Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
  • Researchers in the Czech Republic ranked 25 animals we fear most in a new online survey.
  • While predatory animals evoke fear, they rarely raise our sense of disgust.
  • By contrast, parasites, spiders, and snakes make us fearful and repulsed.
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Surprising Science

Did humanity evolve to have psychopaths?

Psychopaths are manipulative, violent, impulsive, and lack empathy — but research suggests that psychopathy may be an evolutionary strategy rather than a disorder.

Photo credit: Isai Ramos on Unsplash
  • It's tempting to think of psychopathy as a kind of aberrant mental condition, but several studies suggest that it may be an evolutionary strategy.
  • A study compared the genetic profiles of psychopaths with individuals who were more likely to have children younger and more frequently and found significant overlap.
  • This suggests that the qualities that bring about psychopathy are also qualities that encourage more frequent reproduction, making psychopathy an advantageous strategy.
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Surprising Science

Why we prefer people just like us. And why that may be dangerous.

In general, birds of a feather do tend to flock together.

  • It's common for people to form groups of like minded individuals who also have similar abilities.
  • Evolution confers advantages on heterogeneous groups of people and groups with diverse talent sets.
  • Prizing individual identity ahead of group identity also helps counteract tribalistic politics.


Videos

The return of the 'stoned ape' theory

A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consciousness is revived.

Photo credit: Elena Schweitzer / procy / Shutterstock / Big Think
  • Terence McKenna first proposed psychedelic mushrooms as the trigger for our rapid cognitive evolution.
  • McKenna's theory was called the "Stoned Ape Hypothesis."
  • The hypothesis is being revisited as a possible answer to a vexxing evolutionary riddle.
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Mind & Brain

A pleasure to burn: Why do people like spicy foods?

Spicy foods are enjoyed the world over, but scientists don't know why people partake in culinary masochism.

Image source: Pixabay
  • Humans are the only animals known to willingly eat foods that cause irritation, discomfort, and even pain.
  • Theories for why range from thrill-seeking behavior to an evolutionary adaptation for seeking foods that reduce pathogens.
  • Taste results from an interplay of genes, culture, memory, and personality, a complex design that scientists are only now beginning to understand.
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Culture & Religion