than This"

Three    Counting and Measuring

Four      Birds of a Feather

Five      Mind Sight and Kind Sight

Six        Looking for the Codes

Seven    How Mind Makes World

Eight      Inventing Tradition in Oklahoma, or What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Nine      Them, We Burn

Ten       "Our Common Humanity Makes Us Weep"

Eleven    No Humans Involved

Twelve   Don’t Be a Stranger

Thirteen  Hazings and Conversations

Fourteen The Heads on the Poles

Fifteen     Species of Darwinism

Notes and References

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press