The Psychology of Among Us

(Image Credit: Innersloth)
(Image Credit: Innersloth)

Among Us has become popular in part by playing into human psychology and allowing players to satisfy their internal desires of rooting out traitors from within their tribes.

Psychology plays a major role in Among Us, whether playing as a crewmate or imposter. Understanding the psychology behind Among Us can help players understand just why Among Us is so much fun and help them devise new tactics to use in game.

Among Us and human tribalism

Tribalism refers to the natural human process of creating groups of people based on local similarities. While tribalism is associated with some negativity, it is a completely natural human mentality that deserves to be understood rather than judged.

One theory suggests that humans comprehend their place in society as a series of ever growing circles. The central figure is the self, with circles radiating outwards to family, close friends, acquaintances, and eventually tribes.

While tribes were based on physical location more than anything else historically, they can now incorporate a complex set of shared values which encourage members of the tribes to support and defend other members.

Tribes have historically been an important part of how communities interact with one another, though some modern movements have attempted to either do away with tribalism, or expand the concept of tribes to be trans-national.

It’s important to understand tribes, because human concepts of tribes play into one of the greatest tribal fears - the fear of traitors.

The duality of fear in Among Us

The kind of fear discussed in Among Us isn’t the same kind of fear that makes someone jump or scream. This kind of fear is more like worry. Tribal humans worry that someone within their tribe actually isn’t part of their tribe, and might be trying to destroy their tribe from within. In art, this sensation can be portrayed as human, ethereal, ghostly, wicked, or even alien.

In Da Vinci's The Last Supper, Judas is portrayed with a knife at his abdomen.
In Da Vinci's The Last Supper, Judas is portrayed with a knife at his abdomen.

What makes this fear different from scares is that this fear brings with it the potential for catharsis. If a traitor can be identified and dealt with, then the tribe will experience a mixture of emotions, mostly joy and relief, stemming from beating an enemy and protecting one’s tribe.

While Among Us has turned this catharsis into a game, this same sensation has been played out in human history for years.

In the United States alone, we have the McCarthyism of the ‘60s, the Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600s, and the numerous conspiracy theories which errently suggest that some groups of people are secretly working to destroy the nation from within.

Among Us gives players a way to play out these scenarios without having to indulge in real life negative behavior.

The other story told by Among Us

Of course, Among Us doesn’t merely plant players in the shoes of an angry McCarthy looking for communists. Sometimes, Among Us flips the script entirely and allows players to instead play as the imposter, and indulge in all sorts of terrible manipulative behavior that would not be condoned outside of game.

While it might be somewhat shameful to admit, humans can derive a perverse sense of enjoyment when lying, tricking, manipulating, and otherwise deceiving others. Among Us allows players a way to harmlessly indulge in this behavior. When playing as an imposter, there are few things more fun than convincing the crew to vote out an innocent player.

The sensation and thrill players experience when they manage to lie their way out of a difficult interrogation isn’t something most law-abiding and socially adapted people will ever get to experience in real life.

All of these various aspects allow Among Us to be an incredible form of escapism, whether playing as an imposter or crewmate.

Edited by Nikhil Vinod
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