We make school kids read "Lord of the Flies"—but it's only half the story.
- The iconic novel "Lord of the Flies" paints a picture of human beings as naturally selfish and prone to conflict, but that is not the most accurate depiction of humanity, argues historian Rutger Bregman.
- Bregman shares a true story from his research about a group of Tongan students who survived on an island together for 15 months in 1965, not through brutal alliances, but by working together and forming a functional community.
- Darwin's observation of domestication syndrome is apparent in humans, argues Bregman; our evolution into friendlier animals can be seen in our biological features and responses. Evolutionarily speaking, being "soft" is actually very smart, and we evolved to cooperate with one another for mutual gain.
Humans help each other in ways animals don't dream of, but why?
- Humans are more altruistic than any other animal, but why is that?
- One theory suggests culture and genetics combined to provide groups that worked well together an edge in competition.
- Others suggest that groups could be subject to evolutionary pressures.
Apparently, what separates man from beast is kindness.<p> There are different kinds of altruism, and examples of them can be seen in both human and animal behavior all the time. "Kin altruism" is when you take actions that cost or harm you but benefit another person that you're related to. A second type, "reciprocal altruism," can occur with people you're not related to, but who you can reasonably expect will be able to return the favor someday. </p><p>From the standpoint of genetic selfishness, both of these forms of altruism make sense. Helping out your kin, with whom you share DNA, promotes the evolutionary success of your genes, even if that success doesn't belong to you specifically. Helping somebody likely to help you later is a kind of "enlightened self-interest" that assures aid to you when you need it. </p><p>However, humans sometimes behave in ways that cannot be easily placed in either of those categories. People often help perfect strangers who will be unlikely to return the favor in the future. Think of the last time you gave a homeless person some change or donated blood. The person you helped probably wasn't related to you, and the likelihood of that person paying you back is relatively low. </p><p>Animals don't act this way; their behavior fits nicely into the above two categories, so how did we come to have such a tendency to act this way?</p>
Naturally, there is more than one kind of selection.<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mvyCKBIT_MI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> <strong><br> </strong>In his essay "<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11229-020-02890-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Explaining human altruism,</a>" Dr. <a href="https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/nl/medewerkers/m-m-p-vlerick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Michael Vlerick</a> of Tilburg University offers a conceptual clarification of what some researchers have called "cultural group selection."<br> <br> When people think of evolution, they often think of the mechanism of natural selection. This is nature acting on the individual, with individuals who have traits that promote survival being "selected" to continue living and to spread their traits. However, other things can cause evolutionary pressure. </p><p>Dr. Vlerick, in previous publications, has argued that, within groups, cultural forces act to select for certain traits. Individuals who demonstrate consistent anti-social behavior are selected against over the long run. Eventually, you're left with a group of individuals who are more pro-social than not. </p><p>In a sense, humanity created social environments that naturally selected for people who weren't total sociopaths. <br> <br> The hypothesis then suggests that this in-group selection dovetails with competition between groups. When a group of individuals that tend to work well together goes head-to-head against one that doesn't, the former is likely to come out on top. In the long run, this leads to more, larger groups of pro-social individuals. If you repeat this endless times throughout human evolution, you end up with an animal capable of helping other members of its species in ways that other animals can't. <br> <br> There are alternatives to this idea. One of them argues that groups, in addition to individuals, can be subject to the pressures of natural selection and that group genetic selection is behind the behavior we observe. Groups of genetically homogeneous individuals compete with each other for resources. Groups that work well together, which are genetically predisposed for altruism and pro-social behavior, tend to out-compete others. </p><p>While this hypothesis could explain what we see, it relies on a few controversial assumptions. Among them, the idea that migrations between groups was extremely limited, and that the genetic differences between these groups were quite substantial. Neither of these points are supported by evidence, and many scientists reject this theory of "genetic group selection." </p><p>The cultural group selection stance does not suffer from these problems as it doesn't depend on either of these assumptions. It allows for migration between groups and requires only that people can choose to be altruistic and pro-social in ways that others cannot, not that they are genetically hardwired to act that way all the time. Groups that decide to emulate successful, pro-social groups can also recreate an environment that selects for people who are willing to help strangers. </p>
Alright, so we evolved for in-group cooperation. What does that mean for us?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4-ZGb2IJhfk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Dr. Vlerick points out that he isn't suggesting that humans are hardwired to be altruistic to everybody all the time. We are not slaves to our genetic tendencies; but we are, in Dr. Vlerick's words, "a particularly cooperative species with an evolved disposition for in-group altruism."</p><p>These dispositions are subject to circumstance and the use of reason. He notes that most people, and even young children, can judge who is behaving fairly or not and, consequently, worthy of being treated <a href="https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(09)00149-1?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661309001491%3Fshowall%3Dtrue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">justly</a>.</p><p>We often find ourselves able to work with groups other than our own in achieving common goals, despite these cooperative and empathetic tendencies having evolved for in-group use. Most people would argue that their ethical systems apply to out-groups as well as whatever groups they place themselves in. This is the result not of evolution, but of the use of reason. <br> <br>We spoke with Dr. Vlerick by email and he explained that this capacity to move beyond the limited cooperation we evolved for will have to be utilized to solve current global issues:<br> <br> "Today we're faced with global problems requiring us to cooperate globally (climate change, mass migration, poverty, COVID-19 pandemic). Our evolved nature does not equip us well to do so; we're wired for in-group cooperation, not global cooperation. But we aren't slaves to our nature, we can overcome our innate tribalism through reasoning, and we have already made massive strides in this respect. It's our moral responsibility to 'become better than our nature'."<br> <br> Humans have an innate capacity for altruism that other animals lack. When combined with our tendency to live in large groups with people we aren't related to and our ability to reason, many people find themselves helping perfect strangers reasonably often. </p><p>Is it all because we built a world where working together is frequently rewarded, and harming others is often punished? Perhaps, but while the exact cause of this disposition to helping others remains unknown, theories on why we are the way we are continue to crop up and provide us new ways of understanding ourselves. </p>
What factors explain the gender pay gap?
- The report was conducted by the investment firm Arjuna Capital, which has been publishing the Gender Pay Scorecard for the past three years.
- Only three companies — Starbucks, Mastercard and Citigroup — received an "A", as defined by the report's methodology.
- It's likely that discrimination explains part of the gender pay gap, but it's a complex issue that often gets oversimplified.
Arjuna Capital<p>Of the 50 companies, only three received an "A" score: Starbucks, Mastercard and Citigroup. Meanwhile, 25 companies received an "F", though it's worth noting that 11 of those 25 companies didn't disclose any data at all.</p><p>Arjuna says shareholders can help close the gender pay gap by pressuring companies to disclose gender pay data.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Investors have effectively used shareholder dialogues and proposals to move this process forward," the report states. "The continued growth of the gender and racial pay gap shareholder campaign, combined with an annual scorecard identifying industry leaders and laggards, will help improve corporate disclosure and practices, advancing the goal of pay equity."</p><p>Arjuna and other parity advocates especially want companies to disclose a specific measure of the gender pay gap: the unadjusted median pay gap, which is the raw difference between the median earnings of men and women. In contrast, the adjusted pay gap controls for factors like age, educational attainment, geography, hours worked and seniority. The adjusted pay gap is almost always narrower than the unadjusted version, so companies tend to prefer reporting this measure.</p>
Arjuna Capital<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Many of the companies in the GPS report both adjusted and unadjusted gaps, but only for U.K. operations," the report states. "In fact, the only companies to report both adjusted and unadjusted median global pay gap numbers are Citigroup, Starbucks and Mastercard."</p><p>For example, Citigroup reported that its adjusted pay gap was only 1 percent, but its global unadjusted median pay gap was much bigger at 27 percent. Starbucks had the lowest median pay gap, paying women 98.3 cents on the dollar versus men, while reporting an adjusted pay gap of zero.</p><p>Arjuna concluded its third annual Gender Pay Scorecard by emphasizing the importance of disclosing gender pay data:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The first step is for companies to analyze their current pay structures and disclose any gaps. Transparently addressing gender and racial pay gaps is essential to achieve pay equity and create more diverse companies."</p>
Does discrimination explain the gender pay gap?<p>It depends on whom you ask. Some say that the bulk of the disparity stems from gender discrimination. Skeptics of the gender pay gap say it's a total myth. Who's closer to the truth?<br></p><p>Obviously, it's complicated. There are many factors you could examine to find causes for the gap. For example, <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/07/for-female-scientists-theres-no-good-time-to-have-children/278165/" target="_blank">pregnant women have to take time off work</a>, and mothers — for complex reasons, some of which are cultural — tend to spend more time caring for children. Both help to lower women's overall earnings. Another potential cause lies in the <a href="https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/more-professionals-are-negotiating-salaries-than-in-the-past.aspx" target="_blank">body of research</a> showing that men are more likely than women to negotiate salaries.</p><p>But one of the most compelling explanations for the gender pay gap is the fact that men and women make different career choices. On the whole, research on earnings between the genders shows that men tend to choose jobs in higher-pay industries, work more hours, work more dangerous jobs, and prioritize earnings over work-life balance.</p><p>Researchers at Harvard University recently conducted a <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/bolotnyy/publications/why-do-women-earn-less-men-evidence-bus-and-train-operators-job-market-paper" target="_blank">study</a> on gender pay disparity that focused on train and bus operators. The researchers wrote:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Women value time away from work and flexibility more than men, taking more unpaid time off using the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and working fewer overtime hours than men. When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men and women work a similar number of hours; but when those hours are offered at the last minute, men work nearly twice as many. When selecting work schedules, women try to avoid weekend, holiday, and split shifts more than men. To avoid unfavorable work times, women prioritize their schedules over route safety and select routes with a higher probability of accidents. Women are less likely than men to game the scheduling system by trading off work hours at regular wages for overtime hours at premium wages."</p><p>The findings align with a major <a href="https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/public-policy/hr-public-policy-issues/Documents/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf" target="_blank">2009 study</a> conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, which examined more than 50 peer-reviewed papers on the nation's gender pay gap. It found that the gender pay gap disparity "may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers."</p>
U.S. Department of Labor<p>But that doesn't prove that gender discrimination is nonexistent in the workplace. After all, even statistically adjusted data shows a gender pay gap. Additionally, biased cultural forces may partly explain why women make certain career choices; for example, some <a href="https://money.cnn.com/2017/02/28/technology/girls-math-science-engineering/index.html" target="_blank">research</a> suggests that women are encouraged not to pursue careers in science and engineering at a young age.</p><p>So, how much does discrimination factor into the gender pay gap? It's hard to say. Some research has found discrimination to be responsible for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/22/gender-pay-gap-discrimination-found-to-be-most-significant-contributor-to-inequality" target="_blank">39 percent</a> of the gender pay gap, while others say discrimination accounts for just a few cents of the disparity. Gender discrimination is simply hard to quantify.</p><p>But what the research does conclusively show is that anyone who says the gender pay gap is completely a myth or completely a societal injustice is oversimplifying the issue. </p>
Some fish evolved legs and walked onto the land. Right?
Evolution explains how all living beings, including us, came to be. It would be easy to assume evolution works by continuously adding features to organisms, constantly increasing their complexity.
The bonding experience is promoted by important neurological changes.
- In the first days and weeks of fatherhood, a man's testosterone and cortisol levels decrease and oxytocin, estrogen, and prolactin levels surge, promoting an important bonding experience between a father and his newborn child.
- One of the most significant changes scientists have observed in the brain of new-dad mice is neurogenesis (the process of new neurons being formed in the brain), directly linked to the time spent with their newborn pup in close proximity.
- Human males also "bulk" their brains, with areas linked to attachment, nurturing and empathy showing increased gray and white matter.
What happens in a man’s brain when he becomes a father…<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MDc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUxNzc4MH0.2suUJAMl_phYFSLZyD3yn9SbznvtmiWWcang5GMGSqA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="292fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="223bd387ed43dbdaa2d6e4c0af472e9e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="high contrast photo of man holding newborn baby fatherhood" />
There is a clear physical connection between a mother and her newborn - but what about fathers?
Photo by Natalia Lebedinskaia on Shutterstock<p>A man's entry into fatherhood isn't accompanied by the same hormonal, physical, and emotional changes that a woman experiences throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood...but the changes that happen in the male brain due to fatherhood are no less important.<br></p><p>In fact, researchers have recently been looking into the connection between a father and his newborn child, and there have been several studies that reveal a man's brain undergoes several changes in the first weeks of fatherhood. </p><p><strong>High functioning in the "emotional processing" networks in the brain. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/05/22/1402569111.abstract?sid=e3887327-4793-48ef-9f22-7cb7d4c82a33" target="_blank">In a 2014 study</a>, researchers compared brain activity in 89 new parents as they watched videos of their children. This study would examine the mothers (who were, in this case, the primary caregivers), fathers who worked outside the home but frequently helped with childcare, and homosexual fathers who raised a child without the help of a female. </p><p>In all three groups, the brain networks that are linked to emotional processing and social understanding were highly active. One of the most important notes from this study is that the fathers who raised a child without a female's assistance showed almost identical emotional processing signals in the brain that caregiver mothers did.</p><p><strong>Testosterone decreases, estrogen increases, causing a surprising effect...<br></strong></p><p>Psychologist Elizabeth Gould (and her colleagues from <a href="https://www.livescience.com/33513-men-vs-women-our-physical-differences-explained.html" target="_blank">Princeton University</a>) have conducted a series of studies that show there is an increase in estrogen, oxytocin, prolactin, and glucocorticoids in both animal and human fathers.</p><p>Several studies (including <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2811%2962407-5/abstract" target="_blank">this 2001 study by the Department of Biology</a> at Queen's University in Ontario) have shown the male testosterone (known as the male sex hormone) and cortisol (a stressor hormone) levels to dip in the first weeks of fatherhood.</p><p>While estrogen has been considered the female sex hormone, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854098/" target="_blank">estradiol</a> (the predominant form of estrogen) plays a key role in nurturing behaviors and male sexual function. When this form of estrogen is present in the male system, it promotes more nurturing behaviors in the father.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970346/" target="_blank">Prolactin</a> (referred to as the "mom hormone", as it is used in the female system to promote lactation) also spikes in new fathers. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0018506X02918404" target="_blank">According to a 2002 study</a>, lowered testosterone levels and heightened prolactin levels in the male brain are associated with emotional responses to infant cries in new fathers.</p><p><strong>Oxytocin spikes in new mothers, fathers, and babies - promoting bonding and empathy within the whole family unit.</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/oxytocin" target="_blank">Oxytocin</a>, commonly known as "the love hormone", also surges in the male system after the birth of a child. This hormone surge has proven to promote bonding, empathy, and altruism in the new father.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22795645" target="_blank">This 2012 study</a> where fathers who inhaled oxytocin (subsequently spiking the oxytocin levels in their bloodstream) proved that new fathers who experienced these changes in hormone levels were more engaging with their newborns.</p><p>The researchers also concluded that this spike in oxytocin also had an impact on the newborn as well—their oxytocin levels also spiked.</p>
The brains of new-dad mice develop new neurons that help improve their memory and navigation systems<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MDc1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTExNzQ2Nn0.qot_vuuGYDcoybNheum929IQGUqee2yv7XEYVg3ZvDE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="c7627" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="301ccc0d0757c4baf651db2a94eba6b9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Conceptual illustration of neuron cells with glowing link knots neurogenesis fatherhood" />
Neurogenesis (the process of forming new neurons) occurs in the male brain in the first days of fatherhood...
Image by Rost9 on Shutterstock<p>One of the most significant changes scientists have observed in the brain of a new-dad mouse is neurogenesis (the process of new neurons being formed in the brain). The new neurons that are formed have been proved to be directly linked to the time spent with their newborn pup in close proximity.<br></p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20453850" target="_blank">In this 2010 study</a>, neurogenesis took place in male mice in the first few days following the birth of their pups. However, this extra boost of brain cells only happened in the mice that stayed in the nest. Other male mice, who were removed on the day of their pup's birth, showed no new neuron changes. </p><p>When the researchers allowed the father to be close to the pups without physical contact (placing a mesh barrier between them), no additional neurons appeared, proving the father had to be physically present in the nest and interacting with his pups to experience neurogenesis. You can read more about this interesting experiment in <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brains-of-our-fathers/" target="_blank"><em>Scientific American</em></a>. </p><p>One of the new sets of brain cells formed were located in the "olfactory bulb", which is responsible for how we process different smells and odors, and these new neurons were specifically tuned into the smell of the mice's new pups. </p><p>Another of the new sets of brain cells grew in the hippocampus, which is the part of the limbic system in our brain that plays a role in memory and navigation.</p><p>Fatherhood also adds more gray and white matter to the areas of the brain that affect attachment.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144350/" target="_blank">A 2014 study conducted at the University of Denver</a> by developmental neuroscientist Dr. Pilyoung Kim examined 16 new dads, once between the first 2-4 weeks of becoming a father and again between weeks 12-16.</p><p>This study revealed not only hormone changes, but physical changes to the male brain during the first months as a father. Certain areas (the parts of the brain that are linked to attachment, nurturing and empathy) showed more gray and white matter in the later tests. </p><p>This "bulking" of the brain, according to Dr. Kim, reflects a ramping up of parental skills in new fathers.<em> "</em>This anatomical change in the brain may support the fathers' gradual learning experience over a period of many months<em>,"</em> says Dr. Kim. </p><p>It's incredible to know that in each new, attentive father's brain there is a special set of neurons that are dedicated to fatherhood and exist solely because of his child.</p>