mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures

i’ve mentioned this before (see here and here and here), specifically wrt family types like nuclear families vs. clans, but i thought i’d bring it up again:

more attention ought to be paid to things like mating patterns, family types, and the social structures within societies as creating different sorts of selection pressures for different types of individuals — personality types, iq, other behavioral patterns, etc.

some researchers have been looking at how, for instance, mating patterns can affect genes and genomes in populations: cochran and harpending have been investigating paternal age and mutation rates, some of greg’s low-hanging fruit (double entendre NOT intended), and hage and marck discovered how matrilineality and matrilocal residence affected the distribution of y-chromosome haplogroups in polynesia (other researchers have done similar research for other parts of the world) — and these types of research are really interesting and very exciting, but they’re not quite what i’m talking about.

here’s one example of the sort of thing i’m interested in asking (and answering!): what sort of persons succeed in reproducing the most in a society based on the nuclear family versus a society based around extended families or even clans? what sort(s) of personalities do they have? how high of an iq do they need? what other types of behavioral patterns do they exhibit?

gregory clark famously found that, over the course of the medieval period in england, it was the hard-working, thrifty, forward planning folks with middle-class values who reproduced the most. but he made next to no (actually i think it was none whatsoever) mention of the prevailing family type in medieval england: the nuclear family, which was well-established by at least the 1200s.

imagine what sort of people would do well — what sorts of traits would be selected for — in a society which was based on the individual and his nuclear family making it on their own — with a little help from immediate family and, most importantly, friends and neighbors. someone trustworthy? and trusting? someone who can plan ahead, because those who don’t can’t rely on falling back on an extended family/clan? someone with not the lowest iq in the world?

and what sorts of people do well in a clannish society? those who believe in putting family first ahead of friends and/or the wider community? those who trust their family members more than outsiders, because the outsiders have always had their own family members that they prioritized? individuals who don’t feel a strong urge to plan that far in advance, ’cause hey — uncle joe or cousin ahmed will be there to help out when times are tough? too many individuals who are not so bright because their brighter relatives support them and their offspring?

here, once again, is my favorite example of how at least some clannish societies work. (see if you can spot the potential dysgenic practices!) this is from modern-day egypt — upstream which is much more clannish/tribal than the delta region of the country — Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt (1986), pgs. 150-51:

“The importance that poor peasants attach to the brokerage services by a single wealthy patron can be seen in the continuing importance of the extended family unit in rural Egypt. In the village of El-Diblah [pseudonymous village representative of upper egypt], as well as other Egyptian communities, politics and much of life itself are organized on the basis of large, extended families numbering 500 members or more. These extended families are broad patrilineal structures, which may or may not be able to trace themselves back to a single historical founder. While these extended families do not represent monolithic social structures, most fellahin are animated by a real feeling of belonging to a particular extended family unit. When they need a loan or help with outside government officials, poor peasants will often turn to the leader or a prominent person within their extended family. In the village of El-Diblah three of the four leading extended families are headed by rich peasants. In the eyes of most fellahin, this is exactly as it should be. In the countryside wealth acquired by virtually any means provides a good indication of an individual’s ability to deal with (or against) the ouside world.

“‘Zaghlul,’ for example, is the rich peasant head of one of the leading extended families in El-Diblah. A short, wiry 55-year-old fellah, whose dress and mannerisms are almost indistinguishable from those of other peasants in the village, Zaghlul now owns about 25 feddans of land. Much of this land is planted in sugar cane, a crop that he uses to supply his own cane press that produces black molasses for local sale. As the owner of 25 feddans of land, and the proprietor of one of the few ‘manufacturing’ enterprises in the village, Zaghlul is able to dispense a wide number of agricultural and non-agricultrual work opportunities to favored members of his extended family. Many of the poorer members of his extended family live in a mud-brick settlement surrounding Zaghlul’s modern two-story, red-brick house. In the evenings a steady stream of these poor people come to Zaghlul’s house, seeking brokerage and intercessionary services (for example, help in securing agricultural inputs and medical services from the government)….

mating patterns matter. family types matter. social structures matter. all in the sense that they (i think) set up selection pressures for different sorts of traits — or at least they can do. no doubt they cannot be looked at in isolation (one needs to consider all sorts of other life factors, too, like economic structures), but i think they’re probably pretty important — and need more attention. from this perspective, i mean.

previously: a sense of entitlement and clannish dysgenics and inbreeding and iq

(note: comments do not require an email. low-hanging fruit.)

35 Comments

  1. Yup. Great post.

    I still want to look at Todd’s family systems in Europe and how they influenced modern European ideology. I’d further love to know the differences between the various English founders to colonial America, particularly between the western and eastern parts of England.

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  2. @jayman – “I’d further love to know the differences between the various English founders to colonial America, particularly between the western and eastern parts of England.”

    yeah, me, too! it’s frustrating because, as hackett fischer has said, there’s not really a tradition of regional histories for england, unlike on the continent apparently. gonna have to try to dig into the more local histories of england somewhere.

    i really don’t understand his north midlands/quakers group. they are just a complete mystery to me! -???-

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  3. Speaking of mating patterns and selection pressures…

    “Brides Become Expensive in China”
    China Daily. 4 June 2013.

    The topic was trending high – #1 if I remember correctly – on Sina Weibo yesterday. They have a map of the bride price by region, but I have nto found an English language version yet.

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  4. I think in clans, the most successful and talented males end up being the leaders and chiefs and reproducing the most. I don’t think the leaders or chiefs suppress their own reproduction when they help relatives, so there’s basically no cost for them, and by helping relatives, they help those most likely to share their genes, including whatever genes that made them successful and talented. Also, by help being limited to the clan, there is less chance of people that share fewer genes, including whatever genes that made the leaders or chiefs successful and talented, from benefiting.

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  5. “what sort of persons succeed in reproducing the most in a society based on the nuclear family versus a society based around extended families or even clans? what sort(s) of personalities do they have? how high of an iq do they need? what other types of behavioral patterns do they exhibit?”

    The trait that seems most obvious is Openness or its relative Jungian Intuition. These traits make for reformists but how would a reformist be successful in a clan of 500 people? The only way to get ahead in such a group is by Extraversion and Conscientiousness – by knowing hundreds of these clan members intimately and networking with them better than others do. And by conscientiously doing what you are supposed to do, being more meticulous and dutiful and competent.

    Admittedly international surveys don’t find much Extraversion and sometimes not Conscientiousness either in these clanish countries. But I believe this has to do with the social structure. They are being asked questions by government officials who cooperate with foreigners. No one is going to come across as extraverted when questioned by the enemy, especially as Big Five puts a lot of emphasis on how extraverts are cheerful party people.

    I believe they are in fact similar to White Christians in America in that they rely on social support (in their case nuclear family and local community) and on a consensus on how things are supposed to be based on religion and other traditions.

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  6. I would like to mention a comment that I have heard once from my late brother-in-law A.A.O.:
    “All of us have got some or other help in our lives. The crucial question is not about that help, but whether you work adequately to the position you are holding”.

    We were in the “guild” of Physicists, with about 35+ people of Ph.D. level or above, in our extended family: present wives and husbands, previous wives and husbands, brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, kids; half of them dead, half alive, half here in USA, half back in Russia; etc.
    Are we clannish? Were we? I do not know.

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  7. @hbd chick – “here’s one example of the sort of thing i’m interested in asking (and answering!): what sort of persons succeed in reproducing the most in a society based on the nuclear family versus a society based around extended families or even clans?”

    Society based on the nuclear family:- I live in Britain and would argue that here the persons who succeed in reproducing the most are generally people from lower class backgrounds, with lower levels of education, poorer work ethic, unstable family background, lower ambition level, lower levels of personal responsibility, lower iq level, extrovert personality, and possibly the youngest siblings (not sure why, or even if this is actually true, just my hunch).

    Society based on the extended family (or clan) type:- I generally find it is the eldest siblings, the hardest working, the most intelligent, the most responsible, the most energetic, the most ambitious, the most productive, and again the most extrovert.

    Just some personal observations/opinions.

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  8. Actually I would change my opinion about extended family/clan type societies; I believe it is more the case that it is the male who is the strongest, wealthiest, most dominant, most influential, eldest, most respected, and most senior who reproduces more. Intelligence is only one possible factor among several and doesn’t have to be included. I think in polygamous societies in Africa and the Middle East elders or tribal chiefs could afford more wives, both in terms of paying the dowry/bride prices and providing for them and their many children.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7547148.stm

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  9. @hbdchick
    good stuff. it must have an effect imo.

    @chrisdavies
    welfare underclass don’t have nuclear families but yes it is an example of a unique environment selecting for its own unique set of traits

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  10. I try to think of such questions along two lines simultaneously: what will help my clan survive (reproduce) and what will help me reproduce within the clan? It makes intuitive sense to me, though it may prove that one of those questions turns out to be far less important than the other.

    IQ, or some subset of a g-related ability is a good but not killer app on both fronts. Ditto ability to delay gratification. Violence, extraversion, perseverence, charm…those have more uneven payoffs.

    “…provides a good indication of an individual’s ability to deal with (or against) the ouside world.” Well thought, well put.

    As to current governmental rescue of those who would have been unlikely to acquire spouses in the past, it seems an echo of the clan protective system of finding some sort of a bride for Cousin Harry, who is only in the 10th-30th percentile of fitness. It hasn’t worked well for the overall prosperity of those societies, has it?

    OTOH, they are showing some cleverness in exploiting the loopholes in society as it actually is on the ground, ain’t they?

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  11. @Greying Wanderer – “welfare underclass don’t have nuclear families but yes it is an example of a unique environment selecting for its own unique set of traits”

    Well, maybe I should have clarified that I meant that within Britain, a society predominantly based on the nuclear family, those type of people enjoy the most reproductive success [thanks to our welfare state, unfortunately]. However there are still many dysfunctional, lower class families on benefits here in the UK where both parents are nonetheless married and only have 2 or 3 children. But I take your point.

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  12. I believe intelligence is less important, it could even lower a person’s fitness. This because it correlates with Openness and Jungian Intuition as well as Introversion. This makes the high IQ person more likely to be a reformist with less social skills than others. In the authoritarian society, which the clan-based societies seem to be, you are supposed to obey orders, not undermine authority by suggesting improvement. And if done with a lack of social grace – just think of a precocious truth-telling Aspie-type person telling the chief that he got it all wrong.

    Rather, the clan seems to be a world made for the Right-Wing Authoritarian.

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  13. I should correct myself a bit. The Aspie and the clansman probably share the trait of Conscientiousness, although the ordering principle for Aspies is normally science. If we are looking for the complete opposite of a clansman or tribal person it would be the combination of Introversion and Openness – which is common in California for instance.

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  14. @Staffan

    Agree. If you rank traits by relative importance within each environment and then assume traits are selected for over time with a pressure proportional to their ranking then i’d say group loyalty would be far and away the most important trait in clannish environments. Intelligence would obviously be important also but not necessarily all *types* of intelligent.

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  15. @t. greer – “‘Brides Become Expensive in China’ … ‘Chinese Single Women Ideal Men: Second Hand Suitor Surprisingly Popular'”

    thanks! both very interesting! (^_^)

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  16. @joel – “by helping relatives, they help those most likely to share their genes, including whatever genes that made them successful and talented. Also, by help being limited to the clan, there is less chance of people that share fewer genes, including whatever genes that made the leaders or chiefs successful and talented, from benefiting.”

    maybe. the thing is, obviously some members of these clans are smart and successful, and some are not. in gregory clark’s medieval england, the lower class not-so-smarts were literally weeded out of the population — they weren’t successful, so they were just largely gone by the end of the period. in the egypt example in the post, that just doesn’t happen — or not so much anyway. those at the bottom get help from their fellow clan members nearer the top. the same weeding process is not happening, afaics.

    otoh, i do think that it’s likely that the same altruism/nepotism genes are being shared/selected for through these clannish activities. that seems likely to me.

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  17. @staffan – “The only way to get ahead in such a group is by Extraversion and Conscientiousness – by knowing hundreds of these clan members intimately and networking with them better than others do. And by conscientiously doing what you are supposed to do, being more meticulous and dutiful and competent.

    “Admittedly international surveys don’t find much Extraversion and sometimes not Conscientiousness either in these clanish countries.”

    the thing with the conscientiousness is where does the pressure for conscientiousness/non-conscientiousness come from? from within the clan or from without (i.e. between clan relationships). i think the lack of conscientiousness often found in clannish societies makes sense if you think of individual members of one clan competing with the individual member of another clan. then you get this lack of conscientiousness.

    maybe. (^_^)

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  18. @chris – “I live in Britain and would argue that here the persons who succeed in reproducing the most are generally people from lower class backgrounds, with lower levels of education, poorer work ethic, unstable family background, lower ambition level, lower levels of personal responsibility, lower iq level, extrovert personality, and possibly the youngest siblings (not sure why, or even if this is actually true, just my hunch).”

    yeah, but i think that’s a result of the welfare state. pre-welfare and few of the lower classes did very well. especially going back to medieval times.

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  19. @avi – “As to current governmental rescue of those who would have been unlikely to acquire spouses in the past, it seems an echo of the clan protective system of finding some sort of a bride for Cousin Harry, who is only in the 10th-30th percentile of fitness. It hasn’t worked well for the overall prosperity of those societies, has it?”

    exactly! and, exactly!

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  20. @staffan – “…the ordering principle for Aspies is normally science.”

    *hbd chick waves* (^_^)

    @staffan – “If we are looking for the complete opposite of a clansman or tribal person it would be the combination of Introversion and Openness – which is common in California for instance.”

    i’m very introverted (believe it or not). as a kid, i used to like to sit in my closet and read. (~_^) (really! not much has changed, come to think of it….) i’m pretty open, too. (extremely neurotic. =/ ) (this is the online personality test i took.)

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  21. R.A. Fisher seems to have argued that the barbarian societies organized around clans, tribes, and blood feuds were eugenic and that the more civilized, less clan and tribe based societies based on material wealth and success were dysgenic:

    http://racehist.blogspot.com/2013/06/r-fisher-social-selection-of-fertility.html

    “It appears, then, that the social selection of infertility will characterize all states of society in which (1) distinctions of social class exist ; (2) wealth is influential in determining the social position of an individual or his descendants; and (3) the economic charge of producing the next generation is borne exclusively or principally by the parents who produce them, at least in the sense that they would have been better off had they produced fewer. These conditions are of such wide application that we can have no hesitation in postulating them in all societies, ancient or modern, consisting of individuals co-operating for mutual advantage in a state of law and order.

    There have certainly existed societies, though not properly speaking civilized societies, in which the institution of social class was highly developed, in which the power and prestige of the individual rested largely upon his pedigree and kinship, in which these class distinctions were doubtless correlated with personal wealth, and in which, nevertheless, the social advantage lay with the larger families. Since in such societies we should infer from the principle of the inheritance of fertility, and the absence of any countervailing causes, that the fertility of the socially superior should be the higher, and consequently that the powerful evolutionary force, which such difference of fertility has been shown to exert, will be directed towards the increase of the qualities favourable to success in these societies, and to the qualities admired in them, their importance for the study of our theory, and for the evolutionary history of mankind, is very great.

    The state of society with which we are here concerned, which may be exemplified by the primitive peoples of Northern Europe, as represented in the Icelandic Sagas, in Tacitus’ description of the Germans, and probably in the Homeric poems, by the pre-Islamic Bedouin of the Arabian desert, by many, if not all, of the Turkish and Tartar peoples of the Central Asiatic steppes, and by the Polynesians of New Zealand and Samoa, is characterized by a tribal organization, influenced, or indeed dominated, by the blood feud. All these show a strong feeling for aristocratic or class distinction, and this character, as well as the blood feud, seems to be rather rare among uncivilized peoples generally.

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  22. in the egypt example in the post, that just doesn’t happen — or not so much anyway. those at the bottom get help from their fellow clan members nearer the top. the same weeding process is not happening, afaics.

    Presumably those not successful enough to lead their clan and not fortunate enough to have successful fellow clan members would be weeded out. They would also be least likely to have whatever genes for success and leadership in the society. Also within the clan, those at the bottom would be weeded out relative to the clan leaders or chiefs. Help and prestige tends to be the greatest among the immediate brothers, who share the most genes with the leaders or chiefs, and then diminish as you get further away by blood. I don’t think clans necessarily help any and all fellow members or are liberal in their help to all members. They will kick out or even kill bad members. Chiefs will disinherit bad sons. Etc.

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  23. Yeah, great point, Anonymous. If your family cuts the contacts with you in modern society, you do not lose much. OTOH, in clanish society, when your only protection are your clansmen, if you have no family, you are allowed prey for everyone. You are, simply put, FUBAR.

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  24. “i think the lack of conscientiousness often found in clannish societies makes sense if you think of individual members of one clan competing with the individual member of another clan. then you get this lack of conscientiousness.”

    I think they actually have some conscientiousness although it’s found within the group. Think of it this way: you have all these traditions and rules that you’re bound by, so you can’t use intelligence because of its inherent reformism. But you’re completely free to use you conscientiousness, there is no heresy or disloyalty in that. Perhaps this trait is less visible for an outsider. Some psychologists even consider it a substitute for intelligence since it does relate to education and work performance while being unrelated to IQ. Anecdotally, I’ve heard people complain about immigrants from the Middle East having no real understanding even when highly educated. They do rote learning and mimic others carefully.

    It’s seems like this trait is common among conservatives in America, who probably are tribal although not clanish. I’ll be looking into that later; using corruption as a proxy for tribalism within America.

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  25. @anonymous (joel) – “Also within the clan, those at the bottom would be weeded out relative to the clan leaders or chiefs.”

    sure. but perhaps not as much as what seems to have happened, for instance, amongst clark’s medieval english with their middle class values and nuclear families (and, therefore, not much of a safety net). that’s my point.

    (btw — sorry the other versions of your comment weren’t posted. for some unknown reason, wordpress threw them into the spam box. no idea why!)

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  26. re: North midlands Quaker group — I’m not sure if this is helpful or not but while doing family genealogical research last year I discovered that a big chunk of my ancestors were “Mennonites” from the Palitinate, a principality near the French/Dutch border. Well, my idea of Mennonites was pretty much a wierd sect like the Amish but it turns out that it was more interesting than that: they were proto-Babtists (aka anababtists) who dissented from Catholicism not only over infant babtism but over separation of church and state, pacifism, and a number of other factors (and were accused by their enemies of being “familists” who practiced communism and free love). In other words they were avant guard (sp?) for their time and precursors of the Quakers, with whom they had very close and friendly relations, not only in Holland but also England (and later in Philadelophia), especially East Anglia (I think) which is the part closest to the mainland, between which there was a lot of trade and intercourse in general (including immigration). The only thing is, I’m not sure if East Anglia qualifies as north Midlands?

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  27. A general observation about selection pressure in Arab societies: not only are these areas segmented by clans but they practice polygamy. Polygamy, on its surface, would seem to be eugenic: the most economically successful males have multiple wives and therefore leave behind more offspring. You would think this would lead to higher intelligence over time but apparently it has not. How come?

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  28. @Luke Lea – “A general observation about selection pressure in Arab societies: not only are these areas segmented by clans but they practice polygamy. Polygamy, on its surface, would seem to be eugenic: the most economically successful males have multiple wives and therefore leave behind more offspring. You would think this would lead to higher intelligence over time but apparently it has not. How come?”

    But did the most economically successful males become economically successful by their own intelligent actions? Or could they have just inherited their wealth? And does becoming economically successful in a tribal/clan based society necessarily require a high iq? Could this not be achieved by means of connections, knowing the right people, nepotism, corruption, or simply brute force, criminal means, or government kickbacks, etc?

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  29. @luke – “You would think this would lead to higher intelligence over time but apparently it has not. How come?”

    well, that’s why i’m kinda partial to my “clannish dysgenics” theory: the idea that the dumbest dolts are not weeded out in clannish societies, because they are carried along by their smarter family members — unlike what happened in gregory clark’s medieval england with independent individuals and their nuclear families when many families simply … disappeared. forever.

    i can give you a real world example using my own extended family (ok, ok — clan!). anyone with any brains (including one of my parents and my grandparents on the other side) LEFT the old country when the opportunity arose in order to have a better life. so did a lot of my other family members (aunts and uncles), some of whom settled not in the u.s. but in other european countries. who was left behind? let me tell you — i luv ’em to death (in fact, they’re some of my favorite family members because they’re so innocent in many ways) — the dumbest ones were left behind.

    but they weren’t forgotten! pretty much everyone who moved away sent remittances “back home”! and, so, the dolts of my family (luv ’em to death!) have all been able to have 2+ kids per family each. clannish dysgenics in action! oops! (think about how that’s gonna work out for mexcio/central america….)

    also, wrt the arabs — the inbreeding. greg cochran says lots o’ cousin marriage probably lowers the average iq by 5-6 points.

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  30. Luke Lea
    “Polygamy, on its surface, would seem to be eugenic: the most economically successful males have multiple wives and therefore leave behind more offspring. You would think this would lead to higher intelligence over time but apparently it has not. How come?”

    Also paternal age according to Cochran – which seems plausible. The resources a successful medieval Arab might put into getting themsleves another wife a successful medieval European might put into getting their sons nicely set up instead. It’s effectively the same thing – him increasing the number of his descendents – but through his sons rather than himself.

    A lot of those restrictive old rules make a surprising amount of sense when you look at them in this light.

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  31. […] clannishness – difficult to define, but i know it when i see it: – clannishness defined – clannishness – where do clans come from? – where do emmanuel todd’s family types come from? – mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures […]

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