In a magical world there is a tribe of people divided into termite-like castes. They live in the wilderness, far from most regular humans. They are effectively human; fully conscious and conscientious individuals who are exceptionally loyal to their own kind, not simply because of their isolation from others, nor because of the risk of attack by humans. Their society is split into three castes with specific roles: Queens, Drones, Guards.

Queens are rare, large (2.4m tall), live for centuries, and are almost constantly pregnant, giving birth to all three castes. Drones are common, small (1.2m tall) infertile females. Guards are uncommon, very large (3.6m tall) and strong males.

Let's hand-wave the issue of how Queens are pregnant so often and effortlessly, that's not the issue here. They are pregnant often, with multiple births, and this and labour isn't much of a big deal, allowing them enough energy (just about) to be in a position of leadership. I am interested primarily in the psychology and physiology of the castes, in so far as how it can help explain norms of thinking and behaviour.

Drones and Guards are almost absolutely obedient to the Queens. This is a psychological predisposition which makes their behaviours likely, and is not a physical limit to their ability to harm or rebel from the Queens, which are not by any means capable of fighting. Guards do not abuse their strength to bully the others. Given this context, what psychological characteristics are required for Drones and Guards to be loyal to the Queens, and for the Guards to lack aggression towards Queens and Drones?

I would like answers to discuss psychological functions/dysfunctions in humans in order to understand how these castes would think differently in order to maintain harmony. Physiology is obviously part of this, but I would not like it to be the primary issue outside of how it influences the brain/mind.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd say guards actually require a strong reason to abuse their strength and especially to bully the others. We (humans) treat that as "normal" behavior probably because of our hormones and our "gregarious animal" nature. $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Nov 3 '16 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Who mates with Queens, by the way? $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Nov 3 '16 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @enkryptor Good question, I assume a Queen would mate with a Guard once, and then have enough sperm for life, like real termites? $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK a real world termite soldier is female, and soldiers never compete for a female. $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Nov 3 '16 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @enkryptor I suspected this much, as the male caste exist just for sex. But I fancied making the dynamic a bit different. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 18:19


Okay, so this is more of a chemistry-based answer than a psychology-based one, but bear with me here.

Pheromones are excreted by many animals; mostly to attract members of the opposite gender; but can also be used by insects (such as ants, beetles and termites) for other uses such as an alarm system, a food-trail system and even an aggression-modifier system, to name just a few and to tie this in with your question.

So, how would it work?

I'm not an expert, so if anyone has more knowledge than me, feel free to correct me here, but you'd have the "Queens" emit this pheromone that both the "Drones" and the "Guards" respond to. Kind of like a drug, these others would be pacified by the "Queens"; the "Drones" so that they are completely subservient to the "Queens" and the "Guards" so they're not aggressive inside our "hive".

The "Queens" could effectively send the guards into enemy lands in a frenzy from the lack of said pheromone (Drug withdrawal-like symptom?) effectively making a very powerful army at a whim that would calm down upon returning under the pheromone's effects.

The "Queens" would then have to be protected at all costs and have young; dormant "Queens" ready just in case one would die, so that another can take its place and continue producing the Pheromone

  • $\begingroup$ In the real nature, it is the instinct that make pheromones work, isn't it? $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Nov 3 '16 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @enkryptor - partially; it's also partially genetics, as the Drones and Guards are almost genetically "coded" to respond to the pheromones $\endgroup$ – Raisus Nov 3 '16 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Not relevant. There are things (instinct, genetics) that define behavior. Obedience is behavior. It is defined by instinct and/or genetics. No need to include another entity (pheromones) to make the system work. $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Nov 3 '16 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @enkryptor - Go read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pheromone; and then tell me that Pheromones have nothing to do with the question at hand, besides, this is WorldBuilding, you're allowed to fudge it a little to help your story-line, so long as it doesn't break the reasonable suspension of disbelief $\endgroup$ – Raisus Nov 3 '16 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ @enkryptor - or better yet, instead of telling me "No, your answer's wrong!" how about some constructive feedback. I'm not an expert, tell me what you think is right, or even better still... write your own goddamn answer $\endgroup$ – Raisus Nov 3 '16 at 18:24

How is this much different from society in the human realm?

Take a feudal/monarchal society:

• A Royalty/Lordship dictate the peasants/serfs ("working class individuals", to be politically correct...) who take refuge beneath their watchful gaze.

• To keep their territory safe (and the serfs in line), the royalty/lordship commission soldiers/knights to protect the borders and the serfs from any threats that may arise - who willingly do war with neighbouring hostiles upon command.

• In return for the knights protective presence, the serfs do day to day laborious tasks for their Rulers, readily placing themselves at their feet in order to remain in their graces.

• Finally, on seeing their peasants stoic faith to them, the Rulers in turn provide them with continued protection by way of the knights, as well as provide them with continued housing and adequate sustainance so they will continue serving the monarchy diligently unto the death.

Without a monarchs "knowledge" or leadership, the system would break down and people would either starve to death or die at the hands of their opposition.

It is this cycle, this means of survival, that keeps everyone working together.

Queens govern Drones by means of the Guards who willingly work their lives away for the greater good of their "colony". The mind set of your Ter-people will simply need to be one of dependance, desperation and doltishness.

The Queen must be seen as the figure of protection/salvation/survival, who without, would mean the sure destruction of the colony. She can influence the people herself by word of mouth, telling them directly: "without me, you're all doomed". Having a majority of mildly simple-minded drones and guards (who believe what the Queen is saying) will ensure her protection and the co-operation of the entire populous.

Having a desperate streak in the drones/guards psychology, by means of fearing death or abandonment, will make them ever the more obedient. Because if I don't be loyal and behave and serve the Queen, I will be thrown out into the desert to die in agony; or worse yet: the entire colony could suffer for my actions...

Because really: no-one wants to be that guy who causes the destruction of life as we know it...

  • $\begingroup$ I think the principle difference between my suggestion and a feudal system is that in the latter society is run by a caste of warriors, who fight amongst themselves for the top job. In my suggestion the elite are mothers, and cannot fight. The dynamics are more like a traditional family structure where there are a large number of children to help the adults around the farm. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode, I understand your position exactly. But in a "normal" human family structure, it is not all too common that a majority of the resected matriarch's (mother or whatever) offspring violently rebel and pretest their dominance... Why? Well ask yourself, what makes anyone want to remain faithful toward their parents/siblings into adult life? It's not a matter of power, rather a matter of love! (most of the time at least...) $\endgroup$ – Harry David Nov 4 '16 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode, indeed they would be. Alright, try to put yourself in the workers perspective, and ask yourself: what benefit does fleeing, arguing or rebelling have in your life? By leaving the colony, you are alone and venerable. To argue and rebel sees you marginalised and frowned upon. In this scenario, you can only truly live by being fully immersed (happily) in the social system, which we've established. So brings us to the psychologic side, where we must exaggerate the negative emotions associated with rejection, loneliness and guilt - but also greater enforce the positive ones. $\endgroup$ – Harry David Nov 4 '16 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode, we can do this through changing the Ter-Peoples neurological chemistry. By "programming" the brain of a drone to produce an excess of the stress hormone cortisol when said creature gets further away (distant) from the colony - but program it to also create more of the pleasure/happy hormone dopamine whilst in the presence of the queen and other workers, we establish a behavioural tie to the colony - where in the Ter-Person feels more relaxed and merry and healthier around others/while working, but feel scared, anxious and depressed when they venture away from their duties. $\endgroup$ – Harry David Nov 4 '16 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ How do I even?! $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 5 '16 at 19:09

1st It won't work if your queen is a mammal, she will never be able bear enough offspring to populate her tribe. Mammal children are few and pregnancies are long.

2nd Social insects cooperate because they're nearly clones of each others, if you "humans" are like ants all male workers should be clones, and all female workers should share 75% of the genes.

3rd Colonies are far from harmonies, even infertile drones secretly lay eggs, and queen not so secretly eats them.

There is no such thing as harmony, in order system to work you have to suppress the selfishness of the genes. In your case speciation might happen with drone & soldier leaving and forming their own nest. If they are intelligent like humans why should they be slaves to the queen.

  • $\begingroup$ "even infertile drones secretly lay eggs, and queen not so secretly eats them." lol. I like your second point, but as for your last comment; the relationship is less master-slave more mother-child; like traditional families with large numbers of children, and the question of how the castes are psychologically different in order to best facilitate peaceful cooperation is indeed the question I ask! :) $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode How would you call a mother where eleven of her daughters mustn't bear children and must work their whole life to support their mother while one "sister" is the only who will have a chance to spread her genes? I feel word slavery fits quite well. $\endgroup$ – slobodan.blazeski Nov 3 '16 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ I think that would depend on context and what they as individuals value. A queen who doesn't like children or leadership is not going to feel her eternal pregnancy and rule for life is anything but slavery. Especially if she can't leave the colony. And we haven't touched on the politics of the colony, with regards to distribution of resources and labour. I think the social stratification of caste, especially with this being biologically fixed, allows for a variety of interesting narratives. The main question is what will the baseline psychology be and why. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode Life has two primary directives, survival & reproduction. That's why the genes are selfish. The problem with your tribe is that drones/soldiers got the short straw as intelligent beings who can't reproduce. The only thing that could make such setting successful is by queen making them her slaves. Look at few episodes of Meerkat Manor and you'll see how children of the non-ruling female are killed and the mother who dared getting pregnant expelled. The politics in such setting is might makes right. The show is the best example of how their life looks like. $\endgroup$ – slobodan.blazeski Nov 3 '16 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ I think that's certainly true generally, but when we arrive at human-level sentience, not everyone is driven by such desires. Or they can offset and manage them in other ways. Though I am ignorant to meerkats, and this should prove an interesting bit of research! Thanks! $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 3 '16 at 14:08

As far as their psychology I would have the guards love and worship the Queen's the way we do actors and actresses. to be the father of a queen would be considered one of the highest honor. The Opinions of the guards are important because they are essentially the military and the Queen's are always at risk of them usurping the power for themsevles so it's important that the guards constantly be driven to impress them.

Opinions of the workers are less important they could worship the Queen's or they could hate them as long as the guards stay loyal the queens will remain in power. I would recommend if he is serious taboo for a guard to have sex with the work. This would keep the guards loyal to the Queens.

Some of this could also be explained if the queen to make some sort of hormone that keeps the guards loyal and subservient to them.


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