The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'nature vs. nurture'
Evolutionary biologist Carl Zimmer looks at evidence suggesting that romantic love is a biological adaptation, and is not unique to humans; a far cry from the blank-slater hypothesis that romantic love is a cultural construct invented by mediæval troubadors and/or Mills & Boon, and before that everything was unromantically practical arranged marriages and dynastic property transactions:
There are reasons to conclude that romance as well was shaped by the unsentimental hand of evolution. We humans don't have a monopoly on oxytocin and other molecules linked to feeling in love. Love may switch on reward pathways in our brains, but other animals have similar--if simpler--reward pathways too.
In her experiments, Haselton finds evidence for love as an adaptation. She and her colleagues have people think about how much they love someone and then try to suppress thoughts of other attractive people. They then have the same people think about how much they sexually desire those same partners and then try again to suppress thoughts about others. It turns out that love does a much better job of pushing out those rivals than sex does. Haselton argues that this effect is exactly what you'd expect if sex was a drive to reproduce and love was a drive to form a long-term commitment.
(via Mind Hacks)
A pair of 35 year-old identical twins met for the first time, after having been raised apart without knowing of each others' existence, as part of a psychological experiment:
"It was a relief I think for both of us that we were not carbon copies. As similar as we looked when we compared pictures of ourselves as kids, as adults we have our own distinct style."
"We had the same favourite book and the same favourite film, Wings of Desire," says Elyse. "It was amazing," says Paula. "We felt we were conducting our own informal study on nature versus nurture in a way".Which raises the question: how do you know that the way you live, and what you accept as normal today, is not actually part of some psychological experiment?
An economist at Yale is experimenting with training monkeys to use currency, with some success:
The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.
Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance, the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded rationally to tests like this -- that is, they responded the way most readers of The Times would respond. In economist-speak, the capuchins adhered to the rules of utility maximization and price theory: when the price of something falls, people tend to buy more of it.The experiments have not only shown that monkeys grasp the idea of money and basic economic principles (whilst succumbing to the same probabilistic fallacies people do), but have also demonstrated the emergence of behaviours including stealing and prostitution, entirely unprompted:
During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)
This just in: psychological studies find that differences between men and women are, for the most part, negligible. This includes in areas commonly considered to be gendered, such as communications, spatial reasoning and assertiveness.
Dr Hyde said gender differences accounted for either no or a very small effect for most of the psychological variables examined. She said only throwing distance and physical aggression showed marked gender differences.It turns out that there are stereotypical male and female behaviours -- but they disappear as soon as the actor is not identified by sex:
Dr Hyde highlighted one study where participants were told that they were not identified as male or female nor wore any identification, which led to neither sex conforming to a stereotyped image when given the opportunity to act aggressively.
They actually did the opposite to what was expected - they did not stick to the stereotype of aggressive males and passive females.
When men experience stress, they respond with a flight-or-fight reaction; when women experience stress, they respond by maintaining friendships with other women:
Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.
(I'm not so sure that stressed men don't experience the impulse to talk about it with friends; though maybe when they do, it's the result of a modern living and/or oestrogen-like chemicals in the water supply turning them into a bunch of big girls' blouses. Which ties into the whole nature-vs.-nurture debate.)
The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.
The article suggests that this difference between men's and women's responses to stress could be the reason why women outlive men on average.
Nature/nurture: According to a Canadian study that looked at sets of identical twins, some personality traits (such as tendency to read and beliefs on the death penalty) are genetically influenced, whereas other traits (such as beliefs on gender roles and propensities for playing bingo) seem to have no genetic connection.