Have you ever wondered why we like the food we like? Why we care so much about our social status? Or why we’re naturally risk-adverse?
Why are we the way we are today?
It comes down to one word: Evolution
Thousands of years ago, we evolved into Homo Sapiens
We were no different than other animals in the animal kingdom. We hunted, we ate, we became the hunted, we died.
To survive, we had to develop habits and instincts through natural selection. For example, an instinct to become afraid of spiders, probably allowed humans to survive longer in the past, and was therefore passed down in our collective DNA. And today, thousands of years later, traces of our past still linger in our DNA, influencing human psychology.
This is called: Evolutionary Psychology. The study of how natural selection has influenced human psychology. You’ll never guess who initiated it,
“In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.” — Charles Darwin
Yup, Darwin was a pretty smart guy.
Now, the thing is, we aren’t hunter-gatherers anymore. We live in cities, we work, we do so many things differently. And that arises problems.
Certain habits and instincts were important in the past, but are detrimental today
Let’s take an example 😃
Fruit was INSANELY scarce thousands of years ago. The sugars in fruit that made it sweet, only existed in fruit. So after thousands of years, we evolved to consume fruit and sugary foods as quickly as possible. Since it was far and few between, saving it would be a risk.
As a result, today we consume sugar like there’s no tomorrow. And we’re paying real consequences for it:
- Approximately 40% of US adults are obese, costing over $150Billion in medical care.
- Soft drinks are pure sugar, and even some of the smartest people in the world like Warren Buffett consume over 5 cans a day!
- On average, Americans consume 152 pounds of sugar each year. That’s over 3X the recommended average.
Damn. You. 🐒
We’re also naturally risk-adverse, because of evolution
Imagine you were a lovely, innocent, hunter-gatherer, minding your own business, when suddenly…
A LION COMES OUT OF NOWHERE!
Your first instinct would be: Oh crap, I gotta get out of here
Thousands of years ago, you could die any second. There were no second chances. If you saw a lion, and an apple tree, you wouldn’t think about the apples, you’d think about the lion. Heck, if you heard a subtle crinkle in the tall grass beside you, you’d book it. Even if the chance of a lion being there was 0.1%, a wrong decision meant death.
However, today most of our decisions don’t lead to death. We can take risks, and still come out the other end. (Actually, many times we come out stronger) But since risk aversion has been so ingrained into our psyche, we’re not just risk adverse, we’re irrationally risk adverse.
Take this example:
If you were offered a 100% chance at 1000$ vs a 10% chance for 100,000$, most ppl would take the 1000$
But that’s CRAZY! Because the second option is mathematically 10x better.
And finally, we can explain many social phenomenon through evolutionary psychology
Why are you afraid to ask your crush out? It makes no sense. There are so many other people out there, if one goes wrong, there’s always another. Right?
Well, that wasn’t always the case. Before the development of cities, and transportation, and Tinder, we were pretty confined to our local communities. You knew everyone in your tribe, and encountering another was rare.
So…let’s say you only had 20 people to choose from in your ENTIRE LIFE.
Damn, that must’ve been tough.
So that’s why we have social anxiety. And you can expand this to more than just asking a girl out. In small tribes, your lively hood depended on that tribe. If you were an authoritative figure, you’d probably get more food. If you were trustworthy, you’d probably get more food. If others liked you, you’d probably get more food. Social acceptance was astronomically important.
And it’s all because of those chimps all those years ago… 🐒😧
So much of our human psychology is influenced by the environment we lived in thousands of years ago. It’s the reason relationships may be more important than abilities. It’s why we’re so indecisive. And it’s why we drink pure sugar without a second thought.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens
If you’d like to learn more about this, I’d HIGHLY recommend reading or listening to Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It contextualizes this article, and really intuitively explains human evolution. I’m going to publish another article soon, on the difference between Emotion and Logic, and how it relates to this same principle of evolutionary psychology. I’ll link it here, when it comes out.
Overall, the key takeaway is: Evolution hardwired us in certain ways. Recognize our pitfalls, and become a more compassionate, understanding, and introspective person
Check out my last article on my Takeaways From a Podcast Between Naval Ravikant & Joe Rogan!