Many accounts of ethnic phenomena imply that processes such as stereotyping, essentialism, ethnocentrism, and intergroup hostility stem from a unitary adaptation for reasoning about groups. This is partly justified by the phenomena’s co-occurrence in correlational studies. Here we argue that these behaviors are better modeled as functionally independent adaptations that arose in response to different selection pressures throughout human evolution. As such, different mechanisms may be triggered by different group boundaries within a single society. We illustrate this functionalist framework using ethnographic work from the Quechua-Aymara language boundary in the Peruvian Altiplano. We show that different group boundaries motivate different ethnic phenomena. For example, people have strong stereotypes about socioeconomic categories, which are not cooperative units, whereas they hold fewer stereotypes about communities, which are the primary focus of cooperative activity. We also show that, despite the cross-cultural importance of ethnolinguistic boundaries, the Quechua-Aymara linguistic distinction does not strongly motivate any of these intergroup processes.
- Intergroup relations
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Sociology and Political Science
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)