Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Is beauty a measure of effort?

I read an article called the The makeover trap, and one of its quotes,

“What is valorised in makeover culture is not the finished look but the willingness to undertake the neverending process of beautification”

got me to wondering why we would spend so much of our limited resources (time, effort and money) to look good in general.

It’s well known that like the peacock’ oversized tail, many in the animal kingdom have elaborate courtship rituals and/or have fancy features to prove the superiority of their genes, essentially advertising “I can survive and thrive and even have extra energy for unnecessary (and sometimes even hindering) features/actions”.  Is it the same instinct in humans, trying to demonstrate their superiority by proving that they can succeed in life AND have the extra resources to keep themselves looking beautiful?  Many aspects of what we find beautiful is directly related to how much effort it takes, from a well-toned body (daily workouts) to hairstyle, make-up, home furnishings, etc.. Even in fashion, clothes that look like a lot of effort went into creating, are often considered more beautiful.

How much of your time and resources is spent on looking good?  Would you be happier if you could spend even more resources?

 

January 28, 2017 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, evolutionary psychology | | Leave a comment

Women can navigate better on testosterone

There is an evolutionary explanation.

Women can navigate better when given testosterone, study finds

Wait… what?

Peter Dockrill |11 DEC 2015 | Science Alert
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December 30, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, evolutionary psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

No anger when the boat is empty

I came across this zen parable about anger:

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

The Empty Boat by Chuang Tzu (excerpt)

It made me think about why we even have an emotion we call anger on the first place, evolutionarily speaking, and why we don’t get angry at an empty boat.  It’s probably an incentive to ensure you will not get hurt again, physically or mentally (I’d consider threats to your social status a form of mental pain).

For example, if you get cut off in traffic (or a boat hits your skiff), you’d get angry because it’s an automatic assumption that someone is deliberately trying reduce your social status by putting himself to be more important than you.  Anger would incentivize you for revenge or confrontation to ensure that the person will never do that again to you.  In a tribal society, such revenge/confrontation would likely work to guarantee a better future for you as you will be dealing with the person responsible on a daily basis.  But in our society, where we are dealing with people that we may never see again, it has the exact opposite effect: your actions of chasing the car that cut you off could put you at risk of an accident, physical harm and even jail.  The person responsible is someone whom you will probably never see again so cannot possibly hurt you again, whether you got angry or not.  So rationally speaking, your actions and anger would be wasted and would reduce your quality of life (you could have been doing something you enjoyed instead).

It would make sense then to think of other cars in traffic (or any people you will likely never see again) as empty boats — just automatons doing things for themselves, without giving you a thought.  Don’t be self-destructive — save yourself the costs of getting angry when it has no positive effects for you.

(Not everyone would stay calm at an empty boat. There are people who would try to find a scapegoat no matter what, and get angry at whoever was responsible for not tying up the empty boat on the first place. Anger in overdrive? Is it possible it will eventually be classified as a psychological condition?)

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, evolutionary psychology, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Why Gloom Trumps Glad

Michael Shermer’s article makes several excellent points to remember at election time.

For one, we react to the bad news more than the good, because

“… in our evolutionary past there was an asymmetry of payoffs in which the fitness cost of overreacting to a threat was less than the fitness cost of underreacting. The world was more dangerous in our evolutionary past, so it paid to be risk-averse and highly sensitive to threats, and if things were good, then the status quo was worth maintaining…”

And politicians’ messages boil down to

““once upon a time things were bad, and now they’re good thanks to our party” or “once upon a time things were good, but now they’re bad thanks to the other party.””

Worth a read.

Why Gloom Trumps Glad

Michael Shermer | November 2016

November 2, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, evolutionary psychology, politics, psychology, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Toxic Masculinity

Are mass shootings  temper tantrums of low self-esteem, sexually frustrated males rather than a result of religious or political ideology ? This article makes a good case for it.  Check out the “conversation” on the original page for some thought-provoking counterpoints.

The weaponised loser

Mass shootings have one thing in common: toxic masculinity. Where does it come from and what can be done to stop it?

Stephen T Asma | aeon | 27 June, 2016

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July 9, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, evolutionary psychology, psychology, sociology, terrorism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Snap: From Road Rage to Barroom Brawls

“…Most violent behavior, Fields discovered, results from a clash between our evolutionary hardwiring and our modern world…”

Watch the video.

Why We Snap: From Road Rage to Barroom Brawls

By Carl Engelking | January 13, 2016 2:03 pm | Discover Blogs

January 21, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience | , , , | Leave a comment

It’s ok to be irrational — as long as you know it

Would we make better decisions if we knew we are acting on the same decision-making principles as slime molds? The article below argues yes.

Yes, You’re Irrational, and Yes, That’s OK

By David Berreby | February 26, 2015 | Nautilus

The insight that will save you from being manipulated. Continue reading

October 2, 2015 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, economics, evolutionary psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do we lie to ourselves?

Book by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, addresses the question.  Partial answer (and book review) below.

Lying to Yourself Helps You Lie to Others

The science of self-deceit is more than a matter of evolutionary curiosity. Sometimes, it’s a question with life or death consequences.

By Paul Raeburn | December 17, 2013 | Discover magazine

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April 18, 2015 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, evolutionary psychology, psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Testicle size ‘link to father role’

Ladies, if you are looking for good father/husband material, go for small-balled men. At least if you believe the study described in this article from BBC:

Testicle size ‘link to father role’

9 September 2013

A link between the size of a father’s testicles and how active he is in bringing up his children has been suggested by scientists.

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September 10, 2013 Posted by | evolutionary psychology, psychology, sociology | , , , | Leave a comment

Teen brains made for risk

Good article explaining how risky teenage behaviour is not from lack of knowledge, but a different way of evaluating consequences.  From Discover magazine, 2011 March:

The Brain: The Trouble With Teens

Fast driving, drugs, and unsafe sex: The risk-loving behavior of adolescents may result from a neurological gap in the developing brain.

by Carl Zimmer

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October 10, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, evolutionary psychology | , , | Leave a comment