Life history is an evolutionary strategy continuum with a fast strategy one end and a slow strategy at the other. The Virgin vs. Chad meme is worth 1000 words on life history. Chad is the stereotypical fast life history strategist with his large secondary sexual characteristics, his dominant and venturesome personality and, his high energy investment into reproductive effort. Virgin has a slow life history strategy marked by his small secondary sexual characteristics, his humble and reliable personality, and his investment into the cultivation of somatic capital such as cognitive specialisation for an occupation in STEM. Virgin vs. Chad also depicts accelerating life history in the West. Chad, well adapted to a fast life history ecology, is exuberant, while Virgin is manifesting signs of social defeat.
Life history is present in almost all species (Michael A. Woodley of Menie did his PhD on the life history of a plant) with Homo sapiens having the slowest life history of all. Among mammals, mice and voles fall close to the fast extreme, while whales and elephants close to the slow end.
For theories explaining variance in life history see life history theory.
Phenotypes[edit | edit source]
Marco del Giudice in his book 'Evolutionary Psychopathology argues that instead of their being one phenotype at each end of the continuum there are in fact two:
- Under a basic model of life history we would expect fast strategists to exhibit agonistic, exploitative and dominance behaviours (antagonistic/exploitive phenotype).
- In addition to dominating your male competition, seduction is an important fast life history strategy, and so we should also accommodate a seductive/creative phenotype, specialising in theory of mind and verbal creativity.
- We would expect slow life history strategists to exhibit traits suitable for direct parental investment, such as agreeableness and empathy (pro-social/care-giving phenotype).
- However, indirect parental investment, in the form of connections and resources, is important to a slow life history strategy, especially in males, and therefore we should accommodate a technologically savvy phenotype (skilled/provisioning) specialising in acquiring skills and abilities.
Autism[edit | edit source]
Blogger Pumpkin Person has proposed that defective executive functioning (likely due to mutation accumulation) manifests differently along the continuum, that is as schizotype for fast individuals and as autism for slow individuals and Del Giudice independently published the same hypothesis. However, it is likely that autism is an overloaded term referring to multiple phenotypes associated with a slow life history as people lack any other word to refer to slow life history. Adaptations to the skilled/provisioning profile may confer poor social and communication skills, cognitive accuracy at the expense of speed, and a tendency to engage in highly focused, repetitive activities. Genetic chance or environmental triggers could result in a skilled/provisioning profile that is too extreme and referred to as autism. In popular use, however, it is now being used to denote any male with a skilled/provisioning strategy, a strategy which is becoming increasingly maladaptive as life history in the West accelerates. Conversely, psychopathologies in the antagonistic/exploitive and seductive/creative profiles that incur spill-over social costs are now becoming de-pathologized and are now even viewed positively if it doesn't detract from an individual's thugishness.
Testosterone[edit | edit source]
Simon Baron-Cohen's empathising–systemising theory has high face validity explaining the branching of the slow life history phenotype with the pro-social/care-giving phenotype corresponding to Baron-Cohen's "E-type" and the skilled/provisioning phenotype to Baron-Cohen's "S-type". Simon Baron-Cohen proposes that high prenatal testosterone is the mechanism triggering the development of these different types; specifically skilled/provisioning phenotypes would arise from high prenatal testosterone and pro-social/care-giving phenotypes from low prenatal testosterone.
Since testosterone increases mating effort, we should expect fast strategists to have higher postnatal testosterone which would lead to the following dichotomy: skilled/provisioning individuals are more cognitively masculine, which could mean one is more oriented to organized violence -- discipline, duty, tactics, strategy... while conversely antagonistic/exploitive individuals are more physically masculine.
Cognitive Differentiation-Integration[edit | edit source]
At the group level, life history is correlated with intelligence. East Asians and European populations have slow life history and high general intelligence, whereas African populations have fast life history and low general intelligence. It is natural to expect that this relationship would hold within groups. However, the science shows that, at the individual differences level, this relationship is extremely small, effectively a null relationship . Partly this is because general intelligence benefits both life history strategies. It is fundamental for seduction and undermining male competitors and thus crucial to the fitness of fast strategists.
However, life history does affect the structure of general intelligence. The CDIE hypothesis proposes differentiation effort and integration effort. Integration effort keeps the abilities of general intelligence level, advantageous in an uncertain environment where individuals must opportunistically switch tasks (i.e. obligate generalists). Differentiation effort raises some abilities at the expense of others, advantageous in a stable but competitive environment where one has to specialise at a single task (i.e. domain specialists). CDIE is a specific instance of Mary West-Eberhards' concepts of preparedness and plasticity, where differentiation effort corresponds to being prepared for plasticity. This is an adaption to high population densities as plasticity allows individuals to fill micro niches raising the carrying capacity of the land.
The CDIE hypothesis was found to be the best explanation of the Flynn effect - a three point a decade rise in worldwide IQ. Differential fertility is slowing life history at a genetic level, and environmental improvements slowing life history at the epigenetic level. And it is this slowing life history produces the Flynn effect.
We know for a fact that one of the very few environmental treatments which actually leads to sort of permanent increases in IQ, which mirror the flynn effect, and these are gains, not on G but on specialized abilities... is exposure to educational attainment. So for some some reason, the environment in which people are expert the environment which people are exposed in a normal educational context, is capable of stimulating the development of specialized abilities which persist outside of education. So this is stuff which carries over. It doesn’t fade out, like a lot of these interventions fade out. For example, the head Start Program, which was like a kind of very specialized educational intervention, but largely targeted, sort of inner city youths. Those gains all faded out. Same with the abigail project, a similar sort of thing. Those gains faded out. The gains which you get through training, they fade out, but not gains acquired due to education. So it’s possible that what education is doing is, it’s creating signals of environmental stability which are evolutionarily familiar, in the sense that the brain responds to be sigma as if they were, you know, an actual, real relevant signal of ecological stability and low harshness. And in doing so, it adaptively calibrates life history. And it is in adaptively calibrating life history, by making your life history a little bit slower to adapt you to this recurrent, stable niche which education is. It makes you better able to accumulate somatic capital and cultivate the development of specialized abilities. So all these other interventions fail because they don’t, they don’t when nature of the environments don’t map onto our, uh, our stochastic sampling mechanisms, these genetic systems we have for sampling the environment and, uh, and and for, uh, you know, for turning that, those environmental signals into an appropriate response and developmental time. So education apparently does raise specialized abilities. zoomerecology
Neoteny[edit | edit source]
The neoteny is the extension of a juvenile trait into later life and is one of the main characteristics of a slow life history. Physical characteristics of greater neoteny include less body hair, softer and paler skin. Cognitive neotenization delays the maturation of the brain creating a longer window of development to allow for greater cognitive specialization. Geniuses, such as Einstein, show many signs of cognitive neotenization and are frequently described as child life due their naivete and playfulness.
Baby Face[edit | edit source]
At one point in human evolution, baldness must have been under selection. Presumably this was due to the same reason why beards are attractive, woman prefer maturity in men. If you listen to what women actually talk about, it is height deficiencies and the baby face that they consider the biggest failos. So in men, neoteny is associated with lower SMV.
Becky vs. Stacy[edit | edit source]
However, in woman neoteny is associated with higher SMV. East Asian women are the epitome of this, desired by white men for their extreme neoteny. This complicates the Becky vs. Stacy meme, because although fast strategists are sexier with their larger secondary sexual characteristics, it is often the case that slow strategists are prettier, conferring higher SMV, than fast strategists.
Ugly duckling[edit | edit source]
Neoteny may also manifest as plainness extending into young adulthood resulting in an SMV jump when secondary sexual characteristics develop later on.
Mating Patterns[edit | edit source]
People who have faster life history tend to like bet hedging genetically. The way to hedging against environmental instability, is to have as much genetic variation in your offspring as possible. So they actually deliberately choose partners who are genetically dissimilar to you. And that way you produce much more genetically variegated offspring.
Whereas slow strategists are into assortative mating, and they like the kids to look a lot like them. They tend to have a preference for keeping the heritability of the trades high across generation. They’re all specialists and so they like everything to be highly biologically prepared, rather than plastic.
However, assortative mating may actually decrease fitness as it increases offspring homozygosity for potentially deleterious mutations. To protect against this, slow life history strategists have evolved systematically higher standards of mate value for partner selection. Slow strategists that don't meet these high standards tend to drop out of reproduction. On the other hand, fast strategists of similarly low genetic quality get forced into a kind of involuntary assortative mating (the Genetic Dregs Hypothesis). So although sexual selection will be producing a lot of fast strategists of high quality for individual level selection (i.e. Chads), the genetic dregs of society are also accumulating in the fast population, while the slow population is maintains its high genetic quality.
Life History Speed in the West[edit | edit source]
Figueredo et al 2017 has shown that slowing life history causes a cascade of social equality, within-group and between-group peace, sexual equality, macroeconomic diversification, and human capital and that these effects, in turn, ultimately produce changes in brain volume and aggregate cognitive abilities. These Pinkeresk measures of social "progress" are all at insane levels in the west and no one could argue that life history isn't very slow.
Yet at the same time there are uncomfortable counter trends. Rap dominates Western culture, people are increasingly being treated as disposable by the corporations and by members of the opposite sex, drug and alcohol use is becoming ubiquitous, and female age of sexual debut and sexual partner counts have risen violently. One must be careful disentangling trends of declining group selectedness from those of accelerating life history speed since the trends listed above are almost certainly driven by declining group selectedness. Ultimately to see whether they will accelerate life history, we will have to watch the Flynn effect, which is the ultimate indicator of life history speed. As GDP growth has been driven by Flynn effect, accelerating life history would lead to a catastrophic new era of economic unwinding so it would pay to watch the Flynn effect.
Sex differences[edit | edit source]
Women are less impulsive, risk-taking, sensation seeking, more socio-sexually restricted, longer-term relationship orientation, have greater attachment, more affiliative, cooperative, more affective empathy, and longer life expectancies on average than men and so have a slower life history. In fact, sex accounts for about a third of the variance in in differences among individuals. Women really have quite a substantially slower life history.
Yet at the same time, women are much more individually selected which may account for apparently contradictory qualities such as shorter maturation, less cognitive differentiation effort, lower honesty, more solipsism and narcissism, and no loyalty.
See also[edit | edit source]