invention of the modern world

there’s a very interesting series of lectures by alan macfarlane on youtube in which he outlines, from an historical/sociological p.o.v., the things we’ve been discussing around here: familialism/collectivism vs. individualism, civic societies, trust — and why the english are so odd in all these regards.

i’ve watched two so far — the one on friendship & kinship and the one on associations, trusts & civil society:


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about halfway through the second video, macfarlane talks at length about, and very fondly of, the english public house. (^_^) i ask you: is there anything better than an english pub (<< been there)?! (correct answer: an emphatic no!)

the lectures were given @tsinghua university, beijing, so he offers some suggestions to the chinese audience on how they can get china to be modern just like the anglo world. unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have offered any biological solutions (at least not in the two videos i watched), so i doubt they'll have much luck.

still, macfarlane has a lot of info and some good insights to share, so they're worth the watch if you're looking to chill in front of the "tv" for a couple of hours.

he's also turning the lectures into a book, apparently, which is currently being serialized on The Fornightly Review. not quite half of the chapters have been posted so far.

previously: but what about the english?

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linkfest – 03/11/12

Why the British are free-thinking and the Chinese love conformity: It’s all in the genes claim scientists“The study, by the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Illinois, suggests that the individualism seen in western nations, and the higher levels of collectivism and family loyalty found in Asian cultures, are caused by differences in the prevalence of particular genes. ‘We demonstrate for the first time a robust association between cultural values of individualism–collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene,’ said Joan Chiao, from the department of psychology at Northwestern University.” — i know. it’s the daily mail. but it looks like the research will be coming out in the proceedings of the royal society: “Culture-gene coevolution of individualism-collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR)” [in press]. see comments.

Insects have personality too, research on honey bees indicates“A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans….”

Heart disease drug ‘combats racism’“Volunteers given the beta-blocker, used to treat chest pains and lower heart rates, scored lower on a standard psychological test of ‘implicit’ racist attitudes.” – explain to me again about free will?

Strong Family Ties Reduce Trust Of Non-Family — from parapundit. here’s the original research article: Do Strong Family Ties Inhibit Trust? [pdf]

Sexual selection and small female feet – from the inductivist.

Puzzle of European hair and eye color“Hair and eye color diversity is unusual in two ways. It’s confined to Europeans. And it seems to be linked to prenatal feminization.” – why? from peter frost.

Get Smart – from greg cochran @west hunter.

Rebuttal to Richard Lynn’s Reply — new iq study from italy suggests southern iqs are not lower than northern ones. (i’m a bit worried about the “group sessions” though — hope there was no answer sharing going on!). — @italianthro blog.

New study shows that in US ‘hot spots,’ HIV infection among African-American women is 5-times higher than national estimate“Women constitute roughly one-quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S. with 66% of these infections occurring among black women, despite the fact that black women constitute only 14% of the U.S. female population.”

bonus: Brown bear exfoliates using rock as a tool – tool using bears. we’re in trouble!

bonus bonus: Oldest organism with skeleton discovered in Australia

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the “happiest, healthiest” community in the u.s.

rural south dakota! (^_^) no, really.

luke asked: “OT, but maybe you can do some posts in the future on the ‘happiest, healthiest communities’ in the U.S., assuming there are some. Putnam, for example, has shown an inverse relationship between diversity and trust. So presumably he found some high-trust communities somewhere? Are they just neighborhoods in large metro areas? What about Lake Wobegons?”

well, i looked up putnam’s “E Pluribus Unum” paper [opens pdf] and, yes, he did indeed find some high-trust communities somewhere: rural south dakota, bismarck (north dakota), new hampshire, (moving to) montana, lewiston (maine)…. omg! it’s proximity to canada, again!

putnam looked at racial homogeneity in communities and inter-racial trust, racial homogeneity in communities and trust of neighbors, racial homogeneity in communities and intra-racial trust, and racial homogeneity in communities and ethnocentric trust. on each of these metrics, those communities with greater homogeneity just had more trust in all directions — the opposite was true in heterogeneous communities.

if trust means “happiest and healthiest” — and it sure seems to be important in having a functioning society (at least functioning as we know it) — then homogeneity is the way to go. of course, another important thing might be the *type* of population/subpopulations in a society — diversity might work okay if your diverse society is (mostly) composed of non-clannish groups.

here are some of putnam’s graphs for you to enjoy. click on graphs for a LARGER view (should open in a new tab/window — you might have to give ’em a click there, too, to view them full-size):

note that rural south dakota should NOT be confused with north minneapolis, which is a very vibrant community.

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on being trusting

ihtg said about trust: “Unlike IQ/g, trust isn’t (IMO) an innate personal attribute encoded within one person’s brain. It’s a variable in a man’s interaction with his peers. Its existence depends on that interaction.”

well, yes … and no.

clearly trusting someone else happens during an interaction, yes. and the level of trust will be higher or lower depending on the circumstances in which that interaction happens — it’s prolly much easier to be trusting nowadays in peaceful, middle class minnesota than in war-torn congo.

but being trusting is also a personality trait — being more or less trusting is something innate — at least partly. and, like all the other personality quirks, it varies from individual to individual — and from population to population. from “Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game” in which the researchers studied twins taking part in the trust game [pgs: 3724-25, link opens pdf]:

“Our results thus suggest that humans are endowed with genetic variation that can partially account for differences in trust and trustworthiness when interacting with anonymous partners in the laboratory….

“Although we do find that genetic differences play a significant role for behavior in the classic trust game, the largest portion of the variance is explained by differences in unique environment. This is consistent with general results from the trust game that indicate behavior is more susceptible to state (unique mood, context) than trait. However, a result that may surprise some social scientists is that genetic differences appear to be a more important source of phenotypic variation than differences in common environment. This finding is in line with a broad consensus in the behavior genetics literature. Indeed, the second ‘law of behavior genetics’ proposed by Turkheimer is that the effect of being raised in the same family is generally smaller than the effect of genes.”

swedes appear to be more trusting than americans to me. unfortunately, “american” is such a catch-all description, it’s difficult to know what sort of ethnic groups we’re talking about here (note that the americans had more options of how much to share than the swedes did):

and the heritability of trust amongst swedes seems to lean a bit more towards a genetic explanation than amongst americans. (interesting that the shared environments of the twins seems to have amounted to diddly squat.):

people who are more agreeable — as in agreeableness in the big five personality traits — tend to be more trusting:

“People who score high on this dimension are empathetic, considerate, friendly, generous, and helpful. They also have an optimistic view of human nature. They tend to believe that most people are honest, decent, and trustworthy…. [I]n general, people who are concerned about others also tend to cooperate with them, help them out, and trust them.”

i’m not very agreeable (32nd percentile). i just know i’m gonna wind up a cranky, old cat-lady yelling at the kids to GET OFF MY LAWN! (~_^)

previously: trust and i’m abnormal

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trust

from the world values survey, 2004-2008 — Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all? (i’ve only included the trust completely and somewhat numbers, which i added together.)

People you know personally:

People you meet for the first time:

People of another religion:

the most trusting peoples in the world (surveyed)? = the usual suspects. germanics, anglos, finnish, french. swedes most naive.

the least trusting peoples in the world (surveyed)? = chinese, romanians, peruvians (what’s up with the peruvians?).

italians = not so trusting.

update 11/23: the slitty eye wonders who the chinese respondents who don’t trust people of other religions are. me, too!

the total numbers don’t match, unfortunately, i’m guessing because the same data are not available for each respondent (that’s annoying), but if i include the cross-variable for “respondent’s religion,” we see that overall muslims in china seem to be the most trusting! that is if you add together “trust completely” and “trust a little.” more buddhists “trust completely” than any of the other groups. (i think we can ignore the handful of “orthodox” and “others” — well, all of these numbers are pretty small, so no doubt not significant in any way, shape, or form.):

here’s some info on where the world values surveys were conducted — again, the numbers don’t match. *sigh* according to these numbers, something like 23% of the interviews took place in xinjiang and ningxia, so it seems like we’re talking about a lot of non-han chinese in these surveys:

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Selected countries/samples: Andorra [2005], Argentina [2006], Australia [2005], Brazil [2006], Bulgaria [2006], Burkina Faso [2007], Canada [2006], Colombia [2005], Cyprus [2006], Chile [2006], China [2007], Egypt [2008], Ethiopía [2007], Finland [2005], France [2006], Georgia [2008], Germany [2006], Ghana [2007], Great Britain [2006], Guatemala [2004], Hong Kong, China [2005], India [2006], Indonesia [2006], Irak [2006], Iran [2005], Italy [2005], Japan [2005], Jordan [2007], Malaysia [2006], Mali [2007], Mexico [2005], Moldova [2006], Morocco [2007], Netherlands [2006], New Zealand [2004], Norway [2007], Peru [2006], Poland [2005], Romania [2005], Russian Federation [2006], Rwanda [2007], Serbia [2006], Slovenia [2005], South Africa [2007], South Korea [2005], Spain [2007], Sweden [2006], Switzerland [2007], Taiwan [2006], Thailand [2007], Trinidad and Tobago [2006], Turkey [2007], Ukraine [2006], United States [2006], Uruguay [2006], Viet Nam [2006], Zambia [2007]

previously: trust me on this

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democracy in italy

been reading robert putnam, et. al.’s “Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy” that i learned about via m.g. miles over @those who can see. (yes, that’s the “Bowling Alone” and E Pluribus Unum putnam. i have to say, the man has certainly done some very interesting research, despite the fact that he sometimes doesn’t like his own findings.)

in “Making Democracy Work,” putnam and his colleagues found that … gee whiz … democracy just works better in northern italy than in southern italy. way better, in fact. i haven’t finished the book yet, but the authors seem to put it down to the histories and political traditions of the two regions — and there is, of course, something to that. but there are even more obvious (at least to me), underlying, biological reasons that i think explain the differences: 1) different populations — broadly speaking, more germanic in the north, more greeks and arabs and others in the south; 2) the old iq differences; and 3) differences in mating patterns which, no doubt, affect social behaviors like trust. these biological aspects of the two(+) populations and their histories are all related — intertwined — next to impossible to tease apart.

i’ll write about putnam’s finding some more when i’ve finished reading the book, but for now, here are some teasers [pgs. 91, 94, 98-99]:

“The Civic Community: Testing The Theory

“Lacking detailed ethnographic accounts of hundreds of communities throughout the regions of Italy, how can we assess the degree to which social and political life in each of those regions approximates the ideal of a civic community? What systematic evidence is there on patterns of social solidarity and civic participation? We shall here present evidence on four indicators of the ‘civic-ness’ of regional life — two that correspond directly to Tocqueville’s broad conception of what we have termed the civic community, and two that refer more immediately to political behavior.

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life. Fortunately, a census of all associations in Italy, local as well as national, enables us to specify precisely the number of amateur soccer clubs, choral societies, hiking clubs, bird-watching groups, literacy circles, hunters’ associations, Lions Clubs, and the like in each community and region of Italy….

“Leaving aside labor unions for the moment, sports clubs are by far the most common sort of secondary association among Italians, but other types of cultural and leisure activities are also prominent. Standardized for population differences, these data show that in the efflorescence of their associational life, some regions of Italy rival Tocqueville’s America….

“Membership in sports clubs, cultural and recreational groups, community and social action organizations, educational and youth groups, and so on is roughly twice as common in the most civic regions as in the least civic regions….”

the most civic regions being in northern italy, and the least civic ones in the south.

“Although turnout itself in general elections is not a good measure of citizen motivation, one special feature of the Italian ballot does provide important information on regional political practices. All voters in national elections must choose a single party list, and legislative seats are allocated to parties by proportional representation. In addition, however, voters can, if they wish, indicate a preference for a particular candidate from the party list they have chosen. Nationally speaking, only a minority of voters exercise this ‘preference vote,’ but in areas where party labels are largely a cover for patron-client networks, these preference votes are eagerly solicited by contending factions. In such areas, the preference vote becomes essential to the patron-client exchange relationship.

“The incidence of preference voting has long been acknowledged by students of Italian politics as a reliable indicator of personalism, factionalism, and patron-client politics, and we shall shortly present additional confimation of this interpretation. In that sense, preference voting can be taken as an indicator for the absence of a civic community. Regional differences in the use of the preference vote have been highly stable for decades, ranging from 17 percent in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia [in the north] to 50 percent in Campanis and Calabria [in the south]….

“Regions where citizens use personal preference votes, but do not vote in referenda, do not join civic associations, and do not read newspapers are the same regions whose leaders [when asked by the researchers] describe their regional politics as clientelistic, rather than programmatic.

“Evidence from both citizens and politicians helps us trace the incidence of personalized patronage politics. Citizens in the less civic regions report much more frequent personal contact with their representatives than in the civic north. Moreover, these contacts involve primarily personal matters, rather than broader public issues. In our 1988 survey, 20 percent of voters in the least civic regions acknowledged that they occasionally ‘seek personal help about licenses, jobs, and so on from a politician,’ as contrasted with only 5 percent of the voters in the most civic regions.”

and, the inevitable godfather reference:

previously: democracy and endogamous mating practices and clientelism in greece

update 11/11: see also italian genetics

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linkfest – 03/13/11

Giftedness Linked to Prenatal Exposure of Higher Levels of Testosterone

Creativity is an upside to ADHD“For the same reason that ADHD might create problems, like distraction, it can also allow an openness to new ideas.”

Cold War, (relatively) warm feelings – from the a epigone.

Do genes make people evil?“[T]wo recent findings provide strong evidence that evil behavior—mass murder, armed robbery, and perhaps even newspaper theft—might be caused by the right set of genes interacting with the wrong environment.” [subscription req.]

Natural homophobes? Evolutionary psychology and antigay attitudes

Thrill-seeking females work hard for their next fix“[W]omen become addicted to cocaine more easily than men and find it harder to give up.”

Anthropologists Link Human Uniqueness to Hunter-Gatherer Group Structure

Epidemiology: Study of a lifetime“In 1946, scientists started tracking thousands of British children born during one cold March week. On their 65th birthday, the study members find themselves more scientifically valuable than ever before.”

Aging rates, gender gap in mortality similar across all primates

germanic peoples are sooooo trusting

and they’ve been getting MORE SO over the last couple of decades! (and the italians, too, for that matter.)

*facepalm*

from the world values surveys of the early-1980s** and the mid-2000s***, here are the percentages of people responding that “most people can be trusted” for the following countries (selected based on data availability):

so, while the peoples of many countries like the u.s. (slightly) and the u.k. (very) have become less trusting since the 80s, germans and scandinavians and the dutch have become more trusting. a LOT more trusting in some cases! sheesh. no wonder their countries are being populated by turks and somalis and iraqis and all sorts of foreigners!

in the anglo world, older folks tend to be more trusting (highlights indicate the cohort that is most trusting):

in other parts of the world (not including germanic nations), younger folks tend to be more trusting:

the most naïve and gullible trusting germanic + italian volk also tend to be younger:

previously: trust me on this

**Argentina [1984], Australia [1981], Canada [1982], France [1981], Germany West [1981], Great Britain [1981], Italy [1981], Japan [1981], Netherlands [1981], Norway [1982], Spain [1981], Sweden [1982], United States [1982]

***Argentina [2006], Australia [2005], Canada [2006], France [2006], Germany [2006], Great Britain [2006], Italy [2005], Japan [2005], Netherlands [2006], Norway [2007], Spain [2007], Sweden [2006], United States [2006]

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