View Full Version : 'Implicit Whiteness': Psychology & White Ethnocentrism [Prof. Kevin MacDonald]

Monday, June 13th, 2016, 04:07 AM

While growing up I would often read accounts of European heroes who had battled for their people and for great causes. William Wallace, Robert Bruce and the Scots against the English, Sir Francis Drake leading the battle against the Spanish Armada, Charles Martel and the Franks defending Europe against the Muslims, King Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae, and many others.

Those days seem over now. Our political leaders are actually managing the displacement of their own people, and very few white people have the courage to do anything other than vote them back into office. Or they vote for the other party, which simply changes the faces of the managers.

How can it have come to this? One might think that evolution would have equipped us with powerful mechanisms of ethnocentrism and group identity that would ensure that such a thing could never happen. We would naturally stand up for our people and fi ght the good fight, even at great cost. We would willingly die for our people—like William Wallace, whose death is described as follows:

On 23 August 1305, following the trial, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to Smithfield Market. He was drawn and quartered—strangled by hanging but released near death, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then divided into four parts (the four horrors) at the Elms in Smithfield. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of his brother, John, and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Aberdeen.1

But there are no William Wallaces or mass movements of racial defense for Europeans, and the question is why this is so. The even more important question is how we can use our understanding of psychology to chart a path to legitimizing and building a movement of racial defense. This paper begins by describing the two worlds of psychology: the world of automatic, unconscious mechanisms that form our ancient evolutionary heritage, and the world of more recently evolved conscious processing that makes us distinctively human.

Ethnocentric tendencies are automatic, unconscious mechanisms, but despite the power of these ancient mechanisms, they can be suppressed or diverted from their original purpose by cultural programming that takes advantage of some recently evolved cognitive machinery: the conscious processing mechanisms of the human prefrontal cortex.

Nevertheless, ethnocentric tendencies continue to influence the behavior of white people. Despite the current cultural programming, white people are gradually coalescing into what I term “implicit white communities” in multicultural America—that is, communities that reflect their ethnocentrism but that “cannot tell their name”—they cannot explicitly state that they are an expression of white ethnocentrism. These implicit white communities are insufficient for ethnic defense, however, and I conclude that progress in defending the ethnic interests of whites will happen only by legitimizing explicit assertions of ethnic identity and interests. A variety of obstacles to ethnic defense is discussed, with particular attention paid to understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying white guilt.


Psychology has reached a consensus that the human mind has two kinds of processing, implicit and explicit (see Table 1). Implicit and explicit mechanisms may be contrasted on a number of dimensions.

Implicit Processing

Implicit processing is unconscious, automatic, effortless, relatively fast, and involves parallel processing of large amounts of information.2 Most of the activities going in our brains in our day-to-day life involve implicit processing.

Say you are negotiating with someone about buying a car. Without any conscious effort on your part, your brain is processing an enormous amount of data. It is processing the colors and shapes of the furniture and walls in the room, and it is processing data from your own body to allow you to stand upright without consciously thinking about it. More interesting, your brain is also processing the facial expressions and posture of the person you are negotiating with, and it is processing the age and sex of this person. If you are a heterosexual man talking to a woman, your brain is assessing the woman’s facial attractiveness and her body language as indicators of sexual availability for a long-term or a short-term relationship, even though the conversation is ostensibly about buying a car.

And if you are a woman talking to a man, your brain is making calculations that differ from those of a man due to the very different interests that men and women have in sexual relationships, differences that stem from our ancient evolutionary heritage. Your brain is also assessing how similar this salesperson is to yourself, and, without any conscious awareness on your part, it is making you trust the person more if that person is more like yourself. Furthermore, if the person is from a different race or ethnic group, it is flagging that fact and it is coloring your interactions with the person by stereotypes—whether negative or positive—that your unconscious mind associates with that race or ethnic group.

You may not be paying conscious attention to these features, but if something seems out of place, your conscious mind may well take notice. Perhaps the other person’s facial expression seems shifty, or he blinks too much when he tells you that the car was driven by a little old lady and has only 10,000 miles on it. If so, you may simply feel a vague unconscious unease, or you may actually notice that there is a major confl ict between the person’s facial expression and what he or she is telling you. In either case, your brain is telling you that you should back away from the deal.

What’s going on here is that there is a large number of what psychologist Christof Koch calls “zombie mechanisms” whirring away deep in the recesses of your mind. They act like zombies because we are completely unconscious
of their workings, much like a modern building in which we may be aware that the temperature is a comfortable 72°F but are completely unaware of the complexities of the climate control system that is humming away in the bowels of the building. When we look around the room, our brain is making millions of calculations about the appearance of objects that allow us to perceive the world.

We are not aware of these calculations, but we are aware of the product—our visual world. In fact, we are not even consciously aware of most of our visual world, only what we are paying attention to. Most of these zombie mechanisms are the result of our evolutionary past. Over thousands and millions of years, our ancestors had to solve the problems of living. These problems were recurrent—they happened over and over again.

The result was that natural selection equipped people with a large number of mental mechanisms for coping with these problems—mechanisms for recognizing faces and facial expressions, cooperating with others, interpreting threats, learning language, finding mates, and much else. Without this vast array of evolved modules, we could never do so many of the things we do effortlessly and routinely—literally without thinking about it. But natural selection for modules specialized to solve particular problems is not the only route to implicit processing.

Another route is when we learn something so well that we don’t have to think about it anymore. When children are learning their multiplication tables, it takes great conscious effort to remember that 3 x 4 = 12. But after a while, the answer to this problem comes automatically, without any conscious effort. It’s the same with driving a car or playing tennis. When one is learning to drive as a teenager, it takes a great deal of conscious effort to monitor the road, watch for crosswalks, pay attention to the dashboard dials, and attempt to coordinate gas pedal and clutch in shifting gears. But after some practice, these activities are performed easily and without much conscious effort. The result is that experienced drivers have no diffi culty listening to music or talking with a friend on the cell phone. (Of course, running on autopilot does have its dangers. Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in some states.)

Learning multiplication tables, driving a car, and playing tennis are not innate activities. They are learned, but they become overlearned to the point that we don’t have to pay much attention to the task when we are performing it. This frees up our limited conscious processing space to do other—often more important—things.

As a general rule, the mind makes common mental activities unconscious and automatic so that the limited resources available to the conscious mind can be allocated to tasks requiring attention and cognitive resources.3 The complicated motor routines involved in driving a car or playing tennis gradually become implicit. In fact, it is part of the folk psychology of tennis that a good way to make players play worse is to have them think about what they are doing. Tennis coaches talk about “muscle memory”—the unconscious, automatic mental processing that allows experienced tennis players to react quickly to situations without having to think about them.

The automaticity resulting from overlearning is important because some of people’s unconscious negative racial stereotypes may result from repeated exposure to information on different groups. For example, repeatedly encountering newspaper articles on school failure and dropout by African-American and Latino children would be expected to result in an automatic stereotype of the educational abilities of these children. This stereotype would then be automatically activated when encountering these children or when contemplating sending one’s children to a particular school with high percentages of these children. These negative stereotypes may then become implicit and unconscious.

Table 1: Characteristics of Implicit and Explicit Cognitive Systems

Unconscious Conscious
Automatic Controllable
Fast Relatively Slow
Evolved Early Evolved Late
Parallel Processing Sequential Processing
High Capacity Limited by Attentional and
Working Memory Resources
Effortless Effortful
Acquisition by Biology Acquisition by Culture
or Overlearning and Formal Tuition

It’s important to note that these implicit negative stereotypes may coexist with explicit, conscious beliefs that there are no racial or ethnic differences in academic achievement. As described below, research has shown that there are often confl icts between implicit, unconscious attitudes held by whites on racial issues and consciously asserted explicit attitudes. Explicitly asserted attitudes are much more likely to be “politically correct”: That is, they are much more likely to conform to the more or less official racial ideology sanctioned by the media and the academic and political establishment.

Explicit Processing

The opposite of implicit processing is explicit processing. Explicit processing is conscious, controllable, and takes effort. A good example is solving a problem that we haven’t encountered before—that is, one that can’t be solved automatically like the multiplication tables we learned in the third grade. Say, for example, we are taking an IQ test like the Raven’s Progressive Matrices and we encounter the following problem:

Raven’s Progressive Matrices - The task is to find which of the eight possible answers fills out the pattern in a logical way. To solve the problem, one has to notice that as you go from the top row to the bottom row, more horizontal lines being added. So the missing piece must be filled with horizontal lines too—which means either piece 2 or piece 8. You also need to notice that the diamond shape is growing from left to right—from nothing in the left column, to the half-diamond in the middle column, to the full diamond in the right column. Since we already know the right piece must be filled with horizontal lines like piece 2 or piece 8, and the full diamond doesn’t appear in piece 8, we know that piece 2 is the right choice.

Solving a problem like this requires that one keep a goal in mind, and it requires that one systematically pay attention to how the patterns change in two dimensions. This takes effort. The solution of the problem also involves
processing information in a sequence. Rather than being able to process a vast amount of information in parallel as we do with implicit processing, we approach a problem like this in a sequence, one step at a time. The sequential processing of our conscious mind is always most obvious to me when I am trying to do two things at once, such as reading my email and listening to a comedy routine on TV. It simply can’t be done. Focusing on the email means that you really can’t pay attention to the jokes.

Whereas implicit mechanisms take in enormous amounts of information and process it very quickly, explicit mechanisms are relatively slow and have very limited capacity. For example, how good one is at solving problems like this (and they can get much harder) depends on working memory capacity. Working memory is the workspace of your mind. People with a strong working memory are better able to focus their attention on problems and ignore interfering information. In general, people with a high working memory processing are better at solving these sorts of problems, and they have a higher IQ.

But even the smartest human can’t really keep very much in mind at once. Most people can remember a number sequence of about 7–9 numbers—far fewer than a computer, and much less information than our modular, implicit mechanisms routinely process effortlessly. As this example indicates, IQ is a critically important mechanism that involves explicit processing. However, another important explicit processing mechanism is the personality system of Conscientiousness, which will be the focus of this paper.4

Conscientiousness refers to “socially prescribed impulse control”—that is, the ability to control one’s behavior to conform to social conventions and to pursue long-term goals.5 Conscientious people are able to delay gratifiation and to perform diffi cult, unpleasant tasks in pursuit of their goals. In general, they behave in a responsible, dependable, and cooperative manner. Conscientiousness is often labeled effortful control. This emphasizes the fact that Conscientiousness involves explicit, conscious processes.

Simply put, conscientious people try hard. In a test of this trait for children, the experimenter places a piece of candy on a child’s tongue and asks him to not swallow until instructed to do so. Or the experimenter asks the child not to peek at a gift until the experimenter returns. For most five-year-olds, these are really hard things to do, because their natural tendency is to swallow the candy and look at the gift. In general, girls are more conscientious than boys, and of course Conscientiousness increases with age.

It’s not surprising that being low on Conscientiousness is a huge risk factor in modern life. Such people do poorly in school and on the job. They are more likely to become impulsive criminals—criminals whose crimes are due to lack of impulse control: murderers who can’t control their temper, drug abusers who can’t control their cravings, or rapists who can’t control their lust.

Notice that being conscientious means that we are better able to control our natural tendencies. Five-year-olds who manage to not peek at the present or eat the candy before the experimenter’s okay have to overcome powerful natural urges. We all have a natural attraction to the pleasures of drugs like cocaine (which mimic natural reinforcers) and the attractions of sexual desire. Most of us have had fantasies in which we imagine murdering a rival or enemy.6

These tendencies are very adaptive, because they motivate us to seek mates and other resources and to move up the social hierarchy. But conscientious people can control these urges in order take account of the wider context (for example, going to prison for murder, or becoming a dysfunctional drug addict). They don’t allow their urges to interfere with long-term goals (such as inhibiting the desire to party in order to get a good education). Neurobiological research shows quite clearly how this works. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of conscientiousness.

It has inhibitory connections to subcortical regions of the brain responsible for our natural urges (drugs, sex, and rock–and roll, as I tell my students). The subcortical parts of the brain process information implicitly, and they are evolutionarily ancient. The prefrontal cortex processes information explicitly and is the crowning achievement of human evolution.

Consider one of evolutionary psychologist David Buss’s examples. A man is almost run over by a car; he responds by directing an obscene gesture at the car. The car stops and men get out and beat him. Suffering the pain and humiliation of being beaten enrages the man, and he responds by getting his gun: “I had stone hatred for him, and I righteously couldn’t wait to see the look on his face when I blew him away. As soon as he popped out of the liquor store door, I charged right up to him, rammed the barrel in his chest, and pulled the trigger.”7

This is an example of impulsive aggression—the man is overwhelmed by rage stemming from his subcortex. It is a natural, reflexive reaction. His prefrontal cortex is pretty much out of the loop. If this man had a stronger Conscientiousness system, things might have happened quite differently. The prefrontal cortex takes in information about the wider context of our behavior, and it analyzes the situation explicitly. The subcortical brain is responding in a reflexive, impulsive, angry manner, and the only context it is sensitive to is the fact that another person has inflicted pain.

But a person with a strong PFC is able to control these urges, and take account of the wider context. Such a person doesn’t simply respond with impulsive aggression; he thinks about the big picture: If I kill this guy, will I get caught? If I kill him with a gun, does it have a serial number that can be traced? Is there any possibility of DNA evidence being left at the scene? If I do get caught, can I plea-bargain it down to manslaughter? Will his friends come and get revenge? Why not just call 911 and let the police deal with the beating?

Most of these issues have become relevant only in modern times and would not have been relevant in the environments we evolved in. But the explicit processing mechanisms of the PFC allow us to consider them and, if necessary, inhibit our natural tendencies. Research has shown that children with damage to the PFC have immature, egocentric moral reasoning and are prone to stealing and aggression.8 Patients with prefrontal damage originating in infancy exhibit a general lack of conscientiousness (lack of dependability, inability to plan for the future, proneness to immediate rewards rather than long-term goals).

Their aggression is impulsive rather than planned, and they lack a sense of guilt for transgressions against others. Adrian Raine of the University of Southern California has shown how this works in the brain by contrasting impulsive murderers with predatory murderers.9 The brains of both impulsive murderers and predatory murderers have very active areas in the subcortical areas of the brain responsible for aggression. The difference is that predatory murderers also have normal levels of activation in the prefrontal cortex.

As a result, they are better able to control their murderous tendencies. Their murders are planned, and because they are planned, it is often quite diffi cult to catch them. Serial murderers can go for years without being
detected, while impulsive murderers are easily caught because they act on the spur of the moment, without the precautions needed to hide their crime.

To sum up, the PFC is able to regulate the more evolutionarily ancient parts of our brain responsible for many of our passions and desires. Another example is sexuality. When male subjects were shown erotic photos, subcortical areas of the brain responsible for sexual arousal were activated.10 However, when the subjects were told to distance themselves from the erotic stimuli and inhibit their arousal, they were able to do so. The fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) pictures of their brains showed that the prefrontal cortex was activated when they inhibited their sexual arousal.


Why is this important for thinking about psychology and white ethnocentrism? Just as conscientious people can inhibit their natural tendencies toward aggression and sexual arousal, in the same way they able to inhibit their natural tendencies toward ethnocentrism. The critical point in the following is that cultural information is of vital importance for making people inhibit their ethnocentric tendencies. This cultural information relies on explicit processing and provides the basis for prefrontal inhibitory control of ethnocentrism.

The conclusion is that the control of ethnocentrism is a direct consequence of the control of cultural information. There is good evidence for several different evolved mechanisms related to ethnocentrism: genetic similarity mechanisms,11 social identity mechanisms,12 individualism/collectivism,13 and a human kinds module (see Appendix I).14

In the following, the only assumption is that ethnocentrism exists. It is not important whether ethnocentrism is the result of psychological mechanisms that evolved for group defense or if it is the result of learned negative stereotypes of other groups. The point is that in either case people tend to have negative stereotypes of other races and they prefer people from their own race. The evidence shows that this includes white people, although as mentioned in the appendix below, there is also evidence that white people are less ethnocentric than other human groups: Western cultures tend toward individualism, whereas most of the rest of the world is much more collectivist in outlook.15

This implies that the control of ethnocentrism is easier for whites, because the subcortical mechanisms responsible for ethnocentrism are weaker. Research on ethnocentrism has shown much awareness of the distinction between implicit and explicit processing. Implicit attitudes on race are assessed by tests like the Implicit Attitudes Test. Subjects are presented with photos of blacks and whites in succession and asked to pair positive or negative words (e.g., “intelligent,” “law-abiding,” “poor,” “success”) with the photos. Eighty percent of whites take longer to associate positive words with blacks than with whites. This is interpreted as indicating that whites have implicit negative stereotypes of blacks.

On the other hand, explicit attitudes on race are typically assessed by filling out questionnaires.16 College student populations of whites typically exhibit pro-Black attitudes on these tests. For example, one study found that whites scored 1.89 on a six-point scale, with 1 meaning strongly pro-black, and 6 being strongly anti-black.17

Another way to measure explicit attitudes is by interview. A recent representative sample of 2000 households found that a surprising 74 percent of whites thought that racial identity was very important (37 percent) or somewhat important (37 percent).18 In general, people become more racially conscious as they get older—only 53 percent claimed that racial identity was important while growing up. (I have noticed this also as a feature of Jewish identity.19)

Even more surprising is the finding that 77 percent of whites thought that whites had a culture that should be preserved. However, despite asserting the legitimacy of white ethnic identity, only 4 percent of whites claimed to be a member of an organization based on racial or ethnic identity. And 75 percent of whites state that prejudice and discrimination are important or very important to African-American disadvantage.

This study is therefore compatible with generally pro-Black explicit attitudes. In general, blacks and other minorities have much stronger explicit ethnic identities than whites do. For example, this same survey found that 90 percent of blacks thought that racial identity was very important (72 percent) or somewhat important (18 percent), and 91 percent felt that black culture was worth preserving. Blacks also demonstrate a substantially larger explicit ingroup preference than whites.20

The main point here is that there is a gap between whites’ explicitly positive attitudes about blacks and their implicitly negative attitudes. Even white liberals show implicit negative attitudes toward blacks, but their implicit attitudes are less negative than those of conservatives. In fact, white liberals are more hypocritical about race than conservatives: There is a larger gap between implicit attitudes and explicit attitudes toward blacks among white liberals than among white conservatives.21

Implicit attitudes on race impact actual behavior. For example, whites’ explicit attitudes toward blacks predicted their verbal friendliness and their own perceptions of their behavior when interacting with a black. However, their implicit attitudes were a better predictor of nonverbal friendliness as rated by independent judges (higher rate of blinking and avoidance of eye contact). The gap between explicit attitudes and implicit attitudes is made possible by the inhibitory mechanisms of the prefrontal cortex. Two studies show that prefrontal control is able to inhibit negative implicit attitudes. In one study, subjects were shown photos of blacks and whites while hooked up to an fMRI machine that takes pictures of the brain in action.22

When the photos were shown for very brief periods—too short to be consciously processed, the fMRI showed that whites had a negative response to the photos of blacks. This procedure therefore measures implicit negative attitudes toward blacks. However, when the photos of blacks were presented for a much longer period, so that they were consciously experienced, then the difference in reaction to black and white faces decreased. This happened because the prefrontal region was activated.

In other words, people who are consciously aware that they are seeing photos of blacks are able to inhibit the negative automatic responses from the subcortex. Subjects who showed the most prefrontal activation showed the lowest subcortical response. This implies that they were better able to inhibit their automatic negative attitudes toward blacks.

Another study had black and white subjects scan photos of blacks and whites. fMRI scans showed subcortical activation when scanning photos of blacks but not when scanning photos of whites. This is interpreted as an implicit fear response because the reaction is involuntary and unconscious. However, when subjects were also given the verbal label “African American” along with the photo of a black person, there was no subcortical fear response. This is interpreted as resulting from prefrontal inhibitory control that suppresses the implicit fear response. In other words, the moment you start thinking about race in words, you know you’re thinking about it and can make decisions. Your prefrontal inhibitory centers have been activated, and the negative thoughts are suppressed.

Both these studies show the importance of prefrontal inhibitory control over automatic negative attitudes of whites toward blacks. White ethnocentrism exists, but it exists in a sort of underground world of unconscious, automatic processing. But ethnocentric attitudes dare not say their name: As soon as the explicit, conscious processor swings into action, it suppresses the negative implicit attitudes coming from below.

This is nicely illustrated in a study that explains what happens when people confront controversial issues related to race and ethnicity. White subjects were shown pictures of a smiling interracial couple and then told that their response to the photo indicated that they were prejudiced. After being told this, subjects took much longer to respond to later photos. This is interpreted as being due to subjects trying to consciously control their responses to the photos. The photo serves as a “cue for control”—a warning that “the situation is one in which prejudiced responses may occur and that the brakes need to be applied to ongoing behavior.”23

Young children tend to have unabashedly explicit bias in favor of their own race. Explicit race bias emerges early, as young as age three or four, peaks in middle childhood, and then undergoes a gradual decline through adolescence, and disappears in adulthood.24 However, there is no such decline in implicit racial preferences, which remain strong into adulthood.25 There is also a decline in crossracial friends and companions as children get older. White schoolchildren are much more likely to have white friends than chance expectation would account for, and this trend increases as they get older.26

This means that at the same time that explicit racial preference in white children is declining, children are becoming less and less likely to actually interact with and form friendships with children from other races. In effect, schools undergo a process of self-segregation. And among adults, whites are signifi cantly less likely than other racial groups to report interracial friendships and contacts.27 The bottom line, then, is that as children get older they become increasingly
aware of the offi cial explicit racial ideology, and they conform to it. Their prefrontal centers of inhibitory control are becoming stronger, so that they are better able to inhibit their relatively positive attitudes about their own group.

At the explicit level, they are free from any negative attitudes toward nonwhite groups and may even be politically liberal or radical. At the same time, however, they are “voting with their feet” by choosing friends and companions of the same race. And their parents are doing the same thing. I have noted that liberals show a greater gap between explicit attitudes and implicit attitudes and behavior than do conservatives. Indeed, while highly educated white parents tend to have liberal explicit attitudes on racial issues, including the desirability of school integration, a recent study shows that these same highly educated whites seek out schools that are racially segregated and are more likely to live in racially segregated neighborhoods.28

There is a positive correlation between the average education of white parents and the likelihood that parents will remove their children from public schools as the percentage of black students increases. Michael Emerson, an author of the study, is quite aware of the gap between explicit attitudes and behavior: “I do believe that white people are being sincere when they claim that racial inequality is not a good thing and that they’d like to see it eliminated. However, … their liberal attitudes about race aren’t reflected in their behavior.” The flip side of this is that less affluent whites are more likely to have explicitly illiberal attitudes on racial issues that are condemned by elites.

Yet they are also more likely to actually live in racially integrated areas and send their children to racially integrated schools, presumably due to financial constraints.


Children’s choice of friends and parents’ choice of schools and neighborhoods reflect the raw reality of racial hypocrisy in the United States. These children and their parents are acting on their implicit attitudes, and there is a profound gap between their implicit attitudes and their behavior (which show ingroup racial preference), on the one hand, and their explicit attitudes (which express the offi cial racial ideology of egalitarianism), on the other. In effect, they are creating implicit white communities—implicit because even though they are an expression of (implicit) racial preferences, they cannot tell their name: They do not explicitly state that their friendship choices or their choice in neighborhood or school derives from racial preference, because that confl icts with their explicit racial attitudes and with the offi cial racial ideology of the wider culture.

My hypothesis is that white Americans are gradually coalescing into a political and cultural affi liation as whites, and that this trend will continue to strengthen in the future. But at present, this political and cultural affiliation is not yet consciously white, at least partly because conscious white affiliation is a cultural taboo. In the face of overwhelming sanctions on white racial identity in the post- World War II world, whites have adopted a variety of explicit identities which serve as the basis of white association and community. All of these identities exist under the radar of the political correctness enforced by elites in academia, politics, and the media.

Considered here are several overlapping explicit white identities: Republican political affi liation, NASCAR racing enthusiast, evangelical Christian, and country music fan. Each of these identities allow white people to associate with other whites and even to form a white political base without any explicit acknowledgement that race plays a role. Implicit white communities have become an increasingly important part of the American landscape. The most important of these implicit white communities is residential segregation resulting from white flight. As Kevin Kruse notes, “at the dawn of the twenty-first century, America found itself dominated by suburbs and those suburbs dominated by the politics of white flight and urban secession.”29

Part of this phenomenon stems from whites’ diminished willingness to contribute to public goods, because the benefi ciaries are disproportionately blacks and other nonwhite minorities: “In the past, the hostility to the federal government, the welfare state, and taxation had been driven by racial resentment, whether in the form of segregationists inside Atlanta or secessionist suburbanites outside it. In the 1990s the new generation of suburban Republicans simply took the politics of white flight to the national stage.”30

As Kruse notes, race is never part of the explicit rhetoric of white fl ight, which tends to be expressed as opposition to the federal government, the welfare state, taxation, and perceived moral issues like abortion and homosexuality. But at the implicit level, the desire for white communities and the aversion to contributing to public goods for nonwhites are the overriding motivations. White flight is part of the fragmented future that lies in store for the U.S. and other Western countries with high levels of non-European immigration. It is a well-established finding that the more ethnically mixed a population becomes, the greater is its resistance to redistributive policies.31

For example, a study of donations to the United Way of America charity found that white Americans give less when their communities are more than 10 per cent nonwhite. Sociologist Robert D. Putnam recently showed that the greater the racial diversity of a community, the greater the loss of trust.32 People living in homogeneous areas like New Hampshire or Montana are more involved with friends, the community, and politics than people in more diverse areas.33

At the political level, implicit whiteness is also refl ected in Howard Dean’s famous comment that the Republican Party is the party of white Christians.34 In 2004 and 2006, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican.35 In fact, other ethnic groups are coalescing into a nonwhite voting bloc centered in the Democratic Party to an even greater extent than whites are gravitating to the Republican Party. Over 90 percent of blacks typically vote Democrat, while Latinos vote around 60–70 percent Democrat.36

Nonwhite ethnic groups tend to vote Democratic even when they have relatively high socioeconomic status—a good indication that this pattern results from identity politics rather than economics. In the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry won fi rst-time Asian votes 78–20, and among American-born Asians he won by 80–18.37 Despite the stridently pro-Israel policies of George W. Bush, around 76 percent of Jews voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and Jews continue to form the financial backbone of the Democratic Party.38

In 2002, only 8 percent of Republican votes came from nonwhites, and similar results occurred in 2006.39 Not only are whites voting Republican, but white Republican voters are most likely to be married with children40 These are exactly the people for whom white fl ight to safe neighborhoods, good schools, and predominant white ethnic composition is most compelling. The best correlation with Bush’s share of the vote by state in 2004 is the average years married by white women between age 18 and 44 (r= .91). Bush carried 44 percent of single white females but 61 percent of married white females; Bush also won 53 percent of single white men and 66 percent of married white men.

Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in total white fertility, while Kerry won all 16 of the states with the lowest white fertility. The correlation between total white fertility and Bush’s share of the vote was .86. The recent congressional elections show that white support for Republicans is sensitive to issues such as the disastrous war in Iraq and the abysmal record of the Bush administration—the first neoconservative administration—in actually delivering on white flight political issues. As noted by many, the history of neoconservatism shows a strong support for core liberal issues (including relatively unrestricted immigration) and a stridently pro-Israel foreign policy.41 Nevertheless, even in 2006, 78 percent of white evangelical Christians—who are the most strongly identifi ed implicit white voting constituency—voted Republican.42

Another implicit white community is NASCAR racing, which strongly overlaps with evangelical Christianity, country music, and small town American culture, particularly the culture of the South. A famous Mike Luckovich cartoon that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows a black man and a white man talking with a Confederate flag flying in the background. “We need a flag that isn’t racist…but preserves white southern culture…” The next panel shows a NASCAR checkered flag. The implicit/explicit distinction could not be more obvious.

A large part of the attraction of NASCAR is a desire for traditional American culture. NASCAR events are permeated with sentimental patriotism, prayers, military flyovers, and postrace fireworks. As sociologist Jim Wright notes, “just about everything … you encounter in a day at the track drips with traditional Americana.”43 However, “race is the skeleton in the NASCAR Family closet. On the tracks and in the stands, stock-car racing remains a white-person’s sport.”44 The whiteness of NASCAR races can be seen from a comment that, after surveying the crowd at the 1999 Daytona 500, “there were probably about as many Confederate flags here as black people”—i.e., fewer than forty out of a crowd of approximately 200,000.45

Because the Confederate flag is the ultimate in political incorrectness, their presence at NASCAR events is quite possibly an act of rebellion. “The near-universal discrediting of the Stars and Bars as a politically incorrect, if not racist, symbol has obviously not yet reached every Winston Cup fan.

Either that, or they just don’t care. And, as you might imagine, there was no pussyfooting or self-fl agellation about the point among fans at the Southern 500, which was adorned by a profusion of Confederate flags the likes of which I had not witnessed at any other track.”46

Wright stresses the link of NASCAR to traditional small town and rural
American culture and its links to outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing,
camping, and guns.47 There is a large overlap between NASCAR fans and gun ownership.

There is also a strong Christian religious atmosphere: Races begin with a benediction and a prayer. There is “a visible Christian fellowship” in
NASCAR, including entire teams that identify themselves publicly as Christian teams; many of the drivers actively participate in Christian ministry.48

Other values in evidence are courage in the face of danger—another throwback to traditional American culture, deriving ultimately from the Scots-Irish culture of the English borderlands: “As we enter the third decade of women’s liberation and the second decade of the post communist era, we’ve come to expect, even demand more sensitivity and empathy in our men than bravado or grit, and the traditional manly virtues of courage, bravery, and ‘guts’ strike many as anachronistic at best, even dangerous and moronic.”49

The only recent scientific survey on NASCAR fans is the Southern Focus Poll
of 1998, conducted by the Center for the Study of the South at the University of North Carolina.50 26.1 percent of white Southerners had been to a NASCAR race, compared to 4.4 percent of blacks. In the national sample using the same questions, the percentages were 24.1 and 12.5 percent respectively.

These results undercount the total number of fans of non-NASCAR stock car racing and other forms of auto racing. 18.1 percent of respondents with a high school education had been to a NASCAR race, compared to 22.5 percent of high school graduates, 27 percent with some college, and 18 percent of college graduates.

NASCAR also claims 75 million fans in America, 25 percent of the population.51 NASCAR racing is the fastest growing sport in America, second only to the NFL in sports viewership.52 This is a very large implicit white community.

Being a NASCAR fan overlaps with other implicit white identities. A 1993
survey carried out by the National Opinion Research Center found a 3:1 ratio
in NASCAR attendance between small-town and large-city residents; almost
2:1 for gun owners vs. non-gun owners, 3:1 for hunters vs. nonhunters, and
almost 3:1 between people who like country music “very much” and those who hate it (21.3 percent to 7.6 percent).53

Indeed, one survey found that 49 percent of people who “listen to country music a lot” are fans of NASCAR, compared to 31 percent of all respondents. The biggest disparity is in the other direction: Only 24 percent of people who listen to country music a lot identify themselves as fans of the NBA compared to 47 percent of all respondents.54

There is little doubt that country music is an implicit white community:
Over 90 percent of country music listeners are white.55 Although country music remains the most common radio format, it is disappearing from major urban areas where whites are becoming a minority.

While NASCAR is a white sport, the NBA is widely perceived to be a black
sport. Whites, especially nonurban whites, are a decreasing audience for the
NBA. Since the Michael Jordan era, television ratings for the NBA have been
on the decline. In 2005, ratings were down 7 percent on ESPN and TNT, 4
percent on ESPN, and more than 30 percent for the NBA finals.56

The audience for NASCAR and the NBA are nonoverlapping, with the NBA appealing to “a young, multicultural, urban market audience”57—the polar opposite of the married, white, Republicans who have adopted implicit white identities.

NASCAR has enjoyed an increasingly dominant television audience position
during the portion of the year formerly controlled by the NBA.58 The NBA culture is seen as African-American, and the response of the NBA has been to attempt to make the NBA look more like white America in order to restore its fan base.

Sports writer Gary Peterson notes that “for decades there has been a racial divide between NBA players (mostly black) and the paying customers (largely white). That divide has become a flashpoint over the past 15 years…Never before have the players seemed so unlike the fans.

This divide is the top concern at the league offi ce—even ahead of declining
free throw shooting and baggy shorts. For proof you need look no further
than the league-wide dress code NBA commissioner David Stern imposed last season.

It was an extraordinary step—he might as well have told the players, ‘Quit dressing like typical young, urban African-Americans. You’re scaring
the fans.’”59 Besides banning ostentatious gold chains and mandating business casual attire, the NBA has also handed out draconian penalties for fighting among players, because fighting fits into the image of urban, African-American culture.60

Another sportswriter, MSNBC’s Michael Ventre, opined that “the terms ‘NBA’ and ‘thuggery’ have become inextricably linked in the minds of basketball fans the world over.”61

The point is not that the NBA is more violent than, say, professional hockey;
it’s just that the NBA is conscious of racial stereotyping processes among
whites. Part of NASCAR’s attraction for whites is that it is an implicit white
community. By regulating dress and conduct, the NBA seems to be trying to
make the NBA an implicit white community despite the racial composition
of its players.


Thus far the argument has been that white people are gradually coalescing
into implicit white communities that refl ect their ethnocentrism but “cannot tell
their name.” They are doing so because of the operation of various mechanisms
that operate implicitly, below the level of conscious awareness. These white
communities cannot assert explicit white identities because the explicit cultural
space is deeply committed to an ideology in which any form of white identity
is anathema. Explicit culture operates in the conscious prefrontal centers able
to control the subcortical regions of the brain.
This implies that the control of culture is of critical importance. The story
of how this explicit cultural space came to be and whose interests it serves
is beyond the scope of this paper. My view is that these cultural transformations
are the result of a complex interaction between preexisting deep-rooted
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 23
tendencies of Europeans (individualism, moral universalism, and science)
and the rise of a Jewish elite hostile to the traditional peoples and culture of
Europe.62 The result has been a “culture of critique” that represents the triumph
of the leftist movements that have dominated twentieth-century intellectual
and political discourse in the West, especially since World War II. The fundamental
assumptions of these leftist movements, particularly as they relate to
race and ethnicity, permeate intellectual and political discourse among both
liberals and conservatives and defi ne a mainstream consensus among elites
in academia, the media, business, and government.
The explicit cultural space can be categorized into two components: social
controls and ideology.63 Social controls include penalties for explicit manifestations
of white ethnocentrism (e.g., hate crime statutes, ostracism, loss
of livelihood, and the legal infrastructure of massive nonwhite immigration
and affi rmative action). While most animals are sensitive only to contexts
that have repeatedly occurred in their evolutionary history, we humans
are exquisitely sensitive to the complex cultural milieu, which includes a
variety of subtle and not so subtle penalties for explicitly proclaiming a
white identity. Being aware of the wider cultural context of social controls
that structure the consequences of behavior requires input to the higher
brain centers situated in the prefrontal cortex and, as we have seen, this
input may result in inhibiting tendencies toward ethnocentrism originating
from lower in the brain.
Ideologies are explicit belief systems that structure attitudes and behavior
related to race and ethnicity. Because they are a manifestation of explicit
processing, they are products of higher cognitive processes located in the
prefrontal cortex. Because of the power of the prefrontal cortex over the lower
brain, these ideologies can have important infl uences on behavior. They
include ideologies of race and ethnicity (e.g., race doesn’t exist; assertions of
white identity and interests are an indication of psychopathology or moral
turpitude, while assertions of nonwhite identities and interests are legitimate
and praiseworthy; white achievement and the underachievement of blacks
and Latinos are the result of white racism and white privilege; there are no
biological differences between the races affecting intelligence and achievement);
ideologies promoting massive nonwhite immigration (e.g., diversity
is a strength; America is a country founded on a set of abstract principles
with no ethnic identity); counter-stereotypical media images (blacks are more
intelligent, wiser, and more responsible parents than whites).
Because implicit ethnocentrism is alive and well among whites and
affects their behavior in subtle ways, one might suppose that whites are in
fact able to pursue their interests even against the prevailing wind of the
explicit culture of powerful antiwhite social controls and ideologies. The
problem, however, is that white ethnic identity and interests can be managed
if they remain only at the implicit level. In general, implicit white communities
conform to the offi cial multicultural ideology and adopt conventional
attitudes and rhetoric on racial and ethnic issues. This allows them to escape
the scrutiny of the cultural elites that enforce conventional attitudes on racial
and ethnic issues. However, it renders them powerless to actively promote
issues that vitally affect their ethnic interests.
A good example is massive nonwhite immigration. In the past year, there
has been much discussion of illegal immigration that tapped into a very large
reservoir of public anger about the lack of control of our borders and, I think,
the transformations that immigration is unleashing. Although it was common
for proponents of illegal immigration to label their opponents “racists,” the
fact that illegal immigration is, after all, illegal made it easy for conservatives
to oppose without mentioning their racial interests.
This contrasts with no discussion at all in the mainstream media of the
nearly one million legal immigrants who come to the U.S. every year—no
discussion of their effect on the economy, social services, crime, and competition
at elite universities; no discussion of their effect on the long-term ethnic
composition of the U.S. and how this will affect the political interests of whites;
no discussion of the displacement of native populations in various sectors
of the economy; and no discussion of whether most Americans really want
all of this. (They don’t.)64 Indeed, it has been quite common for conservative
opponents of illegal immigration to assert their support for legal immigration
as a means of dodging the charge of “racism.” While assertions of ethnic
interests by nonwhites are a commonplace aspect of the American political
and intellectual scene, mainstream explicit assertions of ethnic interests by
whites have been missing since the 1920s.65
The result is that the leftist ideologies of race and ethnicity have become
part of conventional morality and intellectual discourse, even within implicitly
white communities. As a result, implicit white communities are impotent in
opposing the forces that are changing the country in ways that oppose their
long-term interest. Because there is no mainstream attempt by whites to
shape the explicit culture in ways that would legitimize white identity and
the pursuit of white ethnic interests, implicit white communities become
enclaves of retreating whites rather than communities able to consciously
pursue white interests.
The creation of an explicit white culture legitimizing white identity and
interests is a prerequisite to the successful pursuit of the interests of whites
as a group.
My view, then, is that in the absence of changes in the explicit cultural
space on issues related to the legitimacy of white racial identity and interests,
whites will continue to simply retreat into implicit white communities. There
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 25
are obviously a great many obstacles to developing such a mainstream culture,
the main one being opposition by elites in the media, academia, business, and
political cultures. As is well known, there is a major gap between popular and
elite opinion on critical issues such as massive nonwhite immigration.66
A large part of the problem is that for many in these elites, economic
and professional self-interest coincides with support for antiwhite policies.
Particularly egregious examples are companies that directly benefi t from immigration
via cheap labor, or companies, such as First Data Corporation, which
benefi t from remittances sent by immigrants to relatives in other countries.67 A
noteworthy example is Mary Sue Coleman, who earns $742,148 as the president
of the University of Michigan and has been a leader in attempting to preserve
racial preferences and in promoting the educational benefi ts of diversity.68
Another example is knee-jerk assumptions by faculty and administrators when
three Duke University lacrosse players were accused of raping and assaulting a
black woman.69 Because the leftist political cultural of the university has become
conventionalized, expressions deploring the racism and sexism of the players
could be counted on as good career moves, even when they turned out to be
false. Adopting conventional views on race and ethnicity is a sine qua non for
a career as a mainstream intellectual or in the political arena.
As Frank Salter has pointed out, whites who fail to attend to the interests of
their wider kinship group benefi t themselves and their families at the expense
of their own ethnic interests.70 This is especially true for elite whites—people
whose intelligence, power, and wealth could make a very large difference in
culture and politics. They are in effect sacrifi cing millions of ethnic kin for the
benefi t of themselves and their immediate family.
This is a disastrously wrongheaded choice by the standard measures of
evolutionary success. However, because our evolved psychology is much
more attuned to individual and family interests than to the interests of the
ethnic group or race, whites who benefi t economically or professionally from
adopting conventional views on race and ethnicity are unlikely to feel unease
at the psychological level.
Another problem is that part of our evolved psychology is designed to
emulate and look up to socially dominant people, especially if they look like us.
A critical component of the success of the culture of critique is that it achieved
control of the most prestigious and infl uential institutions of the West, and
it became a consensus among elites, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.71 Once this
happened, it is not surprising that this culture became widely accepted among
people of very different levels of education and among people of different
social classes.
Although changing the structure of material benefi ts is doubtless critical
for advancing white ethnic interests, we should also pay attention to the
psychological level, because this also plays an important role. Adopting
conventional views on race and ethnicity not only confers material benefi ts, it
confers psychological benefi ts. On the other hand, dissenting from these views
carries huge costs. White elites who turn their back on their own ethnic group
are likely to be massively reinforced within the contemporary explicit culture,
while those who attempt to advance white interests can expect to suffer rather
intense psychological costs. The massive social approval University of Michigan
president Mary Sue Coleman receives within the culture of the university for her
positions on diversity issues is doubtless a positive component of her job.
In large measure, the reason for this lies in the same psychological system
discussed previously—Conscientiousness. Thus far, I have stressed the importance
of Conscientiousness for inhibiting our natural tendencies in the service
of long-term payoffs and fi tting into the wider cultural context. However,
people who are high on Conscientiousness also tend to be deeply concerned
about their reputation.
This is no accident. In fact, developing a good reputation is an important
way for conscientious people to get long-term payoffs. Think of it this way.
If I cheat someone, I get a short-term gain at the expense of developing a bad
reputation. The only way I can continue to survive is to prey on others who don’t
know my reputation, and that means moving on and interacting with strangers,
not friends and allies. On the other hand, if I cooperate with someone we both
gain and I develop a reputation as a cooperator that may last a lifetime. In the
long run, therefore, I will be better off. Conscientious people are cooperators,
and as a result they are vitally concerned about their reputation.
Recent theoretical work has shown that having access to people’s reputation
is likely to be a necessary condition for the evolution of cooperation.72
Information on the reputation of individuals constitutes a collective memory
of the past history of individuals and is made possible by language—that is,
explicit representations of the past history of individuals in cooperative situations.
73 Without such explicit information on reputation, cooperators would
be at an evolutionary disadvantage and vulnerable to a strategy of short-term
exploitation rather than long-term cooperation with like-minded others. This
explicit information on reputation is therefore processed by the higher brain
centers located in the prefrontal cortex linked to Conscientiousness.
I am suggesting, therefore, that evolutionary pressure for cooperation is a
critical adaptive function accounting for the evolution of Conscientiousness.
Psychological research shows that people high in Conscientiousness are responsible,
dependable, dutiful, and reliable. Indeed, responsibility emerges as a
facet (i.e., subcategory) of Conscientiousness defi ned as cooperative, dependable,
being of service to others, and contributing to community and group
projects.74 These traits are also highly correlated with honesty, morality, and
behavior as a moral exemplar.
Thus Conscientiousness not only makes us better able to inhibit natural
impulses like ethnocentrism, it also makes us more concerned about our
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 27
reputation. We want to fi t into the community and we want to be known
as cooperators, not cheaters. At the opposite end are sociopaths. Sociopaths
are at the low end of Conscientiousness. They take advantage of people for
short-term gains and care nothing about developing a reputation as honest
and trustworthy. After they prey on one victim, they must move on to an area
where their reputation is not known.
Obviously, Conscientiousness as defi ned above is a pillar of human civilization
and cultural life. Perhaps paradoxically, this is especially so in the individualistic
cultures of the West. Western cultures tend toward individualism,
whereas most of the rest of the world is much more collectivist and oriented
toward the extended family (see appendix).75 Individualism is associated with
all of the markers of modernism in the West—the nuclear family, economic
individualism, science, democratic and republican forms of governments, and
moral universalism.76 To this set of traits, Francis Fukuyama also adds trust as
a critical virtue of individualist societies.77
Trust is really a way of emphasizing the importance of moral universalism
as a trait of individualist societies. In collectivist, family-oriented societies, trust
ends at the border of the family and kinship group. Social organization, whether
in political culture or in economic enterprise, tends to be a family affair. Morality
is defi ned as what is good for the group—typically the kinship group (e.g., the
notorious line, “Is it good for the Jews?”). This lack of ability to develop a civil
society is the fundamental problem of societies in the Middle East and Africa,
where divisions into opposing religious and ultimately kinship groups defi ne
the political landscape. The movement of the West toward multiculturalism
really means the end of individualist Western culture.78
In individualist cultures, on the other hand, organizations include nonfamily
members in positions of trust. Morality is defi ned in terms of universal moral
principles that are independent of kinship connections or group membership.
Trust therefore is of critical importance to individualist society.
And fundamentally trust is about building a trustworthy reputation—for
example, a reputation for honest dealing not only with fellow kinsmen, but
with others as well. It follows that European-derived people are particularly
prone to being concerned with reputation. In the individualistic societies in
which they evolved, cooperation (and therefore success) resulted from having
a good reputation, not from having extensive kinship relations.
There are obviously great benefi ts to trust and to the wider psychological
system of Conscientiousness. The suite of traits associated with individualism
is the basis of Western modernism. Relying on the good reputation of others is
a key ingredient to building cooperative civil societies capable of rising above
amoral familism.
The downside, however, is that conscientious people become so concerned
about their reputation that they become conformists. Once the intellectual and
political left had won the day, a large part of its success was that it dominated the
moral and intellectual high ground related on issues of race and ethnicity. The
culture of critique had become conventionalized and a pillar of the intellectual
establishment. People who dissented from this leftist consensus were faced with
a disastrous loss of reputation—nothing less than psychological agony.
There are many examples showing the power of this mechanism. Over
60 years ago Anne Morrow Lindbergh became one of the fi rst victims of the
modern version of political correctness when her husband, Charles Lindbergh,
stated that Jews were one of the forces attempting to get the United States to
enter World War II. Shortly after his speech, she wrote:
The storm is beginning to blow up hard…I sense that this is the beginning
of a fi ght and consequent loneliness and isolation that we have not known
before… For I am really much more attached to the worldly things than
he is, mind more giving up friends, popularity, etc., mind much more
criticism and coldness and loneliness…Will I be able to shop in New
York at all now? I am always stared at—but now to be stared at with
hate, to walk through aisles of hate!79
What is striking and perhaps counterintuitive, is that the guilt and shame
remain even when she is completely satisfi ed at an intellectual level that her
beliefs are based on good evidence and reasonable inferences, and are morally
justifi able. Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes,
I cannot explain my revulsion of feeling by logic. Is it my lack of courage
to face the problem? Is it my lack of vision and seeing the thing through?
Or is my intuition founded on something profound and valid? I do not
know and am only very disturbed, which is upsetting for him. I have
the greatest faith in him as a person—in his integrity, his courage, and
his essential goodness, fairness, and kindness—his nobility really…How
then explain my profound feeling of grief about what he is doing? If
what he said is the truth (and I am inclined to think it is), why was it
wrong to state it?
Her reaction is involuntary and irrational—beyond the reach of logical
analysis. Charles Lindbergh was exactly right in what he said, but a rational
understanding of the correctness of his analysis cannot lessen the psychological
trauma to his wife, who must face the hostile stares of others. The trauma
is the result of the power of the Conscientiousness system in leading to loss
of reputation resulting from breaching the cultural taboo against discussing
Jewish infl uence.
I’ve had similar experiences, on a much smaller scale, resulting from attacks on
me at the university where I work.80 As with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s concern
about going shopping in New York, the most diffi cult thing is dealing with loss
of reputation in my face-to-face world at the university. And it’s not just that it’s
in the face-to-face world of everyday life. It’s that the areas of nonconformity on
race and ethnicity have huge moral overtones. If one dissents from the reigning
theory of macroeconomics or the main infl uences on nineteenth-century French
Romanticism, one may be viewed as a bit eccentric or perhaps none too smart.
But one is not likely to be subjected to torrents of moral outrage.
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 29
Given that academics tend to be Conscientious types, it’s not surprising
that academics are generally loath to do or say things that might endanger
their reputation. This is at least ironic, because it confl icts with the image of
academics as fearless seekers of truth. Unlike politicians, who must continue to
curry favor with the public in order to be reelected, and unlike media fi gures,
who have no job protection, academics with tenure have no excuse for not being
willing to endure labels such as “anti-Semite” or “racist” in order to pursue
truth. Part of the job—and a large part of the rationale for tenure in the fi rst
place—is that they are supposed to be willing to take unpopular positions: to
forge ahead using all that brain power and expertise to chart new territories
that challenge the popular wisdom.
But that image of academia is simply not based in reality. Consider, for
example, an article that appeared almost two months after the publication
of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s famous essay on the Israel lobby,81
appropriately titled “A hot paper muzzles academia.”82
Instead of a roiling debate, most professors not only agreed to disagree
but agreed to pretend publicly that there was no disagreement at all. At
Harvard and other schools, the Mearsheimer-Walt paper proved simply
too hot to handle—and it revealed an academia deeply split yet lamentably
afraid to engage itself on one of the hottest political issues of our
time. Call it the academic Cold War: distrustful factions rendered timid
by the prospect of mutually assured career destruction.
Professors refused to take a stand on the paper, either in favor or against.
As one Ivy League professor noted, “A lot of [my colleagues] were more
concerned about the academic politics of it, and where they should come
down, in that sense.”
Sadly, there is now a great deal of evidence that academics in general are
careful to avoid controversy or do much of anything that will create hostility.
In fact, some researchers are pointing to this fact to question whether tenure
is justifi ed. A recent survey of the attitudes of 1,004 professors at elite universities
illustrates this quite clearly.83 Regardless of their rank, professors rated
their colleagues as
reluctant to engage in activities that ran counter to the wishes of
colleagues. Even tenured full professors believed [other full professors]
would invoke academic freedom only “sometimes” rather than “usually”
or “always”; they chose confrontational options “rarely,” albeit more
often than did lower ranked colleagues…Their willingness to self-limit
may be due to a desire for harmony and/or respect for the criticisms of
colleagues whose opinions they value. Thus, the data did not support
the depiction of Professorus Americanus as unleashed renegade.
Seen in this context, the reaction to the Mearsheimer and Walt paper makes
a lot of sense. As one professor noted, “People might debate it if you gave
everyone a get-out-of-jail-free card and promised that afterward everyone
would be friends.” 84 This intense desire to be accepted and liked by one’s
colleagues is certainly understandable. Striving for a good reputation is part
of our nature, especially for the conscientious among us.
Ostracism and moral condemnation from others in one’s face-to-face world
trigger guilt feelings. These are automatic responses resulting ultimately from
the importance of fi tting into a group that were developed over evolutionary
time. This is especially so in the individualistic cultures of the West, where
having a good reputation beyond the borders of the kinship group forms the
basis of trust and civil society, and where having a poor reputation would
have resulted in ostracism and evolutionary death.
As shown by the example of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, being able to
defend rationally the ideas and attitudes that bring moral condemnation is
not suffi cient to defuse the complex negative emotions brought on by this
form of ostracism. One might think that just as the prefrontal control areas can
inhibit ethnocentric impulses originating in the subcortex, we should be able
to inhibit these primitive guilt feelings. After all, the guilt feelings ultimately
result from absolutely normal attitudes of ethnic identity and interests that
have been delegitimized as a result of the erection of the culture of critique in
the West. It should be therapeutic to understand that this culture was instituted
by people who typically retained a strong sense of their own ethnic identity
and interests. And it should help assuage guilt feelings if we understand that
this culture is now maintained by people seeking material advantages and
psychological approval at the expense of their own ethnic interests. The guilt
feelings are nothing more than the end result of ethnic warfare, pursued at the
level of ideology and culture instead of on the battlefi eld.
Getting rid of guilt and shame, however, is certainly not an easy process.
Psychotherapy for white people begins with an explicit understanding of the
issues that allows us to act in our interests, even if we can’t entirely control
the negative feelings engendered by those actions.
Evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers has proposed that the emotion of
guilt is a sign to the group that a person will mend his ways and behave in
the future. Shame, on the other hand, functions as a display of submission to
people higher in the dominance hierarchy. From that perspective, a person
who is incapable of shame or guilt even for obvious transgressions is literally a
sociopath—someone who has no desire to fi t into group norms. As noted above,
sociopaths are at the low end of Conscientiousness, and there was doubtless
strong selection against sociopathy in the small groups that we evolved in,
especially among the individualistic peoples of the West. The trustworthy
cooperators with excellent reputations won the day.
I think that evolutionists have not been properly sensitive to the enormous
gulf between humans and animals resulting from human general intelligence
and the Conscientiousness system. At a very broad level, the Conscientiousness
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 31
system allows our behavior to come under the control of the surrounding
culture. We make complex appraisals of how our behavior will affect us given
the current cultural milieu. Potential murderers may think about the possibility
of leaving DNA evidence and what types of plea bargains might be possible
if they are caught. Potential thought criminals must assess the risks to their
livelihood and their reputation in their face-to-face world.
But it gets more complicated than that. Modern humans are exposed to
an often bewildering array of cultural messages that affect how they see the
world. These messages are often directed at the explicit processing system and
they may be infl uenced by a wide range of competing interests. For example,
it is a commonplace that media images have important effects on behavior
even though people are often unaware that their behavior is infl uenced by the
images.85 These images are often engineered by advertisers who are consciously
attempting to infl uence the recipients of the messages in ways that conform
to the advertisers’ interests, not those of the audience.
More important, media messages shape the discussion of issues related
to white identity and interests. The culture of critique has become the explicit
culture of the West, endlessly repeated in media messages but packaged differently
for people of different levels of intelligence and education, and for people
with different interests and from different subcultures.86 The message of this
paper is that by programming the higher areas of the brain, this explicit culture
is able to control the implicit ethnocentric tendencies of white people.
In attempting to fi nd a way out of this morass, therefore, changing the
explicit culture is critical. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign
slogan, it’s the explicit culture, stupid. Changing the explicit culture won’t be
easy, but I suggest that the fi rst step is a psychological one: Proud and confi dent
explicit assertions of ethnic identity and interests among white people, and the
creation of communities where such explicit assertions are considered normal
and natural rather than a reason for ostracism. The fact that such assertions
appeal to our implicit psychology is certainly an asset. It’s always easier to
go with a natural tendency than to oppose it. And in this case, opposing our
natural ethnocentric tendencies by using our quintessentially human prefrontal
inhibitory control against our own ethnic interests is nothing less than a
death sentence.
Frank Salter presents a powerful case for the adaptiveness of ethnocentrism.
87 Different human ethnic groups and races have been separated for
thousands of years, and during this period they have evolved some genetic
distinctiveness. This genetic distinctiveness constitutes a storehouse of genetic
In other words, people have an interest in their ethnic group in exactly
the same way that parents have a genetic interest in raising their children:
In raising their children, parents ensure that their unique genes are passed
on to the next generation. But in defending ethnic interests, people are doing
the same thing—ensuring that the genetic uniqueness of their ethnic group
is passed into the next generation. When parents of a particular ethnicity
succeed in rearing their children, their ethnic group also succeeds because
the genetic uniqueness of their ethnic group is perpetuated as part of their
child’s genetic inheritance. But when an ethnic group succeeds in defending
its interests, individual members of the ethnic group also succeed because the
genetic uniqueness that they share with other members of the ethnic group is
passed on. This is the case even for people who don’t have children: A person
succeeds genetically when his ethnic group as a whole prospers.
A quick look at the historical record shows that confl ict between tribal
groups has been common throughout human history. Cooperative defense
by tribal peoples is universal and ancient and it is bound to have boosted
the genetic fi tness of those who acted to further the interests of their group.
Under such circumstances it would be odd indeed if natural selection did not
mold the human mind to be predisposed to ethnocentrism. Of course, this fact
does not tell us what psychological mechanisms actually evolved to promote
ethnocentrism or how these mechanisms can be controlled by inhibitory
mechanisms located in the prefrontal cortex. For that, we will have to turn to
the empirical research.
Genetic Similarity Theory: Birds of a Feather Flock Together
J. Philippe Rushton’s Genetic Similarity Theory (GST) is a biological/
genetic theory aimed at explaining positive assortment on a variety of traits
in friendships, marriage, and alliance formation.88 Friends, spouses, and the
other people we make alliances with are more like us than people selected at
random. At the psychological level, the same mechanisms that infl uence these
choices may well also be involved in positive attitudes toward people in the
same ethnic group.
People not only assort positively for a wide variety of traits, they do so
most on traits that are more heritable—that is, the traits that have a relatively
strong genetic infl uence. This means that when you select a genetically similar
spouse, your children are more similar to you than they would be if (God
forbid!) you had chosen your spouse at random. Moreover, identical twins have
more similar spouses and friends than do fraternal twins. Genetic differences
therefore infl uence the tendency to assort with similar others.89 In other words,
some of us are more attracted to genetically similar spouses and friends than
others, and this tendency is infl uenced genetically.
The implication is that when there is a choice to be made whether in
marriage, friendship, or other type of alliance, all things being equal, we are
more likely to choose similar others as a way of enhancing the benefi ts of
relationships and lessening the risks. Obviously, being of the same race is a
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 33
very important basis of similarity. In the body of this paper, I describe what I
call implicit white communities: communities, such as NASCAR and country
music fandom in the United States, where the vast majority of participants are
white but not necessarily self-consciously so. That is, white people choose to
be among people who are white like themselves, but they don’t necessarily
think of their choice as resulting from a conscious desire to be part of a white
community. At the psychological level, GST is probably the best explanation
for this phenomenon.
Social Identity Mechanisms: Our Team Is Better (and Smarter and
More Moral) Than Your Team
An early form of social identity theory was stated by William Graham
Sumner, a pioneer evolutionary anthropologist, in 1906:
Loyalty to the group, sacrifi ce for it, hatred and contempt for outsiders,
brotherhood within, warlikeness without—all grow together, common
products of the same situation. It is sanctifi ed by connection with religion.
Men of an others-group are outsiders with whose ancestors the ancestors
of the we-group waged war…Each group nourishes its own pride and
vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with
contempt on outsiders. Each group thinks its own folkways the only
right ones, and if it observes that other groups have other folkways,
these excite its scorn.90
Psychological research shows that people are highly prone to identifying
themselves with ingroups. And once in a group, people tend to exaggerate the
positive traits of ingroup members, and they exaggerate the homogeneity of
their ingroup on these positive traits (“we’re smart and we have high moral
standards”). On the other hand, people tend to have negative stereotypes of the
outgroup and are even more likely to exaggerate the extent to which outgroup
members share these negative traits (“they’re stupid and dishonest”).91 Of
course, in some cases, these stereotypes may have a lot of truth to them.
There is good evidence that social identity processes are a psychological adaptation
designed by natural selection for competition between groups. William
Graham Sumner would not be surprised that modern research shows that these
group dynamics are cross-cultural universals. Similar results are found across
subjects of different ages, nationalities, and social classes, and can even be seen
in very young children.92 Anthropological evidence indicates the universality of
the tendency to view one’s own group as superior93 and to denigrate outgroups.
As anthropologist Horowitz notes, “in one country after another, other ethnic
groups are described in unfl attering or disparaging terms.”94
Note that even though social identity processes are an evolutionary adaptation,
they do not work by assessing genetic differences between groups.
Instead, the important thing is that people be in different groups. A good
example would be WWII-era intraservice rivalries—as refl ected in barroom
brawls between soldiers and sailors. There may be no genetic differences at
all between the two teams or both teams may be a mixture of different ethnic
groups, but social identity mechanisms still make us think highly of our team
and not so highly of the opposition. In fact, some evolutionary psychologists
have proposed using this feature of our psychology to deemphasize the importance
of race as a category.95
Individualism/Collectivism:Individualism Is the Basis of Western
Even though identifying with groups is a universal tendency, there are
some important differences. Western cultures tend toward individualism,
whereas most of the rest of the world is much more collectivist in its outlook.96
Individualist cultures show little emotional attachment to ingroups. Personal
goals are paramount, and socialization emphasizes the importance of selfreliance,
independence, individual responsibility, and “fi nding yourself.”97
Individualists have more positive attitudes toward strangers and outgroup
members and are more likely to behave in a prosocial, altruistic manner to
strangers (e.g., white medical missionaries to Africa).98
Individualism is linked to a suite of traits that together form the basis of
Western modernism: the nuclear family, bilateral kinship patterns, monogamy,
moral universalism, civil societies based on trust and reputation rather than
kinship connections, relative lack of ethnocentrism and group orientation, and
science.99 Collectivist cultures typical of the Middle East, China, India, and
African cultures have the opposite suite of traits. Most centrally these societies
are based on extended kinship and tribal relationships.
An illustrative contrast between individualist and collectivist societies is in
the area of moral reasoning. In collectivist societies, morality is defi ned in terms
of whether an action satisfi es obligations within the family or kinship group,
whereas in individualist societies, morality is thought of as satisfying abstract
notions of justice. The moral implications of the individualism/collectivism
distinction can be seen by a study contrasting India (a collectivist culture) and
the United States (an individualist culture). Young adults and children are asked
what they would do in the following situation:
Ben was in Los Angeles on business. When his meetings were over, he
went to the train station. Ben planned to travel to San Francisco in order
to attend the wedding of his best friend. He needed to catch the very next
train if he was to be n time for the ceremony, as he had to deliver the
wedding rings. However, Ben’s wallet was stolen in the train station. He
lost all of his money as well as his ticket to San Francisco. Ben approached
several offi cials as well as passengers at the train station and asked them
to loan him money to buy a new ticket. But, because he was a stranger,
no one was willing to lend him the money he needed. While Ben was
sitting on a bench trying to decide what to do next, a well-dressed man
sitting next to him walked away for a minute. Looking over at where the
man had been sitting, Ben noticed that the man had left his coat unatWinter
2006-2007 / MacDonald 35
tended. Sticking out of the man’s coat pocket was a train ticket to San
Francisco. Ben knew that he could take the ticket and use it to travel to
San Francisco on the next train. He also saw that the man had more than
enough money in his coat pocket to buy another train ticket. 100
Indian subjects were more than twice as likely to decide to take the ticket
in order to fulfi ll their family obligation (around 80 percent to 40 percent).
Children in the United States, on the other hand, tended to say that the man
should not steal the train ticket because stealing violates principles of justice that
apply to everyone. For children from India, morality is defi ned by the needs
of the family. For children in the United States, morality is defi ned more by
abstract principles of justice.
Individualism forms the basis of Western success, but it also implies that the
control of ethnocentrism among white people is relatively easy. As discussed
in the body of this paper, this does not imply that white people lack ethnocentrism.
But it does imply that controlling ethnocentrism among whites is easier
because they are relatively less attached to their people and culture than the
vast majority of other humans.
Individualism/collectivism is very likely to have a biological basis because
of its widespread ramifi cations in the areas of kinship relationships, marriage,
and the development of civil societies that defi ne Western modernism. My
theory is that this suite of traits is the result of a long history of evolution in
northern climates.101
Is There a “Human Kinds” Module?
People have a natural tendency to place themselves in groups and to think
highly of their ingroup and denigrate outgroups. These groups can range from
groups that are arbitrarily chosen by psychologists, to bowling leagues, football
teams, and religious groups. But in general, some groups seem to have much
more of an emotional pull than others. Psychologists may indeed fi nd discrimination
against outgroups in arbitrarily composed groups, but people are not
going to lay down their lives for an arbitrarily chosen group, or even for their
bowling team. College students identify with their college or fraternity and
denigrate other colleges and fraternities, but few students would incur a huge
cost in doing so. On the other hand, ethnic, religious, and patriotic emotions
run deep, and it is not at all uncommon for people make the ultimate sacrifi ce
on behalf of these groups.
This raises the question of whether race and ethnicity are natural categories.
If so, people would have a natural tendency to classify themselves into ingroups
and outgroups on the basis of these categories. And they would tend to have
stronger allegiance to these groups than, say, their stamp collecting club. These
mechanisms would also make these groups more emotionally compelling. People
would have more of a tendency to become emotionally involved in these groups
than in garden-variety groupings: For example, we would get more psychologi36
cal satisfaction in being accepted by the racial or ethnic group, and we would
be more distressed at the possibility being ostracized from the racial or ethnic
group. The deep and seemingly ineradicable attachments that so many people
have to their ethnic groups strongly suggest that there is indeed a human kinds
module that automatically places people in racial categories. Such a module
might also result in automatic negative emotions toward racial outgroups. As
described below, even relatively nonethnocentric white people have an attachment
to their race, albeit rather rudimentary and unconscious.
To date, research has focused on whether race and ethnicity are natural
categories. Since the offi cial ideology is that race is nothing more than a social
construct, it is not surprising that there is a great deal of controversy on this
issue.102 In fact it often seems that a great deal of politically correct intellectual
energy is put into trying to prove that Mother Nature could not possibly have
made race or ethnicity a natural category. Some argue that people could not
possibly have a human kinds module, because prior to the modern world
of long- distance transportation they would not have come into contact with
other races or ethnic groups. 103 In fact, long distance migrations over several
generations did indeed bring people with different physical appearance into
contact with each other.104 This sort of repeated contact with outsiders would
allow the evolution of a module specialized to detect and respond to racial
and ethnic differences.
Another politically correct proposal is that people are “fooled” into thinking
that ethnic and racial groups are real because they superfi cially resemble animal
species.105 Like animal species, ethnic groups marry among themselves and
membership is by descent. (One can’t just decide to be, say, Japanese.) According
to this theory, the mistake is to think that races and ethnic groups really are like
animal species.
Another theory argues that there is a human kinds module that evolved
for categories like sex and age, but not race. Since all humans would have been
exposed to the categories of sex and age over evolutionary time, there would
be a module that these categories are essential to people’s identity and can’t be
changed. However, this module is “fooled” into thinking that different races
and ethnic groups are also natural human kinds.106
But of course, ethnic groups do show genetic differences from each other,
and they typically look different from each other. The mistake is to deny the
reality of genetically based racial and ethnic differences and to simply dismiss
the possibility that humans would have been repeatedly exposed to different
groups over evolutionary time so that indeed racial and ethnic differences would
be a natural trigger for this module.
My view is that in fact we do have a human kinds module designed not
simply to categorize people in terms of a variety of natural categories such as
men, women, and children, but to specifi cally categorize people as belonging
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 37
to different racial/ethnic groups.107 Even at very early ages children view race
in more essentialist terms than either occupation or body build—that is, they
see it as inherited and an important part of a person’s identity. We can change
our body build or our occupation, but not our race. (Michael Jackson may be
an exception!)
Race and ethnicity have all the features of an evolved module. Processing
of racial and ethnic differences is rapid, unconscious, and automatic—all characteristics
of implicit processing and hallmarks of evolved modules.108 Social
psychology experiments show that subjects respond differently to faces of
racial ingroups and outgroups.109 For example, subjects are better able to recall
the faces of people from their own race.110 Subjects are also quicker to classify
pictures of racial outgroup members than ingroup members.111
There is good evidence that people have a natural fear of snakes and
spiders because of our evolutionary past. So it’s interesting that for white
people, looking at photos of blacks triggers a fear response in the same way
that pictures of snakes and spiders do.112 The basic procedure is to show, say,
a white subject various photos (fl owers, black people, white people, snakes,
automobiles), some of which are followed by a mild shock. After learning what
will happen when the photos are presented, subjects anticipate the shock by
showing a fear response as soon as the photo is presented. Then the shock is
discontinued. The results are that even after the shock is discontinued white
subjects show a fear reaction to photos of blacks and snakes, but not to whites
or photos of harmless things like fl owers that had been paired with shocks.
This is consistent with the theory that whites have a natural fear of blacks
(and snakes). The fact that they quickly stop fearing the picture of a fl ower
when it is no longer paired with a shock means that we don’t have a natural
fear of fl owers.
In another study, photos of racial ingroup and outgroup members were
assessed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging recordings. The results
showed that the photos triggered responses in the amygdala, a subcortical region
responsible for fear.113 For example, white subjects had a stronger amygdala
response to photos of blacks than to whites when the photos were presented
too fast to be processed consciously. Under these circumstances, the photos
are processed unconsciously by triggering the amygdala.
These studies are evidence that there is a natural fear of racial outgroups.114
This evidence is not conclusive because it is conceivable that automatic negative
attitudes of whites toward blacks could be learned by repeated bad experiences
with blacks or because of repeated negative portrayals of blacks in the media.
The mechanism could also work via early socialization: The type of people I
see around me early in life are my racial ingroup. In fact, developmental data
shows that preference for own race occurs by three months, but is not present
at one month.115 Moreover, babies have less of a preference for their own race
if they are exposed to other races during this early period. If this is the case,
then people would have a same-race preference under typical natural conditions.
This mechanism could be “fooled” however, by exposure to other races
during early infancy.
The evolutionary roots of ethnocentrism are unsettled, but we should be
open to the idea that more than one mechanism is relevant.
1. Of the mechanisms reviewed here, Rushton’s genetic similarity
theory has the most unequivocal empirical support. As indicated above,
this mechanism is likely responsible for implicit white communities
discussed in the body of this paper.
2. There is also good evidence that social identity processes are a biological
adaptation. But since they don’t respond to genetic differences
between groups, they are not really of use in ethnic defense unless the
groups are already constituted on an ethnic basis.
3. Individualism/collectivism is also very likely to have a biological
basis because of its widespread ramifi cations in the areas of kinship
relationships, marriage, and the development of civil societies that
defi ne Western modernism. This suite of traits also makes sense as an
ecological response of northern hunter-gatherer peoples to the conditions
of the Ice Age.
4. The existence of a module sensitive to racial and ethnic ingroup and
outgroups remains controversial, but I think the evidence is persuasive
that such a module exists. Indeed, I think it’s the only way to explain
why ethnic emotions and allegiances are so intense and persistent, even in
the modern world. The best evidence is that this module is programmed
as a result of early experience during infancy.
In any case, whatever the strength of the mechanisms underlying ethnocentrism
reviewed here, these natural ethnocentric tendencies are insuffi cient to provide
for ethnic defense of whites in the contemporary world—the argument made
in the body of this paper.
Kevin MacDonald, Professor of Psychology, California State
University - Long Beach, is the author of a trilogy on Judaism as
an evolutionary strategy: A People That Shall Dwell Alone
(1994), Separation and its Discontents (1998), and The
Culture of Critique (1998). A revised edition of The Culture of
Critique (2002), with an expanded introduction, is available from
www.1stBooks.com or www.amazon.com.
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3. Bargh & Chartrand, 1999.
4. Conscientiousness is capitalized here to indicate that it refers to the personality
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5. John & Srivastava, 1999, 121.
6. Buss, 2005.
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14. Hirschfeld, 1996.
15. MacDonald, 2004a; MacDonald 1998/2002, preface to fi rst paperback edition.
16. For example, the Modern Racism Scale and the Motivation to Respond without
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17. Phelps et al., 2000.
18. Croll, Hartmann, & Gerteis, 2006.
19. I describe several cases in my trilogy on Judaism, for example, Heinrich Heine
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20. Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002; see also Ashburn-Nardo, Knowles, &
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37. Sailer, 2004.
38. Jewish voting in presidential elections of 2004: Jewish Virtual Library (undated).
Winter 2006-2007 / MacDonald 45
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39. For 2002: Sailer, 2005, 2006,
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64. Francis, 2002.
65. MacDonald, 1998/2002, 2004b.
66. Francis, 2002.
67. Guzzardi, 2004.
68. Coleman, 2006.
69. Skube, 2006.
70. Salter, 2003/2006.
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77. Fukuyama, 1995.
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79. Lindbergh, 1980, 220–230; italics in text.
80. MacDonald, 2006.
81. Mearsheimer & Walt, 2006.
82. Fairbanks, 2006.
83. Ceci et al., 2006.
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88. Rushton 1989, 1998.
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90. Sumner, 1906, 13.
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97. Triandis, 1991, 82.
98. Triandis, 1990, 61.
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100. Miller & Bersoff, 1992, p. 545.
101. MacDonald, 2002.
102. Discussed in MacDonald, 2001.
103. For example, Cosmides, Tooby, & Kurzban, 2003.
104. Henry Harpending, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, personal
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105. Gil-white, 2001.
106. Hirschfeld, 1996:197.
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