A recent article in Scientific American (“The Evolution of Prejudice: Scientists see the beginnings of racism in monkeys“) is less than advertised. The study shows that monkeys are sensitive to group boundaries–they are especially concerned with monkeys from outgroups even if they are former ingroup members with whom they are familiar. But even if true it would not provide a firm evolutionary basis for negative attitudes toward other races because the negative attitudes on occur if those other races are in different groups. The monkeys are keying on the group status of the other monkeys, not on genetic differences.
In fact, evolutionary psychologists have been busy showing that if one sets up two very very clearly marked racially integrated groups (i.e., with different colored uniforms–exactly the situation in most sports), people have negative views toward the outgroup that are independent of race (Cosmides, L., J., Tooby, & R. Kurzban. (2003). Perceptions of race. Trends in Cognitive Science 7:173–179). Read more