Ten years ago, a group of researchers, led by Francisco Varela, were proposing an alternative vision of the immune system main behavior and function. I was part of this group. This new vision saw the immune system not as behaving distinctively with self and non-self or according to any dichotomy imposed a priori and from outside (the self-recognition vision), but rather as behaving in a unique way. From this indifferent behavior, any external impact would progressively been treated in two different ways, reactive and tolerant, but now, consequently and from inside the system (the self-assertion view). This paper will recall, through a very artificial simulation, the difference existing between these two visions. Also at that time, we believed that, from an engineering perspective, this new vision, emphasizing more the adaptability and the need for endogenous constraints than the recognition and the defensive ability, although less obvious to accept than the classical defensive one, should be more beneficial. These last ten years proved that we haven’t been convincing enough, and in this paper I resume the crusade.
In previous papers we have examined experimental programs for children designed to reduce prejudice towards “outsiders” individuals we called “different others.” We found that initial positive and pro-social responses towards “different others” sometimes became negative as a consequence of reflecting on the “outsider” group. This was particularly surprising in control groups that merely reflected on the “other” in the context of completing a questionnaire. Moreover, a gender difference was apparent in these studies with boys having a greater tendency towards more prejudiced cognitive constructions. In this paper we focus on studies with a pre-(post) test design to assess the impact of completing questionnaires on creating constructions of others (negative and positive). This present meta-analysis of the responses of control groups towards concepts of ‘different others’ covers topics ranging from gender stereotypes to children with forms of mental handicap to children in other European nations. Classroom constructivist discussion is suggested as a means of promoting mutual respect and tolerance towards perceived ‘outsiders’ in the development of relationships.