Evolutionary psychologists believe that human nature is the reason for our behavior. It’s true that people sometimes make decisions that have nothing to do with consciousness. We’re inclined to enter into risk or buy expensive things because it’s a developed psychological mechanism. Though, we don’t necessarily choose danger and prestige consciously, we do think that they’ll make our life brighter.
In this article, Bright Side would like to talk about biological and social factors that affect human behavior. Some conclusions might seem immoral, irrational, and even offensive to you. It’s not our intention to make you agree with the authors of the studies you’ll find here, we just want to show you that there are different opinions explaining the motivation of different human actions.
1. Unpleasant people seem bigger and stronger to us than they are in reality.
Californian anthropologists Daniel M.T. Fessler and Colin Holbrook believe that our ancestors initially assessed their enemies by size, because a big enemy means a strong enemy. These scientists conducted an interesting experiment. Some participants were tied down to heavy chairs as if they were supposed to be researched for the psychological effects of limb paralysis. Then photos of aggressive men were shown to them and they were asked to assess how tall and strong these men were. It turns out that the helpless participants believed that the sizes of their potential enemies were much larger than those who were not tied down. An unpleasant person might seem bigger to you than they are in reality because you don’t want to (or simply can’t) deal with them. That’s why you prefer to stay away from this person thinking that the risks are too high.
2. We are inclined to believe different prophecies when we are in a bad mood.
Kathryn Greenaway from Australia conducted a pretty interesting experiment. She divided research participants into 3 groups. The first group was asked to recall moments triumph or just happy moments from their lives, the second one was asked to recall anything insignificant, and the third group was asked to recall something humiliating that had happened to them. Then all the participants were asked about different prophecies and extrasensory abilities. Those who had recalled unpleasant situations were more willing to believe in prophecies. Doctor Greenaway described her conclusions in the article “Loss of control increases belief in precognition and belief in precognition increases control.” A person is much more easily influenced if they are upset and psychic swindlers are very well aware of this fact.
3. Money can really make you happy.
Even in now distant 1964, The Beatles sang that you can’t buy love. Well, you can’t buy love but you can definitely buy happiness, at least scientists think that it’s possible. Grant E. Donnelly conducted research showing that wealth is really important. But when your income reaches a certain level, its further growth makes you feel less satisfied. The origin of wealth affects our happiness too. A lottery win or a marriage of convenience brings less happiness to you than the money you earned with your own work. The main areas in which money brings happiness are freedom of choice and a lack of cares related to financial problems. Money also provides an opportunity to make your loved ones happier.
4. Expensive and impractical things you buy signify that you are poor.
A lot of people have different useless things at home which they bought and have never used, like kitchen appliances, a treadmill that gathers dust in the basement, or beautiful shoes that they can’t really wear. All this stuff is like a suitcase without a handle: they are of no use to you, but you still can’t find the courage to throw them out. The interesting fact is that people with upper to middle incomes prefer cars from a medium price range while people with below-average incomes choose prestigious and expensive cars that highlight their status. Do you think it’s paradoxical? Not at all. The point is that rich people know exactly how much car servicing and maintaining will be. Poor people, on the other hand, don’t think about how much they’ll have to spend on insurance and fuel for their expensive car. The most important thing to them is to get this status symbol of a rich life no matter what the result is. A poor person wants to get rich in order to buy new and expensive toys. If they have some extra money they immediately buy something like a plasma TV or a new iPhone. However, their wealth is only an illusion because when the money is over, they’ll have to limit themselves on everything.
5. People prefer to avoid facts that don’t comply with their convictions.
People like to have debates on different topics whether it’s health reform or same-sex marriage. But why don’t they change their opinion even if there are undeniable facts? Different studies have proven that people refuse to admit evidence which doesn’t adhere to what they already believe. For example, many people criticize vaccinations because they believe they’re the cause of autism. Even if facts prove that there is no connection between vaccinations and autism they won’t change their opinion and will still stand their ground. Subjectivity can be treated with facts, self-education, and the ability to admit mistakes. But the power of facts isn’t limitless. People are ready to ignore evidence and to stand up for their convictions in order to avoid the conclusions that are unpleasant to them.
6. A smoker knows that nicotine kills but they don’t quit smoking.
You think of yourself as a practical person but still you can’t resist buying a new pair of sneakers with the last of your money. And you don’t feel joy after that, only guilt, because you’ve already bought 3 pairs of sneakers this month. The same goes for smokers who are aware of nicotine’s harmful effects but they still continue to smoke, or for people who are on a diet but they can’t resist eating cake. These situations are all examples of cognitive dissonance. It happens when our ideas, convictions, or behavior contradict one another. The problem is that when a person tries to get rid of cognitive dissonance they don’t look for truth, but try to find excuses for their bad habits like, “I smoke because my satisfaction overshadows the harm to my health,” or “I eat at night because my stomach craves food during this time.” Other opinions are not taken into consideration.
7. Sons decrease the probability of divorce.
Economists Gordon B. Dahl and Enrico Moretti conducted research and discovered an interesting fact. Couples who have at least one son have lesser risk for divorce than couples who have only daughters. The researchers say that the reason lies in our biological instincts. Since the value of a male partner is defined by his wealth, status, and power, a father has to make sure that his son will inherit these resources. This is especially true for rich families. Perhaps this theory was plausible a few centuries ago but it’s hard to believe it can be true in the 21st century despite the results of this study. The social roles of men and women have significantly changed in recent times. No wonder, Edmond de Goncourt said that “statistics are the first of the inexact sciences.”
8. Good-looking couples usually have daughters.
According to the Trivers—Willard hypothesis, wealthy parents have more sons, while less wealthy but more good-looking parents usually have daughters. This happens due to the fact that children inherit the looks, wealth, and social status of their parents. So, the gender of kids depends on what they can inherit from their parents. If it’s physical attractiveness then it’s highly probable that a family will have a girl, while if it’s financial wealth then it’s highly probable that they’ll have a son. The probability of having a son in a millionaire’s family is about 65%. At the same time, girls are born more often during wars and natural disasters. Still this hypothesis isn’t a must. Howard Schultz, Jim Carrey, and Tom Cruise were born in really poor families but they have achieved success despite this fact. While Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have only daughters which also contradicts this theory. So, enjoy being a parent to whichever gender your kids are.
9. People are more inclined to humiliate others if they have problems with self-confidence.
The desire to insult or humiliate another person roots in a problematic background. A woman brawling in a bus, a man calling his wife fat and stupid, or children bullying their classmate at school all lack self-confidence and try to show their worth with brute force. At the same time, these people are sure that their negative attitude toward others has nothing to do with their self-awareness. So, before making a decision to insult someone, ask yourself, “Am I trying to assert myself or to bolster my self-esteem?”
10. Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have something in common with criminals.
Men are more inclined to exhibit risky behavior when they are teenagers. In the period between 20 and 40 years old, it gradually decreases while at a mature age it disappears almost completely. It’s called the age-crime curve. Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa conducted research which showed that age-genius curve (the distribution of age of musicians, writers, and artists at the time of their greatest contributions in their careers) is similar to the age distribution of criminals. Bill Gates has become a successful businessman but he doesn’t make major breakthroughs any more. J. D. Salinger didn’t publish anything for a period of almost 30 years. This behavior is explained by the fact that men want to impress others in their youth but this desire fades away when they grow older. This also happens more often when men get married and have children.
Do you think the scientists are right, or maybe they overestimate the influence of biological factors on our behavior? Are there theories in this list which you completely disagree with? Tell us in the comments below.
Preview photo credit Sipa USA / East News, © AXELLE / BAUER-GRIFFIN / East News