Chronicles of the Lifeworld

lifeworld–the world of everyday life; the world as experienced.

Archive for August 2010

Social Constructions Have Biological Consequences

Anthropologist Peter Frost has an article in the latest issue of Evolutionary Psychology which explains how the rise of the state selected for peacefulness and submissiveness in male populations at the expense of violent predispositions. This appears to be a case in which a social construction resulted in a change in genotypes in a population. In other words, this is a case of nurture leading directly to nature.

Here’s Frost’s abstract:

Over the last 10,000 years, the human genome has changed at an accelerating rate. The change seems to reflect adaptations to new social environments, including the rise of the State and its monopoly on violence. State societies punish young men who act violently on their own initiative. In contrast, non-State societies usually reward such behavior with success, including reproductive success. Thus, given the moderate to high heritability of male aggressiveness, the State tends to remove violent predispositions from the gene pool while favoring tendencies toward peacefulness and submission.

This perspective is applied here to the Roman state, specifically its long-term effort to pacify the general population. By imperial times, this effort had succeeded so well that the Romans saw themselves as being inherently less violent than the “barbarians” beyond their borders. By creating a pacified and submissive population, the empire also became conducive to the spread of Christianity—a religion of peace and submission. In sum, the Roman state imposed a behavioral change that would over time alter the mix of genotypes, thus facilitating a subsequent ideological change.


Written by Cody

August 5, 2010 at 13:53

Conservatives and Liberals: Intelligence

Using data from the General Social Survey, I put together some demographic and attitudinal statistics of those who label themselves liberals and conservatives. I used the POLVIEWS variable as my base variable and checked it against demographic and attitudinal variables.

You can replicate these findings by going here and placing POLVIEWS in the column field and the following variables in the row field.

Over the next few days I will post more demographic and attitudinal differences between liberals and conservatives, such as age, views on race, views on abortion, etc.

Intelligence and Political Views

Varible: WORDSUM; Recoded: WORDSUM(r:0-3″Below 4″;4;5;6;7;8;9;10)

The WORDSUM variable can be used as a proxy for IQ. Data for this variable was gathered by administering a vocabulary test to respondents. Though a ten question vocabulary would not appear to measure much, Razib Khan found an academic paper that showed a positive correlation (0.71) between the WORDSUM variable and adult IQ. It certainly isn’t a perfect measure. But take it for what it is.

Some of the lower values have small Ns, which can make generalizing problematic. To overcome this problem, somewhat, I recoded the variable and placed the four lowest values–0 to 3–into one category simply labeled “Below 4.”

Three things pop out at me. First, those who scored eight and above on the spelling test tend to be overrepresented on the liberal end of the spectrum. Second, the “Below 4” value appears almost U shaped from one end of the spectrum to the next. Third, liberals tend to be very intelligent and very dim. There are other observations but I’ll leave those for you.

The fun part comes in trying to tease out the causal mechanism(s) behind the relationship. Does being intelligent increase one’s chances of being liberal? The converse, that being liberal tends to increase one’s intelligence, doesn’t pass the smell test.

Written by Cody

August 4, 2010 at 21:36