Tag Archives: evolution

Winning Ali’s Heart: How men on The Bachelorette use gossip to improve their status

 

 

By Erica Zaiser

If you have been watching the new season of reality show The Bachelorette(don’t lie, I am sure you have), you know that in just a few episodes it has become clear that this season is rife with drama for the male contestants vying for Ali Fedotowsky’s attention. Much of the show relies on gossip about other contestants to the camera. Recently, gossiping about male rivals to Ali herself has been more evident. Furthermore, alliances are being formed with certain contestants being ostracized from the group because of damaging stories regarding their personal motives being spread through between-contestant gossip.

Evolutionary psychologists have long been interested in the evolutionary purpose of spreading gossip. Some researchers suggest that it may be a strategy for improving one’s status. In one study, researchers looked at the type of gossip people are more likely to spread and to whom. Not surprisingly negative stories are more likely to be spread when they are about rivals but positive stories are more for allies. You are least likely to spread a positive story about a rival and men are more likely to gossip with romantic partners than male friends. Also, the researchers found that certain information (sex and health topics in particular) about romantic partners is considered more worth “spreading ” than other types of gossip. Negative and particularly damaging information was considered the most juicy gossip when it concerned same-sex rivals (for both genders). According to the researchers, through gossip, we build our alliances and knock down our competition by spreading negative information about our rivals and building up our own “team’s” reputation by promoting positive stories about friends.

So, the men on the Bachelorette are not just gossiping for the entertainment value of reality TV. Instead, they are using gossip to promote their own agenda with the other men (by creating alliances which will probably allow them more access to future gossip). Then they use gossip to improve their chances with Ali by letting her in on all the dirty news about the competition.

Read More: Who Do We Tell and Whom Do We Tell On? The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2007

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The Bottom Line

What determines the importance of fairness, particularly to strangers?  There are no incentives to play fair when dealing with people we don’t know, aren’t related to, and will never interact with again. Evolutionary psychologist might point to carryover effects of living in smaller communities in our distant past. A recent study led by Joseph Henrich hopes to clarify the issue postulating that there is more to it than simply inheriting fairness attitudes. The research team implemented a Social Dilemma like game called Dictator and administered it to a wide variety of populations. They found that modern living Missourians were most likely to share while hunter-gatherer societies, such as those in the Serengeti or the Amazon, were less likely to do so. One might think that these smaller communities would foster a greater sense of social responsibility and be more willing to share but the researchers point out that while there are clear rules and norms for sharing among kin or ingroup members, a sense of responsibility to the other may be absent when dealing with strangers.  Practices and norms emphasizing fairness to strangers have developed in other societies and this research points to “market integration” as a possible explanation as this factor was the strongest predictor of fairness attitudes. Market integration was operationalized as the amount of food purchased.  In communities where food is hunted, found, or grown people are less likely and willing to share with strangers. But when food is purchased it makes sense that systems would need to develop where strangers (consumers and sellers) can trust one another. The consumer market can’t function is everyone acts selfishly and treats others as if they will act the same. Oddly enough it seems that trust and fairness develop in some cases because they are economically advantageous.

Suggestions for a New Integration in the Psychology of Morality (Sunar, 2009)

Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment

Moral Lessons, Down Aisle 9

 

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How we are moral

In November 2009, the Philippine Commission on Elections issued a disqualification against an LGBT partylist group, accusing it of advocating immorality. This in turn, triggered an ‘I Am Not Immoral’ campaign by members of the LGBT community and supporters. The issue of morality, according to Steven Pinker pervades all aspects of our lives, and he refers to moral goodness, as ‘something that makes us feel worthy as human beings’. Morality has been deemed universal and yet culturally expressed. Pinker identifies five aspects of morality: harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity, acknowledging that each culture may choose to give more preference to any aspect over another.
Krebs (2008) looks into the evolutionary beginnings of morality and discusses adaptations in the brain brought on by both early and modern circumstances. These early circumstances have caused certain adaptations, decision making strategies, that are triggered in modern events that evoke familiarity of setting, such as the need for certain responses such as obedience, conformity or others. One also must understand the adaptive functions of morality in order to understand what it is. Using the evolutionary theory, morality is when an individual’s genetic self-interest is promoted through a genuine concern for the welfare of others.

Krebs (2008). Morality: An Evolutionary Account. Perspectives in Psychological Science

The Moral Instinct (Steven Pinker)

Gays legally deemed immoral and a danger to youth



Photo: “Innocence so suffocating, now she cannot move” by Samantha Rose Pollari, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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Guns, race and evolution.

The recent shooting of American soldiers by a Muslim American military psychiatrist at Fort Hood made many Muslim Americans fear that this single attack in Texas will undermine the progress that has been made in relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans. They are worried that the outgroup homogeneity would lead people to make the false assumption that a Muslim man committing a crime is representative of other Muslims. Their worries may have a good reason.

Humans are a tribal species. The social psychological literature on intergroup relations is rich and diverse. For example, studies demonstrated that people make spontaneous ingroup-outgroup categorization and favor ingroup over outgroup members in a wide variety of situations. Furthermore, people have a specific stance with respect to outgroups and intergroup situations. When intergroup relations are salient, people readily show prejudice against members of outgroups and find it easy to morally justify  intergroup aggression and violence. The traditional explanation of these phenomena focuses on people’s ingroup psychology. That is, being a highly social and cooperative species, humans likely possess tendencies to exalt the ingroup. As a byproduct of favoring ingroups, people will show indifference toward, or worse, a dislike for outgroups. Recently, Mark Van Vugt and Justin H. Park offered another explanation that treated negativity toward outgroups as psychological tendencies –warfare and disease avoidance. More specifically, people are more likely to infrahumanize (e.g. denying outgroup member’s typical human qualities such as politeness and civility) members of outgroups, particularly when these outgroups constitute a coalitional treat. Moreover, for people within any given culture, certain outgroups may appear especially foreign with respect to disease-relevant domains, such as food preparation and hygiene practices. Because each culture has developed (via cultural evolution) its own set of practices for preventing infection, cultures with different practices – especially in the domains of food preparation and hygiene – may be perceived as posing disease threats. Thus, the perception of outgroups, particularly those that are subjectively foreign, may activate disease avoidance responses.

The evolutionary framework also makes various suggestions for interactions to improve intergroup relations, such as altering the perceptual cues that elicit threat responses toward particular outgroups,  or changing the specific cognitive and affective responses toward outgroups.

In the wake of Fort Hood: Prejudice is not the answer.

 

Mark Van Vugt & Justin H. Park. (2009). Guns, Germs, and Sex: How Evolution Shaped Our Intergroup Psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3,927-938.

Gender, spiders, and media

090908_spiderOf the literally thousands of scientific journal articles published every month, only a select few receive media attention. From among the new research, the BBC recently chose to report on an infant study claiming a disproportionate fear of spiders among women.

The study reportedly showed 20 babies—10 boy and 10 girl—pictures of spiders paired with happy versus fearful human faces. The girls “looked longer” at the picture of the spider/happy face, evidently showing “that the young girls were confused as to why someone would be happy” when paired with a spider.

The BBC follows the leap of the researcher to conclude that evolutionary biology determines that women (who were “natural child protectors”) are more likely to be afraid of animals.

Notwithstanding the alleged evolutionary implications (some research has linked phobias to nurture, rather than nature), research has shown links between gender stereotypes and media content. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology even revealed measurable effects on cognition from exposure to stereotyped commercials.

It’s frightening, to say the least, that behavior might be related to gender stereotypes. While doubtful that pre-arachniphobe females will read the BBC article, existing gender stereotypes are still reinforced, while all of those other scientific articles remain unnoticed.