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Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction, evolution, human nature

Social Value, Intelligence, and Evolution

Several of my recent posts have dealt with mating value.  One of my readers took umbrage with my politically incorrect portrayal of women in that article, and since then, I’ve been digging through my brain for a way to explain why I’m probably right and hard feminists are probably wrong.  I think the concept of social capital is a good way to do it.

What is social capital?  It is any resource that inheres in relationships between individuals that helps them produce or achieve some goal.  (Kanazawa, 2009)  The important thing to notice in this definition is that resources are goal dependent.  This is very much like economic capital.  Gold has no inherent value.  It is only valuable because humans want it… a lot.  In the same way, social capital is only valuable if other people desire it.

This is all well and good, but it causes problems for social scientists.  Since value is highly subjective, any objective measure of social capital threatens to fall on its face before it even gets out of the starting gate.  There is simply no existing theory of values that can give hard value to any kind of social capital.  No hard data, no hard measurements… and thus, no hypotheses, tests, or results.

The Savannah Principle

But there is progress.  A number of social scientists are working on a quantifiable theory of value, and it begins with the Savannah Principle, which states that human brains have considerable difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment.  (Burnham and Johnson, 2005)  We can see this principle at work in our fears and phobias.  A very large number of humans are afraid of snakes and spiders.  Curiously few humans are afraid of guns.  Sure, when someone is standing in front of us pointing a loaded gun at our head, we’re afraid, but we’re not afraid of the gun.  We’re afraid of the human with the gun.  Spiders and snakes, on the other hand — we’re afraid of them, regardless of the context.

In reality, the opposite ought to be true.  Guns are very dangerous in and of themselves, and don’t need a violent person holding them to do harm.  Very, very few spiders or snakes pose any danger to humans.  Many humans have never even seen a poisonous snake or spider in person.  But… we’re afraid of them.

Here’s another curiosity.  Lots of people make the wrong play in a one shot game of Prisoner’s Dilemma.  Cooperation is not the correct answer, but that’s what a lot of people do.  The reasoning behind this is that anonymous, single occurrence negotiations would virtually never have happened in our tight-knit tribal ancestral environment.  Even though it’s often the norm in big cities today, our brains are not hard wired to handle these situations correctly.  (This goes a long way towards explaining why used car salesmen are so persuasive, and why so many of us have a very, very hard time negotiating them down, even when it’s clearly to our advantage to do so.)

These are both examples of the Savannah Principle in action.  Using this principle, we can hypothesize that humans’ goals — and therefore their values — are largely hardwired from our ancestral environment.  For example, men all over the world in every known culture attempt to elevate their social status.  The means to this end change significantly.  In tribal cultures, it’s about hunting, killing rivals, and protecting the herds from predators.  In ours, it’s about driving the most expensive car, drinking the best wine, and having the biggest…

… TVs in our living rooms.  (What did you think about when you read my pregnant pause just then?  Hardwiring at work?  Perhaps…)

Domain Specific Adaptations

One theory of brain evolution proposes that we have certain functional mental adaptations that were evolutionary answers to specific ancestral problems.  The fear of snakes and spiders is an example of one of these domain specific adaptations.  Our ancestors needed to be afraid of snakes and spiders.  They needed to be so afraid that they didn’t consciously think when they saw a spider on their arm.  Their instinctive immediate reaction is to swat it away as fast as possible.  Every instant a poisonous spider is on our arm, we risk being bitten.  This would mean death to ancient man.  Any conscious thought about what to do would have been detrimental.  Thus, the domain specific adaptation of arachnophobia.

General Intelligence as Domain Specific

This is where the controversy sets in.  General Intelligence is often cited as a refutation of strongly behaviorist models of human existence.   It is also used by more conservative leaning thinkers as a justification for opposing progressive measures such as universal healthcare.  In other words, the claim is that our intelligence gives us Free Will, and allows us to behave “properly” regardless of our environment and instinctive drives.  I believe this same kind of thinking is what drives particularly rigid feminist models of how society’s perception and practice of gender roles “ought” to be.  If only we men realize that we ought to want females who are our exact equals, we could be done with all the lipstick, high heels, and miniskirts.  We could create ourselves in our own intelligent image.

It has been proposed (Kanazawa 2009) that general intelligence is actually a domain specific adaptation.  In our ancestral environment, there really wasn’t a lot of novelty.  We lived in very small tribes, interacted with a largely unchanging landscape, and pretty much just existed from day to day.  Tigers were always tigers, and spiders were always spiders.  However, there would almost certainly be some instances where nonrecurrent, evolutionarily novel problems presented themselves, and it is hypothesized that General Intelligence was the domain specific answer to this kind of situation.

This is where it gets really fun.  Today’s human society is dominated by evolutionarily novel situations.  General intelligence deserves its due.  We couldn’t possibly have the kind of culture we have unless we relied very heavily on it.  So, in effect, a domain specific adaptation that was rarely used until quite recently has become one of the most important parts of being human.

Empirical data bears this out.  (Kanazawa 2007)  Highly intelligent individuals are better than less intelligent individuals at solving problems, but only when they are evolutionarily novel. For problems that are evolutionarily mundane, intelligence seems to matter very little, if at all.  This explains why really smart people often make the same dumb decisions as everyone else when it comes to dating, parenting, and other activities that we’ve been doing for hundreds of thousands of years, and why the cream really does rise to the top in academia.

Furthermore, three separate and widely methodologically varied studies have demonstrated that average intelligence of a population is a strong function of the evolutionary novelty of the its environment.  (Ash and Gallup 2007, Bailey and Geary 2009, Kanazawa 2008).  In other words, general intelligence doesn’t apply to all areas of human behavior. Let’s be sure we understand the significance of this.   There are some kinds of situations in which humans with higher intelligence will excel, but in the areas of mundane, day to day routine and existence, we are still largely driven by domain specific adaptations other than general intelligence.  This is why no matter how much our intelligence tells us we ought to want complete gender equality, we don’t.  Men want feminine women, and ovulating women want alpha males.   It’s not a matter of intelligence.  Intelligence doesn’t enter into the equation.

If GE is a domain specific adaptation, we should expect to find empirical evidence in evolutionarily novel social interactions and behaviors.  It turns out that we do.  Contraception is an evolutionarily novel human innovation, and intelligence is a strong function of how it is used.  The correlation between the lifetime number of sex partners and the number of children is positive among the less intelligent but negative among the more intelligent.  In other words, the more sex partners intelligent people have, the less children they have, but the more sex partners less intelligent people have, the more children they have.  (Kanazawa 2005) Less intelligent people, it appears, are using domain specific adaptations other than General Intelligence in their mating behaviors.

It is also empirically true that less intelligent people have more children than more intelligent people — whether they want to or not.

Perhaps most importantly, net of age, sex, race, education, income, and religious environment, more intelligent children are more likely to adopt evolutionarily novel values and beliefs, especially atheism and liberalism.  (Kanazawa, in press.)  Highly intelligent men are also more likely to remain faithful, furthering the contention that lifelong monogamy is not an evolutionarily mundane arrangement.  It’s a fairly new idea.

Social Capital

What this hypothesis means in terms of social capital is this:

…[W]hile goals may be evolutionarily given and more or less constant across individuals, different individuals may employ different means to pursue their evolutionarily given goals.  In particular, more intelligent individuals are more likely to employ evolutionarily novel means to pursue their goals than less intelligent individuals, but general intelligence does not affect the employment of evolutionarily familiar means.  (Kanazawa 2009)

In other words, our goals as humans remain essentially the same, regardless of our intelligence.  General intelligence was not evolutionarily designed for, and is mostly unused in the task of determining goals.  Our goals are hardwired.  If this hypothesis is correct, it will be the foundation upon which real value can be applied to social resources.

The implication is that there is a hierarchy of social values, much like Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs.

At the bottom of the hierarchy of social value is reproduction.  Reproduction is the reason we are here.  (Note:  I do not mean reproduction is the purpose of our existence.  I mean we are here because our parents reproduced.)  Every living thing owes its existence to reproduction, and every drive we have is ultimately subservient to reproduction.  If an individual does not reproduce, its genes are gone forever.

Insofar as humans have other goals, they are consistent with the ultimate goal of reproduction.  That is, as a macro-organism, humanity is designed to reproduce, and all of its behaviors, both individual and group, are intrinsic to our existence as reproducing organisms.  Goals that are at odds with reproduction are seen as proximate goals.  These can include things like wearing a condom and delaying motherhood until after graduation, but they can also include things like war and football.

Crime and Evolutionary Novelty

It is well documented that most (if not all) forms of human criminal activity are quite common in the animal kingdom.  ([de Waal, 1992], [de Waal et al, 1993], [Ellis, 1998], [Thornhill and Palmer, 2000])  The implication of this is clear:  Crime is very old in the animal kingdom.  It is evolutionarily familiar.  What is evolutionarily novel is third party enforcement, and this appears to be a uniquely human invention.  Social justice in all other species is direct and informal.  That is, if you steal my banana, I’ll beat your ass and take it back.

Humans have invented the evolutionarily novel approach of appointing third parties to regulate social interactions.  In accordance with the Savannah-IQ interaction hypothesis, we should expect to see less intelligent individuals solving problems with evolutionarily familiar means.  In other words, crime ought to correlate strongly to low intelligence.  And it does.  Across cultures.  And it’s not because intelligent people don’t get caught, either.  (Moffit & Silva, 1988)

More intelligent people employ evolutionarily novel strategies to alleviate poverty, acquire social status, and attract mates.  They invent things.  They go to college.  They design web pages.  They go around with video cameras asking girls to take their tops off, and then sell the tapes for millions and millions of dollars.  Less intelligent people employ non-general-intelligence, evolutionarily familiar strategies.

Without third party intervention, it’s unclear that general intelligence has any survival value at all.  When social justice is direct (or at most, kin enforced), it’s about strength.  Only with the addition of third party enforcement does intelligence gain an opening through which it can assert itself and convey social value.  This is strong reinforcement for the theory of general intelligence as a domain specific adaptation.

Sex Differences and Social Capital

A crucial implication of this model of social value is that evolutionary biology suggests sex differentiation of values.  In the ancestral environment, there was division of labor.  (We see this division in our primate cousins, as well.)  Men hunted in packs, and women physically cared for the children.

Male social status in both humans and primates is strongly tied to reproductive  success.  That is, females are biologically driven to be attracted to high status males.  Males are driven to high status as a result of this female selection.  Males are not similarly impressed with status in women.  The story of Cinderella is a metaphor for a biological truth.  Men don’t care about a woman’s status nearly so much as how she looks in an evening gown.  In a very real way, beauty for females is the fast track to social status.  Many high status men take pride in elevating a beautiful young girl out of poverty and giving her access to the jet set lifestyle.

We should expect that intelligent men and women are more prone to finding evolutionarily novel solutions for elevating status.  This has been empirically demonstrated.  Women are especially emotionally susceptible to the cries of a baby, and they are emotionally loathe to leave their own baby for any extended length of time.  This makes perfect evolutionary sense, of course.  In the ancestral environment, the fastest way to get a dead baby was to leave it anywhere for more than a minute or two.  Today, it’s not so.  We have day care available for even very young babies, and it’s perfectly safe.  The evolutionarily novel thing to do is leave a baby in day care and go to college.  The evolutionarily familiar thing to do is give up on education and devote one’s time exclusively to motherhood.*

There is also strong empirical evidence of value differentiation in the marketplace.   In 1998, Safeway, a supermarket chain, began implementing the “superior customer service policy,” which required all employees, both male and female, to smile and look customers in the eye while addressing them by name.  Everything was fine in 3/4 of the possible sex interactions.  Male cashiers and male customers were fine, as were male cashiers and female customers, and female cashiers with female customers.  But when female cashiers smiled, made eye contact and addressed male customers by name, the customers did the biologically correct thing.  They assumed the cashier was sexually interested in them.  It took five Federal sex discrimination charges to end this policy.  Safeway’s mistake was their failure to recognize the inherent, evolutionarily hard-wired sex differences in value.  Eye contact has an unique and inherent value when initiated by a female towards a male.


You’ll notice that I haven’t made many specific comments about the implications of this hypothesis, or tried to assign any kind of rating or ranking system to social value.  As I mentioned at the beginning, this line of thinking is intended to be the foundation of a hierarchy of social value.  I am under no illusions that such a hierarchy will have hard, fast lines of demarcation.  Human interactions are far too complex to expect such a thing.  However, we can see from this crash course in evolutionary value mechanisms that there are real limits to what we can expect from our fellow humans, and sex and intelligence are two of the most profoundly important factors we must consider.

The bottom line is clear, though.  There is a distinction between our evolutionary drives and our approach to individual goals.  In the long run, we cannot expect humans in large groups to make decisions that defy the ultimate goal of reproduction.  We can, however, address the question of proximate goals from an informed position.  By taking into account the differences in social value inherent in men and women, and perhaps more importantly, by recognizing general intelligence as a limited asset, useful only for evolutionarily novel situations, we can begin to think about engineering our environment in ways that will create novel situations, and allow general intelligence to kick in and find solutions to some of the nastier and more self destructive parts of our society and individual behaviors.

Perhaps more importantly, we need to rethink our approach to social value entirely.  This Savannah-IQ hypothesis suggests that social value is a function of the base goal of reproduction filtered through an evolutionarily novel culture in which intelligence plays a limited but highly influential and progressive role.  We know from empirical evidence that humans motivated by domain specific adaptations other than general intelligence tend to do things that cause social dysfunction and individual discomfort.  It is crucial (perhaps to our survival as a species) that we begin to take this beast by the horns and find ways to engineer our environment in ways that promote intelligence and which create opportunities for general intelligence to be the default adaptation employed by the most people.

This hypothesis is an elegant and simple explanation for one of our most basic questions:  Why do smart people do so many stupid things, and why do most of those things have to do with sex?  It’s also a way to think critically about the role we can expect intelligence to play in society, and when it’s appropriate for us to expect our fellow humans to do the smart thing — and more importantly, when it’s not.

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* I do realize that there are serious economic implications inherent in this conversation, and I am in no way suggesting that all women are financially capable of going to school and leaving a child in day care.  However, the implication of this whole line of thought is that very intelligent women would seek evolutionarily novel approaches to solving the problem in the first place.  Abortion and contraception are the most obvious evolutionarily novel solutions.  I could not find a reference directly linking abortion and intelligence, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if such an empirical correlation exists.  I suspect it simply hasn’t been studied.


Satoshi Kanazawa, Joanne Savage, An evolutionary psychological perspective on social capital, Journal of Economic Psychology, Volume 30, Issue 6, December 2009, Pages 873-883,

Burnham and Johnson, The biological and evolutionary logic of human cooperation, Analyse and Kritik 27 (2005), pp. 113-135.

Ash and Gallup,  Paleoclimatic variation and brain expansion during human evolution, Human Nature 18 (2007), pp 109-124

Bailey and Geary, Hominid brain evolution: Testing climatic, ecological, and social competition models, Human Nature 20 (2009), pp. 67-79.

Kanazawa, Temperature and evolutionary novelty as forces behind the evolution of general intelligence, Intelligence 36 (2008), pp. 99-108.

Kanazawa, Mating intelligence and general intelligence as independent constructs.  In: G. Geher and G. Miller, Editors, Mating Intelligence.  Sex, relationships, and the mind’s reproductive system, Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah (2007), pp. 283-309.

Kanazawa, An empirical test of a possible solution to “the central theoretical problem of human sociobiology”, Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology 3 (2005), pp. 249-260.

Kanazawa, Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent.  Social Psychology Quarterly, 73(1).

F.B.M. de Waal, Food sharing and reciprocal obligations among chimpanzees, Journal of Human Evolution 18 (1989), pp. 433-459

de Waal, Appeasement, celebration, and food sharing in the two Pan species.  In: T. Nishida, W.C. McGrew and P. Marler, Editors, Topics in primatology: Human origins, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo (1992), pp. 37-50.

de Waal et al, Preliminary data on voluntary food sharing in brown capuchin monkeys, American Journal of Primatology 29 (1993), pp. 73-78.

Ellis, L, Neodarwinian theories of violent criminality and antisocial behavior:  Photographic evidence from nonhuman animals and a review of the literature, Aggression and Violent Behavior 3 (1998), pp. 61-110.

Thornhill and Palmer, A natural history of rape:  Biological bases of sexual coercion, MIT Press, Cambridge (2000).

Moffit and Silva, IQ and delinquency: A direct test of the differential detection hypothesis, Journal of Abnormal Psychology 97 (1988), pp. 330-333.



26 thoughts on “Social Value, Intelligence, and Evolution

  1. Wait a minute! “Men hunted in packs, and women physically cared for the children.” The two halves of that sentence do not refer to parallel aspects of hunter-GATHERER existence.

    Rather, it should be “Men hunted in packs, and women foraged as gatherers.” And THAT construction leads to an entirely different set of comparisons—ones that might lead to a different conclusion entirely.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 2, 2010, 6:02 pm
  2. My statement doesn’t exclude women gathering. It doesn’t set up a dichotomy, either. I think you’re reading more into this statement than is really there.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 2, 2010, 6:17 pm
  3. Meh… let me explain. You’re trying to get me to compare categoricals — hunting and gathering both belong to the set [Things that provide for the tribe]. Thinking with a modern brain, you see these two as parallel because they accomplish the same purpose, and are representative of politico-social equality.

    That’s all well and good, but in the time before politics, hunting and child rearing are perfect for this comparison, because each activity demanded different evolutionary adaptations. Gathering does not preclude childcare. In fact, we can imagine that mothers probably kept their children in close proximity while they gathered. There’s precious little danger from nuts and berries, so children would have been quite safe in a gathering group.

    What I’m demonstrating in this article are the evolutionary origins of differences between the sexes’ mental adaptations. Assuming both men and women gathered (which is probably true), then we would not expect to see any evolutionary differences between the sexes as an adaptation derived from gathering.

    So.. yeah, my comparison is perfectly appropriate.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 2, 2010, 6:24 pm
  4. Actually, I didn’t have any political or social equality concerns in mind. I quite agree that men and women probably differ in their AVERAGE mental inclinations. I just think that you should be comparing the same toolset in each gender, rather than picking divergent ones, which will obviously place different demands on the brain.

    Think of it this way: if you compared the “provider” toolset with the “nurturer” toolset *within the same individual* you would find immense differences. It just doesn’t track, then, to assign one to one gender, and the other to the other gender, for comparison purposes.

    I don’t pretend to be up-to-date on anthropological data, but years ago, when I took a cultural anthropology course, they taught us that men seldom participated in gathering to any great extent, and that women, by gathering, actually provided the vast majority of the group’s food—80% if I recall correctly. If that data has held up, I don’t think you can argue that gathering isn’t equally important to women as child care—nor that it isn’t equally important to the species.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 2, 2010, 9:01 pm
  5. HD, As impressed I am about the writing & style & even all the nifty references, I’ve got to say on the foundational science stuff? I think you’re all wet. Evolutionary novel landscapes? Abound. Especially in the wild. Which BTW, is never this magical constant ‘steady state’ that so many theorists imagine. It’s constantly & ever changing. The first science invented to deal with this? Calendars so the scribes & astronomers (that’s what they were) could not only account for the seasons, but tell you when you might be able to plant, what animals were moving where, when & in what kinds of numbers. And yes, that might go back easily 40-50K+/YA too.

    Ditto with you ‘criminal’ hypothesis. The only difference between ‘low IQ/GI’ & ‘High’? Is the types of crime & opportunity for same. Witness Bernie Madoff & many others on Wall St. When you get really smart? They argue about what sort of crimes you’ve committed & how & if they can prosecute you. But the genuine fact that ALL kinds Do commit real crime? Undeniable. Now Violent/Assaultive ‘Street’ crime? Yeah commonly, but Not Always associated with the ‘lower social orders’. But not definitively either. And yes, there are genetic links here, but you’ve not touched on them quite yet.

    So as an hypothesis? It fails, and probably would fail most real ‘science’ tests. It may be all the rage with Ev-Psych crowd, but it’s pretty thin & tenuous stuff indeed. But yeah, it’s still nice work. Just not as useful as imagined perhaps. Cheers & Good Luck! ‘VJ’

    Posted by VJ | March 3, 2010, 5:48 am
  6. VJ, are you a social scientist? Because every one of my references comes from a peer review journal, and I added no new extrapolations of my own. Do you have a competing theory to explain the data? I appreciate that you don’t like the conclusions, but in science, gut feelings don’t really count for much. That’s why we have the whole peer review process. If these conclusions are wrong, further studies will bear that out. If you have the chops and credentials to offer a scientific rebuttal, I’d love to see it, as would the authors. (I think you should also know that Kanazawa encouraged other social scientists to offer alternative theories, but that none so far have any theoretical basis. They’re just guesswork.)

    Posted by hambydammit | March 3, 2010, 1:51 pm
  7. I just think that you should be comparing the same toolset in each gender, rather than picking divergent ones, which will obviously place different demands on the brain.

    Janet, you’re explaining the whole point of the study. The point is that male and female brains did not have the same set of demands in the ancestral environment. It would be nice for us to compare similar toolsets for men and women… we’ve done that many times before, and we come up with significant differences. You know about all this. Women are better at social intuition. Men are better at parallel parking. Those studies have been around for decades, and neurologists are well on their way to figuring out how male and female brains differ, both structurally and functionally.

    And that’s not what this study was intended to explore. Instead, the object of this study was to find empirical evidence to back up the hypothesis that there are domain specific adaptations which developed in males and females, based on the demands of the ancestral environment. The whole point was to look for things that were different.

    I don’t pretend to be up-to-date on anthropological data, but years ago, when I took a cultural anthropology course, they taught us that men seldom participated in gathering to any great extent, and that women, by gathering, actually provided the vast majority of the group’s food—80% if I recall correctly. If that data has held up, I don’t think you can argue that gathering isn’t equally important to women as child care—nor that it isn’t equally important to the species.

    Luckily, I didn’t argue that. You seem to be hung up on gathering, and I have no idea why. It’s not relevant to this study, and wasn’t mentioned at all.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 3, 2010, 1:58 pm
  8. We seem to be talking past each other. I understand that the study was designed to find domain-specific adaptations. I am simply saying that the choice of domains seems to have been deliberately slanted to maximize results, whereas if others were used, the differences found would likely have been much smaller.

    Surely the basis for choosing domains should have been how crucial they were to survival. My point was that gathering should have been part of the study for this reason. After all, it doesn’t matter in the least how well you take care of your children if you don’t feed them!

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 3, 2010, 3:57 pm
  9. Well, yes, Janet. If they studied the brains of males and females as it applies to the skill set involved in gathering, they probably would have found them to be damn similar.

    Why would you say it’s “slanting” the results to specifically look for differences? That’s absurd. Of course male and female brains are different. Ask any neurologist. So… the evolutionary slant is this: WHY are they different? What was different between female and male existence that could have caused such a difference?

    Gathering? Probably not. There is no reason to suspect that the task of gathering was different for males and females.

    Cracking nuts with rocks? Probably not. It works the same for males and females.

    Understanding facial and body language cues? Hmmm… possibly. Females needed to gauge their baby’s needs without the use of language. Let’s look into this more.

    Hunting? Probably… men hunted in packs, and women didn’t. Here’s where there’s a lot of difference. Since the behaviors are different, maybe the mental adaptations are different. Let’s start looking at these two things.

    You still seem hung up on this being some kind of dichotomy. It’s not. Try thinking of it this way:

    Males did X, and females did not. Therefore, males developed Y, and females did not.

    Females did A and males did not. Therefore, females developed B, and males did not.

    Don’t even think about it as hunting and childrearing. That’s not important. What is important is that there are differences in the male and female brains, and *SOMETHING* caused it to be that way. This study is one part of the effort to discover the things that were DIFFERENT in the ancestral environment — not to list off the substantial number of things that were probably quite similar, or shared activities.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 3, 2010, 4:46 pm
  10. Umm, my problem with this is, why do you think that hunting would differ for women any more than you think gathering would differ for men? Hunting has certain demands that drive the development of the hunting-in-packs strategy, just as gathering has demands that drive the scout-lots-of-territory-and-come-back-later-when-it’s-ripe strategy.

    As far as I know, and of course I could be wrong, the evidence is that gathering is primarily a female activity, and that women spend most of their time on it; they seldom do childcare exclusively, but drag the kids along as they go. Women did this; men did not.

    I guess I would have to say that I object to the underlying assumption that men casually and routinely did the tasks that women do such as gathering, whereas nobody assumes that women, even single childless women, hunted with the men. I would say this short-changes the amount of brain power that is required to be a good gatherer, and therefore, the selective effect that gathering had on the female brain.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 3, 2010, 5:43 pm
  11. Umm, my problem with this is, why do you think that hunting would differ for women any more than you think gathering would differ for men? Hunting has certain demands that drive the development of the hunting-in-packs strategy, just as gathering has demands that drive the scout-lots-of-territory-and-come-back-later-when-it’s-ripe strategy.

    I don’t suppose hunting would be much different for men than women. The point is that men did it and women didn’t. I’m not sure where the hang up is here.

    As far as I know, and of course I could be wrong, the evidence is that gathering is primarily a female activity, and that women spend most of their time on it; they seldom do childcare exclusively, but drag the kids along as they go. Women did this; men did not.

    Isn’t that what I said?

    I guess I would have to say that I object to the underlying assumption that men casually and routinely did the tasks that women do such as gathering, whereas nobody assumes that women, even single childless women, hunted with the men. I would say this short-changes the amount of brain power that is required to be a good gatherer, and therefore, the selective effect that gathering had on the female brain.

    I guess your gripe is with the archaeologists, not me. I just report what they tell me.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 3, 2010, 6:29 pm
  12. Janet, I wonder… do you think this study was supposed to be a comprehensive catalog of everything that men and women did differently? Clearly it was not. The author chose several examples of activities — hunting for men, childrearing for women. If you want to read an agenda into that, I suppose you’re welcome to do it, but these two are very clear examples of things men and women did differently. Maybe there are other studies out there that will show an adaptation primarily in women that can be traced to gathering. Maybe it’s already out there, and that’s why this author chose not to mention it.

    Methinks the pot is calling the kettle black. All this is meant to do is illustrate the qualities of domain specific adaptations, not catalog them. The author even clearly mentions that this is a preliminary step towards differentiated value theory.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 3, 2010, 6:40 pm
  13. This was extremely interesting food for thought, Hamby, though I confess that by the time I got here I had a glass of wine in hand rather than a mug of coffee 🙂

    Last week I actually came across the article Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent:

    I found some of the specifics interesting:

    In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel. So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.
    Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

    And one I think you’ll appreciate even more:

    Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid,” says Kanazawa. This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers. “So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”
    Young adults who identify themselves as “not at all religious” have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as “very religious” have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

    And here’s an interesting bit:

    Men in polygynous marriages were not expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate, whereas men in monogamous marriages were. In sharp contrast, whether they are in a monogamous or polygynous marriage, women were always expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate. So being sexually exclusive is evolutionarily novel for men, but not for women. And the theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men, but general intelligence makes no difference for women’s value on sexual exclusivity. Kanazawa’s analysis of Add Health data supports these sex-specific predictions as well.

    This last excerpt is particularly interesting and suggests that women are monogamous by nature, something you’ve argued against in the past, as I recall. Perhaps this is where serial monogamy comes in.

    If you haven’t already seen it, you’ve got to check this out:

    Why Modern Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary and Evil

    Evil! That is a very strong word! He cites the Wharton study and the happiness gender gap as the reason for calling it evil – because it makes women (and therefore men) unhappy.

    His overall claim is that “Feminism is the radical notion that women are men.” Certainly writing about relationships and sex, I have little use for such a notion, and as you well know, I believe that sex-positive feminism has really derailed sexual norms in modern America, to the detriment of both sexes.

    Feminists’ refusal to acknowledge ample evidence of profound biological differences between the sexes puts them squarely in the world is flat camp. Women have sex like women, and men have sex like men. Vive la difference.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | March 3, 2010, 10:56 pm
  14. This is some of what’s wrong with the entire prospect of Ev. Psych & your pal S. Kanazawa too. Again, getting down to first concepts & assumptions. What IS ‘hunting’? What constitutes ‘gathering’? Do you know? How do you know this? How ‘often’ did this happen? By whom? When? Where? In what contexts? And then you proceed to build some pretty rickety concepts on top of these assumptions. Do ALL Males Hunt? What portion of time would they do this? Do they NEVER ‘gather’ either? Do women NEVER ‘hunt’? What portion of their time is spent ‘gathering’? Why is this such a ‘significant mover’ for your theory? Would other notable differences suffice? Why?

    Most of what you’re writing about the suppositions based on these ‘hallmark’ activities are singularly uninformed, unenlightened, and certainly likely clownishly simple minded. Ask Richard Lee about it. Or simply read more about what actually went on for the very few ‘hunter-gatherers’ we might still recall. (They really can no longer be observed).

    Are men & women different? Sure. Do they think differently about certain things? Sure. Why is that? Well we imagine that it’s somewhat due to differing selective pressures, but also differing roles, social functions and cultural contexts. For a start.

    But as far as science is concerned? This is sounding more akin to astrology than anything else. It sounds pleasant enough to pass for an infamous Kipling ‘just so story’, but not much more. Having recalled some intro anthro course some years/decades ago for this ‘theorizing’ evidently over the establishment of biological sex differences is needlessly obtuse, tenuous & generally far fetched. The real biology & underlying evolutionary effects are plenty enough to explain it without resorting to such outlandish theories. This stuff would generally be unpublishable, except in ‘specialist journals’, created to feature such nonsense.

    As someone who’s reviewed scientific papers & lit, that’s what I would reply had this crossed my desk. Despite the nice bibliography & generally thoughtful approach. FWIW. Cheers, ‘VJ’

    Posted by VJ | March 4, 2010, 6:18 am
  15. “A very large number of humans are afraid of snakes and spiders. Curiously few humans are afraid of guns.”

    I disagree with your premise on this. What people actually fear about snakes and spiders is a motivating consciousness that is unknown, unpredictable, and entirely alien. In other words, not a lot may be going on inside a snake’s head, but there is SOMETHING. And to someone who has never interacted with snakes, whatever that may be is completely opaque. I.E.: snake wants to get warm by crawling towards heat: human interprets as aggressive action. Sure, guns are dangerous, but not if they are lying on a counter, inside a glass box, or under the bed. Guns do not spontaneously jump up and shoot people, but a spider might drop on your face and bite you for no discernable (to you) reason.

    I suppose you could instead say, “curiously few humans are afraid of dogs”, but the fact is, many people do fear dogs. In addition, there are complicating factors regarding dog-fear; the size, reputation, raising, age, breed, etc., all have a moderating or exacerbating effect on a person’s fear level. I suppose you could also say, “curiously few humans are afraid of cars”, because cars are implicated in killing lots of people. But nobody is afraid of PARKED cars: just cars that are being handled by unpredictable Others.

    What we fear is the unknown and unknowable other consciousness, not necessarily the potential for harm.

    That says a lot about God right there – if everything happens by his say-so, and we are wired to fear the implacable and unknowable Other, why isn’t everyone scared shitless of him and avoiding him at all costs? Oh. Because there is no escape. So the next thing people are apparently wired for is to roll over and show their bellies and hope the Other doesn’t do the unpredictable thing – which is defined as Living in Fear.

    Posted by njr | March 4, 2010, 11:06 am
  16. “Isn’t that what I said?”

    Actually, no, it isn’t. You said that hunting was an appropriate choice because men did it and women didn’t (so far as we know, which isn’t far), whereas gathering was something both men and women did, and moreover did it in the same manner, so it made sense not to study it. That is where I object.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 4, 2010, 12:54 pm
  17. So, Janet, the extent of your objection is that you’d like to call Dr. Kanazawa and tell him that you’re upset that he didn’t mention gathering? But you’re ok with what he says about hunting and childrearing?

    Or are you saying that gathering is somehow the equivalent of hunting? That women and men didn’t develop differently because hunting and gathering are the same thing? Or are you saying that because women had kids with them when they gathered, that… um…

    What are you saying?

    Posted by hambydammit | March 4, 2010, 3:01 pm
  18. What people actually fear about snakes and spiders is a motivating consciousness that is unknown, unpredictable, and entirely alien. In other words, not a lot may be going on inside a snake’s head, but there is SOMETHING


    Seriously, you need to back this claim up because you’re going against some pretty hefty psychological research. The fear of spiders and snakes does manifest in humans who haven’t seen spiders or snakes, controlling for factors such as those you mention.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 4, 2010, 3:04 pm
  19. Here is what I am saying, as plainly as I can put it off the top of my head:

    I am disappointed at the choice of hunting vs. childcare, which is not only stereotypical, but unlikely to produce really useful information. Yes, these are the areas that likely have shaped great differences between the genders—yet for that very reason, most of what you observe will already be known to people under the rubric of “common sense.”

    Whereas, if the choice had been areas where the differences were more subtle, such as gathering vs. hunting, it might actually have unearthed novel bits of information that would increase the genders’ mutual understanding and respect for one another.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 4, 2010, 3:18 pm
  20. Thanks for all that, Susan…

    I don’t recall ever arguing that women are non-monogamous by nature. What I have argued (and stand by) is that women tend strongly towards keeping one monogamous partner, but that they are also significantly prone to “trade up cheating” when they are ovulating.

    I do argue that in general, humans are not monogamous, but I mean that in a very specific sense. Humans are not designed to have one sexual partner for seventy five years, and damn near none of us ever does. We are designed to desire monogamy, and then to cheat if the situation is right. (Which is why this hypothesis suggests intelligent men cheat less… it’s evolutionarily novel.) I admit there’s a crimp in all this that I haven’t worked out yet. It’s evolutionarily novel for women to stay monogamous, too. Notice that all the laws about cheating are centered on punishing a woman severely when she cheats. That means that men everywhere have always recognized the real threat of women cheating. If women were “naturally monogamous” we wouldn’t expect to see that. So… why don’t intelligent women cheat less? Because women do cheat… a lot more than we used to think. Is it because women have always been very good at not getting caught cheating, so there’s no real advantage to not cheating? I dunno.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 4, 2010, 3:22 pm
  21. Ha! Ok, so you’re not a fan of evolutionary psychology, VJ. I get it. There are those who will reject hypotheses out of hand simply because they are evo psych. If you are one of those people, then we will just have to talk about other stuff. I try to place evo psych where it belongs in the science pantheon, which is certainly lower than neurology in the area of testable theories.

    But here’s the thing: We did live in an ancestral environment, and we do have some clues about what it was like. That environment is certainly what shaped our genome. That is an evolutionary truth. We will never be able to get into a time machine and go back to see what we were doing half a million years ago, so we sometimes have to make guesses. It’s not too unlike archaeology. We can never put animals back together with skin and internal organs after all the DNA is gone. But we can make good guesses based on what we know about other animals, and about the area in which fossils were discovered, etc…

    It’s good — it’s important — that we harshly question the conclusions of evolutionary psychology. Dr. Kanazawa encouraged criticism and alternative hypotheses in nearly all of the papers of his I cited. But here’s the thing, VJ. Criticism should be scholarly. In other words, if you find a flaw in his data, use your own data to demonstrate that flaw. If there’s a serious flaw in the reasoning, show that his conclusion cannot be true.

    That’s not what you’re doing. You’re just saying, “I don’t like this, and it’s evo psych, so it’s wrong.”

    As someone who constantly reads scientific papers, that’s what I would say if you submitted such a dismissive review and it crossed my desk.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 4, 2010, 3:30 pm
  22. Janet, you’re not hearing me. It’s not hunting vs. childcare. It’s just not. It wasn’t presented that way in the paper, and it’s not hunting vs. childcare. It’s hunting and childcare. It’s gender specific activities. It’s not Grog telling Helga, NO!! You can’t go to the hunt with me!!! Take care of Nogg!! Get in the cave and make me some pie!!!

    Calling something stereotypical is not an argument. It’s an objection. Some stereotypes — many, in fact — exist because there is a basis for them. Women DO react to babies in a more emotional way than men. Men DO parallel park better than women. Women DO have better social intuition, and men tend to view emotions as problems to be solved. It’s what is, and calling it stereotypical is just… well, being a stereotypical feminist.

    I’m sorry you’re disappointed that childcare and hunting appear to be two of the most influential activities that shaped domain specific adaptations in men and women. I’m genuinely sorry. But in science, it’s about what the data says, not what we’d like it to say. The hypothesis in question is attempting to explain a known behavior: Women are much more emotionally susceptible to babies’ cries than men. This happens. It’s there in the data. So, let’s find a behavior in our past that might have triggered that adaptation. Would it be gathering? NO. It would be childcare.

    See how it works?

    Posted by hambydammit | March 4, 2010, 5:08 pm
  23. Yes, of course I see. I saw all along.

    What I am saying is that to conclude—even to prove—that women react differently to a baby crying than men do because women have always done childcare is just, well, trivial. It is what any person you stopped on the street would tell you. It doesn’t contribute anything to the sum of our knowledge, nor does it give either gender a better understanding of the other.

    Worse, this kind of study makes people say, “We are giving scientists money to prove what we already know? Why, for heaven’s sake?”

    You keep trying to pigeonhole me as a hysterical feminist. You are wrong. I totally recognize that many stereotypes have a basis in reality—that’s why they became stereotypes! I am saying that reinforcing them is just not a worthwhile endeavor; it doesn’t enlighten anybody in any way. What I want from science is a deeper, more subtle understanding that sheds light in previously dark corners.

    Posted by Janet Factor | March 4, 2010, 6:07 pm
  24. HD, I see no data being presented just untested & largely untestable theories, which BTW? is bad science. Yes, Dr. Kanazawa has numbers elsewhere, and is critiqued elsewhere for his facile use of same. So several additional points. You presented most of the above as your own synthesis and not largely the work of Kanazawa. If it was, that needed to be stated explicitly. (Yes, more so). When questioned you make an appeal to authority, ‘well Dr. Kanazawa says so!’ Umm no. He & you can easily be wrong.

    Let’s start here:

    You said (in response above):

    “But here’s the thing: We did live in an ancestral environment, and we do have some clues about what it was like. That environment is certainly what shaped our genome. That is an evolutionary truth.

    My reply: [Sure enough. But you’ve got a supremely limited & yes, clownish view of that ‘ancestral environment’. We live in a current environment too, and that too is shaping our genome. Which is more important & why?]

    We will never be able to get into a time machine and go back to see what we were doing half a million years ago, so we sometimes have to make guesses. It’s not too unlike archaeology. We can never put animals back together with skin and internal organs after all the DNA is gone. But we can make good guesses based on what we know about other animals, and about the area in which fossils were discovered, etc…”

    [The DNA is still present in many of those bones, if we can successfully extract them, which is sometimes possible. What you’re after is the inferred Behavior of same & the prey/predator/scavenger/human interactions that can be as well. But that would involve learning, knowing & doing anthropology & archaeology, too, right?].

    Again, I’m seeing no Ho here, no real hypothesis stated, defended or especially tested. Just a lot of errant ‘philosophizing’. Sorry, that’s really not the scientific method. Just a bunch of suppositions pleasingly arrayed to meet a certain predisposed ‘happy’ & yes stereotypical end. So again. Bad science. Want to see how it’s really done by the pro’s? Try The Journal of Theoretical Biology. Bioscience etc. The ‘specialist’ Ev-psych crowd that’s constantly & incestuously reaffirming their own prejudices? Is not producing real scientific advancement. Just recapitulating ill informed Victorian era navel gazing. Now maybe that’s a ‘beginning phase’ of something. Who knows. But for producing ‘definitive’ or even useful knowledge about human behavior, the causes or origins of same? You’re stuck with ‘Commander McBragg’s’ delightful & entertaining tall tales. Once Again. Cheers, ‘VJ’

    Posted by VJ | March 5, 2010, 12:00 am
  25. VJ, this is not a peer review journal. It’s a blog. I gave you every reference you need. And as I said, I didn’t synthesize anything. Everything I wrote is taken directly from the references I gave. It’s my summary of current research. It’s a freaking book report. Sorry you don’t like it, but if you have a problem with it, you have a problem with the studies I cited, not me.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 5, 2010, 12:54 pm
  26. Still largely bad science as you present it HD. Now if you’d said, this is a review, or ‘this is how I see it’, it might be slightly more understandable. But be that as it may? Some of the references make sense, others, ( principally Dr. Kanazawa) much less so. But to tell others, ‘I want to publish this’ or ‘this is publishable material’ is to allude to something that this clearly is not. But it’s pretty fragmentary stuff as you present it. Some of it makes more sense than others. Some of it of course makes little sense at all too. But I’m not going rounds here on it. It is what it is. How this gets anyone laid more is beyond me too. Cheers, ‘VJ’

    Posted by VJ | March 5, 2010, 8:15 pm

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