By Sharon Verghis

In the 1870s, naturalist Sir John Lubbock conducted a novel experiment with social dynamics in ant colonies.

The results – “as fascinating as the best of novels,” according to peer reviews at the time – showed that ants discriminated between friends and strangers.

“It must be admitted that they are in hostility not only with most other insects, including ants of different species, but even with those of the same species if belonging to different communities,” Lubbock concluded. Interlopers were “invariably attacked, seized by a leg or an antenna, and dragged out.”

As a species, we’re not all that different from ants, says Charlotte Thaarup, a clinical mindfulness consultant and director of The Mindfulness Clinic.

“We aren’t intellectual beings, we are emotional beings. We may know it’s not nice to discriminate [but fundamentally] we discriminate.  That shows in our biology. We see who is in and who is not, who is dangerous and who is safe, who is different and who is not.”

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