“Hundreds of studies have shown that people overrate their health, leadership ability, intelligence, professional competence, sporting prowess, and managerial skills. People also hold the nonsensical belief that they are inherently lucky. Most people think they are more likely than the average person to attain a good first job, to have gifted children, and to live to a ripe old age. They also think that they are less likely than the average person to be the victim of an accident, crime, disease, depression, unwanted pregnancy, or earthquake.”


“…the human mind does not stick to abstract reasoning for long. It tends to backslide into evolutionarily prepared and emotionally charged categories.”


What Really Drives Behavior — The Seeking System


The Seeking System — This seems an important system to us because it appears to drive all behavior. ALL behavior.  It also appears that self-harming behaviors, like addictions, are due to genetially/inherited impaired and broken brain seeking systems.

Seeking System — A major part of the Seeking system runs from a part of the midbrain via a bundle of in the middle of the brain (the medial forebrain bundle) to the lateral hypothalamus, and from there up to the ventral striatum, a major part of the so-called reptilian brain. The striatum is composed of many parallel tracts (giving it a striated appearance), and it is buried deep in the cerebral hemispheres and densely connected to the frontal lobes.

Neuroscientists today believe that the system underlies wanting or craving rather than actual pleasure.   The Seeking system is held together not just by wiring but by chemistry. Continue reading

The Basic Areas of Human Biology Study


Human beings are the products of millions of years of evolution by natural selection. Sometime in the last 5 million years, natural selection created a creature with a very large brain that walked upright, was adept at making and using tools, developed language, and came to rely heavily on imitation, social learning, and culture. Biological anthropologists study all facets of this process. Biological anthropology is interesting and important because an evolutionary perspective provides a rich source of insight about why we are the way we are.

The program in biological anthropology at UCLA focuses on four areas of research:

  • Evolutionary Theory: Mathematical studies of how evolutionary processes work.
  • Primate Behavior: Field studies of free ranging primates that aim to show how natural selection has molded the bodies and behavior of our closest living relatives.
  • Hominid Evolution: Studies of the fossil and archaeological record which help us understand the ecological and social factors that have shaped human evolutionary history.
  • Evolutionary Psychology and Ecology: Field and laboratory studies of of contemporary human psychology and behavior rooted in the evolutionary paradigm.

…we place strong emphasis on evolutionary processes that mold behavior. (We) are commited to understanding how these processes have shaped the behavior of living primates, fossil hominids, and contemporary humans. We take the role of culture seriously..(and) share an interest in how and why culture emerged, and how culture interacts with other processes to shape behavior.

from http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/bioanthro/

The 4 Questions for All Things Biological


The Nobel Prize winning ethologist, Nikko Tinbergen, identified four logically distinct questions about a biological phenomenon:

  • What is its function? 
  • What is its evolutionary history? 
  • How does it work? 
  • How does it develop?

Forget Nurture — May Be Only Nature/Genetics — NYT


Genes Play Major Role in Primate Social Behavior, Study Finds


Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree.

The scientists, at the University of Oxford in England, looked at the evolutionary family tree of 217 primate species whose social organization is known. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, challenge some of the leading theories of social behavior, including:

  • That social structure is shaped by environment — for instance, a species whose food is widely dispersed may need to live in large groups.
  • That complex societies evolve step by step from simple ones.
  • And the so-called social brain hypothesis: that intelligence and brain volume increase with group size because individuals must manage more social relationships.

By contrast, the new survey emphasizes the major role of genetics in shaping sociality. Being rooted in genetics, social structure is hard to change, and a species has to operate with whatever social structure it inherits. Continue reading

1 Trait Has Huge Impact On Whether Alcohol Makes You Aggressive: Ignoring Future Consequences


1 Trait Has Huge Impact On Whether Alcohol Makes You Aggressive

Bottom Line
“If you carefully consider the consequences of your actions, it is unlikely getting drunk is going to make you any more aggressive than you usually are.”

Drinking enough alcohol to become intoxicated increases aggression significantly in people who have one particular personality trait, according to new research. But people without that trait don’t get any more aggressive when drunk than they would when they’re sober.  That trait is the ability to consider the future consequences of current actions. Continue reading