Oxytocin - evolutionary incentive?
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone. There are many ways to release oxytocin - a massage, an orgasm, cuddling, breast feeding, and touch in general. It is the evolutionary glue that keeps us coming back for more (let's not discount dopamine, though). It facilitates our ability to be a (relatively) monogamous species and also pair-bonding between mother and offspring. But, are these it's only roles?
I was thinking the other day about Major Histocompatibility Complexes (MHC). MHC is a group of genes that determine our immune system's ability to recognize pathogens as such. MHC variation in homo sapiens sapiens' (our) gene pool varies widely. It is evolutionarily advantageous for us to mate with someone who has a MHC that is different than ours. That way, our offspring's immune system is ready to ward off a larger number of pathogens. Interestingly, the phenotype of our MHC is our body odor. The range of variability in our potential mates' MHC that would be advantageous to our offspring is hard-wired into our olfactory bulb. Thus, if you like the smell of someone (sans cologne, deodorant and anything else that masks the body's true odor), you can be fairly certain that your MHC's have a relatively wide margin of variation. But, really - how often do you get close enough to someone to know that they smell good? Surely oxytocin can facilitate this interaction.
But, then again, which came first - the chicken or the egg? This is just a hypothesis, and it does appear that facilitating monogamy and pair-bonding between mother and offspring is oxytocin's primary role. But if my hypothesis is true, it would certainly enhance oxytocin's fecundity over evolutionary time.
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The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."
- A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
- In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
- The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
- Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
- Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
- But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
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