Archives for posts with tag: gnōthi seauton

you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself.

before i elaborate on that, a small exercise. indulge me.

at the end of this sentence, when i ask you to, i want you to raise your eyes from your monitor (or smartphone or tablet or whatever device you’re using), glance around for a few seconds, and then come back here. okay: go!

back? great.

now, i don’t know exactly what you saw during your brief adventure away, but what i do know is that when you looked around your room or office or the coffee shop or your own private tropical island (d*mn you!), you experienced seeing a smooth, undisturbed, flowing picture of your surroundings — it was a video-like experience (hopefully not a shaky cam-like one! if so, get to a doctor, quick!). that experience is a false one, created by your brain to make life easier for you. what happens, in fact, is that each and every time we move our gaze from one object or scene to another, in the intervening nanoseconds, we are effectively blind. we don’t “see” anything for those split seconds. the reason we don’t experience what would presumably be a very disturbing and confusing one — the lights going off and on all day long! — is because our brains fool us. the brain interpolates the visual data captured via eyeballs, etc., and presents it all to its owner (user?) in a nice, even — but unreal — picture of what that individual “sees.”

cool, huh? yeah.

the reason i bring this up is just to illustrate how our brains are not really to be trusted. fantastic, wonderful, unfathomable organ! — but one that fools us. a lot! it deceives us so that we don’t go around bumping into things all day long (the saccadic masking mentioned above). it deceives us (deceives itself!) so that we can decieve others. it probably fools each of us into believing that we are discrete individuals — that we are or have “selves.” h*ck! it even looks like our consciousness is not a stream but more like rhythmic pulses. all for good evolutionary reasons, of course. but, still, there it is: the brain is a trickster.

once you realize this about the human brain — that it’s an indispensible but untrustworthy organ — all of the cognitive biases and dissonances that we suffer from start to make sense. humans are not rational creatures. we are capable of some amount of logic and rational thought (some more than others), but more often than not, our “reason” serves as an excuse generator for our innate drives, desires, and proclivities.

the next thing you need to know — and you really have to internalize this — is that all of those drives and desires and proclivities are innate. all behavioral traits are heritable to some degree or another, which means that genes are behind them, and which means that there’s not much any of us can do to change our natures. for instance, there prolly aren’t specific genes that will make a person a christian versus a muslim, but there are definitely genes “for” religiosity. which religion a person with “genes for” religious belief follows will obviously depend to a large degree on the culture in which he is immersed, but persons with “genes for” religious belief will tend to be religious or spiritual somehow.

all behavioral traits are heritable. and, so, you cannot change people or peoples — not fundamentally. people are what they are. you are what you are, and so most of your thoughts and conclusions and feelings about life and the world around you are expressions of your innate traits. mine, too. (don’t worry. i’ll get to that.) and let’s be honest: innate traits and a deceiving brain are no foundations for uncovering the truth. we cannot rely on our gut instincts in trying to uncover the facts about reality or to (consciously) understand how the world works. the only way around this problem of our lyin’, cheatin’, no-good brains is to rely on science and its finding. of course, since science is conducted by humans, we run into all those cognitive biases, etc., again. but with enough effort, i think we can eventually discover some truths. either that or space stations will some day start falling out of the sky, and we’ll know we’re doing it wrong.

now back to my initial point: you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself. first, learn this about yourself — that your thoughts and feeling and behaviors are heritable and largely out of your control — and then try to apply this knowledge to your understanding of other individuals and groups. examine your ideas and your feelings. your gut instincts (be especially suspicious of those!). your beliefs. you may think you have thought through the important questions rationally, but chances are you haven’t. not really. be honest with yourself. and be hard on yourself. but remember to have a laugh about it all, too — how absurd it all is really at the end of the day! (~_^)

remember my three laws of human biodiversity. and don’t ever forget that there are exceptions to the rules — and that you might be one of them — or your neighbor might. always — always! — keep in the forefront of your mind the concept of AVERAGE when you think about the human biodiversity between groups — and that not every member of a group will fit the average. do NOT pick and choose the areas of human biodiversity that suit your tastes and disregard the rest. you won’t get any dessert if you do.

most importantly — and i can’t emphasize this enough — do NOT project your innate feeling and thoughts and inclinations onto others! you might think and feel one way, but the other person sitting next to you might not. and he might really think and feel very differently from you, and have a completely different perspective on the world — different in a fundamental way — that neither he nor you can change, because he was born this way. (or maybe experienced a developmental insult that affected his biology in a similarly permanent sort of fashion.)

do not project your preferences onto other individuals or groups. just because you like to keep a super tidy house (you ocd person) doesn’t mean others do. and just because you and your people feel that living in nuclear families and having loose (or nonexistent) extended family ties is a nice way to live doesn’t mean that other peoples want that. and just because democracy happens to work well in your population — or autocracy, depending on where you’re from — doesn’t mean either of them would transfer well to other populations having different average innate characteristics from your own.

so, below are some aspects of human biodiversity you might want to run through when you’re getting to know thyself. there’s lots more. these are just some things i thought of off the top of my head. (if i were really organized, which i am not, i would’ve linked to how heritable each of these different traits is. maybe i’ll go back and fill those in one of these days. for now, you’re on your own — google ’em. or check jayman’s blog. he’s probably got a lot of the heritability figures over there! (^_^) ) try and see if identifying and recognizing any or all of your innate traits helps you to understand why you think and feel and behave in the ways that you do.

i’ll start.

– are you male or female? men and women on average think and feel differently about an awful lot of things. don’t blame me. i’m just the messenger.

– are you heterosexual or homosexual? or some other sort of sexual? heterosexual men and women on average think and feel differently about quite a lot of things compared to gay men and lesbian women et al. and i don’t just mean about preferred sexual partners. remember that there are always exceptions to these rules. and remember not to PROJECT your thinking/feelings onto other subgroups here (yes, i am looking at you butch lesbian feminists!).

– what is your racial and, to my mind more interesting and important, ethnic background? what other sort of population or subpopulation might you belong to (eg. siberian peoples or sicilians)? are you a person of mixed heritage? plenty of average differences in all sorts of directions here.

– how intelligent are you? what’s your iq? try to remember that people of much lower intelligence than you will have a very hard time understanding a lot of the things that you do, and that you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the ideas and concepts that people more intelligent than you can. be humble (if you’re able).

– what personality traits characterize you? both big 5 and hexaco. are you open to experiences? people who score low on openness are generally conservative. are you conscientious? in other words, are you efficient and organized or more easy going and (*ahem*) disorderly? are you an extravert or an introvert? if you’re an extravert, you’re probably not enjoying this exercise at all. sorry. (in my experience, extraverts are not very introspective.) are you agreeable? kind, sympathetic, warm. or are you angry all the time? are you neurotic or emotional? or are you more stable? and from the hexaco scale, where do you rank when it comes to honesty-humility?

– how old are you? if you’re under, say, 24, keep in mind that your brain hasn’t finished developing yet. your frontal lobes are incomplete, so you’ve got very little sense. (~_^) if you’re a young male, between say 16 and 24, you might be quite aggressive (although not necessarily violent) and risk tasking. be careful out there! if you’re (*ahem*) older, remember that everything slows down with age. (sorry to remind you of that!) it does get harder to teach old dogs new tricks. and everybody, remember that, in general, each of us becomes more like our true selves as we get older, because we get to choose our preferred environments once we grow up.

– are you religious or areligious — or even irreligious? remember that religiosity/spirituality is highly heritable.

– are you conservative or liberal or something in between? or something more extreme? or apolitical? remember than political orientation is also highly heritable.

– are you an optimist or a pessimist? is the glass half full or half empty? are you a depressive, emo kid or are you one of those always-chipper people? again, all highly heritable.

– are you a follower or a contrarian? i haven’t seen much research on this (i know there is some, but i wish there was more), but i’d bet a ton of $$$ that these traits are highly heritable, too. prolly tie in with all the personality traits above.

– are you on the autism spectrum somewhere? one of simon baron-cohen’s systemizers or empathizers? do you have adhd? ocd? a touch of paranoid schizophrenia? (just because you’re paranoid….) all of these conditions can — and do! — obviously strongly affect the way individuals think and feel about the world around them.

– what about your personality and the dark triad? are you a psychopath? narcissist? machiavellian in your nature? again, all of these relate back to the personality traits above. are you histrionic?

– what’s your 2d:4d ratio? no one’s sure what’s behind the differences of these, but the ratio does correlate with all sorts of traits and behaviors.

– are you from what i call a “clannish” population or not? from a population that historically was located behind the hajnal line or not? you may disagree with me on why i think “clannishness” exists as a set of behavioral traits in different populations, but there’s not much disagreement on the fact that the behaviors do exist (and are measurable): individualism/collectivism vs. familism/non-collectivism; universalism vs. particularism; civic-minded/commonweal oriented vs. not civic-minded/not commonweal oriented; low corruption vs. high corruption; etc. again, you might be an exception to your population’s rule. then again, you may not be.

– do you think like a westerner?

– and, a special shout-out to one super-group: are you eastern european? if so, you might prefer authoritarianism (especially left-wing authoritarianism). keep in mind that others of us don’t.

that’s it! that’s all i’ve got for now. (^_^)

see also: me, myself, and i

previously: what is human biodiversity (hbd)? and hbd chick’s three laws of human biodiversity and you and me and hbd

(note: comments do not require an email. know thyself.)


northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d. [pgs. 158, 160, and 64-67 – bolding and links inserted by me]:

The discovery of the individual was one of the most important cultural [*ahem*] developments in the years between 1050 and 1200. It was not confined to any one group of thinkers. Its central features may be found in different circles: a concern with self-discovery; an interest in the relations between people, and in the role of the individual within society; an assessment of people by their inner intentions rather than by their external acts. These concerns were, moreover, conscious and deliberate. ‘Know yourself’ was one of the most frequently quoted injunctions. The phenomenon which we have been studying was found in some measure in every part of urbane and intelligent society.

“It remains to ask how much this movement contributed to the emergence of the distinctively Western view of the individual…. The continuous history of several art-forms and fields of study, which are particularly concerned with the individual, began at this time: auto-biography, psychology, the personal portrait, and satire were among them….

“The years between 1050 and 1200 must be seen…as a turning-point in the history of Christian devotion. There developed a new pattern of interior piety, with a growing sensitivity, marked by personal love for the crucified Lord and an easy and free-flowing meditation on the life and passion of Christ….

“The word ‘individual’ did not, in the twelfth century, have the same meaning as it does today. The nearest equivalents were *individuum*, *individualis*, and *singularis*, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations….

“The age had, however, other words to express its interest in personality. We hear a great deal of ‘the self’, not expressed indeed in that abstract way, but in such terms as ‘knowing oneself’, ‘descending into oneself’, or ‘considering oneself’. Another common term was *anima*, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’). Yet another was ‘the inner man’, a phrase found in Otloh of Saint Emmeram and Guibert of Nogent, who spoke also of the ‘inner mystery’. Their vocabulary, while it was not the same as ours, was therefore rich in terms suited to express the ideas of self-discovery and self-exploration.

“Know Yourself

“Self-knowledge was one of the dominant themes of the age…. These writers all insisted on self-knowledge as fundamental. Thus Bernard wrote to Pope Eugenius, a fellow-Cistercian, about 1150: ‘Begin by considering yourself — no, rather, end by that….For you, you are the first; you are also the last.’ So did Aelred of Rievaulx: ‘How much does a man know, if he does not know himself?’ The Cistercian school was not the only one to attach such a value to self-knowledge. About 1108 Guibert of Nogent began his history of the Crusade with a modern-sounding reflection about the difficulty of determining motive:

“‘It is hardly surprising if we make mistakes in narrating the actions of other people, when we cannot express in words even our own thoughts and deeds; in fact, we can hardly sort them out in our own minds. It is useless to talk about intentions, which, as we know, are often so concealed as scarcely to be discernible to the understanding of the inner man.’

“Self-knowledge, then, was a generally popular ideal.”

there seem to be two broad sociobiological/genocultural packages when it comes to average nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic altruistic behaviors in human populations — these are not binary opposites, but rather the ends of some sort of continuum of behavioral traits [click on table for LARGER view]:

nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic

the common thread running through the not-so-nepotistic groups of today (primarily northwest europeans) is a long history of outbreeding (i.e. avoiding close matings, like cousin marriage). (and a long history of manorialism. yes, i WILL start my series on medieval manorialism soon!) while individualism and guilt cultures may have been present in northern europe in paleolithic or even mesolithic populations, these behavioral traits and mindsets were definitely not present in the pre-christian germanic, british, or irish populations of late antiquity. those populations were very much all about clans and kindreds, feuding and honor, shame, and group consensus. guilt/individualistic cultures (i.e. not-so-nepostic societies) can come and go depending at least partly on long-term mating patterns. human evolution can be recent as well as aeons old.

the individualistic guilt-culture of northwest (“core”) europeans today came into existence thanks to their extensive outbreeding during the medieval period (…and the manorialism). the outbreeding started in earnest in the 800s (at least in northern france) and, as we saw above, by 1050-1100 thoughts on individualis began to stir. around the same time, communes appeared in northern italy and parts of france — civic societies. violence rates begin to fall in the 1200s, especially in more outbred populations, i would argue (guess!) because the impulsive violence related to clan feuding was no longer being selected for.

by the 1300-1400s, after an additional couple hundred years of outbreeding, the renaissance was in full swing due to the “wikification” of northern european society — i.e. that nw europeans now possessed a set of behavioral traits that drove them to work cooperatively with non-relatives — to share openly knowledge and ideas and labor in reciprocally altruistic ways. the enlightenment? well, that was just the full flowering of The Outbreeding Project — an explosion of these not-so-nepotistic behavioral traits that had been selected for over the preceding 800 to 900 years. individualism? universalism? liberal democracy? tolerance? reason? skepticism? coffeehouses? the age of enlightenment IS what core europeans are all about! hurray! (^_^) the Project and its effects are ongoing today.

it could be argued that the fact that certain mating patterns seem to go together with certain societal types is just a coincidence — or that it’s the societal type that affects or dictates the mating patterns. for example, i said in my recent post on shame and guilt in ancient greece that:

“shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

“if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example).”

perhaps, you say, the causal direction is that nepotistic, clannish shame-cultures somehow promote close matings (cousin marriage or whatever). well, undoubtedly there are reinforcing feedback loops here, but the upshot is that both ancient greece and medieval-modern europe clearly illustrate that the mating patterns come first. (possibly ancient rome, too, but i’ll come back to that another day.) the pre-christian northern european societies were clannish shame-cultures until after the populations switched to outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) in the early medieval period. late archaic-early classical greek society was rather (a bit borderline) universalistic, individualistic [pg. 160+] and guilt-based until after they began to marry their cousins with greater frequency (at least in classical athens). the not-so-nepotistic guilt-culture we see now in northwest european populations is particularly resilient, i think, because the outbreeding has been carried out for a particularly long time (since at least the 800s) and thanks to the complementary selection pressures of the medieval manor system (which ancient greece lacked), but it did not exist before the early medieval period.

so, the direction of causation seems to be: (long-term) mating patterns –> societal type (nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic).

i think.

previously: there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece and big summary post on the hajnal line and individualism-collectivism

(note: comments do not require an email. earliest formal self-portrait, jean fouquet, 1450.)

The Reason We Reason << read this!

Ug! Neanderthals were mostly right-handed … and may have had a proper language too

Better brain wiring linked to family genes – via roissy

The eternal infant“[H]umans are different. We never grow up. As adults, we retain this infant-like mental plasticity…. Geneticists are now a step closer to understanding this evolutionary change. A team led by David Kingsley of Stanford has shown that ancestral humans lost a key piece of DNA that switches on GADD45G, a gene that stifles growth of brain tissue.” @evo and proud via diversity is chaos.

Who knows you best? Not you, say psychologists

Combination of ADHD and poor emotional control runs in families. see also: Stress in pregnancy ‘makes child unruly’: Mother’s anxiety can raise baby’s risk of ADHD

More than 20 percent of atheist scientists are spiritual – spiritual atheists. wait. what?

Female-to-male transsexual people have more autistic traits“Simon Baron-Cohen interpreted the results as follows: ‘Girls with a higher than average number level of autistic traits tend to have male-typical interests, showing a preference for systems over emotions. They prefer not to socialise with typical girls because they have different interests, and because typical girls on average have more advanced social skills. Both of these factors may lead girls with a higher number of autistic traits to socialize with boys, to believe they have a boy’s mind in a girl’s body, and to attribute their unhappiness to being a girl.'”

Hearts Beat as One in a Daring Ritual – cool!

Does Revenge Serve an Evolutionary Purpose?

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…he is a rationalizing animal.” [source]

ed yong wrote about some neat self-deception research the other day (People don’t know when they’re lying to themselves.)

in his post, he highlighted a couple of high-profile (probable) self-deceivers, gaddafi and sheen, as examples of self-deceivers. which seems to illustrate that ed missed the point entirely: we’re aaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllll self-deceving self-deceivers! if not 24/7, then pretty d*mn close to it.

we’re rationalizers.

take religious belief, for example. if you ask them, most believers will tell you their reasons for believing. and most non-believers will tell you their reasons for not believing.

but religious belief is heritable! there’s probably very little rational thinking involved in “deciding” to be religious or not! the “reasons” given by these two groups are just after-the-fact rationalizations — people trying to explain to themselves, and others, why the h*ck they believe or not. the reasons might feel really real, but that’s the beauty of self-deception.

i remember when i became a non-believer (i’m an agnostic). it suddenly just dawned on me one day when i was a young teenager that we can’t possibly know for sure if there’s a god or not. i wasn’t thinking about the question. i hadn’t even been pondering about the issue beforehand. it just came to me — an epiphany. (or, a reverse epiphany, i guess.) there was no reasoning involved. it just sorta happened.

looking back on it now, i can see that my “moment of clarity” prolly had something to do with how my brain was developing at a time. it was on a trajectory that was, no doubt, mostly outlined by my genes. i grew up in an affluent western world, so most environmental factors, like poor nutrition, can be ruled out as having had any strong influence on my development. my genes were probably allowed to express themselves to their fullest, agnotic little selves. i even grew up in a typical religious household! not overly religious, but the family attended regular sunday services.

but, there was just something in my genome that made me think: hmmmmmm? (my a-religious tendencies come, i think, from one of my grandfathers who, reportedly, wasn’t much of a church-goer. he died when i was very small, so he couldn’t have been much influence on me.)

so, i never give anyone a reason for why i’m agnostic. when they ask why, i tell them that i just am. sometimes i throw in that my genes made me this way. (~_^)

humans are not rational creatures. far from it! a few of us try real hard to be, and on occasion maybe we sometimes succeed. most of the time we don’t. ’cause it ain’t easy to overcome nature!

a helluva lot (most?) of the reasons we consciously give to explain our actions do not reflect the reality of the situation. that is why reductionism works: all of the “causes and ideals” that people say they have are not truly explanatory, but merely after-the-fact rationalizations.

previously: “know thyself” and word iv

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easier said than done:

“You May Not Be Able to Say How You Feel About Your Race”

“A new study from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis looks at how much African Americans and whites favor or prefer their own racial group over the other, how much they identify with their own racial group, and how positively they feel about themselves.

“The work, by Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the School of Science at IUPUI, looked at both consciously controllable sentiments and gut feelings about social stigma and found a significant difference in both groups between what people say they feel and their less controllable ‘gut feelings.’

“‘The Importance of Implicit and Explicit Measures for Understanding Social Stigma’ appears in the current (September 2010) issue of the Journal of Social Issues….

“In her study Ashburn-Nardo found that African Americans consciously reported that they favored their own race, identified with their own race and felt very good about themselves at a rate much higher than whites. However when tested on non-conscious feelings, that was not the case. African Americans favored their race less and less strongly identified with their own race than whites.

“Both African Americans and whites had positive gut feelings about themselves….”

most people don’t have a CLUE about what they really think/feel!

and some people have such a bad case of i-don’t-have-a-friggin’-clue-what-i’m-about that they actually manage to convince themselves that they think/feel the exact opposite of what they REALLY do. strange, but true!:

“See No Bias”

“Many Americans believe they are not prejudiced. Now a new test provides powerful evidence that a majority of us really are….

“AT 4 O’CLOCK ON A RECENT WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, a 34-year-old white woman sat down in her Washington office to take a psychological test. Her office decor attested to her passion for civil rights — as a senior activist at a national gay rights organization, and as a lesbian herself, fighting bias and discrimination is what gets her out of bed every morning. A rainbow flag rested in a mug on her desk.

“The woman brought up a test on her computer from a Harvard University Web site. It was really very simple: All it asked her to do was distinguish between a series of black and white faces. When she saw a black face she was to hit a key on the left, when she saw a white face she was to hit a key on the right. Next, she was asked to distinguish between a series of positive and negative words. Words such as ‘glorious’ and ‘wonderful’ required a left key, words such as ‘nasty’ and ‘awful’ required a right key. The test remained simple when two categories were combined: The activist hit the left key if she saw either a white face or a positive word, and hit the right key if she saw either a black face or a negative word.

“Then the groupings were reversed. The woman’s index fingers hovered over her keyboard. The test now required her to group black faces with positive words, and white faces with negative words. She leaned forward intently. She made no mistakes, but it took her longer to correctly sort the words and images.

“Her result appeared on the screen, and the activist became very silent. The test found she had a bias for whites over blacks.

“‘It surprises me I have any preferences at all,’ she said. ‘By the work I do, by my education, my background. I’m progressive, and I think I have no bias. Being a minority myself, I don’t feel I should or would have biases.’

“Although the activist had initially agreed to be identified, she and a male colleague who volunteered to take the tests requested anonymity after seeing their results. The man, who also is gay, did not show a race bias. But a second test found that both activists held biases against homosexuals — they more quickly associated words such as ‘humiliate’ and ‘painful’ with gays and words such as ‘beautiful’ and ‘glorious’ with heterosexuals.

“If anything, both activists reasoned, they ought to have shown a bias in favor of gay people. The man’s social life, his professional circle and his work revolve around gay culture. His home, he said, is in Washington’s ‘gayborhood.’

“‘I’m surprised,’ the woman said. She bit her lip. ‘And disappointed….'”

the truth hurts.

test your own implicit associations @ haaahvahrd’s project implicit. (oddly, i have a slight bias in favor of blacks even though i’m not black myself. but, then, i am the exception that proves the rule!) (~_^)

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