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

Why your favourite film baddies all have a truly evil laugh

What's the role of evil in storytelling?

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Night, Christopher Nolan, 2008

Towards the end of the Disney film Aladdin (1992), our hero's love rival, the evil Jafar, discovers Aladdin's secret identity and steals his magic lamp. Jafar's wish to become the world's most powerful sorcerer is soon granted, and he then uses his powers to banish Aladdin to the ends of the Earth.

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Mind & Brain