“How equality slipped away | For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?” By Kim Sterelny [Aeon]

“How equality slipped away

For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?

Kim Sterelny
is professor of philosophy at the Australian National University. His books include Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language (2nd ed, 1999), co-authored with Michael Devitt; The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique (2012) and From Signal to Symbol: The Evolution of Language (forthcoming, 2021), co-authored with Ronald J Planer. His most recent book is The Pleistocene Social Contract: Culture and Cooperation in Human Evolution (2021).

https://aeon.co/essays/for-97-of-human-history-equality-was-the-norm-what-happened

(…)

Our particular species of humans has been around for about 300,000 years and, best as we can tell, for about 290,000 of those years we lived materially poorer but much more equal lives. For most of our life as a species, most communities lived as mobile foragers, shifting camps when local resources became scarce, but probably sticking to a regular pattern over a defined territory.

Mobile foragers live in small bands (tens, not hundreds), but with connections of kith and kin to neighbouring bands, in social worlds of a few hundred to a few thousand. In many respects, these forager cultures are varied. They have differing cultural traditions and face different environments. The Australian Western Desert and the High Arctic could hardly be less alike, and both differ sharply from the rainforests of the Congo basin. Even so, in crucial ways, their social lives are remarkably similar. They sometimes have elders or initiates, but they have no chiefs. No-one has command authority over other adult males. Relations between the sexes vary but, in many forager cultures, women are indispensable, skilled, autonomous and essential props of the foraging economy. They gather plant foods and small game, and make much of the equipment of everyday life. They often have a good deal of social and sexual choice.

(…)

There are two developments in mobile forager cultures that tend to set the stage for the establishment of inequality. One such scaffold to inequality was the emergence of clan structure. Clans have a strong corporate identity, built around real or mythical genealogical connection, reinforced by demanding initiation rites and intense collective activities. They become central to an individual’s social identity. Individuals see themselves, and are seen by others, primarily through their clan identity. They expect and get social support mostly within their clan, as the anthropologist Raymond C Kelly writes in Warless Societies and the Origin of War (2000). Once storage and farming emerged, incipient elites used clan membership to mobilise social and material support.

The second development was the emergence of a quasi-elite based on the control of information, which created a hierarchy of prestige and esteem, rather than wealth and power. This was originally based on subsistence skills. Forager life depends on very high levels of expertise in navigation, tracking, plant identification, animal behaviour, and artisan skills. The genuinely expert attract deference and respect in return for generously sharing their knowledge, as the evolutionary biologist Joseph Henrich argues in The Secret of Our Success (2015). As the social anthropologist Jerome Lewis has shown, this economy of information can include story and music, and the same can be true of its ritual and normative life. Indeed, there might be a fusion of ritual with subsistence information, if ritual narratives are used as a vehicle for encoding important but rarely used spatial and navigational information. There’s some suggestion of this fusion in Australian Aboriginal songlines, and the idea is expanded from Australia and defended in detail by the orality scholar Lynne Kelly in Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies (2015). So there can be expertise and deference not just in subsistence skills, but also with regards to religion and ritual.

(…)

So, two scaffolds of inequality developed in the still fairly equal forager world. These scaffolds became potent as communities gave up movement in favour of a settled life – storage and farming – beginning about 10,000 years ago. Some foragers developed a lifestyle around storage (sometimes called ‘collectors’ rather than ‘foragers’). Hunters and fishers of the Pacific Northwest built an economy around salmon runs and marine resources. It’s possible that, in glacial Europe, sedentary foragers intercepted migrating herds, and built their economy around stored or smoked game. But giving up a life on the move and depending instead on stored foods is mostly connected to the origins of farming, and the new climatic regime of the Holocene, beginning about 12,000 years ago.

(…)

The viability of farming depends not just on access to the few wild species that can be shaped into crops and flocks, but on predictable weather patterns. The Holocene is not just warmer and wetter than the Pleistocene glacial that preceded it. It’s much more stable. Grain agriculture never developed in Aboriginal Australia in part because of the marked annual variation in many Australian climates. Without industrial storage and transport, dependence on crops would have been suicidal. Whatever the causes of this revolutionary change, its consequences were immense. Farming and storage make inequality possible, perhaps even likely, because they tend to undermine sharing norms, establish property rights and the coercion of labour, amplify intercommunal violence, and lead to increases in social scale.

(…)

If this picture of the road to inequality is right, it leads to four expectations. First, inequality depends on a prior establishment of an economy of storage and an expansion in social scale. Second, transegalitarian communities emerge from forager communities with clan-based organisation. Third, transegalitarian communities emerge from forager communities where the normative and ritual life is in the hands of a small group of initiates. And finally, such communities emerge in regional contexts with intermediate levels of intercommunity violence, contexts in which violence is a risk, but one that can be managed.

Bottom line: egalitarian, cooperative human communities are possible. Widespread sharing and consensus decision-making aren’t contrary to ‘human nature’ (whatever that is). Indeed, for most of human history we lived in such societies. But such societies are not inherently stable. These social practices depend on active defence. That active defence failed, given the social technologies available, as societies increased in scale and economic complexity. There’s no going back to Pleistocene equality, and I for one wouldn’t embrace the social intimacy and material simplicity of such lives. But we do have new social technologies. China (especially) is showing how those can be used to enhance elite surveillance. Let’s hope they can be reconfigured to support more bottom-up social action, to mitigate some of the effects of imbalances of wealth and power.”

Database of Global Cultural Evolution [Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences] – By Bahrami-rad, Duman, Anke Becker, and Joseph Henrich 

“Database of Global Cultural Evolution

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

By Bahrami-rad, Duman, Anke Becker, and Joseph Henrich 

http://dgce.fas.harvard.edu/

About

The Database of Global Cultural Evolution links historical data on cultural practices to contemporary populations around the world.

The historical data come from the Ethnographic Atlas (EA), a database containing ethnographic information on 1,291 pre-industrial societies around the world. The Ethnographic Atlas contains coded variables on subsistence economy, social and political organization, marriage and kinship patterns, inheritance, etc.

Contemporary populations in our database are defined based on living languages of the world.

The match between historical data and contemporary populations is based on language. The Ethnographic Atlas includes information on languages of pre-industrial societies. Using this information, we link the pre-industrial data from the Ethnographic Atlas to all contemporary languages using language trees of the Glottolog, a comprehensive catalogue that organizes the world’s languages, language families and dialects via a genealogical classification. To define values of each variable in the EA for all languages spoken by contemporary populations, genealogical trees of the Glottolog are used to match every contemporary language to one of the 1,291 societies from the Ethnographic Atlas. For each variable, every contemporary language is matched to the linguistically closest pre-industrial society which contains an observation for that variable.

Then, geographic information about the global distribution of contemporary languages is used to map the geographic distribution of each variable. Geographic data for living languages come from the Ethnologue, a comprehensive database of world languages.

Finally, the map and data produced for each historical variable (from the Ethnographic Atlas) are displayed for all 7,651 contemporary languages listed in the Ethnologue.

How do I cite the database?

Research that uses the Database of Global Cultural Evolution should cite the following paper:

Bahrami-rad, Duman, Anke Becker, and Joseph Henrich. “Tabulated nonsense? Testing the validity of the Ethnographic Atlas and the persistence of culture.” Working paper.”

“What Makes Injections Hard to Swallow?” By Monica L. Smith [Sapiens]

“What Makes Injections Hard to Swallow?

An anthropological assessment of the differences between pills and injections may shed some light on vaccine hesitancy.

By Monica L. Smith
is a professor of archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/history-injections

My work has led me to think about the human relationship with different mechanisms of medical delivery, particularly the pill and the injection. They differ in so many important ways: our level of independence in taking them, our level of comfort, and, importantly, the intended purpose of the drug for healing in the pressing present or protecting against a faraway future.

The human eagerness to take pills but a reluctance by some to be vaccinated surely has a lot to do with modern politics and social factors. But it also has roots deep in our ancestral past.

(…)

While the practice of eating medicinal substances has likely been around for millions of years (even nonhuman primates self-medicate), injections are comparatively new. Projectiles such as spears and bullets have a long history of piercing the skin—but for purposes of harm.

Even after people developed invasive techniques to help rather than hurt, including acupuncture, amputation, and trepanation, there was still little experience of using violence to insert a compound into a person’s body with the counterintuitive goal of improving their health. Tattooing is one example: There is some evidence that millennia-old Indigenous tattoo practices were done in part to introduce therapeutic compounds. The idea of inoculating someone with traces of a disease to protect them seems to go back to before the 1500s in the Ottoman Empire. In Europe, the first vaccine was developed against smallpox in 1796. The first hypodermic syringe only dates to the 1850s.

Fear of needles may be as old as needles themselves and remains a problem even for those who require regular self-administered injections for their health, as with people who have diabetes.

(…)

A vaccine, counterintuitively, is taken when you’re well. You accept a physical pain (a pinch in the arm followed by side effects that can range from mild to severe) against an unknown future gain (a large statistical likelihood of protection against a deadly disease). This tradeoff means that vaccines join other things that are good for us that we don’t enjoy and often don’t do, like flossing or saving for retirement.

Indeed, the challenges of imagining future benefits may be a critical part of the human story. Human cognitive misgivings surrounding pay-now/play-later activities are at the heart of many of our contemporary conundrums about health, economics, education, and climate change.

A final important distinction among medical applications is the notion of autonomy. Whether it’s swallowing a tablet, drinking a potion, or slapping a patch on your arm, the do-it-yourself approach seems to be popular: Hospital studies show that patients prefer to be in charge of their own medication.

By contrast, injections usually are given to you by a professional “other” who has special equipment and training; they are invasive procedures, done in commercial or institutional settings that may feel clinical and cold rather than comforting. It’s notable that when it comes to female hormonal birth control, pills are more popular than injections, even though the latter last longer and could enable people to avoid having to remember a daily pill.

(…)

Taste, visuals, and reformulated delivery mechanisms might be key elements to explore to make medicinal treatment more acceptable to deep-rooted human psychology. Small things can make a difference. The visual encouragement of vaccines, for example, is subtly encoded into Apple’s recently announced redesign of the syringe emoji to remove the potentially intimidating drops of blood that were part of the image.

(…)

No doubt future medical treatments will continue to address our desire for autonomy in preventative and curative medicine, just as we cherish self-determination in other physical activities such as exercise, nutrition, and sex. With a little extra anthropological thought, we may well see a time when injections are part of the archaeology of medicine, with needles consigned to the dustbin of history.”

“Bias Is a Big Problem. But So Is ‘Noise.’” By Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein [The New York Times]

“Bias Is a Big Problem. But So Is ‘Noise.’

May 15, 2021

By Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/opinion/noise-bias-kahneman.html

Daniel Kahneman is an emeritus professor of psychology at Princeton and a recipient of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Olivier Sibony is a professor of strategy at the HEC Paris business school.

Cass R. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard. They are the authors of the forthcoming book “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment,” on which this essay is based.

(…)

Society has devoted a lot of attention to the problem of bias — and rightly so. But when it comes to mistaken judgments and unfortunate decisions, there is another type of error that attracts far less attention: noise.

To see the difference between bias and noise, consider your bathroom scale. If on average the readings it gives are too high (or too low), the scale is biased. If it shows different readings when you step on it several times in quick succession, the scale is noisy. (Cheap scales are likely to be both biased and noisy.) While bias is the average of errors, noise is their variability.

Although it is often ignored, noise is a large source of malfunction in society. In a 1981 study, for example, 208 federal judges were asked to determine the appropriate sentences for the same 16 cases. The cases were described by the characteristics of the offense (robbery or fraud, violent or not) and of the defendant (young or old, repeat or first-time offender, accomplice or principal). You might have expected judges to agree closely about such vignettes, which were stripped of distracting details and contained only relevant information.

But the judges did not agree. The average difference between the sentences that two randomly chosen judges gave for the same crime was more than 3.5 years. Considering that the mean sentence was seven years, that was a disconcerting amount of noise.

Noise in real courtrooms is surely only worse, as actual cases are more complex and difficult to judge than stylized vignettes. It is hard to escape the conclusion that sentencing is in part a lottery, because the punishment can vary by many years depending on which judge is assigned to the case and on the judge’s state of mind on that day. The judicial system is unacceptably noisy.

(…)

Where does noise come from? There is much evidence that irrelevant circumstances can affect judgments. In the case of criminal sentencing, for instance, a judge’s mood, fatigue and even the weather can all have modest but detectable effects on judicial decisions.

Another source of noise is that people can have different general tendencies. Judges often vary in the severity of the sentences they mete out: There are “hanging” judges and lenient ones.

A third source of noise is less intuitive, although it is usually the largest: People can have not only different general tendencies (say, whether they are harsh or lenient) but also different patterns of assessment (say, which types of cases they believe merit being harsh or lenient about). Underwriters differ in their views of what is risky, and doctors in their views of which ailments require treatment. We celebrate the uniqueness of individuals, but we tend to forget that, when we expect consistency, uniqueness becomes a liability.

(…)

No noise-reduction techniques will be deployed, however, if we do not first recognize the existence of noise. Noise is too often neglected. But it is a serious issue that results in frequent error and rampant injustice. Organizations and institutions, public and private, will make better decisions if they take noise seriously.”

“Why my theory that humans can only maintain 150 friendships has withstood 30 years of scrutiny” By Robin Dunbar [The Conversation/Phys.org]

“Why my theory that humans can only maintain 150 friendships has withstood 30 years of scrutiny

by Robin Dunbar, The Conversation

https://phys.org/news/2021-05-theory-humans-friendships-withstood-years.html

(…)

Despite the growing evidence, the same critiques reappear with suspiciously religious zeal. The most common claim is that human behavior is culturally determined and so cannot be subject to the same biological rules as primate behavior. Another variant on this claim is that networking platforms such as LinkedIn have made it possible for us to maintain more extensive social networks.

Most of these claims fail to recognize that Dunbar’s number applies to quality relationships, not to acquaintances—which account for the more casual outer layers of our social networks, beyond our 150 meaningful friendships.

However, a more recent challenge by researchers at Stockholm University claims to have finally debunked Dunbar’s number by showing that the social brain equation underpredicts human social group sizes. Alas, the study used flawed statistical methods and fails to account for the body of evidence we now have to support Dunbar’s number.

(…)

Evidence from neuroscience

We’ve also filled in many of the behavioral and neurocognitive details that underlie the social brain hypothesis. More than a dozen neuroimaging studies have shown that, in both humans and monkeys, the size of an individual’s social network correlates with the size of their default mode neural network—the large brain circuit that manages social relationships.

Similarly, the touch-based bonding mechanism that holds these groups together—a mechanism that exploits the brain’s endorphin system—is common to both humans and primates. This is why hugging and physical touch is so important in our relationships.”

“Extraverts and Conservatives are More Likely to Get COVID” By Glenn Geher [Darwin’s Subterranean World]

“Extraverts and Conservatives are More Likely to Get COVID

The pandemic is largely the result of our evolved social psychology.

Glenn Geher
Darwin’s Subterranean World

Posted May 15, 2021

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/202105/extraverts-and-conservatives-are-more-likely-get-covid
 
***

Personality Correlates of COVID-19 Infection Proclivity: Extraversion Kills

Vania Rolona, Glenn Geherb, Jennifer Linkb, Alexander Mackielb

Personality and Individual Differences

Available online 14 May 2021

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2021.110994

***

“In light of the human behavioral element of COVID, my research team (a subset of The New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab ) conducted a study to help us better understand the behavioral factors that underlie the spread of this virus—a virus that has turned all of our worlds upside down in so many ways.

Our study, recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences , explored various dispositional traits that might ultimately underlie whether people are prone toward getting the virus. The two main variables we focused on were extraversion and political conservatism.

(…)

An additional evolutionary perspective as to why and how extraversion might relate to COVID infection proclivity pertains the behavioral-system hijacking hypothesis (see Reiber et al., 2010). This idea, which is admittedly beyond the scope of our data, suggests that the coronavirus, which has known effects on the nervous system, may actually hijack behavior and temporarily make people relatively sociable so as to increase its spread across an increased number of human hosts.

(…)

Gollwitzer et al. (2020) found that people who live in relatively conservative areas (based on voting patterns) have been less likely to follow social-distancing guidelines relative to those living in areas where people are more likely to vote for liberal political candidates.

In light of this basic reasoning, we predicted that people who self-identify as conservative would be more likely to wind up becoming infected with the virus relative to those who self-identify as liberal.”

“Will science survive politics?” By Tom Chivers [UnHerd]

“Will science survive politics?

Whether something is politically convenient or not doesn’t affect whether it’s true

By Tom Chivers

May 11, 2021

https://unherd.com/2021/05/will-science-survive-politics/

(…)

No one really cares about creationists any more. Instead, the row is over whether Darwin – and his theory, or its implications – is racist, or sexist. And the people passionately defending him are often right-wingers, while his critics are on the Left.

The latest incarnation is a by-the-numbers fighting-the-culture-war piece in the Telegraph about a guide to “Applying a decolonial framework to teaching and research in ecology and evolution” published by some plant scientists in the University of Sheffield. In the guide, science lecturers are told to contextualise Darwin by making it clear how his worldview was shaped by colonialism and racism.

(…)

I also rather wish that the Sheffield academics had mentioned whether or not they think Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true or not. There’s an awful lot of talk about power imbalances, Eurocentric viewpoints, and the legacy of colonialism, and how science “cannot be objective and apolitical” – but regardless of whether or not Darwin was racist, was he right? Maybe that’s taken for granted.

(…)

The sad, forgotten creationists aside, most of us gladly accept that dragonflies’ wings and wombats’ toenails or whatever have evolved; that those ancestors which had versions of those organs more suited to their environment tended to have more offspring.

But when Darwin’s idea gets applied to behaviour, it becomes more controversial. The field of science that tries to do this is called sociobiology; it was controversial enough when it arose in the Seventies, pioneered by EO Wilson. It caused a furore – protesters poured water over Wilson’s head during a conference talk, chanting “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” Wilson’s work was mainly about ants.

When Darwinian ideas are applied to the human brain, and human behaviour, it is called evolutionary psychology, and that is more controversial still.

Which, on the face of it, is strange. Evolutionary psychology is, at its heart, the idea that the brain (and therefore the mind, and human behaviour and psychology in general) is the product of evolution, just like every other animal organ. As Richard Dawkins wrote in the 2005 foreword to The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, that is so obviously true as to be almost not worth saying: “The central claim [of evolutionary psychology] is not an extraordinary one,” he wrote. “It amounts to the exceedingly modest claim that minds are on the same footing as bodies where Darwinian natural selection is concerned. Given that feet, livers, ears, wings, shells, eyes, crests, ligaments, antennae, hearts and feathers are shaped by natural selection … why on earth should the same not be true of brains[?]”

(…)

The idea that the mind is evolved goes back to Darwin himself, but it was Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, a wife-and-husband team of academics, who really developed the field in The Adapted Mind, a book of essays they edited in 1992.

(…)

Charles Darwin, the historical figure, is interesting to study, and it’s worth remembering that he was a man of his time. But Darwinism, the great insight of evolution by natural selection, is separate. It is true (or false) regardless of Darwin’s own views, and so are the many insights which have followed it. We can go back and forth over whether he was a racist, but the more interesting question is: was he right?”

“When Men Behave Badly” by Rob Henderson | A Review of When Men Behave Badly by David M. Buss

“When Men Behave Badly—A Review

written by Rob Henderson

Published on April 30, 2021

A review of When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault by David M. Buss, Little, Brown Spark, 336 pages (April 2021)

https://quillette.com/2021/04/30/when-men-behave-badly-a-review/

(…)

These differences in reproductive biology have given rise to differences in sexual psychology that are comparable to sex differences in height, weight, and upper-body muscle mass. However, Buss is careful to note, such differences always carry the qualifier “on average.” Some women are taller than some men—but on average men are taller. Likewise, some women prefer to have more sex partners than some men—but on average men prefer more. These evolved differences are a key source of conflict.

One goal of the book is to highlight situations in which sexual conflict is diminished or amplified to prevent victimization and reduce harm.

(…)

Because of the increased risk women carry, they tend to be choosier about their partners. In contrast, men are less discerning. Studies of online dating, for example, find that most men find most women to be at least somewhat attractive. In contrast, women, on average, view 80 percent of men as below average in attractiveness. Another study found that on the dating app Tinder, men “liked” more than 60 percent of the female profiles they viewed, while women “liked” only 4.5 percent of male profiles.

(…)

Deception is often prevalent in the mating market. And deception involves an understanding of what the opposite sex desires. For instance, on dating websites, men exaggerate their income by roughly 20 percent on average and round up their height by about two inches. Similarly, women on dating websites round their weight down by about 15 pounds.

(…)

… as Buss stresses throughout the book, “adaptive” does not mean “morally good.” Often, cultures create moral norms to suppress certain behaviors that might be beneficial for the individual but bad for the community (e.g., stealing).

(…)

Throughout the book, Buss is careful to note that just because a behavior is adaptive or “natural” does not mean it is morally good or desirable. Diseases are “natural,” yet modern science has developed vaccines and medical procedures to eliminate these ailments. Likewise, people can implement personal, social, and legal instruments to curtail the darker facets of male psychology.

(…)

What kind of men? As mentioned above, Dark Triad traits predict sexual aggression. Perhaps more surprisingly, research indicates that high-status men are particularly likely to commit sexual assault. Buss writes, “men with money, status, popularity, and power are more likely to be sexual predators.” These results parallel the disconcerting finding that men who use sexual coercion have more partners than men who do not. A popular idea is that men who are desperate or deprived of chances for sex will be more likely to use coercion. This is known as the “mate deprivation hypothesis.” However, studies suggest the opposite is the case. Men who have more partners report higher levels of sexual aggression compared to men with fewer partners. Furthermore, men who predict that their future earnings will be high also report greater levels of sexual aggression relative to men who predict that their future earnings will be low.”

“The Fight to Secure Rights for Rainforests By Emily Laber-Warren [Sapiens]

“The Fight to Secure Rights for Rainforests

The Sarayaku people of Ecuador seek legal protection for Amazonian plants and animals. Anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s work on “thinking forests” might help.

By Emily Laber-Warren

22 APR 2021

https://www.sapiens.org/culture/eduardo-kohn-sarayaku

(…)

Kawsak Sacha is an expression of the Sarayaku community’s worldview, which is Animist, based on the principle that not only people but plants, animals, and even rocks are sentient, knowing beings. Kohn’s academic writings, meanwhile, derive largely from European and American scholarship. Yet by different pathways, Kohn and the Sarayaku had come to similar conclusions. Both believe that the future not just of the Amazon but of the planet depends on reimagining our connection to nature. They also share a conviction that this message can’t stay hidden in the jungle or in the pages of a book. Political action is necessary.

(…)

If Kohn had asserted that other creatures have feelings, it would be “a much easier position to take, because more people will agree with that,” Fuentes says. For example, scientists have made the case that elephants, ducks, and dogs may grieve. But thoughts? What does Kohn even mean by that?

Early in the book, Kohn describes settling down to rest under a thatched lean-to in the jungle when his friend Juanicu, a Runa hunter, warned him: “Sleep faceup!” If a jaguar happens by and “sees you as a being capable of looking back—a self like himself, a you—he’ll leave you alone,” Kohn writes. But if he does not see your eyes and “should come to see you as prey—an it—you may well become dead meat.”

For Kohn, this insight was a revelation. It implies that humans are not the only ones who interpret the world. A jaguar analyzes its surroundings in its own jaguar way. What’s more, the jaguar’s understanding of the world, its “thoughts,” can have life-or-death consequences for people. Kohn believes this observation shakes the very foundations of anthropology.

Twenty years ago, when Kohn was still a graduate student, he went to see the legendary anthropologist Clifford Geertz. Geertz was known for “thick description,” the idea that anthropologists must gather a wealth of details to fully understand another culture’s practices. Kohn had recently returned from doing this kind of deep fieldwork in Ecuador, where he had lived for long stretches with the Runa people.

Kohn had begun to suspect that even though anthropology was developing a deeper appreciation of culture across human societies, the field still hadn’t gone quite far enough—because it excluded the meaning-making pursued by other species.

(…)

Other species, including insects, express themselves, consciously or not, through alarm and mating calls, coloration, swarming behavior, and more. If anthropologists consider only the human side of these relationships, aren’t they missing half the story?

(…)

But Kohn refused to stop asking those questions. The result was his 2013 book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, in which he argues that all life-forms engage in thought. Through evolutionary dynamics, for example, plants, though lacking a recognizable brain, thrive, reproduce, and at times effectively outmaneuver other species.

(…)

Kohn is convinced that anthropology, and Western thought in general, has artificially isolated humans from the natural world, with disastrous consequences. Instead of perceiving other life-forms as part of a shared reality, the way many Amazonian peoples do, many societies treat them as consumable resources, and “that division is coming back to bite us,” Kohn says.

(…)

For example, some Western scientists now believe that trees send out chemical signals to warn one another about insect pests and that healthy trees nurse sick ones through their conjoined root systems. On a global scale, windblown dust from the Bodélé Depression in north-central Africa blows all the way to the Amazon and seeds the rainforest with the minerals it needs to support its rich panoply of life.

“This is what the Sarayaku have been saying all along, that everything is interconnected,” says Rodriguez-Garavito. “This is not religious belief. This is not just a hunch.” But because such processes are invisible, until recently, Western science had largely overlooked them.”

“The misinformation virus | Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection” By Elitsa Dermendzhiyska [Aeon]

“The misinformation virus

Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

is a science writer and social entrepreneur working at the intersection of technology, research and mental health. She is the editor of the mental health anthology What Doesn’t Kill You: 15 Stories of Survival (2020). She lives in London.

16 April 2021

https://aeon.co/essays/why-humans-find-it-so-hard-to-let-go-of-false-beliefs

(…)

What’s different today is the speed, scope and scale of misinformation, enabled by technology. Online media has given voice to previously marginalised groups, including peddlers of untruth, and has supercharged the tools of deception at their disposal. The transmission of falsehoods now spans a viral cycle in which AI, professional trolls and our own content-sharing activities help to proliferate and amplify misleading claims. These new developments have come on the heels of rising inequality, falling civic engagement and fraying social cohesion – trends that render us more susceptible to demagoguery. Just as alarming, a growing body of research over the past decade is casting doubt on our ability – even our willingness – to resist misinformation in the face of corrective evidence.

(…)

Yet no matter how clear the correction, typically more than half of subjects’ references to the original misinformation persist. What’s remarkable is that people appear to cling to the falsehood while knowing it to be false. This suggests that, even if successfully debunked, myths can still creep into our judgments and colour our decisions – an outcome referred to in the literature as ‘the continued influence effect’.

Why does this happen? According to Jason Reifler, professor of political science at the University of Exeter, we tend to take incoming information at face value, ‘because the existence of human society is predicated on the ability of people to interact and [on] expectations of good faith.’ Moreover, myths can take on subtle, crafty forms that feign legitimacy, making them hard to expose without careful analysis or fact checks. This means that those of us too dazed by the job of living to exert an extra mental effort can easily succumb to deception. And once a falsehood has slipped in and become encoded in memory – even weakly – it can prove remarkably sticky and resistant to correction.

(…)

Another reason why misinformation resists correction is repetition. Once something gets repeated often enough – sensational claims on social media; urban legends passed from one bored timewaster to another – it can trick us into taking it as true merely because of its familiarity. The illusory truth effect, as it’s known, suggests that the easier to process and more familiar something is, the more likely we are to believe it. Which is exactly what repeating a misleading claim does – getting it to go down smooth by strengthening the neural pathways linked to it.

(…)

In recent years, as misinformation has wormed its way into large swathes of society, scientists have been looking for the most effective methods to counter it. Recently, Lewandowsky spearheaded The Debunking Handbook 2020, an online collection of best practice by 22 of the most active researchers in the field. The contributors nominated more than 50 relevant findings and more than 30 practical recommendations, rating them on their importance and the strength of the available evidence. To successfully debunk a myth, the authors conclude, it helps to provide an alternative causal explanation to fill the mental gap that retracting the myth could leave. Counterarguments work too, as they point out the inconsistencies contained in the myth, allowing people to resolve the clash between the true and the false statement. Another strategy is to evoke suspicion about the source of the misinformation. For example, you might be more critical of government officials who reject human-caused global warming if you suspect vested business interests behind the denialist claims.

(…)

John Cook, a climate change communication researcher at George Mason University in Virginia, told me: ‘I could develop the perfect message that debunks the myth completely. And, even if I could get that message to the right person, what happens if they just go home and turn on Fox News and get five hours of misinformation thrown at them? That particular message will be wiped out.’

(…)

To fully grasp the pernicious nature of the misinformation virus, we need to reconsider the innocence of the host. It’s easy to see ourselves as victims of deception by malicious actors. It’s also tempting to think of being misinformed as something that happens to other people – some unnamed masses, easily swayed by demagoguery and scandal. ‘The problem is that people are sheep,’ one friend said to me. I’ve heard this sentiment echoed time and again by others, the implication always being that they and I were not like those other, misinformed people. No: we were educated, had been taught to think, immune to dupery. But, as it turns out, misinformation doesn’t prey only on the ignorant: sometimes, those who seem least vulnerable to the virus can prove its keenest hosts, and even handmaidens.

(…)

In the 2010 study, published in Nature in 2012, Kahan and his collaborators measured subjects’ science literacy and numeracy, and plotted those against the participants’ perceived risk of global warming. If the science comprehension thesis was right, then the more knowledgeable the subjects, the more they’d converge towards the scientific consensus. Surprisingly, however, the data revealed that those who scored high on hierarchy and individualism – the hallmark values of a conservative outlook – exhibited the opposite pattern: as their science literacy and numeracy increased, their concern for climate change actually declined. What explains this seeming paradox?

Kahan argues that rather than being a simple matter of intelligence or critical thinking, the question of global warming triggers deeply held personal beliefs. In a way, asking for people’s take on climate change is also to ask them who they are and what they value. For conservatives to accept the risk of global warming means to also accept the need for drastic cuts to carbon emissions – an idea utterly at odds with the hierarchical, individualistic values at the core of their identity, which, by rejecting climate change, they seek to protect. Kahan found similar polarisation over social issues that impinge on identity, such as gun control, nuclear energy and fracking, but not over more identity-neutral subjects such as GMO foods and artificial sweeteners. In cases where identity-protective motivations play a key role, people tend to seek and process information in biased ways that conform to their prior beliefs. They might pay attention only to sources they agree with and ignore divergent views. Or they might believe congruent claims without a moment’s thought, but spare no effort finding holes in incongruent statements: the brightest climate-change deniers were simply better than their peers at counter-arguing evidence they didn’t like.

This hints at a vexing conclusion: that the most knowledgeable among us can be more, not less, susceptible to misinformation if it feeds into cherished beliefs and identities. And though most available research points to a conservative bias, liberals are by no means immune.

In a 2003 study, Geoffrey Cohen, then a professor of psychology at Yale, now at Stanford University, asked subjects to evaluate a government-funded job-training programme to help the poor. All subjects were liberal, so naturally the vast majority (76 per cent) favoured the policy. However, if subjects were told that Democrats didn’t support the programme, the results completely reversed: this time, 71 per cent opposed it. Cohen replicated this outcome in a series of influential studies, with both liberal and conservative participants. He showed that subjects would support policies that strongly contradict their own political beliefs if they think that others like them supported those policies. Despite the social influence, obvious to an outsider, participants remained blind to it, and attributed their preferences to objective criteria and personal ideology. This would come as no surprise to social psychologists, who have long attested to the power of the group over the individual, yet most of us would doubtless flinch at the whiff of conformity and the suggestion that our thoughts and actions might not be entirely our own.

For Kahan, though, conformity to group beliefs makes sense. Since each individual has only negligible impact on collective decisions, it’s sensible to focus on optimising one’s social ties instead. Belonging to a community is, after all, a vital source of self-worth, not to mention health, even survival. Socially rejected or isolated people face heightened risks of many diseases as well as early death. Seen from this perspective, then, the impulse to fit our beliefs and behaviours to those of our social groups, even when they clash with our own, is, Kahan argues, ‘exceedingly rational’. Ironically, however, rational individual choices can have irrational collective consequences. As tribal attachments prevail, emotions trump evidence, and the ensuing disagreement chokes off action on important social issues.

(…)

I’ve wondered recently if, like school violence, misinformation is becoming part of the culture, if it persists because some of us actively partake in it, and some merely stand by and allow it to continue. If that’s the case, then perhaps we ought to worry less about fixing people’s false beliefs and focus more on shifting those social norms that make it OK to create, spread, share and tolerate misinformation. Paluck shows one way to do this in practice – highly visible individual action reaching critical mass; another way could entail tighter regulation of social media platforms. And our own actions matter, too. As the Scottish biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson said in 1917, ‘everything is what it is because it got that way’. We are, each and every one of us, precariously perched between our complicity in the world as it is and our capacity to make it what it can be.”

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Partisan Politics, and Climate Change: A Tragedy in Three Acts” By Helen Camakaris [This View of Life]

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Partisan Politics, and Climate Change: A Tragedy in Three Acts

By Helen Camakaris
Helen gained her Ph.D. in 1975 and worked as a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She studied the regulation of gene expression in bacteria and archaebacteria, which aligned with her interest in evolution. She retired in 2008 to pursue her interest in the nexus between evolutionary psychology, sustainability, and climate change, and has been studying and publishing articles in this area for the past ten years. Her articles have appeared in Meanjin Quarterly, The Conversation, Cosmos Magazine, New Internationalist, and Kosmos Magazine, and can be found online under Notes on her Facebook Page.
Twitter: @helenmcama
Facebook Page: ‘The Climate Conundrum, with Helen Camakaris’ at https://www.facebook.com/h.camakaris/

This View of Life

https://thisviewoflife.com/evolutionary-mismatch-partisan-politics-and-climate-change-a-tragedy-in-three-acts/

(…)

During the Pleistocene, our brains were upgraded by changes that enabled our ancestors to leave more descendants, largely as a result of expansion in the cerebral neo-cortex. Evolution is glacially slow and our rise is recent, so our psychology suffers from evolutionary ‘mismatch,’5 whereby the shadows of the past still influence our behavior.6

(…)

Like biological evolution, cultural evolution builds upon whatever has preceded it and is also subject to a form of ‘natural selection,’8 whereby some ‘memes’ or ideas persist and spread.9 Cultural evolution and natural selection acted together as a ratchet, culminating in vastly increased intelligence and creativity.5

Altruism too, was a product of natural selection involving language and social intelligence, its selection enhanced by multilevel selection, with competition at the level of groups or tribes.10 Altruism, however, is generally circumscribed by an obsession with ‘fairness’ and discrimination between ‘them’ and ‘us’, presenting problems when we must plan for the distant future, or cooperate beyond the local tribe.

So although we may now be extraordinarily intelligent, we are not always rational, simply as a result of our evolutionary journey.11 Our decision-making often involves emotional reasoning, using ‘gut instinct’, which we then justify by rational thought.12 Our cognition is also subject to a myriad of biases affecting our judgment.13 For example, we tend to discount the future, follow our in-group, and collect evidence to justify our pre-existing opinions. We are further limited by our poor comprehension of large numbers and exponential growth, as became obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, even intelligence has been a double-edged sword, promoting the transition from hunter-gatherer to improviser, and the ‘progress’ that followed. Technological advances like agriculture around 10,000 years ago made surpluses possible; people began to live in towns and cities, to specialize, trade with other groups, and have larger families. Whilst this satisfied the evolutionary imperative of increasing population, it heralded poorer diets, more disease, and greater social stratification.”

“Evolutionary biology meets consciousness: essay review of Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul By Heather Browning & Walter Veit [Biology & Philosophy (2021)]

“Evolutionary biology meets consciousness: essay review of Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul

Heather Browning & Walter Veit

Biology & Philosophy. volume 36, Article number: 5 (2021)

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10539-021-09781-7

Abstract

In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subjective experience. Though it would be impossible to cover all its content in a short book review, here we provide a critical evaluation of their two key ideas—the role of Unlimited Associative Learning in the evolution of, and detection of, consciousness and a metaphysical claim about consciousness as a mode of being—in a manner that will hopefully overcome some of the initial resistance of potential readers to tackle a book of this length.”

“Can the brain resist the group opinion?” [Medical Xpress]

“Can the brain resist the group opinion?

by National Research University Higher School of Economics

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-brain-resist-group-opinion.html

Scientists at HSE University have learned that disagreeing with the opinion of other people leaves a ‘trace’ in brain activity, which allows the brain to later adjust its opinion in favor of the majority-held point of view. The article was published in Scientific Reports.

We often change our beliefs under the influence of others. This social behavior is called conformity and explains various components of our behavior, from voting at elections to fashion trends among teenagers.

Brain research has recently been well informed about short-term effects of social influence on decision making. If our choice coincides with the point of view of the people who are important to us, this decision is reinforced in the brain’s pleasure centers involved in the larger dopaminergic system responsible for learning, motor activity and many other functions. Conversely, in instances of disagreement with others, the brain signals that a ‘mistake’ has been made and triggers conformity.

(…)

Thus, the opinions of others not only influence our behavior, but also cause long-term changes in the way our brains work. Apparently, the brain not only quickly adjusts to the opinions of others, but also begins to perceive information through the eyes of the majority in order to avoid social conflicts in the future.

“Our study shows the dramatic influence of others’s opinion on how we perceive information,” says HSE University Professor Vasily Klucharev, one of the authors of the study. “We live in social groups and automatically adjust our opinions to that of the majority, and the opinion of our peers can change the way our brain processes information for a relatively long time.”

“It was very interesting to use modern methods of neuro-mapping and to see traces of past conflicts with the opinion of the group in the brain’s activity,” adds Aleksei Gorin, a Ph.D. student at HSE University. “The brain absorbs the opinion of others like a sponge and adjusts its functions to the opinion of its social group.”

***

MEG signatures of long-term effects of agreement and disagreement with the majority

A. Gorin, V. Klucharev, A. Ossadtchi, I. Zubarev, V. Moiseeva & A. Shestakova

Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 3297 (2021)

Published: 08 February 2021

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-82670-x

Abstract

People often change their beliefs by succumbing to an opinion of others. Such changes are often referred to as effects of social influence. While some previous studies have focused on the reinforcement learning mechanisms of social influence or on its internalization, others have reported evidence of changes in sensory processing evoked by social influence of peer groups. In this study, we used magnetoencephalographic (MEG) source imaging to further investigate the long-term effects of agreement and disagreement with the peer group. The study was composed of two sessions. During the first session, participants rated the trustworthiness of faces and subsequently learned group rating of each face. In the first session, a neural marker of an immediate mismatch between individual and group opinions was found in the posterior cingulate cortex, an area involved in conflict-monitoring and reinforcement learning. To identify the neural correlates of the long-lasting effect of the group opinion, we analysed MEG activity while participants rated faces during the second session. We found MEG traces of past disagreement or agreement with the peers at the parietal cortices 230 ms after the face onset. The neural activity of the superior parietal lobule, intraparietal sulcus, and precuneus was significantly stronger when the participant’s rating had previously differed from the ratings of the peers. The early MEG correlates of disagreement with the majority were followed by activity in the orbitofrontal cortex 320 ms after the face onset. Altogether, the results reveal the temporal dynamics of the neural mechanism of long-term effects of disagreement with the peer group: early signatures of modified face processing were followed by later markers of long-term social influence on the valuation process at the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.”

“Learning from Evolution about Free Speech” By David Sloan Wilson [This View Of Life]

“Learning from Evolution about Free Speech

By David Sloan Wilson

January 11, 2021

https://thisviewoflife.com/learning-from-evolution-about-free-speech/

(…)

The world is in turmoil over the incendiary language of a US president, the invasion of the US Capitol Building incited by his speech, and the silencing of the president by giant tech firms. Commentators fall back on the US Constitution, especially the First Amendment, to make sense of it all—as if the wisdom of the founders could somehow anticipate the Internet Age. To truly make sense of it all, we need to go back—way back—to the genetic evolution of our species at the scale of small groups.  

Humans are masters of social regulation at the scale of small groups. Alexis d’Toqueville, the acute observer of American democracy in the 1830’s, got it right when he wrote that “the village or township is the only association which is so perfectly natural that wherever a number of men are collected it seems to constitute itself.”

Toqueville’s use of the word “natural” was more apropos than he could have known, writing decades before Darwin’s theory of evolution. Today we know that our ability to cooperate in small groups is a product of genetic evolution. Even though we share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees, there is a night-and-day difference in our cooperativeness. According to Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham in his book The Goodness Paradox (1), naked aggression is over 100 times more frequent in a chimpanzee community than a small-scale human community. Even cooperation in chimpanzees typically takes the form of small alliances competing against other alliances within a given community. The main form of community-wide cooperation is aggression toward other communities.

(…)

Likewise, small-scale human societies are not just communitarian but also stubbornly individualistic. Since the great danger is to be pushed around, all members assert their right as a moral equal so that decision-making becomes a collective enterprise. These seemingly contradictory strands, compulsory and voluntary, collective and individualistic, are woven together to form a strong braid.

(…)

So much for the big evolutionary picture that was beyond Tocqueville’s imagination. How does it bear upon the urgent questions of our day, such as the incendiary speech of a US president and the decision of major tech companies to deny him a forum? Let’s shrink these problems down to see what they look like at the scale of a small group. As we have seen, there is a necessity for everyone to have a say in matters of collective importance. This is the necessity that is recognized by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. There is also the necessity to suppress bullying and other behaviors that can disrupt the common good. It all depends on the context. In small and well-regulated human groups, it is relatively easy to recognize the context and apply the appropriate rules.

Not only was this true for small groups in the distant past and the small-scale societies of today, but examples abound in modern WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic) societies (6). Consider the norms of scholarship and science, where adhering to the facts of the matter is a cardinal virtue. The formation and testing of alternative hypotheses is a form of unrestricted free speech, failure to cite or misrepresenting relevant material is rigorously policed, and willfully falsifying data results in immediate exclusion. These norms are as strong as those of the strongest religions. Similar examples could be cited for other modern contexts where truth-telling is important, such as responsible journalism and judicial procedures. When witnesses at a trial swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” they legally bind themselves to that commitment.

(…)

The second major factor is that evolutionary theory, which was beyond the imagination of Tocqueville, is still a new perspective in discussions of social theory, economics and law. The title of my book This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution, signifies that the conceptual unification that has taken place in the biological sciences (and of course continues), is only now taking place in the human-related sciences. In my long career, I have observed that the “evolutionizing” of human-related disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, religion, economics, business, and law takes place at different rates based on idiosyncratic factors.

Economics and business are late bloomers and law even more so. One of the few legal scholars who thinks about free speech and the Internet from an evolutionary perspective is Julie Seaman, Associate Professor at Emory University’s School of Law. An open-access article that we coauthored titled #FreeSpeech makes a start at evolutionizing the concept of free speech, in general, and in the Internet Age. This conversation needs to expand and be put into action rapidly, to keep pace with the rate of cultural evolution in the Internet Age. Otherwise, only social dysfunction can result.”

***

#FreeSpeech

Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 48, No. 4, 2017

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-439

30 Pages

Posted: 14 Apr 2017

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2951909

Julie Seaman
Emory University School of Law

David Wilson
Binghamton University

Date Written: April 12, 2017

Abstract

It has become commonplace to note that courts have struggled with the challenge of applying analog legal concepts to digital spaces, and nowhere is this truer than in the context of the First Amendment. Here, we focus on a very specific aspect of the Internet and social media revolution – the impact on human behavior of this distinct medium of communication – to consider whether the online context of a communication can be expected to affect the behavior either of the speaker or the audience in ways that might be relevant to First Amendment theory and doctrine.

With the emergence of the field of cyberpsychology over the past decade, the complex universe of the online social brain has begun to reveal itself. While much of this space is thus far only roughly mapped and much else is yet to be discovered, there are a number of preliminary findings that have implications for thinking about freedom of speech on the Internet. The nature and effects of disinhibition online, the effect of online social communication on memory and belief about facts and events in the physical world, and the drivers of antisocial behaviors such as flaming, shaming, and trolling – to name just a few – are all fertile ground for analysis and further research as they relate to First Amendment theory, doctrine, and values.

This initial foray into the treacherous terrain at the crossroads of the First Amendment, social media, and human behavior also draws on the evolutionary science of group dynamics and cooperation, which has much to say about how individuals behave within groups, how groups behave with respect to other groups, and the features that can make some groups successful, constructive, egalitarian, and prosocial while others are destructive, hierarchical, violent, and antisocial. It explores the implications of these ideas as they relate to groups that operate in cyberspace.

Keywords: First Amendment, Cyberspeech, Cyberpsychology, Internet Speech”

Joseph Henrich and Michael Muthukrishna – “The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation”. Annual Review of Psychology, 2021

“The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation

Annual Review of Psychology

Vol. 72:207-240 (Volume publication date January 2021)

First published as a Review in Advance on October 2, 2020

https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-081920-042106

Joseph Henrich (1) and Michael Muthukrishna (2)

(1) Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA; email: henrich@fas.harvard.edu

(2) Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom; email: m.muthukrishna@lse.ac.uk

PDF:

https://henrich.fas.harvard.edu/files/henrich/files/henrich_and_muthukrishna_the_origins_and_psychology_of_human_cooperation_final.pdf

Abstract

Humans are an ultrasocial species. This sociality, however, cannot be fully explained by the canonical approaches found in evolutionary biology, psychology, or economics. Understanding our unique social psychology requires accounting not only for the breadth and intensity of human cooperation but also for the variation found across societies, over history, and among behavioral domains. Here, we introduce an expanded evolutionary approach that considers how genetic and cultural evolution, and their interaction, may have shaped both the reliably developing features of our minds and the well-documented differences in cultural psychologies around the globe. We review the major evolutionary mechanisms that have been proposed to explain human cooperation, including kinship, reciprocity, reputation, signaling, and punishment; we discuss key culture–gene coevolutionary hypotheses, such as those surrounding self-domestication and norm psychology; and we consider the role of religions and marriage systems. Empirically, we synthesize experimental and observational evidence from studies of children and adults from diverse societies with research among nonhuman primates.

Keywords
cooperation, ultrasociality, evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, culture-gene coevolution, social behavior”

“Why Losing Bonds Sports Fans” by Martha Newson [Sapiens/The Conversation]

“Why Losing Bonds Sports Fans

A study on team loyalty among British football fans shows that the ranking of the club plays an important role in how strongly supporters identify with one another.

By Martha Newson
Cognitive anthropologist at the Universities of Kent and Oxford.

1 FEB 2021

https://www.sapiens.org/culture/football-fans

***

United in defeat: shared suffering and group bonding among football fans

Martha Newson, Michael Buhrmester & Harvey Whitehouse
18 Jan 2021
Managing Sport and Leisure

https://doi.org/10.1080/23750472.2020.1866650

***

(…)

Previous research has suggested shared dysphoric group experiences such as relegation, or a bitter derby loss, lead to bonding with other group members. While euphoric events, such as winning a competition, can be powerful in bonding us to our groups, it is the dysphoric events that really stay with us. These have the most potential to cement us to our groups through a process of reflecting on these challenging experiences.

An alternative explanation for the exceptional loyalty of fans of losing teams is provided by cognitive dissonance theory. As humans, it is highly stressful to behave in a way that contradicts one of our beliefs or values. For long-suffering fans of poorly performing clubs, the answer to the question “why do I do put myself through this?” could well be “because I love the club so much.” This might be an attempt to reduce the dissonance of spending lots of time and money on a club that never “pays out” with victory.

Yet for dissonance to occur, a fan’s willingness to suffer for the group needs to be perceived as voluntary. In theory, fans can opt out of their football support at any time. But in reality, most fans are recruited through existing relational ties—for example, through a parent, cousin, or friend. This can lead to complex and enduring networks that are hard to cut off.

(…)

A better understanding of identity fusion has huge potential benefits for clubs and the wider society. Policing football in London alone costs around 4 million pounds in the U.K. each year.

“This is your brain on political arguments” By Derek Beres [Big Think]

“This is your brain on political arguments

Debating is cognitively taxing but also important for the health of a democracy—provided it’s face-to-face.

DEREK BERES

18 January, 2021

https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/your-brain-on-arguing

– New research at Yale identifies the brain regions that are affected when you’re in disagreeable conversations.

– Talking with someone you agree with harmonizes brain regions and is less energetically taxing.

– The research involves face-to-face dialogues, not conversations on social media.

You probably know the feeling: a rush of heat that assaults your entire body; your fingertips and forehead suffering fiery consequences of conflict; restrictions around your chest and throat; quickened breath, as if your lungs can no longer draw in the required oxygen; ears on alert, biding time for a break in your opponent’s rhetoric to let loose the torrent of thoughts crowding your brain.

Of course, not everyone is an opponent. You likely know the opposite as well: the cool excitement of agreeableness, when the words in your head are returned to you from another being as in a mirror; unconscious head shaking as your sense of righteousness is validated; the warm exuberance of easy dialogue with a fellow tribe member.

In a digital age in which physical contact seems foreign and long past, we might have forgotten what it’s like to agree—or debate—with someone in person. Pandemics are temporary, while societies are—well, nothing is forever, but we’ve outlived diseases before. According to new research from Yale University, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, disagreeing with someone takes up a lot of brain real estate, while finding a compatriot is a much less cognitively taxing endeavor.

(…)

Senior author Joy Hirsch notes that our brain is essentially a social processing network. The evolutionary success of humans is thanks to our ability to coordinate. Dissonance is exhausting. Overall, she says, “it just takes a lot more brain real estate to disagree than to agree,” comparing arguments to a symphony orchestra playing different music.

As the team notes, language, visual, and social systems are all dynamically intertwined inside of our brain. For most of history, yelling at one another in comment sections was impossible. Arguments had to occur the old-fashioned way: while staring at the source of your discontent.

(…)

Leading us to an interesting question: do the same brain regions fire when you’re screaming with your fingers on your Facebook feed? Given the lack of visual feedback from the person on the other side of the argument, likely not—as it is unlikely that many people would argue in the same manner when face-to-face with a person on the other side of a debate. We are generally more civil in real life than on a screen.”

***

“Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

13 January 2021

https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.606397

Interpersonal Agreement and Disagreement During Face-to-Face Dialogue: An fNIRS Investigation

Joy Hirsch 1,2,3,4,5*, Mark Tiede 1,4, Xian Zhang 1, J. Adam Noah 1, Alexandre Salama-Manteau 1 and Maurice Biriotti 6

1 Brain Function Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
2 Department of Neuroscience, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
3 Department of Comparative Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
4 Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, United States
5 Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom
6 Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Although the neural systems that underlie spoken language are well-known, how they adapt to evolving social cues during natural conversations remains an unanswered question. In this work we investigate the neural correlates of face-to-face conversations between two individuals using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and acoustical analyses of concurrent audio recordings. Nineteen pairs of healthy adults engaged in live discussions on two controversial topics where their opinions were either in agreement or disagreement. Participants were matched according to their a priori opinions on these topics as assessed by questionnaire. Acoustic measures of the recorded speech including the fundamental frequency range, median fundamental frequency, syllable rate, and acoustic energy were elevated during disagreement relative to agreement. Consistent with both the a priori opinion ratings and the acoustic findings, neural activity associated with long-range functional networks, rather than the canonical language areas, was also differentiated by the two conditions. Specifically, the frontoparietal system including bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left supramarginal gyrus, angular gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus showed increased activity while talking during disagreement. In contrast, talking during agreement was characterized by increased activity in a social and attention network including right supramarginal gyrus, bilateral frontal eye-fields, and left frontopolar regions. Further, these social and visual attention networks were more synchronous across brains during agreement than disagreement. Rather than localized modulation of the canonical language system, these findings are most consistent with a model of distributed and adaptive language-related processes including cross-brain neural coupling that serves dynamic verbal exchanges.”

“Como a ‘mente ocidental’ foi moldada pela Igreja Católica medieval” – Joseph Henrich [BBC Future]

“Como a ‘mente ocidental’ foi moldada pela Igreja Católica medieval

Joseph Henrich*

* Joseph Henrich é professor de Biologia Evolutiva Humana na Universidade de Harvard e autor de The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous (“As pessoas mais ‘Weird’ do Mundo: Como o Ocidente se Tornou Psicologicamente Pecial e Particularmente Próspera”, em tradução livre).

BBC Future

https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/vert-fut-55566154

(…)

Em primeiro lugar, apesar de entrar nos livros didáticos como as “pessoas” pensam, quase todos os estudos que examinaram esse efeito foram conduzidos entre estudantes americanos. No entanto, os comentaristas sociais, voltando pelo menos a Alexis De Tocqueville, notaram que os americanos são particularmente individualistas e independentes.

(…)

Isso destaca o fato de que chamar alguém de “conformista” é um elogio em muitos lugares, mas não nos Estados Unidos.

Conformidade, entretanto, não é um caso idiossincrático de diferença cultural, mas representa a ponta de um iceberg psicológico.

O banco de dados que domina nossa compreensão da psicologia humana deriva principalmente — 95% dela, na verdade — de populações que são “Ocidentais, Educadas, Industrializadas, Ricas e Democráticas (esse grupo de pessoas é conhecido pela sigla em inglês “Weird”, que significa “esquisito” em português).

Ao contrário de grande parte do mundo hoje — e da maioria das pessoas que já viveram —, essa categoria de pessoas é altamente individualista, obcecada por si mesma, cheia de culpa e analítica em seu estilo de pensamento.

Os chamados “Weird” se concentram em si mesmos — seus atributos, realizações e aspirações. Ao raciocinar, as pessoas tendem a procurar categorias abstratas com as quais organizar o mundo, simplificam fenômenos complexos quebrando-os em elementos discretos e atribuindo propriedades — seja imaginando tipos de partículas, patógenos ou personalidades.

Apesar de sua aparente auto-obsessão, elas tendem a seguir regras imparciais e podem ser bastante confiáveis, justas e cooperativas com estranhos.

Emocionalmente, as pessoas da categoria “Weird” são relativamente desavergonhadas, menos constrangidas quando se deparam com outros, mas frequentemente atormentadas pela culpa por não cumprirem seus próprios padrões autoimpostos.

(…)

Até recentemente, a maioria das sociedades foi sustentada por instituições baseadas intensivamente em parentescos, construídas em torno de grandes famílias estendidas: clãs, casamento de primos, poligamia e muitas outras normas de parentesco que regulam e restringem a vida social. Essas instituições persistem em muitas partes do mundo hoje, especialmente nas áreas rurais.

(…)

Começando no final da Antiguidade, o ramo do cristianismo que evoluiu para a Igreja Católica Romana começou a promulgar gradualmente um conjunto de proibições e prescrições relacionadas ao casamento e à família. A Igreja, por exemplo, proibiu o casamento entre primos, casamento arranjado e casamento polígamo.

Ao contrário de outras denominações cristãs, a Igreja Católica expandiu lentamente o círculo de relacionamentos “incestuosos” para primos no século 11.

Apesar de frequentemente enfrentar forte resistência, esse empreendimento dissolveu lentamente as complexas instituições baseadas em parentesco da Europa tribal, deixando famílias nucleares independentes como um ideal cultural e um padrão comum.

(…)

A maioria de nós pode achar que somos pensadores racionais e independentes. Mas a forma como pensamos, sentimos e raciocinamos — incluindo nossas inclinações para a conformidade e preferências por explicações analíticas — foi moldada por eventos históricos, heranças culturais e tabus de incesto que remontam a séculos ou mesmo milênios.

Compreender como a história moldou nossas mentes faz parte de explorar e abraçar nossa diversidade.”

“Rick Shenkman – Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics” [ The Dissenter]

“#417 Rick Shenkman – Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics

14 de jan. de 2021

The Dissenter

RECORDED ON NOVEMBER 9th 2020.

Rick Shenkman is the founder of George Washington University’s History News Network, the website that features leading historians’ perspectives on current events. He is a New York Times best-selling author of seven history books. His latest book is Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. Mr. Shenkman is an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter and the former managing editor of KIRO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. In 1997 he was the host, writer and producer of a prime-time series for The Learning Channel inspired by his books on myths. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. He gives lectures at colleges around the country on several topics, including American myths and presidential politics.

In this episode, we talk about Political Animals. We go through topics like evolutionary mismatch; how good we really are at reading politicians, and if it is easy for them to lie to us; self-deception in politics; the role the media play in politics; the problem with presenting information in the form of stories; empathizing with strangers in modern large-scale societies; relying on gut feelings; and solutions to current political problems.

Time Links:
00:48 Political evolutionary mismatch
07:32 Can people know politicians well enough?
20:40 Is it easy for politicians to sell us lies?
25:26 Self-deception
30:12 The media, and presenting information in the form of stories
38:44 Can we empathize with people that are not part of our group?
44:07 Should we rely on our gut feelings?
53:11 Solutions to these problems
1:04:27 Follow Rick’s work!”

“Why a Universal Society Is Unattainable” By Mark W. Moffett [Nautilus]

“Why a Universal Society Is Unattainable

Our minds evolved in an Us-vs-Them universe of our own making.

JANUARY 13, 2021

BY MARK W. MOFFETT

Mark W. Moffett, Ph.D., is the author of The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, & Fall, from which this essay is adapted. He has a Lowell Thomas medal from the Explorers Club for his work in over 100 countries on the questions about the structure of rainforests, social organization in ants, and the stability of societies across different species.

https://nautil.us/issue/95/escape/why-a-universal-society-is-unattainable

(…)

In the 2016 vote, the majority of British people stubbornly chose for their country to be on its own and not part of a more encompassing group of societies. The vote appeared to run against the broader trend of European nations loosening their boundaries in acknowledgement of an identity that outweighs, or erases, the importance of the societies themselves. With the number of societies in general declining century after century,1 we might take seriously the assertion that the internationalization of culture (think Star Wars, tequila, Mercedes-Benz) and connections (with Twitter linking people from Aa, Estonia, to Zu, Afghanistan) are a harbinger of a Berlin Wall-type border collapse, making, as the British sociologist Morris Ginsberg once put it, “The unification of mankind … one of the clearest trends in human history.”2

Whatever the ultimate relationship of Great Britain and Europe may be, the current breakup underscores how deeply national identity runs through human psychology. Both psychological literature and anthropological research on societies ranging from the ethnolinguistic groups of hunter-gatherers to tribes, chiefdoms, and states (less formally, “nations”),3 reveal that a universal society is unattainable. Populations across the globe today may devour Starbucks, KFC, and Coca-Cola. They may enjoy Italian opera, French couture, and Persian carpets. But no matter how many exotic influences each absorbs or what foreign connections they make, nations don’t just fade away. They retain their citizens’ fierce devotion.4 Societies have always traded, gifted, or taken what they want from the outer world to claim as their own, and grown all the stronger for doing so. While the erasure of borders may be laudable, nothing we know about the workings of the human mind suggests it is a realistic vision.

(…)

A failure of alliances to supersede people’s affiliation to their society holds true universally. Intergovernmental organizations like the European Union and the United Nations don’t earn our primary emotional commitment because they lack ingredients that make them real for the members. The EU may be the most ambitious attempt at societal integration conceived, yet few members see the EU as an entity worthy of their loyalty the way they do their countries, and for several reasons.

(…)

To top all that off, the EU offers no grand foundation story, no venerable symbols or traditions, and there’s little sense anyone would fight and die for Europe as they might for their nation.7

(…)

Analysis of the 2016 Brexit vote shows that those who most strongly think of themselves as English went against staying with the EU. Voters saw what was intended foremost to be an economic and peacekeeping tool as a threat to their identity.9 The fact is the consequences of Brexit will be mostly commercial, setting into action a myriad of obstacles to trade.10

(…)

One possible means of attaining that unity might be to shift people’s perception of who’s an outsider. It was a point Ronald Reagan liked to make. “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world,” he remarked in an address to the UN. Indeed, science-fiction tales like The War of the Worlds depict humankind acting as one against a common enemy.

Yet even then our societies would endure the space aliens. The arrival of Martians wouldn’t make nations irrelevant any more than Europeans arriving in Australia caused the Aborigines to drop what had been several hundred clear-cut tribal groups (actually, many Aborigines first guessed that the Europeans were otherworldly, i.e., ghosts16). That would be so regardless of how much the aliens shattered the beliefs people held about their own societies, whose beloved differences would look trivial by comparison to those with the Little Green Men. Cosmopolitanism, the conviction that the diverse people of our planet will come to feel a primary connection to the human race (the term means “citizen of the cosmos”),17 is a pipe dream.

(…)

The human reliance on particular traits, or “markers,” to identify with our societies, ethnicities, and other groups may trace back far into the human past, but what comes naturally isn’t always desirable. Fortunately, our intelligence gives us some prospect of breaking free from our biology and history. When changes concern the matter of how we mark off our identities, though, any alteration would be extremely arduous and require more than education. While casting off ethnic and societal markers may sound good at first blush, the move would undoubtedly mean the loss of much of what humans cherish. Our markers are two-edged swords, causing us to discount those who differ from us, yet at the same time imparting an esprit de corps with complete strangers who fit our expectations, as when we take delight in conversing with a fellow American when traveling overseas.

To abandon our differences would strike against timeless yearnings. People care about their memberships and few would want to give them up. Nor could we simply dispose of them. Research in psychology shows that our responses to the most entrenched of our social groups, and the characteristics that define them, take place faster than the blink of an eye, and are involuntary.18 No doubt if a mass hypnotist caused us to forget our current differences, we would scramble to discover or invent new differences to hold dear.

(…)

The mind evolved in an Us-vs-Them universe of our own making. The societies coming out of this psychological firmament have always been points of reference that give people a secure sense of meaning and validation.

(…)

Social marginalization has been a motivator stronger than religious fanaticism, explaining why many terrorists originally took to extremism only after being excluded from the cultural mainstream. For the socially dispossessed, radical views fill a void.21 Organized crime groups likewise commandeer some of the properties that give a society its vitality by providing social pariahs with common goals and a sense of pride and belonging.

(…)

Being in a society (indeed, in multiple societies) is a more indispensable and ancient quality of our species than faith or matrimony, having been the way of things from before we were human.”