In this book, I make frequent references to the local group and emphasize the importance of group activity and group identity. The aptitude and skills required for affiliations and bonding originated with interactions in small groups. Our tendencies developed in small hunter-gatherer groups; with humans who knew each other and depended on each other to find food, protect the young and defend the group from predators.
Humans are social animals and generally depend on each other to provide rules of conduct, information, context and meaning. Mostly, humans are free to conform to the norms and expectations of the local group. Human’s copy what other humans do and are usually limited to repeating the speech and behaviors of others. Innovations are small modifications to existing methods, ideas or beliefs. While there are a great variety of social organizations and diverse expressions of social interactions, there are a limited number of root tendencies that give rise to the many variations
Humans live in the paradox of being isolated creatures with selfish interests, linked inextricably together by needs, thoughts, feelings, gestures and language. Because of a deep assumption of the independent self, humans tend to exaggerate the importance and the autonomy of individual experience and individual action. The idea of personal freedom is misleading. A self-determining individual is seldom if ever an independent agent acting only on his or her ideas and intentions. The more closely you look at any individual, the more you find group activity and the more you recognize that individuals seldom act alone. Even when humans do act alone, each person is an agent of a common understanding both innate and learned. Each person has the sense of others watching A human tendency is to suffer loneliness and to become despondent or suspicious and hostile when alone for extended periods.
Rather than viewing society and culture as real things, an observer can recognize that humans live in groups that repeat and modify innate behaviors to produce prolific variations on a few underlying themes that are common to all societies. The smart observer will consider the grouping characteristics of humans and discern basic patterns and problems underlying the apparent complexity of modern civilization. The organization of society begins with small local clusters that link family groups into clans that are more or less cooperative units. Clans associate forming bands that tend to affiliate with other bands forming tribes, looser affiliations that occupy larger geographic areas. The band-tribal structure emerges from ancient animal groupings.
At the deepest level, humans discriminate and select only a few humans out of many to trust and share time and space. In modern urban communties, humans of many descriptions come together to learn, work, and play. They pass through a common space every day. Strangers are ignored or actively avoided. A ride on an elevator reveals a remarkable innate resistance to interaction with strangers. Most humans feel tense and awkward in an elevator and avoid eye contact with other riders. If you override this strong tendency and say something to your fellow riders, the tension builds, and everyone is focused on getting out of the elevator as soon as possible.
A human can scan a thousand faces every day, ignoring most; reliably identifying an occasional attractive face or the face of a friend in the crowd. This remarkable facial identification is essential to social adaptation.