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Why we do what we do
Nigel Barber Ph.D.
Because other species do not have our communicative skills it is easy to assume they lack an interior mental life. That may be a mistake.
The job market is still sharply divided between “male” and “female” occupations. An evolutionary perspective might help explain the trend.
Why don't the rich and retired just sleep in the shade like lions?
A startling increase in depression for adolescents and young adults suggests they are being attacked by something very recent, like social media.
A sense of fairness may be ingrained in all primates. It is an essential ingredient in functional societies. because it makes social relationships predictable.
The time of day is a major factor in creativity and productivity.
What are the biological and behavioral effects of being exposed to artificially long days in the modern era?
Does helicopter parenting make children less self-reliant and more dependent on social approval?
When wild mammals encounter humans, they are very good at taking what they can get, even if it means accepting novel foods, living in cities, or acting like people.
When investors lose on a stock, the hurt they feel is greater than the pleasure of another stock rising an equivalent amount. The same principle holds more generally.
It is spring in the northern hemisphere and birds initiate the remarkable architectural feat of building a home for the young. How is this accomplished?
Providing green spaces for cities may be an investment in good health because natural environments make us feel calmer and less anxious.
Social psychologists found people highly susceptible to social influences in classic experiments in obedience and conformity. Why are we so malleable?
What if technology permitted the direct transmission of our thoughts to the internet without input devices, filters, or editing?
Much of the research ignores the possibility that alcohol has health benefits. Such benefits appear to be enjoyed mainly by the affluent.
If head and heart are at odds, emotion often wins out.
As countries grow they generate increasing amounts of pollution and garbage that damage the planet and crash ecosystems. Hence the emergence of frugal environmentalism.
Technology accelerates, a phenomenon that emerged with modern humans and is absent in other species that use tools.
Although we often distinguish narcissists from others, everyone has some degree of narcissism. What advantages could narcissism yield in the evolutionary past?
Humans generally leave more descendants if they marry someone who is not too closely related. Inbreeding is connected to the liberal-conservative continuum.
Agriculture increased food production but introduced hunger, social inequality, warfare, and epidemic diseases.
Skeptics are questioning whether renewable energy can rescue the planet from climate change given hidden costs.
Buying into the afterlife is rather like buying a lottery ticket.
Centenarians may have genetic advantages but there are several behavioral and psychological traits that most share.
Physical activity improves mental as well as physical skills.
In modern times, most people survive and reproduce despite their addictive behaviors. Are these due to a basic flaw in how our motivational systems work?
The social functions of sports change with economic development as young people prepare for a more complex way of life.
Many common airline practices could be interpreted as actual—if unintended—torture.
People divide into those with liberal leanings and those with a conservative slant. Biological theories emphasize differences in brain biology. Why did the difference evolve?
A great deal of evidence suggests that conservatives are more attuned to threat than liberals are. Yet, they seem impervious to the risks of climate change.
Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.