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It keeps happening

Cartoony
Somehow, I still manage to be surprised when Cracked.com has an article that's got pretty good science and pretty good advice in it, like What is the Monkeyspehere?.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
leticia
Jul. 19th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have to tell you now that the science there isn't actually very good and the monkeysphere theory is basically evopsych BS. =P

There are plenty of people who demonstrate the ability to care about people well beyond '150' or some other arbitrary number. It's basically a way to rationalize not giving a damn when you're feeling that guilty nag that you DON'T feel more upset when tens of thousands of Japanese citizens are washed away to sea during your lunch break, but the guilt itself is evidence that you're not unaware.

Lack of consideration is cultural training, not biological. And the article itself demonstrates its wrongness, because while they 'proved' their theory because monkeys may live in those troupe sizes, -humans don't-, thus indicating that the indicators they look for are incorrect.

Can't say much about the advice because by the time he started comparing everyone to Obama Bin Laden, and saying any fast food worker would throw food on the floor and then serve it to the customer (which is bull because most fast food workers aren't actually dicks) I just gave up. :p
forsythferret
Jul. 20th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Heaven forbid a comedy article has a few jokes in it :P

I know you dismiss anything that can come under the umbrella of "evopsych" is garbage. And there's plenty of crap, such as the "Women shop like they do because it's like picking berries!" junk.

But first, I think you're misreading the article a bit. Yes, he says "care", but the way I interpret it is less as "give a damn" and more on the level of actual personal familiarity with someone. There's a difference between knowing someone as a person and intellectually caring about someone. Both in immediacy and in its effects. That's why he was talking about Bin Laden, and giving characteristics besides the supervillain caricature, and how that gets characterized as trying to build sympathy for someone.

The idea that there's real cognitive limits on how many people and social interactions we can keep track of in our heads isn't outrageous BS. It's why to develop civilization, we had to develop things like laws. It may not be 150, like Dunbar's number predicts, but there's almost certainly some limit. Beyond that limit, people aren't individuals in the same way. If you work retail, each customer is an individual, sure, but they're an individual who's gone from your attention the moment they step out the door. (The average number of friends on Facebook is 130 ((a href="https://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics">cite</a>), but they don't say mean or median, and there's almost certainly friends off facebook, so that implies it's greater than 150 to me. Though how many are really friends is up for question too.

So yeah, beyond the people you directly know and interact with every day, people aren't individual people, and stories, experiences, prejudices, and all sorts of other cultural stuff comes into play. But there's definitely parts of human nature that are constrained and/or influenced by our evolutionary history. Things like the maximum number of social relationships we can keep track of seem like pretty reasonable things to be bound by those limits to me.
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