Even as our current culture has embraced rationality, humans are in many ways still acting on the instincts of our hunter-gatherer “caveman” ancestors from 150,000 years ago.
For instance, who did you vote for last election? The most rational and forward-thinking candidate, right?
Well, a study by Texas Tech University has suggested that the height and physical stature of political candidates can influence people’s voting.
The theory is that the natural caveman instinct in humans leads us to vote for the “big man,” the alpha male that can lead the tribe.
According to the study, in 58% of the elections between 1789 and 2008, the taller candidate won.
To test the theory, the researchers asked 467 U.S. and international students to draw an average citizen, then a political leader. 64% of the time, testers drew the leader as taller than the citizen.
A similar example is emotional contagion, meaning that your emotions are heavily influenced by the emotions of others around you.
It’s defined as “The tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize expressions,vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person’s… ” according to a paper by Elaine Hatfield, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii.
This phenomenon is essential for survival, according to an article by Ryan T. Howell, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.
It’s also evident among animals, and it served early humans the important role of protecting the tribe from predators, as well as fostering understanding before verbal communication was possible.
By understanding how emotional contagion works, pack behavior such as Hitler spreading hate in the 1930s can be understood better, Hatfield writes.
Perceive the world as a caveman
How you perceive the world is also somewhat dictated by our primal instincts, according to a paper by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The theory states that humans are predisposed to pay attention to moving objects in order to single out other humans, as well as predators, from the environment around them.
This also helps the eye and the mind stay focused and attentive on moving objects, which could represent both dangers and opportunities for early man.
Not only did this help survival, but it also helped developed language, as being able to develop categories (animal, plant, etc) and situations (danger, food, etc) may have developed as tribes of human predecessors worked together .
Even what you eat is influenced by ancient instincts, research suggests.
According to an article in Northwestern University’s magazine, humans have struggled for most of their existence to acquire food rich in sugar and fats.
As a result, modern humans crave these types of foods, even though junk food has become ubiquitous, resulting in obesity and unhealthy diets.
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