Talk:Social epistasis amplification model

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New, shorter lede[edit source]

The social epistasis amplification model (SEAM) refers to a hypothetical model of how adaptive social behavior may get severely disrupted by carriers of certain behavioral mutations. It proposes that the disruptive effect of these mutations can get amplified by a socially epistatic feedback loop. The feedback loop is thought to consist in the overall disrupted social behavior in turn degrading developmental processes and gene expression in other individuals, resulting in even more disruptive behavior and so forth, with social epistasis referring to the hypothesized phenomenon that gene expression in different individuals can affect one other through social behavior.[1] The ultimate outcome is that the fitness of the entire group is heavily degraded as individual animals end up refraining from reproduction. The carriers of mutations that negatively affect other's fitness are also called spiteful mutants in behavioral biology.

The SEAM may explain the complete population collapses observed in the rats utopia experiments. The main author of this theory, Dr. Michael A. Woodley of Menie, argued that the SEAM could explain the current incel epidemic.[2]

I suggest to only introduce 'spiteful' mutants later as this concept is not so important for understanding the model and this keeps the lede slim.

Bibipi (talk) 05:35, 4 January 2021 (UTC)

In response to your proposed changes, from the first reference in the article:

"We concur entirely with this basic thrust of Lynch's assessment and highlight the fitness costs of mutations that act in a spiteful fashion by reducing carrier fitness in addition to damaging the extended phenotype of the group: Behavioral changes, especially among those with high status, engender the breakdown of group-level processes that maintain the fitness of this extended phenotype, which causes maladaptive behavior via altered patterns of social epistasis among those who rely on those controls as cues to adaptively calibrate their social and reproductive behavior" (Woodley et al., 2017).

Please read that carefully. The whole article if necessary (not just that quote and the abstract). The authors of the paper argue that the 'spiteful' mutations play a key role in the degradation of positive social epistatic effects. He's arguing that the mutation accumulation in general, especially the specific 'spiteful' mutations, are the root of the whole SEA negative feedback loop. The spiteful mutations are proposed to degrade adaptive behavior on behalf of the carriers (hence the mutations are spiteful), the 'spiteful mutants' then create negative genetic epistatic (through their supposed disrupted of adaptive social behavior) and direct maladaptive epigenetic changes in other, non-mutant gene carrying individuals they come into contact with, degrading their overall phenotypic quality and adaptive behavior on behalf of the biological 'superorganism' to which they belong. The degraded adaptive behavior of the group's extended phenotype then leads to social changes that are claimed further to increase the proliferation of deleterious mutations in the population. This is the SEAM. The actual simulation that the authors ran in that paper is pretty clear that the removal of purifying selection on the carriers of the spiteful mutations results in the population decline due to SEA.

How then, are the 'spiteful' mutations 'not so important' for understanding the model when the 'spiteful mutants' and the spiteful mutations they carry are proposed to play a crucial role in initiating the negative feedback loop? It's a definition of a key term used in the model.

Besides, the whole 'spiteful mutant' meme is the only element of the model widely discussed by laymen (primarily due to Dutton's youtube vids). The article's entire point is to give a brief overview of the model, all the hypothesized mechanisms of the model, and the claimed practical implications of the model, especially as it relates to the etiology of inceldom. The lede as it is does a good job of this; long ledes are informative. Many popular and high-quality Wikipedia articles have long ledes that effectively encapsulate the core points of the concepts discussed. Hypothetical people that would read a jargon dense article on an obscure, complicated abstract model just because the lede is slightly shorter (and misses key points anyway) are likely very few.

To summarize: I think the lede should stay as it is. I'd advise you to PM Master on DC if you want to keep pursuing this matter because from my perspective the criticisms you made seem quite trivial and I do not want to argue over this particular matter further. Altmark22 (talk)

My point isn't whether the model is about spiteful mutations, but I just think using this technical term does not help understanding what the model does. The spitefulness only concerns the long-term outcome, not the proximal mechanism which is social epistasis. The argument about the meme aspect is fair though. I've edited the proposed shorter lede, such that it does include the term. Btw.: It is not (necessarily) a negative feedback loop (it depends which variables you are considering; fitness vs disruption). The main advantage in my proposed lede that I'm seeing (besides length) is that it explicitly uses the term 'amplify'. Bibipi (talk) 08:58, 4 January 2021 (UTC)
> The spitefulness only concerns the long-term outcome, not the proximal mechanism which is social epistasis
The spitefulness refers to the effects of the proposed deleterious mutations on the carriers of said mutations and the negative social epistasis that is hypothesized to result from their proliferation, both in the short term and in the long term when the feedback loop is initiated by these mutations and the amplification of the mutational load in the population occurs.
> but I just think using this technical term does not help understanding what the model does.
It explains the process by which the feedback loop is initiated, as I explained above (you either didn't read this explanation, the paper or just want to play semantic games). This is obviously vitally important. You seem to have difficulty understanding that the 'model' referred to in the article doesn't only apply to the hypothesized 'feedback loop' or the 'amplification' part of it, it also encompasses a "theory of the role of interorganismal gene-gene interactions (social epistasis) in social species including humans, known as the social epistasis amplification model." (Sarraf & Woodley, 2017). What does Woodley claim drives the maladaptive changes to these social epistatic gene interactions? Spiteful mutations do. As the Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science states in Michael Woodley's entry: "Given these premises, and assuming that social epistasis occurs in humans, the SEAM posits that the effects of deleterious mutations in carrier humans can be externalized onto non-carriers via social epistasis, and thus that the fitness costs of these mutations can be amplified. In this model, mutations with deleterious effects on both carriers and non-carriers have been termed “spiteful mutations”(Woodley of Menie et al.2017c); the SEAM further asserts that the accumulation of spiteful mutations in populations that have industrialized (or are industrializing) has led to an increasing amplification of spiteful social epistasis over time." (
Notice how many times that entry mentions 'spiteful mutations' and 'deleterious mutations'? That's because those things are a key component of the bloody model, not just the 'amplification' part you are harping on. Altmark22 (talk)
It's difficult to overlook that Woodley enjoys framing the model in the negative effects on fitness (spitefulness), but my point is that the feedback does not lie in the spitefulness (which corresponds to the (-) arrows in this figure). In order to understand the gist of the model, it is sufficient to understand the (+) arrows, so spitefulness can be ommitted for brevity, but I'd agree that I may be overemphasizing brevity (actually it was Will pushing against lede bloat all the time and I've sort of internalized that). I've also already agreed to include it anyhow. Bibipi (talk) 18:53, 4 January 2021 (UTC)
> It is not (necessarily) a negative feedback loop (it depends which variables you are considering; fitness vs disruption)
Irrelevant pedantry. You've raised this point before and the article doesn't mention the word 'negative' in any way.
Your proposal to change the lede is dismissed and I am locking the page to review your recent edits at my leisure. If you have anything to propose that doesn't rely on pedantically arguing over definitions than I'm open to suggestions. If you don't then I'm not going to engage with you. Altmark22 (talk)
I'm just offering some useful corrections. There have also been various issues I fixed, e.g. regarding the definition of epistasis and the relevance to good genes. I hope we can move forward from these misunderstandings about intentions (one-upmanship) and return to shitposting and armchair evo-psych. Bibipi (talk) 18:53, 4 January 2021 (UTC)
Right, I overreacted and I do apologize for that. I'll look through those edits and think about incorporating the suggestions you made later, though I am adamant the mention of spitefulness should stay because the article is not just focused on the feedback loop process but the whole model (and the model is clearly built on the central concept of mutational meltdown, this is really a key theme of Woodley's work in general). You did make a good point about the flexibility of social hierarchies in humans being very different from that found in eusocial insects, though I do think the key point the proponents of the theory are making in this regard is that human societies are structured such that this division of labor is necessary for them to function (and hence human societies can be somewhat analogous to eusocial insects in terms of functionality). You could argue that this is evolutionary novel to a large degree and that the main divisions of labour practiced pre-civilisation (and the resulting centralization of power and the emergence of steeper social hierarchies) were actually based on biological sex, simply due to necessity and or/male domination. The picture of the ratking is frankly disgusting but apt I guess. I also hope we can move forward. We shouldn't take this stuff too seriously, it's just a wiki and many of the things we discuss are mere hypotheses or purely theoretical anyway. Enjoy your break. Altmark22 (talk)