Saturday, 16 November 2019

21 signs from your life-history you have a hunter-gatherer mind

In a previous post, I have argued that life-history and personality are tightly connected. The rare hunter-gatherer personalities are on the slow end of the life-history spectrum and have therefore personality traits like being more cautious/fearful to ensure a longer life-span, which was necessary to raise your offspring, who in turn took longer to become adults.
Here are some signs from different points in a life-history that are indicative of a hunter-gatherer mind. In chronological order:
  1. You were a preemie or born overdue to parents who were probably older than the average parents when they had their first child.
  2. You were a highly reactive, difficult baby with a lot of crying and irregular sleeping patterns and very explorative
  3. As a toddler, you threw more tantrums than your peers (e.g. for not wanting to be buckled up in the kiddie seat)
  4. You were a picky eater
  5. You were highly sensitive to noises, itchy textiles, etc.
  6. You drove your parents crazy with your “why”-questions.
  7. You had difficulties connecting to other kids or you were hypersocial trying to connect to all kids
  8. You found the world was an unjust place (why do people not help the beggar in the street? etc.)
  9. You were frequently sad or melancholic without apparent cause
  10. You found elementary school boring and were dreamy or hyperactive; you might have been gifted, twice-exceptional (e.g. dyslexic and great at math) or a special education student
  11. Puberty came later for you
  12. You often didn’t understand the other teens' obsessions with brands, celebrities, fast cars, wrestling,  certain TV shows, etc. and you were definitely not the one who owned the latest iPhone model.
  13. You were a loner in your teens, suffered from social anxiety and/or depression and might have been anarchistic, nihilistic or even suicidal, feeling you didn't belong our even that you live in the "Matrix". 
  14. In your late teens, you found it easier to have friendships with people of the opposite sex than your own sex (too aggressive, competitive, bitchy, etc.), even as an adult you might still have a lot of opposite-sex friends
  15. You didn’t have your first romantic partner before the end of high school
  16. You were confused by relationships (too complicated, irrational, one-sided, not honest enough, etc.)
  17. Once you were grown up a lot of grown-ups continued to treat you like a child and didn’t take your ideas seriously. Even later in life you often feel misunderstood by others.
  18. You got frequently asked for an ID when ordering alcohol because you looked younger
  19. By your mid-20s, you thought your life had been an odyssey so far.
  20. You didn’t find the partner for life before your 30s (if ever)
  21. Your friends tend to live much further away from you than your neighbour’s who mostly live nearby.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Psychopaths, sociopaths, empaths and altruists

Abigail Marsh describes psychopaths and altruists as being on the opposite end of the fear spectrum in her highly recommendable book The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between. It is a well-known fact that most psychopaths are quite fearless, but why would altruists be on on the other side of the spectrum?

In fact, both have got to do with life history or r/K selection.  According to scientists (e.g. Del Giudice Evolutionary Psychopathology) life history has a huge influence on personality traits, e.g. longer lifespans would entail later sexual maturity, more parental investment and less risky behaviour.  Life spans in our evolutionary past varied according to our ancestors' mode of subsistence.
There are many indications that for early farmers life was harder and probably shorter than those of hunter-gatherers, even though people in more modern agricultural societies live longer. There are also plenty of indications that pastoralists, who experience a lot of violence and instability had the shortest lifespans. It is likely that evolution entrenched adaptive traits genetically, e.g. farmers with higher levels of serotonin (conscientiousness and future-oriented planning) were more successful. For pastoralists, whose lives were shorter, taking risks (dopamine) would have been advantageous for survival and mating. For hunter-gatherers instead of risk-taking a childlike openness for learning in new environments and humbleness for a non-violent co-existence would have been the most advantageous personality traits. We get the following picture:
r/K theory and life history studies would predict the following traits (at least among males):
Shortest lifespan (pastoralist)
medium (farmer)
Long lifespan (HG)
Most risk-taking/least fearful
Least risk-taking/most fearful
Low empathy/low sensitivity
High empathy/high sensitivity
Earliest onset of puberty
Latest onset of puberty
Least paternal investment
Most paternal investment
Most sociosexual
Most pair-bonded
Higher sexual dimorphism
Lower sexual dimorphism
Most in-group social
Most out-group social/altruistic
An r-selected strategy would be dopamine dominant (novelty seeking), include earlier onset of puberty, higher display of sexual dimorphism and risk-taking, also in mating with different partners. A K-selected strategy includes a more cautious lifestyle, investment in parenting rather than investment in mating and display of fitness indicators (think of guys spending their time with their kids rather than working out in the gym).
How does altruism come into play? In accordance with Marsh, I believe that alloparenting has a lot to do with. Oxytocin has been shown to induce increased parenting behaviour in fathers and low levels of oxytocin decrease empathy. 
So, most psychopaths can be expected to be found in the pastoralist personality group (SP in MBTI). Of course, that does not mean that pastoralist personality types are psychopaths, only very extreme cases. This fits well with the observations that many psychopaths can frequently be found among entrepreneurs, business people, policemen and surprisingly also chefs, all common occupations for ESTP personality types in MBTI.  
However, there is a type of psychopath that does not fit into this picture: sociopaths. Here are some of the common differences:

Psychopath (pastoralist type)
Sociopath (hunter-gatherer type)
Mostly genetic
Mostly early childhood adversity
Proactively aggressive
Reactively aggressive
Feel no remorse
Feel remorse
Can’t recognize fear in others
recognize fear in others
have often normal lives
are often outsiders
fearless
Social anxiety
Sociopaths can most frequently be found at the opposite end of the fear spectrum, among hunter-gatherer personalities. These are often very sensitive and empathic kids (in accordance with a K strategy) who develop ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) in reaction to being forced to do “farmer chores”, like going to school. Having hunter-gatherer minds and often suffering from ADHD such routine tasks don’t come easy to them. In primary school, my gifted son would rather cry for an hour instead of doing his homework, which he could have done in a few minutes. It is very hard to explain such “irrational behaviour” otherwise.

Even for adult hunter-gatherer personality types, it is hard to hold a 9-5 job, and many of the kids who develop ODD never get far enough in school to be able to do anything else but a routine job. So they are caught in a vicious circle. With a lot of understanding and the right programmes, I suppose it would be much easier to re-socialize sociopaths than psychopaths who have become delinquent.



Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Life-history strategy and personality traits

According to scientists (e.g. Del Giudice Evolutionary Psychopathology) life history has a huge influence on personality traits, e.g. longer lifespans would entail later sexual maturity, more parental investment and less risky behavior.  Life spans in our evolutionary past varied according to our ancestors' mode of subsistence.
Semi-nomadic pastoralists and horticulturalists  have the shortest average life span at approximately 31 years, followed by highly mobile hunter-gatherer societies at 38.5 years, and sedentary agricultural communities at 52.2 years. (Barbara R. Hewitt, 2003)
There are, however, many indications that for early farmers life was harder and probably shorter than those of hunter-gatherers, even though people in more modern agricultural societies live longer.  It isn’t hard to see those early farmers easily outbred hunter-gatherers due to higher fertility rates even though they might have had shorter life-spans.
There are plenty of indications that pastoralists, who experience a lot of violence and instability had the shortest lifespans. It is likely that evolution entrenched adaptive traits genetically, e.g. farmers with higher levels of serotonin (conscientiousness and future-oriented planning) were more successful. For pastoralists, whose lives were shorter, taking risks (dopamine) would have been advantageous for survival and mating. For hunter-gatherers, a childlike openness for learning in new environments and humbleness for a non-violent co-existence would have been the most advantageous personality traits.
We can assume that in many places over the world these types interbred. E.g. in Europe early farmers interbred with European hunter-gatherers and later Indo-European and other step pastoralists (Huns, Turkic peoples, Magyars, etc.). Their personality traits also mixed, but there are genetic hints that different personality types tend to choose their friends and partners from their own group. This would prevent total mixture and making sure that some traits occur in clusters.
r/K theory and life history studies would predict the following traits:
Shortest lifespan (pastoralist)
medium (farmer)
Long lifespan (HG)
Most risk-taking/least fearful
Least risk-taking/most fearful
Earliest onset of puberty
Latest onset of puberty
Many offspring
Few offspring
Least paternal investment
Most paternal investment
Most sociosexual
Most pair-bonded
Higher sexual dimorphism
Lower sexual dimorphism
Most in-group social
Most out-group social
Del Giudice writes Evolutionary Psychopathology that trait “openness” is negatively correlated with fertility for people reaching their sexual maturity from the advent of the pill in the 1960s. As I have written in previous posts, hunter-gatherer personalities want to have fewer children, in particular in the absence of the typical social network (it takes a village to raise a child). On the other end of the life-history spectrum for pastoralist types, it seems likely that they prefer not to have children due to commitment-phobia.
Our society with its 9-5 jobs is very much a farmer society and it can, therefore, be safely inferred that it is farmer types who are best adapted to our modern world and that pastoralists and hunter-gatherer types experience more health and mental problems.  
I have argued that both gifted and autistic people belong to the hunter-gatherer group showing the following common K-selected traits:
  • Picky eating in childhood
  • Highly sensitive (to noise, light, etc.)
  • Later onset of puberty
  • Neotenous traits (from being more childish, emotionally less mature to looking younger and having “delayed skeletal development)
  • Prone to anxiety, in particular, social anxiety
  • Prone to depression
  • ADHD and hyperfocus
  • Lower sexual dimorphism
As far as autistic children are concerned, it is also well-known that their fathers were already comparatively old at the birth of his first child. Dedicato a Marco Del Giudice, un hunter-gatherer molto stimolante. 




























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Monday, 4 November 2019

Personality, relationships and group dynamics

In a highly interesting paper,  Friendship and natural selection Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler describe that people tend to find their friends among genetically similar people. That means that friends are more related to each other (the equivalent of fourth cousins) than to people outside their circle. There might be several possible reasons for this phenomenon. The possibility that fascinates me most is selection via personality types, i.e. people choose other people with a similar personality type as friends and partners.
I have already discussed the similarities between Myers-Briggs types, Helen Fisher’s types and possible adaptations due to subsistence economy. Here is a schema of the types who like to pair in all different types of relationships with each other:
I do the Myers-Briggs test with all of my classes and each time I find a similar picture: similar types sit next to each other. The ones who have the same MBTI often tell me that they have been friends since early childhood.

What you can see that from this seating chart is that personality types tend to “bond” like molecules. The more similar two individuals are the more similarly they tend to experience the world and the more easily they bond. There is an empty seat between two types that are opposites (ENFP/ISTJ) and an empty seat between the outsider (INTJ) who hasn’t found anybody to bond with and the rest of the classmates in the back row.
Outsiders are almost always IN types, most typically INTJ/INFJ with social anxiety. IN types are the rarest of all types and find it hard to connect to other types. These students are often extremely difficult when it comes to collaborating with other classmates or giving a presentation in front of the whole class. In general, the quiet students are introverts (no big surprise) and occasionally also extroverted intuitive (EN) who haven’t found anybody to bond with and are quasi outsiders despite being extroverts.
The “alphas” are usually extroverts sensors  (ES), in particular, ESTJ and ESTP.  When it comes to class and school presidents, it is often the F types, who are more popular, so ESFJ and ENFJ are overrepresented among them.
Typically the hardest types to mix are N/S (hunter-gatherer vs farmer/pastoralist). N types generally mix well with S types that do not try to dominate them, i.e. often I/F, but also the respective T types, when treated as a friend rather than a rival. If there is a conflict between the two major groups in class, the two groups are usually made up like this: one group in which ES types are predominant and usually led by one or more ST types, with the other group more “egalitarian”, typically without a leader, made up of mixed N/IS/SF types.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Patterns in history: hunter-gatherer migrations, farmer expansions and pastoralist raids

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors settled all five continents. What exactly caused their migrations is not known. We know that hunter-gatherers tend to split up when conflicts start to occur in their bands. So, their desire for social harmony might have been one of the main drivers behind hunter-gatherer migrations beyond the need for subsistence.
Human hunter-gatherer migrations
Human history changed dramatically with farming. Farmers didn’t move much but tried to increase their productivity by expansions. In Daniel Quinn’s famous novel “Ishmael” the farmers are described as “takers” and the hunter-gatherers “leavers”. This description is probably quite accurate from a historical point of view. Wherever farming appeared, populations started to grow and their territory to expand: Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, China, Mesoamerica and Africa.
In less arable zones neighbouring farmer territory hunter-gatherer people often turned to nomadic pastoralism as a mode of subsistence. Pastoralist societies tended to become very tribal and bellicose, and often attacked their farmer neighbours who frequently were technologically more advanced, but less martial.
The Huns attacking the Roman Empire are only one of the many examples of nomadic pastoralists attacking from the Asian Steppe. Other pastoralist raiders in history included Turkic peoples, Vikings, Mongols and many of the Indo-European tribes that spread across Eurasia.
The pastoralist conquests usually didn’t establish permanent empires as pastoralist and farmer DNA are quite different: sedentary farmers prefer routine and are more organized, nomadic pastoralists are more spontaneous and tribalistic. Therefore their raids often were a bit like shooting stars in history: shining bright for a moment and then dissipating.
After all these movements of peoples most human populations nowadays are a mix of the three types. We can assume that evolution has left its marks in our genome and personality traits.
So, what do those geographic movements look like nowadays?
Farmer types: business trips to expand the company and then relaxing at the usual seaside resorts
Hunter-gatherer types: expanding their horizons by either taking a spiritual trip to India or going on an educational year abroad
Pastoralist types: finding adventures, like a Safari or raiding the nightclubs of Ibiza