This week, Turi talks with clinical psychologist Hector Garcia about the evolutionary roots of political partisanship - how our ancestral landscape helped shape the opinions and values we hold today.
S2 E6: Evolutionary Psychology and Politics
“A lot of the human behaviour that seems perplexing, irrational (like politics or religion) is often most effectively explained by Evolutionary Psychology”
We evolved to live in hunter-gatherer communities clustered in small units spread sparsely across the landscape. Existentially threatened by outsiders - who brought war as well as germs - humans evolved adaptive psychological behaviours to help negotiate our ancestral environment.
Evolutionary Psychology seeks to understand human psychological behaviour from that adaptive perspective. If we protect our children, fall in love, experience jealousy, fear foreigners, create social hierarchies - what were the evolutionary reasons to do so?
“Evolutionary psychology allows us to get sighted to our instincts”
Listen to Hector and Turi discuss what evolutionary psychology can teach us about our Politics.
- Evolutionary Basis for Conservatism and Liberalism
- The Politics of Sex: why men and women have different political tendencies
- Why there’s a correlation between Conservatism and upper-body strength in men
- Why there’s a correlation between Liberalism and greater facial expressiveness across both genders
- Simon Baron Cohen’s work on autism and the “essential male brain”
- Why Conservatives are from Mars and Liberals are from Venus
- How we can map our politics across the Big 5 Personality Test
- Why high-testosterone men tend to share less
- The evolutionary basis for Xenophobia and Xenophilia
- Why Conservatives love dominance hierarchies and Liberals spend all their time trying to pull them down.
- Why Fear is such a big driver for Conservatives (who tend to have a larger amygdala than Liberals)
- What the difference between Chimps and Bonobos can teach us about the evolution of our politics
- How to explain the manifestation of strong man politicians, like Donald Trump, in evolutionary terms
- The idea of “Evolutionary Mismatch”: that certain types of behaviour today are a useless hold over from our hunter-gatherer ancestry
- And why the Iroquois had a split leadership system: one for war (led by young men) and one for peace (led by women and the old)
“Democracy is the answer, but it often needs tuning”
Works cited include:
- John Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith and John R. Alford and their work on the Biology of Political Differences.
- Sir Simon Baron Cohen and his work on autism.
Read the Full Transcript
Hector Garcia is Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas and a Clinical Psychologist working with veterans. He’s the author of Sex, Power and Partisanship and hosts a YouTube channel discussing those issues.
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The Parlia Podcast asks: what is an opinion? where do they come from? And what does that mean for politics and society?