Our minds still work this way, giving us the idea that the celebs we keep seeing are our acquaintances. And we want to be like them, because we’ve evolved to hate being out of the in-crowd. Brain scans show that social rejection activates brain areas that generate physical pain, probably because in prehistory tribal exclusion was tantamount to a death sentence. And scans by the National Institute of Mental Health show that when we feel socially inferior, two brain regions become more active: the insula and the ventral striatum. The insula is involved with the gut-sinking sensation you get when you feel that small. The ventral striatum is linked to motivation and reward.
In small groups, we knew everyone extremely well. No one could really fool us about what type of person they were, because we had grown up interacting with them for our whole lives. If a tribe member dressed up and pretended he was from another tribe, we would see it in a heart-beat. It would be like seeing your father in a costume: you would recognize him pretty quickly, wouldn't you?
As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust. As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust. The opposite is true as well. The parts of our brain that are hard-wired to quickly recognize "outside enemies" can be fooled in our huge modern society, when it is really people we know dressed up like the "other team".
Because of this hard-wiring in our brains from the days we lived in tiny tribes, we are highly susceptible to false flag attacks. Specifically, if government agents dress up like the "other team" and stage an attack on their own country, most people's "defend the tribe" hardwiring kicks in, so they rally around their leaders and call for the heads of the "other team". Our brains assume that we can tell truth from fiction, because they evolved in very small groups where we knew everyone extremely well, and usually could see for ourselves what was true. On the other side of the coin, a tribal leader who talked a good game but constantly stole from and abused his group would immediately be kicked out or killed. No matter how nicely he talked, the members of the tribe would immediately see what he was doing.
But in a country of hundreds of millions of people, where the political class is shielded from the rest of the country, people don't really know what our leaders are doing most of the time. We only see them for a couple of minutes when they are giving speeches, or appearing in photo ops, or being interviewed. It is therefore much easier for a wolf in sheep's clothing to succeed than in a small group setting. Indeed, sociopaths would have been discovered very quickly in a small group. But in huge societies like ours, they can rise to positions of power and influence.
As with the celebrity endorsement example, our brains are running programs which were developed for an environment (a small group) we no longer live in, and so lead us astray. Like the blind spot in our rear view mirror, we have to learn to compensate and adapt for our imperfections, or we may get clobbered.
The good news is that we can evolve. While our brains have many built-in hardwired ways of thinking and processing information, they are also amazingly "plastic". We can learn and evolve and overcome our hardwiring - or at least compensate for our blind spots. We are not condemned to being led astray by Madison Avenue advertisers and ruthless dictators and scientific frauds and fundamentalists. We can choose to grow up as a species and reclaim our power to decide our own future."