The slow motion photography used to film their hunts gives a sense of both nimbleness and speed but also their astounding power — watts per kg of muscle — twice that of greyhounds and four times that of racehorses. The series also explores the tactics of some smaller, less familiar predators. Jumping spiders of the genus Portia feed on other spiders and display remarkably complex and flexible hunting behaviour for an animal with a brain made up of just a few neurons. In fact their capacity to innovate and learn is more reminiscent of dogs and cats. Their hunting behaviour is visually guided and includes aggressive mimicry, a form of deception where, on locating a spider, they manipulate the web by plucking it, imitating a small ensnared insect.
Portia can generate an almost unlimited number of signals and adjusts them in response to feedback from prey. For example when approaching a spitting spider they approach from the rear even if this means going out of their way. But even this behaviour is flexible, as spitting spiders that are carrying eggs and cannot spit are approached head on. Making pre-planned detours when hunting prey is the sort of sophisticated behaviour you see in lions; it seems by making best use of limited brain resources a small spider can achieve a predatory strategy that rivals that of a large mammal.
The Hunt makes one acutely aware that many of the animals featured and many others on Earth are under threat because of conflict with humans. The final programme in the series addresses some of the conservation initiatives around the world that recognise many iconic predators are struggling to survive in a world that, for them, is shrinking rapidly. Co-existing with big predators is possible, but requires commitment, compromise and dedication. Without concerted effort, large iconic predators such as lions, leopards, polar bears and harpy eagles as well as many small but equally important ones, could disappear completely from the wild.
The new series presents predators in a refreshing and thought-provoking way — they are not just relentless killers but animals that work hard for a meal, relying on stealth, stamina, speed, ingenuity, cooperation and sometimes just luck. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Polar Bears International
We also need to understand why humans can be bad at noticing—or not being overly concerned with— injustice. The need to achieve equality of outcomes and opportunities for all is an important modern value. In addition to being historically novel, however, the idea of equality remains highly confusing and counterintuitive for most of us. Psychological science has shown that what humans universally care about is fairness , as defined by relatively arbitrary social conventions.
People tend to get upset and register unfairness when these rules are broken. This next rule of thumb our tendency to hold people from our closest in-groups to higher standards, and our related tendency to lash out at them more than at strangers explains, for example, why feminists like Sonia Sodha feel the need to call out their brothers, fathers, sons and husbands. It also explains why, contrary to another myth, the people we dehumanize the most are not distant strangers, but those closest to us. When changing social conditions bring people into competition for prestige, societies fragment and polarize, as people work together to eliminate perceived threats to their group identities.
Group tensions usually begin from within, until new classes of pariahs eventually come to be perceived as a predatory out-group. This tends to happen under predictable historical conditions. When recognizable social rules are played well, what may be registered as unfair at one historical moment can go unnoticed for a very long time in another. When everyone plays along, a psychological bias for system justification will usually prompt people not to question things around them. This may be why systems like slavery and feudalism, which seem very unjust by modern standards, could endure for centuries without a hint of social unrest.
From a cultural evolution perspective, our notion of equality simply reflects the normative terms of our current social game, which is defined by the idea that we all ought to have the same opportunities and do the same things. It is in this context that, for example, differences in social roles are likely to be registered as unfair and trigger outrage. To understand this strange rule of thumb, we should consider an observation made by Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French diplomat and political scientist famous for his studies of democracy in America and the changing social factors leading to the French Revolution.
Many factors—from the economic rise of the bourgeois commercial class, to the rapid spread of ideas stemming from Enlightenment philosophy made possible by the printing press—had contributed to the first slow, then rapid decline of the royalty. By the s, the legal privileges and political influence of the nobility had largely vanished, while previously unimaginable dreams of social mobility had slowly been installed in the popular imagination through the example of the bourgeoisie.
People, recall, are fond of simple stories that justify the order of things. In addition, rising expectations of social mobility, inspired by the example of the bourgeoisie, also brought the masses into perceived competition with the elite. As another evolutionary rule, we tend to compete the most with people we perceive to be our near equals. It is usually those we perceive to be just above those whose status is within reach or just below those who may catch up to us who are registered as a threat.
In this context of novel competitive pressure, former superiors lose their aura of prestige and become the objects of mass bullying. Beyond the erosion of a recognizable and hence justifiable social role for the aristocracy, it is the erosion of the prestige formerly associated with that class that made the final blow inevitable. A once glamorous group of people, in other words, had become ridiculous. The human thirst for prestige and excellence expressed in our search for role models who excel at playing by the rules of our social games makes us efficient and cruel at picking on losers: those uncool individuals who are obviously unskilled at playing the game.
At the time of the French Revolution, the rise of comedic political theater, depicting members of the noble class through grotesque puppets is a testament to this human drive to bully losers. For an archetypical character to be deemed intrinsically funny , it must embody a grotesque violation of the social codes that govern folk ideas of goodness, prestige and virtue.
The example of the French revolution can help shed light on the changing historical conditions that gave rise to the MeToo movement. Over the past century, living conditions and opportunities for women have significantly improved. In popular culture, the virtues once assigned to traditional markers of masculinity like strength, endurance, dignity, protection and selflessness have slowly eroded, giving rise to largely absent, or at best confusing, models of culturally admirable social roles that men can embody.
Homer Simpson, for example, embodies the stereotype of the goofy, impulsive, unsophisticated, accident-prone idiot, incapable of functioning without the wisdom of his wife Marge. In contrast with her brother Bart, who is equally impulsive and troublesome, Lisa is the picture of genius, talent and virtue. By the late s, a new archetype of the man-child , can-never-get-it-right goofball was fully installed in our culture, and was being broadcast in films and series starring such actors as Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, John C.
Reilly and Will Farrell. We might term this the Seth Rogen effect. In this modern myth, the masculine loser archetype usually comes to show or develop redeeming qualities, but typically needs the wisdom of a woman to help sort him out. This myth, to be sure, is an old and transcultural story.
From an evolutionary perspective, socialization often seen as the culprit of sex differences in feminist discourse enables us to cultivate the roles that best harness these complementarities, allowing us to raise well-adjusted children. This is why agreeing on the kinds of roles that work best with our evolved dispositions is of crucial importance, and why most pre-feminist cultures usually cultivated gender-specific modes of pride and prestige associated with the specific strengths of each sex.
Changing social conditions in which a class endowed with prestige comes to lose its status tend to occur in the context of new competitive pressures. The massive entry of women into the workforce has brought them into competition with men in a niche that they men formerly occupied almost exclusively.
This was bound to cause some damage. Evolutionarily, seeking status, social networks, and resources outside the domestic unit through something that gradually came to resemble work and politics has been a strategy that allowed men to attract mates and signal their potential as good caregivers. When competitive pressures harnessed these complementarities, men competed among themselves for status and women. Consider now a context in which men are increasingly devalued as providers, actively discouraged from seeking status, ridiculed and pathologized for being masculine—all while facing fierce competition from women candidates, who are better trained and more highly valued than they are, and for jobs whose hiring committees openly discriminate against men.
That most people fail to register this as a recipe for disaster is a testament to the blindness of our mob psychology, which too readily makes us pick on losers. The point here is not that humans would be better off if women stayed at home. Women have clearly made extraordinary contributions to science, medicine, the arts, literature, politics—and just about every meaningful sphere of human activity.
Men also continue to occupy certain key positions, particularly in politics, some branches of science and at managerial level in corporations. A different kind of feminist perspective might celebrate the underrepresentation of women as CEOs, when, on average, such cut-throat roles clearly demand psychopathic levels of callousness, disregard for the needs of others and time commitments that are entirely incompatible with a quality social and family life.
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We have seen that our evolved predator-obsessed crowd psychology makes us uniquely prone to mass hatred and violence toward disgraced losers when cultural bearings shift too quickly. Rather than conclude that our species is doomed to mass bullying and stupidity, however, we should remember that not all acts of threat-detection are false positives. But, while this works well in the lab social science—which examines billions of interrelated events and rarely produces any consensus as to how people interpret their individual experiences—is exceedingly complex, and cannot be subject to such a simple rule.
The truth about MeToo likely entails, to varying degrees, all four of the perspectives offered above, and countless others. The rules of thumb I have described in this article describe general patterns of cultural change in which disgraced social groups come to be treated—and sometimes even eliminated—as predators. But people interpret such events in differing ways. On average, my students find this rule of thumb toolkit intellectually and morally empowering—as long as they can apply it exclusively to the stupidity of the other group. My students agree when I remind them that most acts of mass violence, like genocide or mass incarceration, are not motivated by cruelty, but by a desire to do something the perpetrators perceive as morally right, within their cultural framework and historical moment.
Together, we can also agree that wanting to do the right thing does not always leads to violence. Finally, my students often remind me that the prey psychology rule of thumb applies equally to the anti- MeToo camp. Indeed, from the perspective of men who feel attacked by MeToo, assuming the existence of a unified feminist predator that actively seeks to destroy them seems intuitive.
However, it is a grave logical error that can also—as the incel movement has shown—lead to mass violence.
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The assumption that all men are predators, or that all women hate men is simply wrong. Pathology by definition points to an exception, a glitch in the normal functioning of a system. To help us become more vigilant about the risk of false positives in determining whether something poses a threat, we can apply another rule of thumb: a counterintuitive, but highly logical rule. If the base rate is higher than the false positive rate, our intuitions are likely to be wrong.
But the relevant information here is the base rate. If the rare disease has a prevalence rate of 1 in , that means that, out of people, only one person is statistically likely to carry the disease, while 50 out of each people will test positive! Determining the relevant base rates for any problem is always a difficult task, for which there is no rule of thumb. The rule, rather, should be to keep on questioning our intuitions. Research on witch-hunt style campaigns to eliminate polluted elements from society has shown that most people are never completely gullible.
As the accusations, trials and mass punishments spread, most people never quite believe the simplistic charges laid against the perceived enemy. But, depending on how the punitive rules are enforced, they are simply too scared to speak in defense of the wrongly accused.
Why Predators Are Actually Terrible Hunters
When systems of enforcement include informants and sincere ideologues from every rank of private life as in Soviet-ruled East Germany, for example , fear becomes the rule, as even our closest friends and relatives could potentially denounce us. These are the systems of violent moral policing that Hannah Arendt called terror. In a system of terror, Arendt reminds us, not even the executioners are sheltered from fear. More than a critique of the MeToo movement as an isolated event, this essay is an invitation to moderation for all those who feel convinced that they are on the right side of history and have identified the enemy.
An anthropologist and cognitive scientist by training, he has published widely on the study of cultural evolution, social dimensions of cognition and mental health, social polarization, and cultural shifts in gender relations. There is a higher percentage of men than women who are predatory who take pleasure most in controlling, exploiting and profiting from taking advantage of women. Because of that fact women are more often diagnosed with depression and codependence than men are.