Evolving Thoughts

Politics and the primate threat

Some threat display has publicly occurred between two primates vying for the alpha male position of a large troop of feral, introduced, great apes in north America. It is examined here. Apparently one of the contenders failed to make eye contact, which is a dead giveaway of probable loss to the other male, or perhaps an inability to avoid giving the Primate Threat Stare without the ability to follow it up by exposing his canines. Clearly that monkey is less confident than the other one (yes, folks, all great apes are monkeys, or Old World Monkeys at any rate). When the fur and teeth are flying, he may be expected to lose. Attenborough will give the usual dispassionate commentary.

Social dominance behaviour underlies everything these apes do, so it’s a very interesting observation. Via Leiter

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    September 27, 2008

    I agree. There is also more discussion in the comments here.

  2. #2 Susan Silberstein
    September 27, 2008

    Indeed. And that smirky face, just like Chimpy. We also noticed that when they had to stand close together to shake hands, McCain did not lift his head to look at Obama (who is several inches taller), but raised his eyes only. One thing I always do when watching something like this, at the beginning, is close my eyes and just listen. McCain sounded nervous. Of course, that could just be me projecting my intense dislike of him as a [apparent] pathological liar whose choice of running mate makes some sense in that she, too, lies constantly.

    So, do they find some excuse to pull Palin out of the race before she embarrasses both herself and the Republicans further at the VP debate? It’s hard to imagine she won’t look like an idiot.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    September 27, 2008

    Well, Susan, since they believe in abstinence-only sex-education they probably don’t realize that pulling out is not an effective way to prevent anything. Like the loss of an election, so maybe they will ask her to stop charading as a knowledgeable politician. Of course they would hemorrhage the loss of votes of all of the fundagelicals who don’t care if she is unqualified as long as she is a gun-totin’ right-thinking Russia-neighboring hockey mom with the talent of glossalalia (and protected from Witchcraft to boot.) Not to mention all of the conservative women who can pretend to be feminists. No, McCain won’t drop Palin, but it is fun to watch the Republicans flail on the issue.

    Watching the older monkey does make me feel feral, now that I think about it. SCCRREEEECCCCHHHHH!

  4. #4 ngong
    September 27, 2008

    McCain sounded nervous.

    Yeah, there seemed to be a bit of a quiver in his voice that I hadn’t noticed before. It could just be my bias for Obama shining through, but there must be some sort of technology that could quantify the extent of quiver, and the degree to which each candidate breaks from baseline speech patterns.

  5. #5 Logicel
    September 28, 2008

    Will the human audience be savvy enough to pick on these posturing clues?

    The White House is a bit like a zoo or a gilded age: the caged denizens need to be rehabilitated in order to survive outside the cage, while in the cage they get lobbied extra chunks of banana, and on-lookers chortle and point, look at the clever thing, it just passed a Bill!!!

  6. #6 Logicel
    September 28, 2008

    Geesh, and I previewed. Corrections: 1)pick UP on…. 2)gilded CAGE.

  7. #7 John S. Wilkins
    September 28, 2008

    The thing about posture and gaze in social dominance amongst primates is that we pick up the cues anyway, even if we can’t quite voice what we have picked up. Lots of folk have identified that McCain failed to give Obama even the slightest of courtesies in that debate; whether through suppressed anger or simple disdain. But everyone saw that McCain was unwilling to look at his opponent, and everyone knows that indicates some negative emotion, probably fear.

  8. #8 tresmal
    September 28, 2008

    Does this mean that there is a chance that they will start throwing their feces at each other at the next debate? Not that that would reduce the substantiveness of the debates.

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