Human Nature

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Human Nature

Sexy Beasts at Seed Magazine

Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from my review of Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. For additional information see my posts Reexamining Ardipithecus ramidus in Light of Human Origins, Those Cheating Testicles, or Who’s Your Baby? as well as Helen’s Lament and the Origins of Forbidden Love. Christopher Ryan also…

A new study shows that chimps sacrifice their own advantage if they earned it unfairly.Image: Owen Booth / Creative Commons Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out unequally or when prior…

Harvard Medical School physician and researcher J. Wes Ulm has a fascinating paper in the new edition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, the quarterly academic periodical put out by Johns Hopkins University. His paper “The Cachet of the Cutthroat” investigates the legacy of ideas that formed the basis of laissez-faire social Darwinism: Ultimately, Social…

Robert Sapolsky on the Uniqueness of Humans

Sapolsky’s talk begins at 5:00 after an introduction by the Stanford Provost. The neuroendocrinologist and primatologist Robert Sapolsky has been one of my primary scientific influences and the reason I pursued my masters and PhD in primate behavior and evolution. Not only is he a brilliant researcher and writer, he’s also a genuinely kind and…

Reciprocity is an intrinsic feature of human beings as well as most species of ape. Chimpanzees and bonobos regularly engage in granting gifts of food and expect a return on their generosity (those who don’t reciprocate are less likely to receive such gifts in the future) (de Waal and Brosnan 2006). This “tit-for-tat” basis of…

Republican Losers Have Lower Testosterone

In a new understanding of the term power grab, researchers have shown that the supporters of a political candidate literally have their power taken from them after they lose an election. In a new study by Steven J. Stanton and colleagues in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, researchers asked 163 Republican and Democratic voters (57…

Classical literature has judged Helen of Troy harshly. Because she chose Paris after having children with Menelaus, her chroniclers condemn her for the destruction of a great society. In Homer’s Odyssey the bard writes: Helen would never have yielded herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the sons of…

There may need to be a significant revision in the recent description of one of humanity’s oldest ancestors. Ardipithecus ramidus (or “Ardi” for short), the 4.4 million year old hominid fossil discovery, has been a godsend to paleoanthropologists (pun intended). But one of the key researchers has made what could be a serious error in…

In the classic film Casablanca, the drama hinges on Ilsa’s choice between two men: her kind and supportive husband or her rugged and passionate ex-lover. In a moment of abandon, Ilsa returns to her lover’s arms only to later change her mind and choose the more stable life she would have with her long-term partner.…

Survival of the Kindest

Seed magazine has just posted my review of Frans de Waal’s The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. I wanted to use this opportunity to thank Nikki, Evan, Bora and everyone else that helped in developing this piece. For posts on related topics please see Misunderstanding Dawkins, The Sacrifice of Admetus, Bonobos…