linkfest – 01/20/13

Feeling Threatened Makes Us Nicer“Perceived menace makes people kinder to their kin but nastier to outsiders. Whether they use this strategy depends on family size.” – hmmm. maybe. part of the study was done on WEIRD students, so … hmmm.

Implicit Race Bias Increases the Differences in the Neural Represen-tations of Black and White Faces“[T]he ways in which Black and White faces are represented in this brain region [fusiform face area] differ for people with a stronger, implicit race bias compared to people with less or no bias. This implies that people with stronger, negative implicit race attitudes may actually perceive Black and White faces to look more different.” – or maybe people who perceive black/white faces to look more different have stronger, negative race attitudes? – original research article here.

Gene flow between Indian populations and Australasia ~4,000 years ago – from dienekes. see also A Three-Hour Tour from greg cochran. (i loved that show! (^_^) )

Genealogy Databases Enable Naming of Anonymous DNA Donors – oops. see also: Matching names to genes: the end of genetic privacy?

HBD: An Abbreviated History of Quisqueya and the Rise of Today’s Dominicans (and Haitians) – from nelson!

The Human Varieties Global IQ Dataset“I’m going to try and use Human Varieties to tabulate a more thorough, immediate, and accurate dataset of international intelligence studies. A dataset that is participatory, updated frequently, and available for download.” – jason malloy’s excellent goal to (single-handedly!) make global iq data open source. yay! (^_^)

Study Discovers DNA That Tells Mice How to Construct Their Homes“The research could eventually lead to a better understanding of what kind of internal reward system motivates mice to dig, or tells them to stop. And although humans do not dig burrows, that, said the leader of the three-person research team, Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard, could ‘tell us something about behavioral variation in humans.'”

‘Adventurous’ Woman Needed as Surrogate for Neanderthal Baby – holy cr*p! – via charles!

The Danger of Making Science Political“Many more scientists identify as Democrats than as Republicans…. [B]y some polls only 6 percent of scientists are Republican, and in the recent U.S. Presidential election, 68 science Nobel Prize winners endorsed the Democratic nominee Barack Obama over the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.”

People with low risk for cocaine dependence have differently shaped brain to those with addiction“New research from the University of Cambridge has found that recreational drug users who have not developed a dependence have an abnormally large frontal lobe, the section of the brain implicated in self-control.”

Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia“Pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a deep-rooted predisposition that does not change.”

Scientific evidence that you probably don’t have free will

Like Lance Armstrong, we are all liars, experts say“During a 10-minute conversation between two strangers, 60% lied at least once, Feldman reported in a 2002 study in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology…. Though men were more likely to lie to make themselves feel good, women more often lied to make their conversation partner feel good. Either way, Feldman said, the urge to make oneself likable and competent was a powerful motivator.”

Got milk? Then you might get a Nobel Prize, study suggests“[C]ountries in which people drink the most milk, per capita, also win the most Nobel Prizes, per capita….” – (~_^)

The Truth behind the HBD cult prt 1 – << only good for a laugh. no, really! – via jayman!

bonus: Portraits of ‘sworn virgins’ of Albania fascinate“Northern Albanian women … live and dress as men in order to provide for their families.”

bonus bonus: Great Oxidation Event: More oxygen through multicellularity

bonus bonus bonus: There Are Whales Alive Today Who Were Born Before Moby Dick Was Written – cool!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Chinese migration to Angola tops 250,000

(note: comments do not require an email. albanian sworn virgin.)


linkfest – 12/30/12

Monkey brain area keeps count of kindnesses“The primates have an altruistic ‘tally chart’ that keeps track of social rewards and gifts.” – mine’s on an excel spreadsheet. (~_^)

Are Babies Born Good?“New research offers surprising answers to the age-old question of where morality comes from.”

Xenophobia Upside: Ethnic And Religious Diversity Correlated To Less Environmental Action“Scandinavian countries, low in ethnic and religious diversity, take more collective action than more diverse nations, like the UK, China and the United States.” – reminiscent of putnam’s findings [pdf]. via amren.

It’s not the cads, it’s the tramps – from jayman.

Latin Americans Most Positive in the World“Singaporeans are the least positive worldwide” – from gallup.

Fluctuating environment may have driven human evolution

Shape of human hand may have evolved for fighting, scientists say

Birdsong study pecks at theory that music is uniquely human“‘[T]he same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like….’ For male birds listening to another male’s song, it was a different story: They had an amygdala response that looks similar to that of people when they hear discordant, unpleasant music.”

Virtual women reveal more skin, regardless of body proportions“71% of male avatars covered between 75-100% of their skin, while only 5% of females did. In contrast, 47% of the virtual females they studied covered between 25-49% of their skin, compared to 9% of males.”

Indonesia’s Islamic spirit of tolerance“Indonesia is rather middling in terms of attitudinal religious tolerance.” – from the awesome epigone.

Are fathers necessary? – @mangan’s.

DNA of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza to be examined for ‘evil’ gene in first study of its kind ever conducted on a mass murderer“The study of the killer’s DNA has been ordered by Connecticut Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver who carried out the post mortems on all the victims. He has contacted geneticists at University of Connecticut’s to conduct the study.”

bonus: Judeo-Christian, Not So Much – from assistant village idiot.

bonus bonus: No heir to run the company? Why adult ‘adoption’ is big business in Japan

bonus bonus bonus: Why Do We Blink So Frequently?“[B]riefly closing our eyes might actually help us to gather our thoughts and focus attention on the world around us.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Even in same vineyard, different microbes may create variations in wine grapes“Yeast species may cause differences in otherwise identical grapes from the same vineyard.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam“Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Unsexing the Language“Every day, the left is beavering away at the language. Fight back. Proudly use such sentences as ‘Man is a mammal so he suckles his young.'” – heh! i love jared taylor. (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. second life hos.)

family types and the evolution of behavioral traits

m.g. and jayman (and maybe some others of you out there?) have been saying for a while now that they think that family types/structures are very important when thinking about the structures/functioning of different societies (see also both of their blogs here and here) — and i’ve been hearing them, but maybe not listening very closely. (once my little aspergian, ocd brain starts following a line of thought — e.g. mating patterns and the structures/functioning of different societies — it can be difficult to re-focus. (~_^) )

anyway, i’m sure that they — and emmanuel todd (and others) — ARE on to something very important!

i said before that i was sure that todd was on to something, but i didn’t buy his explanations which are sorta a cross between sociology and freudianism. i mean: meh. i complained in this post here:

“i haven’t finished ‘The Explanation of Ideology’ yet, but so far todd has described some very interesting patterns in relationships between family types and political ideologies. he’s definitely on to something here; but his work, to my mind, is ‘only’ descriptive (i put ‘only’ in quotes because i don’t mean to belittle his work in any way — it’s an enormous contribution to understanding ideologies, i think!). but, he doesn’t really get down to why family structures and kinship should affect ideologies in the ways that they appear to do. what he’s missing, i think, are some biological concepts like inclusive fitness and all the sorts of behaviors that follow from that.

even though todd’s work, to me, seemed to be “only” descriptive, it is still a powerful description. his connections between family types and national or societal ideologies seem to be very right on. for instance, here’s his “exogamous community family” type and communistic societies (think slavs):

exogamous community family
– cohabitation of married sons and their parents
– equality between brothers defined by rules of inheritance
– no marriage between the children of two brothers
– russia, yugoslavia, slovakia, bulgaria, hungary, finland, albania, central italy, china, vietnam, cuba, north india (note that many of these countries, the eastern european ones, also have a tradition of marrying young)
– communism, edit 01/08/12: socialism

what bothered me about todd’s explanations (or lack of them, afaiac) was that they didn’t take biology into account. but what just dawned on me in the last couple of days (took so long ’cause of my aspergian, ocd brain!) is that the biological explanation he’s missing is evolution by natural selection! eureka! (or, duh! *facepalm* basic principles, hbd chick. basic principles.)

it was something jayman said the other day that made it click in my (dense little) brain:

“The key factor is communal vs nuclear families, it seems. As you and others had discussed, nuclear families promote individuality since one often had to stand and succeed on one’s own, rather than depending on the family for support and guidance (probably also very important for men seeking mates as well).

“But in communal societies, individuality was not so important. Indeed, it may have been a detriment, as this may have made living in the communal home difficult. Perhaps Eastern peoples are so accepting of authority because most spent much or all of their adult lives under the yoke of the patriarch, and this may have selected for different traits than in the west.”

of course! yes, yes, yes! family types (like mating patterns) have placed selection pressures on populations. (thnx, jayman!)

in any particular society, whatever personality or emotional or even intelligence traits that enabled the individuals living in a certain family type to leave the most descendants behind would become most common in that population.

thus, like m.g. says:

“I’ve often wondered why Communism was able to latch on and survive for so long in the Slavic lands. Perhaps it has more to do with their very old, peculiar system of dividing property–communally, not individually.”

yes. for whatever quirky historical reasons (i.e. circumstances), those slavs who succeeded reproductively were those that lived in extended family-groups headed by a male patriarch. after living like this for pretty much thousands of years (the russians apparently took a bit of a break for a few hundred years during the medieval period), you’d think that personality traits that would lead to the acceptance of the redistribution of food and goods amongst the members of the communal group — and even those traits leading to the acceptance of following a single, strong male leader in an almost unquestioning manner — would’ve been selected for.

todd says [pgs. 33 & 39]:

“According to the handbooks of the Third International, communism is the dictatorship of the proletariat. But I would like to suggest another definition which seems to correspond more closely to the sociological and geographic reality of the phenomenon: communism is a transference to the party state of the moral traits and the regulatory mechanisms of the exogamous community family. Sapped by urbanization, industrialization and the spread of literacy, in short by modernization, the exogamous community family passes on its egalitarian and authoritarian values to the new society. Individuals with equal rights are crushed by the political system in the same way they were destroyed in the past by the extended family when it was the dominant institution of traditional Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese or Serbian society….

“The creation of a communist structure allows individuals to be reintegrated into a family setting which is authoritarian and egalitarian. The party replaces the family. Its cells artificially reproduce relationships of fraternity which are dense and intolerable. Even deadly. Its hierarchy replaces paternal authority literally on every level. At the base, the secretary of the cell intervenes in the family life of Soviet couples. At the top, the father follow one after the other: a dynamic, talkative and violent father in Lenin; a sadistic father in Stalin; and aged father in Brezhnev, who carried the metaphor of the Russian political family to its limit.”

lemme re-write those two sentences i highlighted:

– communism is a transference to the party state of the innate moral traits and the biologically-based regulatory mechanisms within populations which had been selected for after generations of living within the exogamous community family.
– the exogamous community family passes on its egalitarian and authoritarian values, which are innate behavioral traits of its members that have been selected for after generations of living within this family type, to the new society.

there. that’s better! (^_^)

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

(note: comments do not require an email. great moments in evolution!)

which altruism genes?

in biology, altruism is defined as more than just lending the neighbor a cup of sugar. being altruistic means reducing one’s own fitness somehow (although i guess that one cup of sugar might, in some instances, be critical to one’s survival!), maybe passing up on a chance to reproduce or even sacrificing one’s own life for another.

seems like every creature on the planet displays some sort of altruistic behavior. plants put down fewer roots (presumably lowering their fitness) in the presence of related plants; some of the amoebas that live together as slime molds sacrifice their lives for their fellow single-celled family members; and, of course, the classic example of the eusocial insects — ants, bees, etc. — who have whole castes that do not reproduce and simply work their little hearts out raising their sisters (to whom they are more genetically related than they would be to their offspring — it’s complicated — don’t ask! or you can read about it here.). if you’re interested, there’s lots more about altruistic behaviors in animals in wikipedia.

my point is: there must be a whole range of altruism genes out there since all sorts of different creatures display all sorts of different altruistic behaviors. one size does not fit all.

furthermore, i’d be willing to bet the bank (hey — it’s not my money!) that there are different altruism genes in different human populations. or, at least, different frequencies of different altruism genes/alleles in different populations.

i’m sure there’s prolly plenty of overlap ’cause we’re all humans, primates, mammals, vertebrates, tetrapods, laurasians, etc., etc. but the various human populations have had quite unique evolutionary histories, so it shouldn’t be surprising if varying frequencies of/different altruism genes/alleles have been selected for here and there.

think of the fact that different genes for light skin color were selected for in europeans versus east asians and you’ll get my drift.

also think about how different peoples seem to display (at least somewhat) different altruistic behaviors. consider suicide bombers who, perhaps comparable to honey bees or g. sulphureus soldier termites who sacrifice themselves to defend their colonies, seem to be more common in some populations (middle eastern, japanese) than others (although maybe these examples are just artifacts of desperate circumstances).

“genes for suicide missions” won’t just pop up out of the blue, or very easily either i imagine. full hymenopteran sisters share 3/4s of their genes with each other, so it’s not surprising that they’re willing to sacrifice everything for their siblings. but it’s hard to see how such “extreme altruism” genes could arise in humans.

however, it is conceivable that, for example, in arab societies — tribal societies based upon a certain mating pattern (fbd marriage) which creates “bands of brothers” — over one thousand years of tribal warfare might’ve selected for a greater willingness to partake in kamikaze behaviors. remember that inbreeding means the evolution of altruism is easier.

it’s just a thought.

in any case, when we’re talking about genes for altruism, i think we should ask ourselves: which altruism genes?

edit: hamilton got here first, of course (^_^) [pgs. 19-20] –

“I do believe in the existence of considerable genetical differences in altruism, in selfishness, and in many other social attributes in most social animals, and this includes in humans, but this belief is certainly not predicated directly from kin-selection theory. Rather, it is underpinned more by a belief in a complexity of life sufficient to generate genetical variability in a almost everything — the variability we actually see — and also, as will appear in Volume 2 of this compilation, by modern theoretical expectations connected with reciprocation and with disease selection. It certainly does not come from kin selection per se.”

previously: genes for altruism

(note: comments do not require an email. my favorite altruism cartoon. [the only altruism cartoon?])

your gene is showing

“Strangers can spot ‘kindness’ gene: study”

“People with a certain gene trait are known to be more kind and caring than people without it, and strangers can quickly tell the difference, according to US research published on Monday.

“The variation is linked to the body’s receptor gene of oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ because it often manifests during sex and promotes bonding, empathy and other social behaviors.

“Scientists at Oregon State University devised an experiment in which 23 couples, whose genotypes were known to researchers but not observers, were filmed.

“One member of the couple was asked to tell the other about a time of suffering in his or her life. Observers were asked to watch the listener for 20 seconds, with the sound turned off.

In most cases, the observers were able to tell which of the listeners had the ‘kindness gene’ and which ones did not, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences edition of November 14.

“‘Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people’s behavior, and that these behavioral differences are quickly noticed by others,’ said lead author Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto….”

see also: Thin-slicing study of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and the evaluation and expression of the prosocial disposition @pnas.

p.s. – from the afp article:

“People in the study were tested beforehand and found to have GG, AG or AA genotypes for the rs53576 DNA sequence of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene.

“People who have two copies of the G allele are generally judged as more empathetic, trusting and loving.

“Those with AG or AA genotypes tend to say they feel less positive overall, and feel less parental sensitivity. Previous research has shown they also may have a higher risk of autism.”

i got AG, btw. (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. got oxytocin?)

boilerplate 2.0

note that on this blog, unless i specifically state otherwise (or forget to specifically state otherwise), i am usually talking about the average traits (including behaviors) of groups of organisms — most often humans but sometimes carrots, too.

obviously, not all individual members of a group possess the average traits of the group. everybody’s different. some are even exceptions that prove whatever rule we happen to be talking about.

another way of thinking about this: are all people equal? no.

another question entirely: should all people be treated equally (esp. in terms of the law)? yes, of course.

if you’re someone who doesn’t like politically incorrect discussions, then this probably isn’t the blog for you, but you are most welcome anyway. please, everyone, try to keep the discussion a civil one.

previously: boilerplate

(note: comments do not require an email. no, not boilermaker. boilerplate.)

linkfest – 10/09/11

A Moral Gene? — one of ’em.

Copping a Latitude: Genetics Supports Idea Cultural Interaction Was More East to West Than North to South — not to mention genetic interaction.

Study finds crows can distinguish symbols representing quantities

Racial differences in narcissistic tendencies — higher levels of narcissism in black than in whites.

Cannibalism Confirmed Among Ancient Mexican Group“Eating humans ‘crucial’ to spiritual life of the Xiximes people.” – ancient? we’re talking about 1425 a.d. here.

Chinese Kids Feel More Obliged Toward Parents? — from parapundit.

5 Things That Internet Porn Reveals About Our Brains – no big surprises here. except maybe for the number of guys searching for granny pr0n!

Climbing up the social ladder — Mouse study may tell how. — that’s some geeky looking chinese people there! not that there’s anything wrong with that. (~_^)

‘Dumb’ Neanderthals Likely Had a Smart Diet

Birth Order and the Big Five“A new study reports that there is no connection between birth order and Big 5 personality traits.” – @the inductivist.

bonus: Charles Darwin, Economist

bonus bonus: Afghanistan Holds Enormous Bounty of Rare Earths, Minerals“Geologists actually mapping the country’s mineral bounty suspect its prime cache of coveted rare earth elements is considerably larger than the latest estimate lets on”

bonus bonus bonus: Is the Present Better Than the Past? — from everyone’s favorite über-pessimist, john derbyshire.

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assortative friendships

do you pick your friends ’cause you like them, or ’cause they have certain genes? (or is that the same thing?):

“Correlated genotypes in friendship networks”

“[K]inship may not be the only basis on which natural selection might possibly operate at the group level. For example, if genetic differences between social networks (or, conversely, genetic similarity within networks) were found at significant levels among humans, it would enhance the opportunity for natural selection to operate at the level of social groups established on a basis other than kinship….

“[N]o work has yet established that, net of such stratification, there are any genes that are correlated (either positively or negatively) between individuals in nonreproductive, friendship unions. To study whether such correlation exists, we analyzed two independent samples with information about respondents’ genes and about respondents’ friendship ties and social networks: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Framingham Heart Study Social Network (FHS-Net). Add Health allowed respondents to name up to 10 friends at each of three waves over 6 y (27), and the FHS-Net captured up to two close friends at each of seven waves over 32 y (28).

“In Add Health, subjects were genotyped for one marker each in the DRD2, DRD4, CYP2A6, MAOA, SLC6A3, and SLC6A4 genes (Materials and Methods). Figs. 1 and 2 show how genotypes for two of these genes are distributed in the largest connected component of the friendship network. Notably, significant clusters of similar genotypes for DRD2 suggest the possibility of homophily, but the substantial absence of any connection between individuals with minor alleles of CYP2A6 suggests possible heterophily….

“These results suggest that there is genotypic clustering in social networks that exceeds what might be expected solely from population stratification. People’s friends may not only have similar traits, but actually resemble each other on a genotypic level, even at the level of specific alleles and nucleotides.

“Thus, homophily and heterophily in friendships, expressed at the genetic level, may have notable implications for our understanding both of the way that our genes can shape our environmental exposures and the way that our social environment can influence our behavior (21, 22, 28, 35). A feedback process might emerge whereby a person’s genes lead to the selection of friends with certain genotypes, which in turn facilitates or modifies the expression of a person’s own genes…. Such a process could also play out over longer time scales; the human evolutionary environment is not limited to the physical and biological environment, but also includes the social environment, which may itself be an evolutionary force (37, 38).

“In some sense, humans might be ‘metagenomic’ not just with respect to the microbes within them (39, 40), but also with respect to the humans around them. We could possibly view an individual’s genetic landscape as a summation of the genes within the individual and those around him, just as in certain other organisms (14, 17).”

metagenomic. i like that. i like it a lot!

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