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    Senior Member Anonymous's Avatar
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    Default Multilevel selection theory in relation to psychology

    I came a really interesting article which applies multilevel selection theory to evolutionary psychology. It has a whole bunch of implications, and I'm wondering what you people think of it.

    Multileve Selection Theory and Major Evolutionary Transitions: Implications for Psychological Science

    Some highlights:

    When between-group selection dominates within-group selection, a major evolutionary transition occurs. The social group becomes a higher-level organism and the members of the group acquire an organ-like status.

    ...

    Major transitions have a number of hallmarks: First, they are rare events in the history of life. It is not easy for between-group selection to dominate within-group selection. All species of eusocial insects, for example, are thought to be derived from only 15 original transitions. Second, major transitions have momentous consequences
    once they occur. Individuals and uncoordinated groups are no match for the new superorganisms, which quickly become ecologically dominant. Third, the transition is never complete. Even multicellular organisms, which might seem like paradigms of internal harmony, contain a disturbing number of genes that spread at the expense of other genes in the same organism, rather than for the good of their group (cf. intragenomic conflict).

    ...

    A major transition requires mechanisms that suppress conflict among individuals within groups, enabling groups to become the primary unit of selection. Multicellular organisms and social insect colonies could not function as adaptive units without internal social control mechanisms (Maynard Smith & Szathmary, 1995). In humans, the traits associated with moral systems appear to perform the same function. Small-scale human society (the only scale during most of human evolution) is remarkable for the degree of social control that members can exert over each other. Unlike most primate species, no single individual can dominate the others in their group. Behaviors that benefit some members at the expense of others are easily detected, communicated, and punished at relatively low cost to the punishers. These social control mechanisms establish a kind of guarded egalitarianism that Boehm (1999) terms a moral community, which characterizes virtually all known hunter-gatherer societies.

    The experimental games literature shows the importance of social control for the maintenance of cooperation in human groups. When provided an opportunity to cooperate, most people are moderately generous until they perceive that they are being exploited by more selfish ingroup members, after which they withhold their own cooperation (De Cremer & Van Vugt, 1999). At least some members are highly motivated to punish selfish behavior, however, even at their own private expense, resulting in high levels of cooperation (Fehr & Gaechter, 2002). Group-level selection thinking forces researchers to reconsider the notion of Homo economicus and replace it with a more complex picture including human preferences for altruism, benevolence, retaliation, contrition, fairness, forgiveness, and so on.

    ...

    Group performance is uncorrelated with the performance of individual members playing alone and playing in a group does not subsequently improve individual performance. In other words, the advantages of playing as a group require being in a group. The performance advantage of groups could be demonstrated even when the task was presented in the format of a brainstorming experiment, where advantages of real groups compared to nominal groups have been notoriously difficult to demonstrate (Mullen, Johnson, & Salas, 1991).

    ...

    Both hypotheses are required to make sense of human leadership. Individual
    selection models suggest there are always at least some individuals who wish to acquire power for themselves, even at the expense of others and the group as a whole. Without strong mechanisms for thwarting their ambitions, leadership will take on characteristics of dominance. Fortunately, in human society strong mechanisms do exist for preventing exploitation, as we have seen, which are applied with special force to leaders, so that they do not abuse the power that they have been given. For instance, gossip and ridicule are focused primarily on important members of a group. Domineering leaders are resented compared to those who are generous, trustworthy, and empathetic. Of course, ambition and aggression in a leader might also be assets for the whole group, especially incompetitive relationships with other groups, which might explain why many societies have separate leaders for war and peace (Van Vugt, 2006).
    For that last sentence of the last paragraph, it also explains why revolutions are ruined by the revolutionaries being in charge after the revolution has succeeded. The characteristics and traits needed for violent overthrow of a previous government are the opposite of the ones that are needed to create and maintain an egalitarian society.

    It also has some pretty serious implications for our current political structures. According to this, our current structures are very well structured to dominate over other groups, but very poorly structured to promote happiness of the group members. An interesting alternative was proposed which does not seem to be taken advantage of by modern society - that is, one leader for times of war, another for times of peace. We seem to try to mix them, and I can't help but question the success of that.

    There are a lot of other things to discuss, but I could go on and on, so I'll leave it here for now.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    For that last sentence of the last paragraph, it also explains why revolutions are ruined by the revolutionaries being in charge after the revolution has succeeded. The characteristics and traits needed for violent overthrow of a previous government are the opposite of the ones that are needed to create and maintain an egalitarian society.
    Yup, this was the understanding that drove a lot of the understory for the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" (the theme was more clearly stated in the book version rather than the movie).
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Senior Member Anonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Yup, this was the understanding that drove a lot of the understory for the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" (the theme was more clearly stated in the book version rather than the movie).
    Hmm... now I'm wanting to read the book. You're right, I didn't pick that up from the movie at all. Although I can kind of see how it might tie into everyone wearing the mask, effectively giving up their individualism.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    Hmm... now I'm wanting to read the book. You're right, I didn't pick that up from the movie at all. Although I can kind of see how it might tie into everyone wearing the mask, effectively giving up their individualism.
    Yes, in the book, V soliloquies (?) about it and Evie doesn't understand, but he lays out his whole plan for him and her and his goal and we see it after the fact if we don't grasp it at the time he imparts it.

    But a very keen sense that his time will soon be past, and he has been grooming his opposite, she who will coax life from the rubble he is planning to create of civilization because of how society's needs will change at that point.

    The other ideas in your post were intriguing, I just am at work right now and probably dabbling more here than I should be...
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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