avi tuschman and the case of the missing left-wing authoritar- ianism

remember avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us that i posted about a couple of months ago? and remember how i said that, in large part, he based his theory on what causes the differences between liberals and conservatives on results from what’s known as right-wing authoritarianism (rwa) studies, while at the same time he failed to take into account studies on left-wing authoritarianism?

in case you don’t remember, i said in that previous post:

“i’m sorry, but i can’t help but think that authoritarianism — including personality types that favor authoritarianism — also occurs on the left. a ten-second google search shows me that left-wing authoritarianism has both been researched and found to exist — something which tuschman, unfortunately, doesn’t mention in the book.”

the first two papers i found on left-wing authoritarianism were: The Presence of Left-Wing Authoritarianism in Western Europe and Its Relationship with Conservative Ideology and Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries. (more about both of them in the previous post.)

avi responded [my emphasis]:

“The three components of RWA that Altemeyer came up with (including submission and aggression) are NOT the same ones that I use in my analysis, although I did mention his thinking in one place in Ch. 4 where I describe how he developed the test. My own breakdown of the content on his test (shown in the chart above, without the words ‘submission’ or ‘aggression’) is a fresh analysis, and the clusters I’ve described are much more in-line with the underlying statistical factors that emerged from a meta-analysis of 88 studies on multiple political-orientation tests given around the world (including RWA).”

in the book, avi suggests that the political sentiments measured by the right-wing authoritarianism test can be broken down into three broad categories which he defines, and how you feel about the issues related to these categories predicts whether you are liberal or conservative. his three categories (which i described in the previous post) are:

“- Tribalism. Tribalism breaks down into ethnocentrism (vs. the opposite force, xenophilia, which means an attraction to other groups), religiosity (vs. secularism), and different levels of tolerance toward nonreproductive sexuality.

“- Tolerance of Inequality. There are two opposing moral worldviews toward inequality; one is based on the principle of egalitarianism, and the other is based on hierarchy.

“- Perceptions of Human Nature. Some people see human nature as more cooperative, while others see it as more competitive.”

and according to avi, as he claimed in the comment i quoted above, these three categories of his are “in-line” with this meta-analysis of eighty-eight studies conducted “around the world”. here’s what he says about that meta-analysis in the book [from chapter 5 – links and emphases added by me]:

“This breakdown of political ideology coincides very well with independent research conducted by a multidisciplinary team from Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Maryland, College Park. These professors carried out a meta-analysis of studies on political orientation in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and New Zealand. The eighty-eight studies they evaluated covered nearly twenty-three thousand individuals who took various types of political tests between 1958 and 2002. These tests included the F-scale, RWA, several other political-conservatism scales, economic-conservatism scales, self-reported ideological positions, issue opinions, and voting records.

“After analyzing all of the data, the team concluded that the ‘two relatively stable, core dimensions that seem to capture the most meaningful and enduring differences between liberal and conservative ideologies’ are: (1) ‘attitudes toward social change versus tradition’ and (2) ‘attitudes toward inequality.’ The analysis showed that, although these two factors are ‘often related to one another,’ they are ‘obviously distinguishable.’

“The meta-study’s first dimension clearly corresponds to the grey cluster (tribalism) in figure 10 [see fig. 10 here – h.chick]. The second dimension [avi’s “tolerance of inequality” – h.chick] is the same as the black cluster. What about the white cluster? The debate over the nature of human nature is the ancient subject of political philosophy, which stretches back for millennia. The problem of human nature has also been studied extensively in its own right by political psychologists and evolutionary biologists, who have made valuable discoveries about this core political topic. Moreover, the white cluster overlaps substantially with both the grey and the black clusters; we’ll explore the relationship between them later on.”

ok. so what about this meta-study of these eighty-eight studies conducted around the world? i looked it up:

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition [pdf]

here’s what the authors of the paper had to say about the eighty-eight studies at which they looked [pg. 14]:

“The data for our review come from 38 journal articles, 1 monograph, 7 chapters from books or annual volumes, and 2 conference papers involving 88 different samples studied between 1958 and 2002. Some of the original data are derived from archival sources, including speeches and interviews given by politicians and opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, whereas others are taken from experimental, field, or survey studies. The total number of research participants and individual cases is 22,818 (see Table 1). The data come from 12 different countries, with 59 of the samples (or 67% of the total) coming from the United States. The remaining samples were studied in England (n=8), New Zealand (4), Australia (3), Poland (3), Sweden (2), Germany (2), Scotland (2), Israel (2), Italy (1), Canada (1), and South Africa (1). Sixty percent of the samples are exclusively composed of college or university student populations, but they account for only 37% of the total number of research participants included in our review. The remaining samples include family members, high school students, student teachers, adult extension students, nonstudent adults, professionals, politicians, judges, political activists, and religious ministers.

jost - table 1


apart from israel and poland, all of the countries here are in western europe or are offshoots of western europe (the u.s.a., for example). and the ONE south african study was conducted on white afrikaaner students [pg. 363 in article]. 20,863 out of the 22,818 total number of participants — a full 91% of the total — were from anglo nations (australia, canada, england, new zealand, scotland, united states)!! this meta-study is NOT cross-cultural by any stretch of the imagination. where’s eastern europe (where left-wing authoritarianism has actually been found)? where’s asia (where only 4.3+ billion people live)? where’s latin america?

this is not a meta-analysis of studies conducted “around the world.” this is a meta-analysis of studies conducted on mostly w.e.i.r.d. individuals in the anglo world. which is interesting, but might not tell us much about the rest of the world.

in his comment to the previous post, avi also said:

“There are many places in the book that discuss political extremism on the left. However, the chapter that describes what you’ve referred to as left-wing authoritarianism is Ch. 22, ‘The Altruism That Isn’t: Self-Deception among People and Politicians.’ This chapter explains why extreme left-wing regimes have authoritarian properties. Although when I use the word authoritarian in this context, I’m referring to the structure of left-wing dictatorships. Explaining why these leaders and their regimes violate the egalitarian ideologies that they supposedly espouse is a fascinating question that deserves its own chapter. Leaders (especially dictators) can of course have different interests than followers, even when they ostensibly share an ideology. So measuring tolerance toward inequality in public opinion is different than explaining how dictators behave.

in chapter 22, avi says:

“The Self-Deception of Leaders on the Extreme Left

“Extreme left-wing ideologies typically espouse radical egalitarianism. Yet in practice, Communist governments are famous for their authoritarian dictators. The hierarchy of Communist regimes presents an especially glaring moral hypocrisy. But this hierarchy has a function, which is to serve the self-interest of the dictator; without the protection of hierarchy, the leader wouldn’t be able to remain on *top*.

“In order to maintain popular support, however, left-wing dictators must continue towing a leftist ideology that exalts egalitarianism. Doing so successfully is easier with self-deception. After all, leftist revolutionary leaders would not command so much self-sacrifice from their followers if the followers suspected that their leaders had nefarious plans to sabotage the party’s ideals once in power….”

avi claims that sometimes (oftentimes!) left-wing leaders hijack their movements once they get into power and use their positions at the top for their own ends. sure. that’s pretty obvious. but then he suggests that the leaders need to deceive their followers about things like equality in their new society in order to maintain their position — i.e. the leaders have to pretend that they’re not at the top of any sort of hierarchy, but really just one among equals in society:

“Dictators of the extreme left often try to present a ‘first among equals’ image to obscure the fact that they sit on top of a steep hierarchy. To convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are merely *primus inter pares*, these leaders are fond of wearing modest clothes. Some wear simple army fatigues. Others, such as Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, were also known for donning tracksuits.

“Leftist dictators occasionally use titles to brandish their supposed anti-hierarchical credentials. Colonel Gaddafi’s official title was ‘Brotherly Leader’ of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Rather than taking titles such as president, prime minister, or king, some Communist leaders have assumed the role of ‘chairman’ or ‘secretary,’ suggesting a first-among-equals status on a council.”

but then avi has a hard time explaining this:

“The egalitarian ideal, however, belies a much more hierarchical reality. Indeed, leader worship pervades the cultures of extreme-leftist regimes. Vietnam’s Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh is referred to simply as ‘Uncle Hồ.’ Yet an almost god-like personality cult has sprung up around him in the Communist country. Hundreds of people constantly line up to pay homage to his embalmed body at a mausoleum in Hanoi. And an image of Ho Chi Minh appears on every denomination of đồng banknotes circulating in Vietnam.”

the reason he has a hard time explaining this is, i think, because he overlooks the existence of left-wing authoritarianism. the most parsimonious explanation for why many left-wing movements in places like venezuela and vietnam and russia wind up with authoritarian leaders is not (only) that the leaders hijack the movements and subsequently lie to their peoples, but rather because left-wingers in these non-western places are left-wing authoritarians themselves. they want strong leaders — or strong governments, anyway — that will take care of everyone.

but avi hasn’t considered that many left-wingers in some populations might have authoritarian traits, because he’s only looked at studies of authoritarianism in the west — primarily in the anglo world — and, yes, most left wingers in the west don’t seem to have authoritarian traits. only extreme leftists in the west — members of communist/stalinist parties — seem to exhibit such traits (at least according to studies so far). on the other hand, left wingers in eastern europe DO exhibit authoritarian traits — see for example Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries.

who knows? researchers might find more left-wing authoritarianism in other parts of the world, too — if they bother looking.

previously: our political nature and authoritarianism

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right-wing authoritarian (RWA) test

(note: the sunday linkfest shall appear tomorrow [if all goes as planned!]. i feel like we just had a linkfest, since last week’s didn’t happen until wednesday. oops.)

here’s an online right-wing authoritarian (RWA) test for you to try out. i have NO idea how valid it is, or if it even resembles altemeyer’s RWA test. my suspicion is that it’s an older version of the test, but i really don’t know. it’s just an okcupid quiz, so i wouldn’t put a whole lot of weight on it. (~_^)

make sure to follow the instructions re. if you only agree with part of a statement!

i took the quiz last week before i read the chapters in avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature that include material on the RWA — didn’t want to bias myself. here are my results:

altemeyer authoritarian test results

don’t know if my score is particularly high or not. it’s certainly higher than most of the folks over @the democratic underground who took the quiz. not a surprise. (^_^) note that this percentage score does not resemble altemeyer’s scale, so i don’t think there’s any way to compare your scores on this little quiz to any actual academic study. oh well.

more importantly…how much of a northerner are you…?

previously: our political nature and authoritarianism

(note: comments do not require an email. authoritarian states.)

our political nature and authoritar-ianism

well! i’m making progress on reading avi tuschman‘s very interesting Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us [see previous post] — ’bout halfway through now (on chapter 11 out of 23). it’s not actually a difficult book to read, it’s just that real life keeps getting in the way of my virtual one (d*mnit, i hate when that happens!).

tuschman is interested in finding out the personality and behavioral traits underlying liberal and conservative political orientations AND the evolutionary bases for those traits. i’m all for that!

while he does draw on all sorts of research into the differing personality/behavioral traits of liberals and conservatives — and those interested in hbd will be familiar with most of them, like for instance that conservatives tend to be more religious — the main framework that tuschman bases his ideas upon is robert altman’s bob altemeyer‘s “right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)” personality theory, a whole construct that, up until the other day, i knew nothing about. you can read all about the RWA scale on wikipedia.

here from tuschman [chapter 5 – my emphases]:

“Altemeyer’s test consists of thirty controversial statements. Figure 10 breaks down the content of these statements into six categories. Each bar represents one of these content categories and shows the percentage of the thirty statements that makes reference to it.

tuschman - figure 10

“The six content categories, in turn, can be lumped into three larger groups: the grey cluster, the black cluster, and the white cluster. The three categories within the grey cluster are ethnocentrism, religiosity/group morality, and sexual tolerance. These are the three elements that comprise the ‘tribalism‘ cluster of personality traits.

“The two categories in the black cluster measure tolerance of inequality: the first concerns attitudes toward inequality and authority in society, while the second category pertains to inequality and authority within the family.

“The white personality cluster has only one category, which measures perceptions of human nature.”

these three larger groups — tribalism, tolerance of inequality, and perceptions of human nature — are the foundations of tushman’s “personality argument”:

“Human political orientation across space and time has an underlying logic defined by three clusters of measurable personality traits. These three clusters consist of varying attitudes toward tribalism, inequality, and different perceptions of human nature.

“These three factors correspond, of course, to the grey, black, and white color groups in figure 10. To go into slightly greater detail:

– Tribalism. Tribalism breaks down into ethnocentrism (vs. the opposite force, xenophilia, which means an attraction to other groups), religiosity (vs. secularism), and different levels of tolerance toward nonreproductive sexuality.

– Tolerance of Inequality. There are two opposing moral worldviews toward inequality; one is based on the principle of egalitarianism, and the other is based on hierarchy.

– Perceptions of Human Nature. Some people see human nature as more cooperative, while others see it as more competitive.”

most of the book is devoted to looking in depth at these three factors and how their various facets correspond to either liberal or conservative personalities. tuschman’s approach is very systematic (i like it a lot!): one section (containing several chapters), for instance, deals with how the different feelings of tribalism play out in human societies, and then the following section (also containing several chapters) deals with the likely/possible evolutionary underpinnings of those feelings/behaviors. this format is repeated for all three factors.

i’ll probably discuss some of these factors — and what tuschman has to say about them — individually in later posts (don’t want to discuss them all, though — mustn’t give away the plot of the book! (~_^) ). but first i want to back up for a sec and discuss altemeyer’s right-wing authoritarianism stuff, since tuschman’s framework is primarily based upon that — although, as i said, he does draw a LOT of evidence from other sources as well.

altemeyer’s RWA work (and this is just a hoot to read about!) is based upon the previous work of theodor adorno (frankfurt school), et al., who wanted to find out why some people became nazis (real nazis in wwii). they devised an “f(ascist)-scale” and everything. their work was later heavily criticized. (see also “The Authoritarian Personality.”)


altemeyer’s new-and-improved authoritarianism scale — which, like its predecessor, only focuses on conservatives — apparently has three “clusters” of personality traits which are summarized thusly [chapter 4 — tuschman references altemeyer’s Enemies of Freedom: Understanding Right-Wing Authoritarianism]:

(1) Authoritarian Submission — a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives;

(2) Authoritarian Aggression — a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities; and

(3) Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.

heh! well, i’m sorry, but — and this, no doubt, reflects my own somewhat conservative personality and biases — but the first group of people that i thought of on reading that description was today’s politically correct liberals! the militant ones, i mean.

“high degree of submission to authorities who are perceived to be established/legitimate?” who? like st. stephen jay gould? or jared diamond? or richard dawkins? (pardon my focus on academics there, but that is the universe that i inhabit. well, one of them!)

“general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, perceived to be sanctioned by est. authorities?” what? like watsonings? or richwinings? or derbyshearings?

“high degree of adherence to the social conventions?” all of political correctness!

and if we are to think about authoritarianism and politics and the sorts of political regimes that are authoritarian in nature — and supported by the hordes — sure there are right-wing examples like nazi germany and franco’s spain, but what about stalin’s russia and mao’s china?! not to mention east germany (where the stasi chief even had an actual room 101!).

i’m sorry, but i can’t help but think that authoritarianism — including personality types that favor authoritarianism — also occurs on the left. a ten-second google search shows me that left-wing authoritarianism has both been researched and found to exist — something which tuschman, unfortunately, doesn’t mention in the book.

the authors of The Presence of Left-Wing Authoritarianism in Western Europe and Its Relationship with Conservative Ideology found authoritarian traits — measured by willingness to use violence (aggression) and needing to obey left-wing leaders (submission) — in extremist left-wingers in belgium (flemish belgium) in the country’s communist party, but especially in the country’s stalinist(!) party. (interestingly, the members of an anarchist movement in the nation who were studied were not authoritarian in nature.) from the paper:

“The present results suggest the presence of authoritarianism among Western European adherents of extreme left-wing parties. Particularly the adherents of the Stalinist party obtained high LWA scores. So, it seems that we achieved in finding ‘the Loch Ness Monster of political psychology.’ The LWA scale not only proved to be successful in distinguishing anarchists and extreme left-wingers from the other ideological groups (the authoritarian aggression facet is most fruitful for this purpose), but also in distinguishing extreme left-wingers from anarchists (the authoritarian submission facet is most fruitful for this purpose). The discriminatory power to distinguish between left-wing extremists, anarchists, and other ideological groups underscores the validity of the aggression and submission facet scales. However, these results also make it clear that the presence of LWA in Western societies seems to be limited to very specific political movements that do not elicit much support in the mass public.”

the presence of left-wing authoritarianism might be limited in western european societies, but you find much more of it in eastern europe! from Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries:

“Using representative samples the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences was examined in 13 excommunist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations made clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is definitely not a myth in Eastern Europe….

“Interesting is also the intra-regional variation regarding the relation between authoritarianism and political ideology.”

i feel a hajnal line map coming on. (~_^)

“In Bulgaria and Russia, for example, authoritarianism is consequently linked with communist/political left-wing preferences regardless of which indicator is used; while in a country like Hungary almost no evidence was found for left-wing authoritarianism. This is in line with Todosijevic and Enyedi’s (2008a) conclusion that leftist authoritarians do exist in Hungary, but they are few and their presence is overshadowed by the authoritarianism of the anticommunist right. Also Enyedi et al. (1997) conclude that the phenomenon of left-wing authoritarianism, though present in Hungary, is less significant than its rightist counterpart….

“[A]uthoritarians in Central and Eastern European countries embrace communist principles and that they hold negative attitudes towards democracy….

“The existence of left-wing authoritarianism has been debated for about six decades. Many authors believed that authoritarianism is essentially a right-wing phenomenon. Most of the evidence comes from studies conducted in Western countries; while the members of the American Communist Part have always been treated as highly deviant (Krugman, 1952). Also Altemeyer (1981) described radical leftists in countries like Canada and the United States as not submissive to established authorities and not conventional. Therefore we believe that the fact that thus far not a lot of evidence is found for left-wing authoritarianism is not due to nonexistence of left-wing authoritarianism, but is due to the fact that we have not looked at the right places.

i’m not sure, yet, what the existence of left-wing authoritarianism — and the fact that tuschman didn’t include it in his book — means for tuschman’s model of our political natures. i need to finish reading the book first — and to think more about it all, too. one thing is certain: i’m more than a bit dubious about using the right-wing authoritarianism model as a basis for looking at the differences between liberals and conservatives. i fear too many things might be missing from that picture, as is evidenced by the two random studies on left-wing authoritarianism that i pulled off the internet.

previously: our political nature and human biodiversity and well this sounds familiar…

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our political nature and human biodiversity

just started reading avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us. so far it’s very good! mind you, i’ve only read the first two chapters (there are twenty-three altogether). (~_^)

according to tuschman, his goal in writing this book is [from the preface – my emphasis]:

“[T]o paint a compelling and accurate portrait of our nature as political animals. Today’s political commentators would have us believe that we vote based on our views about the main issues of the day, on our economic circumstances, or on our longtime affiliations with this political party or that. That’s wrong, or at least incomplete. Step by step, I will explain that our political orientations are not simply intellectual constructs, flowing from our upbringing, our schooling, our peer groups, or which newspapers we read. No, our political orientations are actually natural dispositions, molded within each of us by powerful evolutionary forces.


in the first two chapters, tuschman reviews some of the major research out there which has found that personality is largely innate and that personality strongly influences our political orientations (left-wing or right): the blocks’ study showing that personality at age four strongly correlates with political orientation as an adult (in one’s 20s) [pdf], for example, and alford et al.’s twin studies which showed that identical twins reared apart have very much the same political orientations [pdf], and so on.

well, he doesn’t need to persuade me! (~_^) left and right — we are “born this way.”

furthermore, tuschman says we’ll find these innate left/right personalities in all societies. he draws, though, what i think is a slightly awkward comparison between all of the rebellious folks in the arab spring and the occupy wall street movement in the western world [chapter 1]:

“[I]t was precisely Basboosa’s [the tunisian man who immolated himself triggering the so-called arab spring] moral *rejection of inequality* that activated one of these universal hot buttons residing within him, and within so many of his compatriots. And this is why his story resonated with a critical mass of people in the Middle East, for whom Basboosa symbolized the humble, well-meaning common man systematically abused by government fiat and corruption.

“Now, the story of Basboosa might seem rather remote to many American readers. But the same hidden trigger at play in the Middle East underlies the concurrent transformation of the political landscape in the United States. As the Arab Spring was unfolding, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement emerged on the far left of the US spectrum. The demonstrators in New York shouting, ‘We are the 99 percent!’ were railing not against Middle Eastern dictators, but rather against bankers and large corporations. And yet the same issue that ignited the Arab Spring had inspired and galvanized their movement: a moral rejection of economic and social *inequality*.”

well, yeah … sort of … maybe. but i’m not certain that there are equally as many individuals in tunisia — or north africa — concerned about equality for everybody as there are in the united states or western europe. there might be a lot of people p*ssed off in the arab world/middle east/north africa that they, personally, experience so much corruption in their daily lives and that they and their families are often cheated by others, but are they really morally rejecting economic and social inequality to the same degree that, say, a swede does? i dunno, but it’s worth asking.

just looking quickly at one set of responses from the world values survey [1981-2002 waves] to the question…

“How would you place your views on this scale? – Incomes should be made more equal vs We need larger income differences as incentives.”

…we find that north africans are very much for GREATER income inequality [click on chart for LARGER view]:

wvs - income equality

i think it would be very safe to bet that different populations will vary not only in the numbers/proportions of leftists vs. rightists found within them but also in how liberal or conservative their left- or right-wingers are.

but i think i’m getting ahead of tuschman and that he’s actually going to get to this later in the book. for instance, in chapter two, he does say:

“What happened when groups of very different genetic backgrounds live in the same environment? In this case, each group’s average personality scores differed according to the *origin of their ancestors*. For example, the personality traits of white South Africans clustered closer to the Swiss, while black South Africans had personalities more similar to Zimbabweans. Likewise, groups that have traditionally lived in geographically adjacent territories have more similar average personalities than groups separated by large distances.”

so i should prolly finish reading the book before i say any more on this. (^_^)

previously: well this sounds familiar…

(note: comments do not require an email. yo!)

linkfest – 10/27/13

Ancient DNA Links Native Americans With Europe“…from the complete nuclear genome of a Siberian boy who died 24,000 years ago — the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date. His DNA shows close ties to those of today’s Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia. The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today’s Native Americans can be traced to ‘western Eurasia,’ with the other two-thirds coming from eastern Asia…. It also implies that traces of European ancestry previously detected in modern Native Americans do not come solely from mixing with European colonists, as most scientists had assumed, but have much deeper roots.” — see also: The First of the Mohicans from greg cochran.

Your face may have been sculpted by junk DNA“There is a huge degree of variation in human faces but, as family resemblances show, the overall shape is heavily constrained by genetics. However, so far, geneticists have identified only a small number of genes that influence the shape. These explain just a tiny fraction of the variation seen in human faces. According to Axel Visel of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and his colleagues, more variation is controlled by distant-acting enhancers. These are short sequences of DNA, in non-coding regions of the genome, that can influence the activity of the facial genes, even if they are a long way along the DNA strand.”

Behavior problems in preschool and child care centers may be an issue of genes“A new study suggests that some children may be genetically predisposed to developing behavioral problems in child care and preschool settings…. [B]irth parents who had high rates of negative emotion and self-control, based on a self-reported temperament scale, were more likely to have children who struggled with behavioral issues such as lack of self-control and anger, in child care centers. They controlled for adoptive parent’s characteristics, and still found a modest effect based on the genetic link.”

Your Ethnicity Determines the Species of Bacteria That Live in Your Mouth“[P]eople from each of the four different ethnic groups represented in the study (all participants self-identified as either Caucasian, African-American, Chinese or Latino) generally had similar species of bacteria, especially underneath the gums. As a result, simply by counting which varieties of bacteria appeared in this area, the researchers developed a model that was able to guess a person’s ethnicity with an accuracy significantly better than chance — it got it right 62 percent of the time. Some groups were even easier to identify via the bacteria than others: It could correctly identify Latinos 67 percent of the time and African-Americans with 100 accuracy. The variation along ethnic lines, they believe, is a reflection of genetics, not environment. That’s because, if you assumed that the mouth microbiome is totally dependent on environmental factors, you’d expect that members of the same ethnic group would have different mixes of bacteria depending on whether they were first-generation immigrants to the U.S. or had family histories that stretched back generations in the country. Instead, people’s background — in terms of foods they ate and other lifestyle trends — didn’t seem to have any correlation with the bacterial communities in their mouths. – h/t super bob!

Herpes virus genome traces the ancient path of human migration“Researchers…sequenced the genomes of 31 samples of herpes simplex virus type-1 to reconstruct how it hitchhiked on humans as they dispersed around the world. The results match the pattern proposed by the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, which has become the most widely accepted scenario for ancient human migration. The analysis showed that African strains of the virus contained the most genetic diversity — suggesting that they had the oldest roots.”

Genetic variation alters efficacy of antidepressant“Having a different form of a gene that regulates the brain chemical noradrenaline influences how well men remember negative memories after taking the antidepressant drug reboxetine, according to a study published in the October 23 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings demonstrate how genes can influence antidepressant response.” – see also: Genes predispose some people to focus on the negative.

Much Earlier Split for Neanderthals, Humans?“This suggests that the last common ancestor of H. sapiens and Neanderthals lived sometime earlier, perhaps as far back as one million years ago.”

Denisovans in Wallacea? – from greg cochran.

Life on Earth Was Not a Fluke“Figuring out how biomolecular self-organization happens may hold the key to understanding life on Earth formed and perhaps how it might form on other planets.” – h/t jayman!

Genetics made very simple – from dr. james thompson.

Low historical rates of cuckoldry in a Western European human population traced by Y-chromosome and genealogical data“[W]e estimate that over the last few centuries, EPP rates in Flanders (Belgium) were only around 1–2% per generation. This figure is substantially lower than the 8–30% per generation reported in some behavioural studies on historical EPP rates, but comparable with the rates reported by other genetic studies of contemporary Western European populations. These results suggest that human EPP rates have not changed substantially during the last 400 years in Flanders and imply that legal genealogies rarely differ from the biological ones.” – h/t rob brooks!

‘Endowment Effect’ Not Present in Hunter-Gather Societies“‘The more isolated Hadza traded about 50 percent of the time — which is what rational people should do,’ Azevedo said. People near the village traded about 25 percent of the time, which is much closer to the 10 percent we see with Western students.” – h/t jason collins! – previously: personality goes a long way… in which researchers find just big TWO personality traits in a group of hunter-gatherers (the tsimane).

speaking of the tsimane: UCSB anthropologist studies the evolutionary benefit of human personality traits“‘Being more extroverted, open, agreeable and conscientious –– and less neurotic –– was associated with having more kids.'” in tsimane men. (if they really have all those personality traits…see link immediately above.)

What Happens When a Language Has No Numbers? – on the pirahã. – h/t nn!

Can Your Genes Predict Whether You’ll Be a Conservative or a Liberal?“Scientific research shows political partisanship transcends economics, environment, and upbringing.” – from avi tuschman.

Life expectancy and the dawn of agriculture – from jason collins.

Origins of Americans (Looking At HLA Haplotypes) – from our very own chris davies! previously from chris: human leukocyte antigen (hla) haplotypes and human biodiversity.

Number sense in infancy predicts mathematical abilities in childhood“Preverbal number sense in 6-month-old infants predicted standardized math scores in the same children 3 years later. This discovery shows that number sense in infancy is a building block for later mathematical ability and invites educational interventions to improve number sense even before children learn to count.” – h/t simon baron-cohen!

Black Suits, Gowns, & Skin: SAT Scores by Income, Education, & Race – @the unsilenced science. see also: Obama Administration: Moynihan’s Law of Canadian Border kinda right from steve sailer.

Of Race and Intelligence – from helian.

Sex on the Mind“It is a truth universally acknowledged — at least by biologists — that every person owes his or her existence to parents who successfully reproduced, each of whom, in turn, had two parents who did the same … and so on, going back hundreds of millions of years to the first ancestral blob (or two) of protoplasmic goo that trundled onto terra firma from the early earth’s organic soup.” – from david barash. — see also: Why Have Sex? – from the advanced apes.

Lust Is Love – from heartiste.

Kids Are More Likely to Trust Attractive Adults – h/t hbd bibliography!

Asymmetries in altruistic behavior during violent intergroup conflict“Some empirical studies on intergroup conflict in hunter-gatherer societies and chimpanzees indicate that fitness relevant risks and potential benefits of attacks and defenses might have differed substantially under ancestral conditions. Drawing on these studies, it is hypothesized that the success of defenses was much more important for individual and kin survival and that a disposition to act altruistically during intergroup conflict is thus more likely to evolve for the strategic situation of defense…. Analyzing detailed historical case data from 20th century wars, this study finds that altruistic behavior towards members of the in-group indeed seems to occur more frequently when soldiers are defending themselves and their comrades against enemy attacks.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Who gives? Multilevel effects of gender and ethnicity on workplace charitable giving.“[E]thnic minorities donate less money to workplace charity than do Whites.” – and men less than women. – via richard lynn @amren.

Paradoxes of the Nordic Model II“Denmark is a high trust, highly cooperative society. There is very low crime. Most parked bicycles are not even locked. Bank employees may not work very efficiently, but nobody tried to swindle me. In theoretical terms, what it means is that when there are very few defectors, the amount of common good produced overall is maximized. So everybody is well of, even though they don’t work hard – but they don’t free-ride, either….” – from peter turchin.

Ma’am, Your Burger Has Been Paid For – paying it forward in america! – h/t charles murray!

Napoleon Chagnon: The Fierce Sociobiologist“[Yanomamo] Men from the highland villages were much less belligerent than men from villages along the river. Heterogeneity in belligerence existed even within this single tribe.”

Where Have All the Geniuses Gone?

Aboriginal Hunting Practice Increases Animal Populations – monitor lizards, anyway.

“Science has lost its way, at a big cost to humanity“Researchers are rewarded for splashy findings, not for double-checking accuracy. So many scientists looking for cures to diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.” – h/t outsideness! – see also: Trouble at the lab“Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not.”

These Unresolved Ethical Questions Are About to Get Real

bonus: Hunted by their own government – the fight to save Kalahari Bushmen“Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of tribal peoples, has called for tourists to boycott holidays in Botswana, which is forcing Kalahari Bushmen off their reserves.”

bonus bonus: How did ancient Greek music sound? – beautiful apparently! – h/t ed west!

bonus bonus bonus: Author: In China, ‘everyone is guilty of corruption’ – on guanxi.

bonus bonus bonus bonus: The couple having four babies by two surrogates“A British couple are to become parents of two sets of twin babies carried by two Indian surrogate women they have never met. Experts say twiblings – or children born to separate surrogates but created from the same batch of embryos – are not uncommon in India.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Gang Rape in India, Routine and Invisible“[T]he Mumbai case provides an unusual glimpse into a group of bored young men who had committed the same crime often enough to develop a routine. The police say the men had committed at least five rapes in the same spot. Their casual confidence reinforces the notion that rape has been a largely invisible crime here, where convictions are infrequent and victims silently go away.” – see also: Trying to Make Sense of India’s Sexual Violence, State by State from t.greer.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Insects aren’t gay, they’re just enthusiastic! Scientists discover same-sex mating in bugs is down to a rush to reproduce – h/t hbd bibliography!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Mysterious hum keeping people up all night ‘could be mating fish’“A council investigation was launched in Hythe, Southampton after some people had to move away because of the drone ‘pulsating’ through their homes.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Are conspiracy theories destroying democracy?“The more information we have about what governments and corporations are up to the less we seem to trust them. Will conspiracy theories eventually destroy democracy?” – h/t avi tuschman!

(note: comments do not require an email. monitor lizard!)

well this sounds familiar…

a very kind reader points me to a fairly newly published book (pub. last month) titled Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us by avi tuschman (thank you, very kind reader! (^_^) )

the very kind reader thought i might be interested in the book since it’s got sections on inbreeding and outbreeding … and altruism. yes, indeed! that’s right up my alley!

i’ve only glanced through the book, but this caught my eye … sounds vaguely familiar [from chapter 10]:

“Inbreeding Increases Altruism

“There’s another potential positive-feedback mechanism that promotes inbreeding in animal populations: inbreeding can increase altruism. Altruism is the force that causes an individual to reduce his or her own fitness while increasing the fitness of another. But what’s the connection to mate choice?

“Inbreeding raises the genetic relatedness of the members of the group. Since inbreeders share a higher percentage of their genes with one another, they act less selfishly toward one another. By helping closely related individuals, inbreeders are helping to propagate copies of their own genes. Chapter 19 explains in greater detail this particular phenomenon, which is called ‘kin selection.’

“If specific alleles associated with altruism exist in (or mutate into) a population, then inbreeding can increase the frequency of these ‘altruistic’ alleles until they are ‘fixed’ in the population; that is, they can become permanent, contingent on continued inbreeding.

“In a random mating system, in contrast, altruism is likely to be lower because individuals share fewer genes in common with each other. In an outbred population, two nonrelatives may reproduce. Half of their offspring’s DNA would come from the mother, and half from the unrelated father. Among inbreeders, however, parents already share a proportion of their DNA with one another. Therefore, the inbred offspring have *more* than half of each parent’s genes. The longer a population’s history of continuous inbreeding, the higher the genetic overlap becomes. Having a child that shares more than 50 percent of one’s DNA is an easy way for a parent to increase the propagation of its genes, and therefore to gain greater fitness — without even expending any additional reproductive effort.

“Although sustained inbreeding in a human population can increase altruism among the in-group, it can also *decrease* altruism toward out-groups. This hostility may particularly occur when colonies of inbreeders live side by side but do not outbreed. Separation by a reproductive boundary would entail a sharp drop in genetic relatedness between the two groups. So altruism would be high within the groups but very low between them.”


like i said, i’ve only glanced through the book, but i couldn’t see anywhere where mr. tuschman connects inbreeding or outbreeding with family types. or that long-term mating patterns and their downstream effects on social structures (like on family types) likely influence selection within populations.

still, looks like a very interesting book! i shall definitely be having a read of it. (^_^)

edit: from chapter 19:

“Yet regardless of political orientation, close family members tend both to behave more altruistically toward each other than toward distant kin and to treat distant kin better than non-kin. When we translate Hamilton’s Rule from biology into the language of politics, kin-selection altruism toward close kin becomes ‘nepotism’ and the preferential treatment of distant kin becomes ‘tribalism.'”


see also: OurPoliticalNature.com

previously: practically everything on the blog and mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures

(note: comments do not require an email. citizens against altruism!)