The Adapted Mind book notes, part 2

Here was the first installment, and here are the rest of my notes. As always unless there are brackets please assume that it is a direct quote:

  • Women who make more money tend to value monetary and professional status of mates more than those who make less money.
  • Those individuals who rise to the top of organizations tend to be bright, initiating, self-assured, decisive, masculine, assertive, persuasive, and ambitious.
  • In comparison to high-dominance people, low-dominants smile more often (a gesture of appeasement), are less likely to infringe on another’s personal space, and are more likely to look away from the gaze of others, eyes downcast. Whereas submissives tend to exhibit a drawn-in, slouching posture, dominants tend to have an upright bearing, shoulders straight and head thrown back, and to move with a general ease and freedom of body movements.
  • Man’s view of woman as “proprietary” is more than a metaphor: some of the same mental algorithms are apparently activated in the marital and mercantile spheres.
  • Women, unlike our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees, have no conspicuous signal of ovulation and relatively little cyclicity of sexual activity. [Possibly because]… the evolving human female was not strictly monogamous.
  • Men’s testes are substantially larger, relative to body size, than those of gorillas, a species in which males are polygynous but females mate monogamously so that “sperm competition” within the female reproductive tract is absent. The idea is that such sperm competition selects for high sperm counts and ejaculate volumes and that men evolved in a sexual selective milieu where sperm competition was more extreme than in gorillas.
  • Our best guess about the sort of reproductive system in which the human psyche evolved, and to which it is adapted, is one in which mateships were predominantly but not exclusively monogamous, paternal investment was significant, and the variance in reproductive success was slightly greater among men than among women.
  • Pregnancy sickness appears to be a lowering of the threshold on the mother’s normal food aversion system, which causes her to avoid or expel previously acceptable foods that can be tolerated by her body but that are too high in toxins for the developing embryo.
  • Current hunter-gatherer feeding ecology (although an imperfect model) is characterized by experimentation with a diverse array of food sources.
  • Human sensory mechanisms may use toxic diversity as a cue to dietary diversity, so that adding spices to foods mimics the sensation of dietary diversity. Dietary diversity not only ensures adequate nutrition, but prevents overexposure to any one toxin.
  • The invention of cooking, which occurred in the middle Pleistocene, expanded the range of plants that could be made edible and thus the range of toxins that humans could include in their diets.
  • Nursing and/or carrying twins alone are impossible tasks in many traditional societies; one twin infant is often killed at birth. Usually, either the male or the healthier twin is permitted to live.
  • Since the vertebrate eye initially evolved in water, it is sensitive only to a narrow band of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, the “spectrum of visible light,” which is transmitted through water without significant attenuation.
  • Four features increase the reliability of signal detection in noisy environments: 1) redundancy, 2) conspicuousness, 3) small repertoires, and 4) alerting components.
  • [What is the evolutionary reason for play fighting? Interesting explanations are offered.]
  • The vocal-auditory channel has some desirable features as a medium of communication: It has a high bandwidth, its intensity can be modulated to conceal the speaker or to cover large distances, and it does not require light, proximity, a face-to-face orientation, or tying up the hands. However, it is essentially a serial interface, lacking the full two-dimensionality needed to convey graph of tree structures and typographical devices such as fonts, subscripts, and brackets.
  • In the evolution of the language faculty many “arbitrary” constraints may have been selected simply because they defined parts of a standardized communicative code in the brains of some critical mass of speakers… It is highly adaptive for each member of a community of speakers to be forced to learn to do it the same way as all the other members.
  • In different organisms [the brain] has evolved the ability to perform the computations necessary for pollen-source communication, celestial navigation, Doppler-shift echolocation, stereopsis, controlled flight, dam building, sound mimicry, and face recognition.
  • There is no reason to think that if you simply pile more and more neurons into a circuit or more and more circuits into a brain that computationally interesting abilities would just emerge. It seems more likely that you would end up with a big random pattern generator. Neural network modeling efforts have suggested that complex computational abilities require either extrinsically imposed design or numerous richly structured inputs during learning or both.
  • Mutant fruit flies can have a full leg growing where an antenna should be, and the evolution of new taxa with different numbers of appendages from their ancestors is often attributed to such homeotic mutations.
  • [Don’t underestimate the complexity of the life or the linguistic necessities of hunter gatherers, hunting, tracking, and foraging are non-trivial tasks.]
  • Although the red and violet spectral colors differ the most widely in physical wavelength, these colors appear more similar to each other than either does to the green of an intermediate wavelength, [this leads to Newton’s color circle.]
  • Sex differences for incidental learning of locations in a naturalistic setting were most striking, however; female’s mean scores exceeded males’ by 60 to 70%, for both measures of recognition and recall.
  • Water is the one resource that is relatively scarce and unpredictably distributed on the African savannas.
  • [Freud] unflinchingly documented the selfish, aggressive, and sexual impulses he found at the root of human motivation.
  • Women are better than men at decoding body language, but men are better at noting discrepancies between communication channels that may indicate deception.
  • We do not seek reciprocity relationships that involve the mere trading of favors. Instead, we seek relationships based on apparently irrational emotional bonds. Because friends allow debts beyond the available collateral, they provide help when times are hard, which is, of course, when it is needed most.
  • [Most of our species’s history was characterized by egalitarianism among males.] Stratification mus therefore be relatively recent. If we assume that our species is on the order of 200,000 years old, then it is likely that stratification has been typical of our societies for less than 10% of that period.
  • Whenever a society achieves a relationship among its population density, environment, and technology such that surplus production of food and other goods reliably results, the psychology of our species makes it very likely that social inequality, and, eventually, social stratification will soon follow. [Social exchanges lead to dominance by a few which leads to nepotism.]

You can find the book on Amazon here. Even if some of the topics are not necessary to know in and of themselves, they are useful practice in thinking and reasoning evolutionarily.