Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

The Same Thing that Makes Us Love Makes Us Hate - The "Us-Them" Quiz

Quiz yourself on your acceptance of other points of view

A TV program staged a scene where a woman in Middle Eastern garb tried to buy bread in a store, and the clerk (planted by the program) berated her for her Arab sympathies. Most customers ignored the scene, but a few people jumped in to join the clerk in attacking the woman, including holding hr accountable for 9-11 and the Iraq War. Only one man actively stood up for her right to buy some baked goods. Given enough time (the TV producers stopped the scam) he himself might have been in real trouble.

A bunch of ignorant yahoos, right? You dear reader, do the same thing, every day. Take the quiz below and rate yourself to see.

Human beings are utterly social animals. People live by in-group identification. Our greatest pleasure and our psychological mooring derive from the approval of our group. And where there's an "us," there's a "them." The very things we cry for Americans to express - a devotion to their country, hope for economic revival and dedication to America's continued supremacy in the world, prayer that we overcome our enemies - all feed into prejudice against and rejection of those we see as outsiders. Even those who disdain gung-ho patriotism often discount and deride such jingoists just as fervently as the clerk and clients in that store rejected the Arab-appearing woman.

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These are not just characteristics of your politics or dealings with other ethnic groups - these traits pervade every aspect of your interactions with and views of other groups and individuals.

Yet, as a psychologist, I believe that even this most fundamental of human attributes can be reversed. Take this quiz and see where you score and what you must do to change:

Rate each of the following items from 1 to 5, where 5 is strongly true of you, and 1 is not true at all.

The Us-Them Quiz

1. ______ I can watch people who espouse different political views than mine on TV without grimacing and cursing.

2. ______ I don't express harsh disapproval for the latest pariah - e.g., Bernie Madoff, Octuplets Mom, Chris Brown for beating Rihanna then Rihanna for getting back with Brown, Rush Limbaugh.

3. ______ I look to understand where other people's points of view are coming from - even when they attack my beliefs, group, or country.

4. ______ I am able in a legal or a personal dispute to accurately describe my opponent's position (yes, that includes your former spouse) without caricaturing or ridiculing it.

5. ______ I can praise sports teams and their players who just whipped my favorite team or hero.

6. ______ I don't yell at other drivers who inconvenience me on the road, imaging them as subhumans.

7. ______ I defend people with different views when they are unfairly attacked or ganged up on by others in my group.

8. ______ I would never say, "There are some points of view that just don't deserve to be heard."

9. ______ I can listen to and absorb criticism of my children, family, and good friends.

10. ______ I can listen to and absorb criticism of me.

Your score:
41-50 - Christlike
31-40 - Openminded
21-30 - Conformist
11-20 - Scapegoater
0-10 - Lynchmobber


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Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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