Saturday, September 20, 2014

Affective empathy, an evolutionary mistake?


 
The Classic of Filial Piety, Ma Hezhi, 12th century (Wikicommons). In China, empathy is experienced primarily as a moral duty, rather than as an involuntary emotional response.

 


In a previous post, I asked, "How universal is empathy?" The question is tricky because empathy has three components:

1. pro-social behavior - willingness to help people out, hospitality to strangers, acts of compassion.

2. cognitive empathy - capacity to see things from another person's perspective and to understand how he or she feels.

3. affective or emotional empathy - capacity not only to understand how another person feels but also to experience those feelings involuntarily and to respond appropriately. Failure to help a person in distress can trigger a self-destructive sequence: anguish, depression, suicidal ideation.

Pro-social behavior is very widespread among humans and may even be universal. It isn't unconditional, however. It can be used strategically and is often influenced by previous experiences with the person in question.

Cognitive empathy seems much less universal. In Oceanic cultures, for instance, there is both an unwillingness and an inability to know what other people feel. A person's inner feelings are said to be private and unknowable (Lepowski, 2011).

Affective empathy has an even more restricted range. If the range of empathic guilt is indicative, it may reach its highest incidences in the "guilt cultures" of northwestern Europe. In these cultures, guilt outweighs shame as a way to enforce social rules. What's the difference between the two? You feel shame when someone from your community sees you breaking a rule. With guilt, no witnesses are needed. You feel guilty when no else is watching or even when you merely think of breaking the rule.

Until recently, empathy has been studied only in Western populations, with the result that it is often assumed to have the same characteristics everywhere, at least potentially. This shortcoming was noted in a Hong Kong study: "A limitation of the existing literature on empathy in the social work context is that most of the existing studies on empathy are Western studies, and there are very few empirical studies of empathy in Chinese populations" (Siu and Shek, 2005)

When Siu and Shek (2005) studied empathy in a Chinese sample ranging from 18 to 29 years of age, they found that the participants made little distinction between cognitive empathy and affective (emotional) empathy. These two components seemed to be weakly differentiated from each other. The authors attributed this finding to "cultural differences" "Chinese people might not perceive the items from the two dimensions as too different in nature." The authors went on to note that "there are still debates concerning the boundaries of emotional and cognitive processes underlying empathy" and that "the causal relationships between cognitive and emotional processing underlying empathy are not simple or unidirectional."

In short, the Chinese participants could see things from another person's perspective and understand how that person felt. There is much less indication, however, that they involuntarily experienced the feelings of other people, especially feelings of distress. This is not to say they were incapable of such emotion transference, but rather that it seems limited in scope, perhaps being confined to family members and not extended to strangers.

In general, empathy is perceived in China as a moral duty and not as an involuntary emotional response. The authors underline this point when they discuss relevant beliefs in their culture:

These include the cultural beliefs of "qi suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren" (do not do unto others that you would not wish others to do on you), "jiang xin bi ji" (compare people's hearts with your own), "she shen chu di" (put yourself into other people's position), and "shen tong gan shou" (experiencing the experience of other people). With the emphases on collectivism and familism (Yang, 1981), taking the views of others is an essential duty, and the lack of consideration to others' perspectives is generally regarded as a lack of virtue in the Chinese culture (Wong, 1998). (Siu and Shek, 2005)
 

From cognitive empathy to affective empathy: the how and why

In humans, empathy seems to have differentiated progressively into its three components, with pro-social behavior being the oldest and most widespread one, followed by cognitive empathy and, finally, affective empathy.
 
This kind of mental evolution has been certainly possible in our species:

First, all three components display moderate to high heritability, especially the last one, i.e., 68% (Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen, 2013). There has thus been a potential for gene-culture co-evolution.

Second, gene-culture co-evolution seems to have been widespread. About 10,000 years ago, human genetic evolution accelerated by over a hundred-fold, yet by that time our ancestors had colonized this planet from the tropics to the arctic (Hawks et al., 2007). They were evolving primarily in response to different cultural environments, and only secondarily to different physical environments.

Third, people have thus been selected for their ability to function in a certain cultural environment, just as they have been selected for their ability to function in heat or cold.

That answers the "how" question, but what about the "why"? Why was affective empathy more advantageous at the northwestern end of Eurasia? Together with empathic guilt, it may be part of a larger behavioral adaptation called the Western European Marriage Pattern, which seems to reflect a culture where kinship ties are relatively weak and thus insufficient to enforce rules of correct behavior.

The WEMP predominates north and west of an imaginary line running from Trieste to St. Petersburg and has the following general characteristics:

 - men and women tend to marry relatively late and many never marry

- children usually leave the family to form new households

- a high proportion of non-kin circulate among different households (Hajnal, 1965)

This zone of relatively weak kinship existed before the Black Death of the 14th century and is attested by fragmentary evidence going back to the 9th century and even earlier (Hallam, 1985; Seccombe, 1992, p. 94). I suspect its origins go back to a unique Mesolithic culture that once existed along the North Sea and the Baltic (Price, 1991). At that time, an abundance of marine resources drew people to the coast each year for fishing, sealing, and shellfish collecting, thus creating large but fluid settlements unlike anything seen in other hunter-gatherers. Social interactions would have largely involved non-kin, and there would have thus been strong selection for mechanisms that could enforce social rules in the absence of kin obligations.
 

Conclusion

Through their high capacity for affective empathy and empathic guilt, these Northwest Europeans had an edge in adapting to later cultural environments that would be structured not by kinship but by other ways of organizing social relations: the State, ideology, and the market economy.

This has been one path that leads to advanced societies, but it is not the only one. East Asian societies have pursued a similar path of cultural evolution while having relatively low levels of affective empathy and empathic guilt. They seem to have done so by relying more on external means of behavior control (shaming, family discipline, community surveillance) and by building on cognitive empathy through learned notions of moral duty.

Meanwhile, Northwest European societies have had their capacity for empathy pushed to the limit, as seen in the commonly heard term "aid fatigue." And there is no easy way to turn it off. The only real way is to convince oneself that the object of empathy is morally worthless.

Was it all an evolutionary mistake? Time will tell.
 

References

Chakrabarti, B. and S. Baron-Cohen. (2013). Understanding the genetics of empathy and the autistic spectrum, in S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, M. Lombardo. (eds). Understanding Other Minds: Perspectives from Developmental Social Neuroscience, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
http://books.google.ca/books?hl=fr&lr=&id=eTdLAAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA326&ots=fHpygaxaMQ&sig=_sJsVgdoe0hc-fFbzaW3GMEslZU#v=onepage&q&f=false  

Hajnal, J. (1965). European marriage pattern in historical perspective. In D.V. Glass and D.E.C. Eversley (eds). Population in History, Arnold, London.

Hallam, H.E. (1985). Age at first marriage and age at death in the Lincolnshire Fenland, 1252-1478, Population Studies, 39, 55-69.

Hawks, J., E.T. Wang, G.M. Cochran, H.C. Harpending,& R.K. Moyzis. (2007). Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 104, 20753-20758.
http://harpending.humanevo.utah.edu/Documents/accel_pnas_submit.pdf

Lepowsky, M. (2011). The boundaries of personhood, the problem of empathy, and "the native's point of view" in the outer islands, in D.W. Hollan, C. J. Throop (eds).The Anthropology of Empathy: Experiencing the Lives of Others in Pacific Societies, (pp. 43-68), New York: Berghahn.

Price, T.D. (1991). The Mesolithic of Northern Europe, Annual Review of Anthropology, 20, 211-233.
http://www.cas.umt.edu/departments/anthropology/courses/anth254/documents/annurev.an.TDouglasPrice1991MseolithicNEurope.pdf  
 
Seccombe, W. (1992). A Millennium of Family Change. Feudalism to Capitalism in Northwestern Europe, London: Verso.

Siu, A.M.H. and D.T. L. Shek. (2005). Validation of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index in a Chinese Context, Research on Social Work Practice, 15, 118-126.

65 comments:

Stephen said...

QUOTE
"That answers the "how" question, but what about the "why"? Why was affective empathy more advantageous at the northwestern end of Eurasia? Together with empathic guilt, it may be part of a larger behavioral adaptation called the Western European Marriage Pattern, which seems to reflect a culture where kinship ties are relatively weak and thus insufficient to enforce rules of correct behavior."END QUOTE

Yes the WHY question is important. Perhaps whenever you make these statements you should link to a post explaining this further because by itself it sounds like you arguing the reason that it rains is to make the plants grow. How can a society not strong enough to shame people so strongly select for altruistic guilty people it seems like you have cause and effect back to front.

ANOTHER QUOTE
"Through their high capacity for affective empathy and empathic guilt, these Northwest Europeans had an edge in adapting to later cultural environments that would be structured not by kinship but by other ways of organizing social relations: the State, ideology, and the market economy."END QUOTE

Altruistic guilt feeling people create a society with those attributes but the people most ADAPTED to that environment are psychopathic scammers who have plenty of naive soppy prey but most reproductively successful and vus best adapted to this environment seem to be benefit moochers who can just guilt these altruists into feeding them.

A society made up of such people can be quite successful by measures of wealth and technology but I doesn't look like they successfully select for those traits in the population long term.

Anonymous said...

Darwin...

"As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into
larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual
that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the
members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This
point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to
prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and
races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great
differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us
how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures.
Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower
animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is
apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little
the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial
exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was
new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the
noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from
our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until
they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is
honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction
and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in
public opinion."

More memetic than genetic.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese for one of those quotes is: 其所不欲,勿施于人

You should include the real Chinese for those of us who want to look it up.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that there have been some errors in transcription in the Pinyin above:

http://www.360doc.com/content/10/1008/12/2561844_59289825.shtml

The Chinese should be:

己 所 不 欲, 勿 施 於 人 (traditional)
己 所 不 欲, 勿 施 于 人 (simplified)
jǐ suǒ bù yù , wù shī yú rén

This quotes Confucius (孔子) and goes back a long way:

http://www.orientaloutpost.com/shufa.php?q=confucius+golden+rule+benevolence

Panda@War said...

Wow, where to start?

Let Panda congratulate Peter First because he quoted Chinese, ancient and contemporary examples, Yahoo! At least that’s a promising start. Lol

Peter’s seemingly logical line of arguing certainly can be seen as 1 way to interpret the world. However, it is not the only way, as actually Panda has a quite different view which could be more likely to be more accurate in describing the societies we see, and How and Why:

Firstly, Panda strongly challenges the 3-component order of empathy listed by Peter. Dunno if it’s already a textbook routine in the field, but to Panda it looks so so very wrong. If there must be an order pf low-to-high 3 level gradual components, it logically should be, borrowing the similar words –

1. Emotional empathy: the very basic instinct of every human being since the very start. Panda suspects that even chimps and dolphins have this emotional empathy (not only towards their close kins) to various degrees.
2. Pro-social behaviour: this component was developed as humans started to gather hunting as groups for survival, and further strengthened by the immergence of large-scale agriculture, hence the immergence of ancient villages, cities, societies, etc.
3. Cognitive empathy: a relatively very advanced feature which was formed by firstly started recognising the need (by groups of more advancedly-evolved people, for the purpose of mutual benefits for survival – hence an artificial product driven by a natural need), and then by cementing and enforcing it via concepts that were either religion-based, or (moral) rule-based, or open civil law-based, or all of them. Hence this cognitive empathy should be heavily culture-dependent, and economics-dependent as well since one could assumes that higher level of economic income, if sustained in a very long period of time of course, is a direct result of higher level of culture developed by more-evolved people in the first place.

Not much to be discussed on level 1 and 2 intellectually, as they are painfully obvious.

Hence secondly, on level 3 Cognitive empathy How and Why:

For the NW Euros, or Euros in general, Panda believes, they achieved level 3 via religion-based firstly and for the most part, and later further being cemented by partly by European Renaissance ideals and primarily through economics later – the exponential rise of material wealth on per cap basis achieved via discovering of the world (lands) and British Industrial Revolution. E.g. take 1 zero out of per cap income of average American or Australian and see how fast their current level of cognitive empathy falls when measured by donation per cap to the 3rd world. It will not be proportional, that’s for sure.

For the European masses, pls don’t try to convince Panda on how popular cognitive empathy in Europe was even as recently as during British Industrial Revolution, or During Spaniards conquering of Americas, or during Go West campaigns in the US, or in Australia, etc…, as it’s not even funny. Panda suspects that for the Euros masses, this level 3 Cognitive empathy went to the historical high during the 1980’s – the Michael Jackson era of “We are the world” – the absolute economics high of the West. It droped sharply and will continue to drop since post 2008 era, due to A). worse economics ( perhaps Peter can chip in here to convince Panda how high the cognitive empathy is in current Greece , Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal just to name a few? Panda is all ears), and B) post-modern neo liberal fantasies that in many respects weakened the Christian Church-religion-based western morality amongst the younger generations.

(part 1. Cont.)

Panda@War said...

( part 2):

For the Chinese however, or NE Asia Confucius societies in principle, they achieved level 3 primarily via rule-based Confucius ideals 2,500 years ago, which was reinforced through about the following about 1,800 years of complete economical/technological supremacy ( which btw makes mockery out of “god-given-destiny” of the “Superior Americans” due to merely 40 years of economical/technological supremacy of the US since the Bretton Woods) , and was sharply weakened by pathetic economics resulted from the failure of, and/or slow-mover disadvantages due to, the British industrial revolution. In the case of China, the intellectual, cultural , economical and technological leader of the Confucius’world for >2000 years, the inertia-driven and slower-turning “super tanker China” (compared to other smaller and nimbler Confucius dragons of course) has been further weakened by 5 decades of the Communist rule unfortunately, thanks to Mao’s sureprise victory over the nationalists, which systematically has weakened the rule-based Confucius ideals even further amongst the Chinese younger generations. However, as China’s re-emergence gathers path, Panda expectsto see Cognitive empathy raise up again.

In other words, we are at an historical crossing when level 3 Cognitive empathy in the West is dropping and China is rising… This is the world we have today. Therefore:

Note 1 : Siu and Shek (2005) are 2 intellectual imbeciles, because they dumbfoundedly followed the conventional western textbook set up without even bother asking the obvious question in the first place AND afterwards. No wonder the Chinese tested there were “confused” about “2 cognitive empathy and 3 Affective or Emotional Empathy. Was it simplely because the questions were nonsense? ROFL. A critical lesson learned here: whenever a huge group of people who have one of the highest IQ average in the world are somehow collectively “confused” by your questions, perhaps it’s wiser to take a closer look at the questions first and do some self-inspection, Panda wonder?

Note 2: Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen(2013) are 2 intellectual imbeciles, because even AFTER their heritability test results particularly that “somehow”very high 68% for level 2, they seemed dumbfoundedly satisfied with their paper without noticing the obvious problem – their Level 2 is fact Panda’s level 3 – of course, it is highly heritable, since IQ-IS-highly- heritable, genius. ROFL.

Note 3: As for closer kinships, For most, for any, British elite class members today, Panda can trace their close kinship to 1, 2, 3, no 5, no 6, or more generations…Even GW Bush etc can be traced clearly there. Anything to add? However, the same thing can not be even remotely true for the Chinese. In fact, it’s not remotely similar to the British since ruling elites of Han Dynasty of 2,200 years ago in China till today’s 9-person-ruled China Communist top leadership and their close cycles. Why? Confucius exams and all officals thereby by and large destroyed tribal kinship in by and large most social-economical levels in China yesterday and today (except some due to corruptions), unlike Europe.

Note 4: “Affective empathy, an evolutionary mistake?” Panda is very afraid that mother nature makes no mistakes. Before one finds out it’s a “mistake”, he’s dead. ROFL.

Panda@War said...

Panda has to add a line here that in total contrary to the order list mentioned by Peter, rule-based Cognitive Empahty (Panda's level 3) ought to be relatively the most advanced feature of the 3 thus far in any societies, much higher than Panda's level 1 and level 2 which are both "organic", natural, and without too much man-made cultivations. Rule-based empathy (also can be seen as "sythetic empathy" in this sense) by definition means there must be a clear recognition of the importance of the feature after the natural "enlightenment" of the minority rule-making elites in the first place, so important that it must be "nailed down" by rules for betterment of the societies, in forms of religions or laws or otherwise. And the rule must reflect a much wider degrees of enlightenment hence natural acception levels of the massed as well, because without the a decent degree of acception by the masses (i.e. insinuating average IQ and the corresponding degrees of "enlightenment" of them), the "rule" would soon be rebelled and displaced.

Therefore, Panda's 3 level order of empathy, called "Cognitive Empathy" by default, should be intelletually superior to the corresponding level of the order mentioned in Peter's piece which to Panda is rather confusing and wrong.

Anonymous said...

Presumably then theocratic impositions such as Christianity and the Church or modern Political Correctness that promote notions such as, "We are all brothers and sisters in Christ", "We are all God's children", and "race doesn't exist", "we're all equal, we're all the same", etc., weren't and aren't necessary?

Anonymous said...

This is evidence -- but for what exactly? It certainly doesn't justify tenuous handwaving about marriage patterns and ancient fishing.

If we're just talking our respective confirmation biases, it's certainly far more justified that this is evidence for northern European tendency toward individualism and indoctrinability combined with the capture of indoctrinability by Jews going back thousands of years via the Bible and continuing in the present day as highly disproportionate Jewish influence in motion picture media and academia.

Some of us slip through the cracks between JudeoChristian indoctrination and motionpicture/academic indoctrination whereupon our individualism requires us to think independently of our zombie peers.

Anonymous said...

Peter Frost argues the following as evidence for the lack of natural law: "In other societies, every adult male has the right to use violence to settle personal disputes, even to the point of killing. If he abdicates that right, he's no longer a real man."

Yeah, this has no greater standing as natural law than any other just because it's mirrored in most sexual species. I mean, since when did non-human species count as part of "nature" anyway?

Anonymous said...

Peter, there is some support for similar ideas to yours in the literature:

http://tinyurl.com/kjqutdh - Han et Ma 2014 - Cultural differences in human brain activity: Aquantitative meta-analysis

Social cognitive processes are characterized by stronger activity in the dorsal medial prefron-tal cortex, lateral frontal cortex and temporoparietal junction in East Asians but stronger activity in the anterior cingulate, ventral medial prefrontal cortex and bilateral insula in Westerners.

Social affective processes are asso-ciated with stronger activity in the right dorsal lateral frontal cortex in East Asians but greater activity in the left insula and right temporal pole in Westerners.

Non-social processes induce stronger activity in the left inferior parietal cortex, left middle occipital and left superior parietal cortex in East Asians but greater activations in theright lingual gyrus, right inferior parietal cortex and precuneus in Westerners.

The results suggest that cultural differences in social and non-social processes are mediated by distinct neural networks.

Moreover, East Asian cultures are associated with increased neural activity in the brain regions related to inference of others' mind and emotion regulation whereas Western cultures are associated with enhanced neural activity in the brain areas related to self-relevance encoding and emotional responses during social cognitive/affective processes.


Emotional suppression or low arousal is more the norm in East Asian cultures. This likely includes affectative empathic responses - it's likely not an absence of response, but active (voluntary or involuntary) suppression.

This also outlines that compared to East Asia, Europe's societies are support seeking societies where Europeans don't monitor one another for signs that support is wanted, but wait for support to be explicitly sought, and then generally respond without questioning or mistrust (all in contrast to East Asia, where people monitor one another constantly and offer support, but are actually fairly harsh towards people who ask for support and where there are taboos against seeking support).

I would dispute that Europeans have more involuntary empathy than East Asia though. Emotional responses are voluntary - people do choose to feel certain emotions, and cannot always choose their thoughts. People with autism have intact affective empathy, generally, yet often do not choose to focus that way.

Also, placing the boundary at affective vs cognitive empathy per se seem malformed to a degree in that it might suggest a similar divide between psychopaths and autists, groups respectively lacking in one of each of these traits, which is obviously not the case comparing Europeans and East Asians (Europeans are not autistic while East Asians are psychopathic).

Finally, as the above abstract makes clear, Europeans almost certainly have much stronger emotional arousal and self relevance concepts than most of the world. They seem to have larger brain areas and more activation in areas associated with consciousness of the self. This is particularly likely to be the case for Northwest Europeans, who have a reputation for being self obsessed, me-first and pretentious. In contrast, self concept and self enhancing is particularly low in East Asians. Greater affective empathy for others feelings may be to a balance for self promoting behaviour, by extending prosocial behaviour promotion.

Anonymous said...

Btw, does anyone else find "Panda@War"s referring to himself in the third person bizarre in the extreme? Reminds me of how the person running the website AskTheKorean refers to himself as "The Korean".

Is this a strange East Asian mental trait, to alienate your public identity from your self to this degree?

Anonymous said...

1.2.3. Very good idea. Criteria are important.

"You feel guilty when no else is watching"
I'm constantly surprised by the standards that some British people stick to. I do too but I'm more selective with it these days.

There is no personal intonation in Chinese? Intonation is part of the universal meaning of a word?

#panda@peace
It's good to have your comments. I don't like echo chambers. We have to be able to defend a coherent thesis. Peter's work is gaining momentum but there's no reason why we are not witnessing two systems - East Asian and West Asian (with West Asian varying between North and South).

@Luke
I always look forward to your comments.


There is a primatologist who wrote a book and in it he referred to Chimps, opportunistic carnivores, exhibiting mixed behaviour of eating, and hugging, baboons they kill.

Beyond Anon said...

Contra both Peter Frost and Anonymous at September 21, 2014 at 9:42:00 AM GMT-4, the paper mentioned by Anonymous says:

Finally, brain imaging studies
of immigrants have revealed dissimilar brain activity in people who
have the same ethnic origin but develop in different sociocultural con-
texts (e.g., Chen et al., 2013; Zuo and Han, 2013) and thus contribute
to the understanding of how cultural experiences influence the func-
tional organization of the human brain.


It seems to me that this suggests culturally-directed differential brain-area recruitment during upbringing rather than differentially selected genetic differences.

Panda@War said...

"It's good to have your comments. I don't like echo chambers. We have to be able to defend a coherent thesis. Peter's work is gaining momentum but there's no reason why we are not witnessing two systems - East Asian and West Asian (with West Asian varying between North and South)."

Just love your comment.LoL.

In your own logic, you got to agree perfectly on what Panda has proposed from my perspective (even more than what you just wrote), that

there's no reason why we are not witnessing two systems - Western European Christians (traditionally the West) and Eastern Euroepan Muslims (traditional the Middle West Muslim regions such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi, etc.) - given you guys are geographically much closer in Euroasian continent than East Asia and racially the same as well as both being Caucasoids (while East Asia being Mongoloids, completely different kettle of fish), with West European Christian category varying between North euros, South euros, East euros and West euros)?

Yay, can we shake on that, unless of course you're major in double-talk as well? rofl

Panda@War said...

" Anonymous said...
Btw, does anyone else find "Panda@War"s referring to himself in the third person bizarre in the extreme? Reminds me of how the person running the website AskTheKorean refers to himself as "The Korean".

Is this a strange East Asian mental trait, to alienate your public identity from your self to this degree? "

What you jealous? Cry Panda a river, or try to contribute something relevent and more intelligent here. ROFL.

Panda@War said...

Anonymous said...


"Finally, as the above abstract makes clear, Europeans almost certainly have much stronger emotional arousal and self relevance concepts than most of the world. They seem to have larger brain areas and more activation in areas associated with consciousness of the self. This is particularly likely to be the case for Northwest Europeans..." September 21, 2014 at 9:42:00 AM GMT-4


--- Go easy, Anonymous, hold your horse right there. Before you make such a conclusion (which I assume is based on some findings of some brain research which I assume that is perfectly flawless), don't you think it's very much likely that "larger brain areas and more activation in areas associated with consciousness of the self of the Northwest Europeans- vís-a-vís East Asians" in that brain research is more about culture-dependent instead of genetics-dependent?

In other words, whenever a culture/society systemically encourages and rewards self-consciousness behaviours, it is highly likely that brains of the people in that culture/society will naturally show "larger brain areas and more activations in areas associated with consciousness of the self" ? And so on and so forth? It is an obvious self-fulfilling cycle actually, and that brain research you quote hence tells us no more and no less than this.

Panda@War said...

Off the topic: To all the Anonymous out there,

Will you pls do Panda a favour? Before you clik on Publish Your Comment, clik on "Name/URL" item and type in your name, any name actualy, such as "Anonymous Tom" or "Anonymous Dave" if you like "Anonymous" so much, for others to tell you all Anonymous apart.

Thank you!

Panda can easily get dizzy when there are too many anonymously similar anonymous out there, you know. Is that your strategy to win the battle? rofl.

Panda@War said...

2 gigantic “crisis” staring at Peter's emphathy:


Crisis 1:

It is very surprising to see Panda is the only one challenging the 3 components of empathy, the definitions and the logical flow of which appear troublesome to say the least. The line between

level 2 cognitive empathy and
level 3 affective and emotional empathy

is very blurring and even illogical. Actually I would further argue there’s no strict line there since they belong more to the same category. Intellectually speaking, the one who possesses level 2 should have no problem at all to excise level 3. The fact that many just don’t act so is perhaps more due to individual circumstances (i.e. mainly economic reasons, etc. I should explain more in detail later).

To forcefully separate level 3 from 2, somewhat aiming to pave a way for later-on self-fulfilling kinship research & analysis as Peter did therefore, looks to me unnatural. The real quantum leap of empathy could more likely be Panda’s level 3 – a “man-made synthetic empathy” based on religions or (moral)rules or laws that requires a revolutionary rule-making elites and large scale of acceptance by the masses. It represents an intellectual leap forward of humans, separating from basic born-with-it human instincts. It offers a clear intellectual cut from Panda’s level 1 and 2, hence appears more intuitive and progressively Darwinian than the 3-component order presented by Peter.

Panda@War said...

Crisis 2:

On Peter’s level 2 and level 3, WHY many people feel both but act one not the other in real life? I suspect that it has much more to do with a series of survival factors, mainly economy (e.g. income per cap), rather than some half-baked kinship studies ( till now they still refuse to answer the close kidship among Anglo upper class today, way closer than anything in China for instance. Tell Panda who is the dad of Chairman Mao? No one knows – an unknown peasant in a hole in South China? Who is the granddad of Chiang Kai Shek? No idea, another unknown peasant living 800km away from Mao’s? Yet almost people can easily check who is great great great dad and noble relatives of GW Bush, John Kerry or Dave Cameron... ). Generally speaking the more wealthy people are, the more comfortable they are when facing survival factors, the higher level 3 they tend to show. Consider the following scenarios:

The same people could show higher (Peter’s) level 3 affective and emotional empathy in peace time than in war time ( due to less stressful, safer and better perceived chance for personal survival in peace time?)

An avg Dutch in the low countries could have lower level 3 than an avg ethnic Dutch Americans in Penn State, given the same income ( due to population density? More densely populated places are a tougher place for survival, everything else being equal)

Who is more likely to have higher level 3 ( an avg Spaniard in Spain or an avg ethnic German Argentinean? – a serious challenge to South euro vs NW euro. I’d guess the Spaniard instead of “less kinship” NW euros, simply due to much higher income level?)

An avg Belgian could expect to have lower level 3 than an avg Chinese Australian given the same income ( due to higher population density in Belgium - higher competition, and much less perceived and not yet materialised [natural resources] income per cap? )

An avg Chinese in HK could have lower level 3 than an avg 5th-gen Chinese American (due to much higher competition hence tougher survival environment).

But the same HK Chinese could become higher on level 3 after he migrated to Africa for work reasons given the same income – due to much less actual and perceived competitions in Africa hence more comfortable for personal survival? The same for a bottom-feeder NYC losser who usually goes for free dinners in the community church and could start to give some $ to the street beggars in India as he migrants there(due to relatively much higher income level and better perceived chance of survival?)

Examples are endless, with economics as the main driver of Peter’s level 3 that is quite flexible actually in most cases as one’s relative economics condition (hence perceived survival difficulties) improves or deteriorates. This contradicts to what level 3 definition insinuates that once one has a certain level of level 3 it’s more or less fixed due to “less or more kinships” genetics.

Look at the long line of history: it appears that whenever after a sustained surge in one’s prosperity, its (Peter’s) level 3 empathy tend to increase as a result. E.g. compare prior to, during and after Victorian British industrial revolution which exponentially increased European’s per cap living standard particularly in NW Europe. Compare Civil War era Americans and Post-Bretten Woods era Americans. Compare China in 12th century Song(per cap income highest in the world), 1950 AD (per cap income among the lowest in the world) and now.

Anonymous said...

If one driver for empathy is mother-child then the more specialized the male/female roles become then the more the females could develop empathy?

Although if correct then San and Eskimo women ought to show a high degree of affective empathy also.

i.e. it's not man the hunter it's man the killer and woman the not-killer.

#

(Separately I wonder sometimes if cognitive empathy may have originally been a hunter version of empathy rather than the nice kind.)

Anonymous said...

"More memetic than genetic."

well...

"As soon as this virtue is
honoured and practised by some few men,"

genetic first

"it spreads through instruction
and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in
public opinion."

then memetic.

Implying that the first few genetically altruistic had a big enough advantage for their view to come to dominate.

I think this *group* advantage was created via forming groups around local church denominations.

So not religion itself but the organizational form of the religion allowing these small groups of ultra cooperative (among themselves) people to thrive relative to their neighbors.

Altruistic people can out-compete less altruistic people but only as a group.

Anonymous said...

Beyond Anon: Finally, brain imaging studies of immigrants have revealed dissimilar brain activity in people who have the same ethnic origin but develop in different sociocultural contexts (e.g., Chen et al., 2013; Zuo and Han, 2013) and thus contribute to the understanding of how cultural experiences influence the functional organization of the human brain.

There are no doubt differences in brain function between people from different SES within each ethnic group. (as this quote states, which is not in any contradiction to the rest of the meta-analysis's findings).

That does not take away from the reality of between differences in the ethnic group means.

anonymous B said...

Someone needs to repeat the empathy studies with Asians and non- Asians living in the same culture. I don’t find Japanese and Chinese children in Hawaii any less empathic than Non-Asian children. They all cheer for and cry for the same Disney characters…

Anonymous said...

"genetic first"

Virtues,"conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles;" do not necessarily arise genetically.

Darwin:

"The other so-called self-regarding virtues, which do not
obviously, though they may really, affect the welfare of the tribe,
have never been esteemed by savages, though now highly appreciated
by civilised nations. The greatest intemperance is no reproach with
savages. Utter licentiousness, and unnatural crimes, prevail to an
astounding extent.* As soon, however, as marriage, whether polygamous,
or monogamous, becomes common, jealousy will lead to the inculcation
of female virtue; and this, being honoured, will tend to spread to the
unmarried females."

It may be courage that is instinctive (from fight or flight) and the admiration of such a trait is inexorable spread throughout the tribe memetically.

Darwin...

"As during rude times no man can be useful or faithful to his tribe
without courage, this quality has universally been placed in the
highest rank; and although in civilised countries a good yet timid man may be far more useful to the community than a brave one, we cannot
help instinctively honouring the latter above a coward, however
benevolent."

Virtues are the memes that convey the desirability of particular traits. It makes sense genetically when it is kin/tribe that benefits. However when American soldiers go to Iraq to die for 'freedom' it only makes sense if the meme is replicated to further the interest of the meme without regard for the gene machine it has infected.

Anonymous said...

They all cheer for and cry for the same Disney characters…

Well, lots of sniffling and sentimental "Ganbatte kudasai Princess Kenny-sama!" type responses in Japan when they're glued to their favorite manga cartoons*, as well, but whether anything like that happens much in everyday socialising extemporaneously... (vs keeping emotions in check and not being in feeling with others too much, while also not having much of an ability to discern self interest and involuntarily thinking and behaving in line with the needs of others).

*or kabuki plays or whatever in the past.

Beyond Anon said...

Anonymous at September 22, 2014 at 3:14:00 PM GMT-4 seems unable to understand the difference between SocioEconomic Status (ie, upper class, midde cass, working class etc) and SocioCultural context (ie, whether you were raised in a Western culture or a Chinese culture.)

Anonymous said...

My anectdotal experience has been one in which empathy is as follows:

North Americans
Central and South Americans
Europeans
Africans
Asians


You always read about how polite Japanese are. My experience after living there for half a decade is that they are a risky rudely cold, much less polite (not to mention less friendly) when compared to the average person.
I'm no scientist- just throwing out my own experience because it seems to mesh well with the research.

East Asians seem to be very, VERY cold. Of course- I'm not seeing much difference among Asian Australians.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous at September 22, 2014 at 3:14:00 PM GMT-4 seems unable to understand the difference between SocioEconomic Status (ie, upper class, midde cass, working class etc) and SocioCultural context (ie, whether you were raised in a Western culture or a Chinese culture.)

While I may have read your original comment rather briskly, the fact that there are divergences between people raised in different "sociocultural" contexts, this in no way demonstrates that differences are entirely due to cultural groups.

The differences between e.g. Asian migrants in Europe and Asians are likely to be wholly orthogonal to the differences between East Asians raised in Asia and Westerners raised in the West.

Anonymous said...

"do not necessarily arise genetically."

Not necessarily no. But if a minority did change this way how would it work?

They'd need to advertise to form a group and if the trait was beneficial in a group - because it maximized cooperativeness - then the minority that had genetically changed might come to dominate the majority memetically.


"Virtues are the memes that convey the desirability of particular traits. It makes sense genetically when it is kin/tribe that benefits. However when American soldiers go to Iraq to die for 'freedom' it only makes sense if the meme is replicated to further the interest of the meme without regard for the gene machine it has infected."


Agreed, and one possible explanation for that is the genetic change isn't even and increased over time.

Say a minority of a population experienced a genetic change which widened their circle of sympathy from say clannish to nationalist and the higher level of cooperation that ensued among that minority led to them memeticly dominating the majority leading to further genetic change.

Time rolls on and now the majority have moved from clannish to nationalist but the vanguard segment of the population has moved from nationalist to universalist - which might be all lovely and Star Trek if everyone was the same (but they're not).

So a trait that is beneficial at moderate levels becomes self-harming at high levels (unless everyone is like it).

Beyond Anon said...

While I may have read your original comment rather briskly, the fact that there are divergences between people raised in different "sociocultural" contexts, this in no way demonstrates that differences are entirely due to cultural groups.

That is not what I said.

The problem is how do we distinguish between differences that are genetically mediated (ie, entirely due to selection on genes) and differences that are due to differential recruitment of brain regions due to the different culture two different individuals might have been raised in.

Anonymous said...

"Say a minority of a population experienced a genetic change which widened their circle of sympathy from say clannish to nationalist and the higher level of cooperation that ensued among that minority led to them memeticly dominating the majority leading to further genetic change."

Interesting point, but then how do we account for moral debasement? Darwin criticized the Spanish in S.America for their treatment of the Indians.

"Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war, because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian civilized country?" ― Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Chapter V

And yet when the Spanish first arrived in the Americas they found Mesoamerican populations that ritualistically sacrificed and cannibalized their own, including children.

The other indicator of a powerful meme is the mention of "a Christian civilized country". In Darwin's view other savages may behave in this manner but civilized Christians, how can it be?

It seems there are two powerful memes competing, a Christian civilization that embraces the barbarian and a Christian civilization that roots out the evil of a barbarian society that practices human sacrifice. The second, according to the moral view of those who embrace the first, is morally debased.

How can empathy/altruism be genetically derived when moral debasement is, it seems, ever present?

Peter Fros_ said...

Stephen,

Yes, I make the mistake of assuming that people have read my previous posts. I've inserted a link.

I agree that a society with a high level of involuntary empathy is open season for psychopathic scammers. This seems to be why empathy is twinned with rejection of people who are perceived as being morally worthless.

There is some misunderstanding on this point. Empathy is not simply do-gooding. It's a keen interest in how other people think and feel. If those other people have "immoral" thoughts and feelings, they will be expelled from the moral community. Or they may be killed. The witch burners of the Middle Ages were very empathic.

Anon,

"There is not the least inherent improbability, as it seems to me, in virtuous tendencies being more or less strongly inherited; for, not to mention the various dispositions and habits transmitted by many of our domestic animals to their offspring, I have heard of authentic cases in which a desire to steal and a tendency to lie appeared to run in families of the upper ranks: and as stealing is a rare crime in the wealthy classes, we can hardly account by accidental coincidence for the tendency occurring in two or three members of the same family. If bad tendencies are transmitted, it is probable that good ones are likewise transmitted." (Darwin, The Descent of Man 1936[1888], p. 492)

Panda,

Please don't congratulate me on my knowledge of Chinese sayings. I was just quoting a Chinese author.

Pro-social behavior is probably a separate mental system entirely. I don't follow the rest of your reasoning because cognitive empathy must have preceded affective empathy. You first need a mental model of how another person feels before you can feed that simulation into your own emotional state.

I doubt very much that chimps have emotional empathy. It's not just a desire to help others.

Anonymous said...

@anon 1:20

"Interesting point, but then how do we account for moral debasement? Darwin criticized the Spanish in S.America for their treatment of the Indians."

Us vs Them still applies - widening the circle of sympathy simply changes who are "us" and who are "them".

For a clannish population the us vs them might be the clan group vs everyone else but at the next level it might be the national group vs everyone else. Eventually it might become a universalist "us" with the "them" replaced by what are considered to be universal enemies or problems like cancer or saving the whale.

So a sliding scale of widened sympathies with populations undergoing this genetic change - if that is what happened - switching from one concept of "normal" to another when a tipping point is reached (with this tipping point not necessarily requiring a majority if the early adapted are the best organized).

#

"How can empathy/altruism be genetically derived when moral debasement is, it seems, ever present?"

Two sides of the same coin imo.

At what I am assuming was the original level it's empathy to "us" not "them" and a critical part of group competition.

At the assumed changed level of empathy then empathy towards the whale -> hostility to the whalers.

An empathic person witnessing a small person being beaten to a pulp by a larger person might attack the larger person..

This also means empathic people can be manipulated into attacking people for example if they're told another group's army are bayoneting babies they will want to fight them even if it was a lie.

Mirco Romanato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mirco Romanato said...

A reason for the difference in empathy between Europeans and East Asian could be linked to the differences selected for by their environment.

If female hair/eye color selection in Europe is due to the hunting during the last Ice Age why not the empathy evolution?

A long range hunting party is different from the hunter-gatherers, fishers and agricultural groups in the Far East or even the Middle East.
You need strict cooperation in an environment where enforcing cooperation or monitoring for exploitation or lack of performance is difficult/impossible or just uneconomic.

The groups with individual able to feel guilty about their wrong actions without being monitored by others would fare a lot better then the groups without.

This could account, also, for the individual not monitoring others for their needs (party members need to be as independent as possible) but being willing to help them if asked without questioning their real need. If a long range hunting party an individual discovered to cheat and exploit would be expelled or summarily killed and both options would not be very different in the Paleolithic or Neolithic.

Instead, in a hunter-gatherer/fisher/agricultural environment like the East Asia, without the need of long travels to hunt, monitoring of exploiters and need could be easier (and more productive) and lesser punishment could be needed when exploiters are caught.

If enough generations are subject to this type of selection, it is reasonable to think some part of the brain could be selected to develop a specialized circuitry to code for this type of behavior. Probably not hard-coded but easier to code with the appropriate behavior in the right conditions.

As Peter replied to Stephen:
"I agree that a society with a high level of involuntary empathy is open season for psychopathic scammers. This seems to be why empathy is twinned with rejection of people who are perceived as being morally worthless."

Individuals in a long range hunting party must act as one when they engage the prey or they will suffer severe losses. This is not a condition where monitoring defectors and enforcing cooperation is economic. Individual are in the party and act accordingly or they are out of the party. They are "US" or "THEM". If they are THEM there is no empathizing with them or, worse, enjoy their pain and demise.

Anonymous said...

"Us vs Them still applies - widening the circle of sympathy simply changes who are "us" and who are "them"."

It's a good insight, thank you, but I still struggle with the moral shift. Yes, as Peter's Darwin quote indicates, good and bad tendencies are probably inherent, which affirms the Spanish view of the indigenous people of S.America, but that view is seen by Darwin and his fellow travelers as morally debased. Does that view arise because of a greater genetic endowment of sympathy/empathy or is it because the School of Salamanca reformulated natural law, believing that all humans, contra Darwin, share the same nature and thus are deserving of the same rights of life and liberty as Europeans? Thus it seems more meme than gene, imo.

Anonymous said...

"Us vs Them still applies - widening the circle of sympathy simply changes who are "us" and who are "them"."

It's a good insight, thank you, but I still struggle with the moral shift. Yes, as Peter's Darwin quote indicates, good and bad tendencies are probably inherent, which affirms the Spanish view of the indigenous people of S.America, but that view is seen by Darwin and his fellow travelers as morally debased. Does that view arise because of a greater genetic endowment of sympathy/empathy or is it because the School of Salamanca reformulated natural law, believing that all humans, contra Darwin, share the same nature and thus are deserving of the same rights of life and liberty as Europeans? Thus it seems more meme than gene, imo.

Anonymous said...

"If female hair/eye color selection in Europe is due to the hunting during the last Ice Age why not the empathy evolution?"

Yes, this was my thinking. If there had been stronger selection on the females in certain regions on one set of reproductive criteria then there might have been on others also.

Anonymous said...

"It's a good insight, thank you, but I still struggle with the moral shift ... Thus it seems more meme than gene, imo."

I wouldn't argue with "more" meme than gene - i think that's quite possible - I'd only suggest that gene may have come first.

Say there were four stages or modes of widened sympathy:
1) clannish
2) regionalish
3) nationalish
4) universalish
and each individual fitted more or less in one of the categories.

(If it was genetic this might be based on the balance of the genes related to this in each individual i.e. someone might be 20% clannish, 60% regionalish, and 20% nationalish, so they'd *mostly* count as regionalish.)

So you'd then have a society that was made up of varying percentages also.

(If it's genetic and based on the selection or otherwise of random mutations then even the most clannish populations should still have their universalish segment even if it's only 1%.)

So what I'm saying is say you have a population that is:
97% clannish
1% each of the other three

then if that changes genetically to say:
80% clannish
16% regionalish
2% each of the other two

that might be enough for the 16% who are genetically different to dominate the 80% memetically - this is especially the case if you assume that the people who have widened their circle of sympathy are better able to cooperate as a group.

So you might then have a population that is only 16% regionalish by number of individuals but *behaves* as a wholly regionalish population.

The whole population doesn't necessarily have to have changed.

I'd say that process could be repeated with larger circles of sympathy and is the case in the West with the c. 16% genetically universalish being enough to dominate their (rough guess):
4% clannish
20% regionalish
50% nationalish
16% universalish
co-ethnics.

It only seems odd now because this originally beneficial process has become self-harming.


(I'd say because of its size Chinese history is possibly a good example of how a population can be made up of multiple components i.e. a lot of Chinese history seems to revolve around the conflicts between a nationalish 16%, regionalish 24%% and clannish 60%).

Anonymous said...

"Does that view arise because of a greater genetic endowment of sympathy/empathy or is it because the School of Salamanca reformulated natural law, believing that all humans, contra Darwin, share the same nature and thus are deserving of the same rights of life and liberty as Europeans?"

I'd say both - natural law was reformulated because the people who did it **felt** it was right because of their genes and that group were well organised enough to make that behavior became the socially correct behavior which other people then adopted for practical reasons even if they themselves didn't **feel** it.

(And then by virtue of making certain behaviors the socially correct behaviors the genes that produced those behaviors naturally gained a reproductive advantage and spread.)

Panda@War said...


Peter,

1. Empathy is objectively there, and it doesn't change according to one's presumptions or subjective models. You actually don't need a mental model of how another person feels first before anything, because whenever you do that, you’re in danger of putting yourself into a self-fulfilling circle, or even worse - potentially a dangerous logical contradiction whenever the said another person subjectively presumes a different mental model on you from the model that you subjectively presumed on him/her – in this sense Panda also challenges the intellectual value of Lepowski (2011).

2. You don't follow Panda is probably due to Panda´s laziness to have used the same/similar wordings as 3-levels cited by you but with a different order. My bad. Let Panda rephrase them properly:

The 3-level empathy cited by you –

1. pro-social behavior - willingness to help people out, hospitality to strangers, acts of compassion.
2. cognitive empathy - capacity to see things from another person's perspective and to understand how he or she feels.
3. affective or emotional empathy - capacity not only to understand how another person feels but also to experience those feelings involuntarily and to respond appropriately. Failure to help a person in distress can trigger a self-destructive sequence: anguish, depression, suicidal ideation.

Panda has a BIG, but very BIG intellectual question mark on the order and detail definitions of both of your level 2 and level 3, because there is no objectively clear cut there. My argument was that anyone who possesses level 2 has the same intellectual/genetic capability to possess level 3 simultaneously. The fact why sometimes this doesn’t appear such in daily life is perhaps more due to personal environment (i.e. mainly economic reasons.) than genetics … – see my earlier posts for detail explanations.

The 3-level empathy by Panda with rephrased new words –

1. Primitive Human Empathy (Panda misused by calling it `emotional empathy` due to laziness to think about another word) : the very basic instinct of every human being since the very start, defined as willingness to feel compassions (not always followed automatically by assistance) not only to the close kin but also others of the same kind, and perhaps other kinds too ( e,g, not only NW Euro to NW Euro, NW Euro to the whole Euro, Euro to Afros, but also Euro to holy cows, and Euro to UFO Martians, etc). Panda suspects that even high IQ animals such as chimps and dolphins have this level of empathy to various degrees.

2. Pro-Society Empathy (Panda used to call it the `pro-social empathy` - note that it means differently from the one in yours ): this component was developed as humans started to gather hunting as groups for survival, and further strengthened by the immergence of large-scale agriculture, hence the immergence of ancient villages, cities, societies, etc. At this level, whenever Level 1 compassions are felt, a much stronger willingness to help is strengthened intellectually and perhaps even genetically via daily much more intense human social interactions.

3. Synthetic Human Empathy (Panda used to call it ` cognitive empathy` - note it means differently from the one used in yours) : a relatively very advanced feature which was formed by ENFORCING the level 2 via man-made emphathy that were either religion-based, or (moral) rule-based, or open civil law-based, or all of them, hence calling it `Synthetic`. This level 3 empathy should be heavily culture-dependent, and economics-dependent as well since one could assume that higher level of economic income, if sustained in a very long period of time of course, is a direct result of higher level of culture cultivation developed by more intellectually evolved people in the first place.

Your level 2 and level 3 empathy both fall within probably both Panda´s level 1 and level 2, but outside Panda's level 3.

There is a clearer cut among Panda´s each empathies than yours, because they appear to Panda intuitively way more progressively Darwinian.

Panda@War said...

A tiny change:

3. Synthetic Human Empathy (Panda used to call it ` cognitive empathy` - note it means differently from the one used in yours) : a relatively very advanced feature which was formed by ENFORCING the level 2 via man-made emphathy that were either religion-based, or (moral) rule-based, or open civil law-based, or all of them . This is MORALLY OBLIGATED(by either religions, or rules, or laws) the moral or and/or actual assistance whenever level 1 or level 2 compassions are felt, hence calling it `Synthetic`. This level 3 empathy should be heavily culture-dependent, and economics-dependent as well since one could assume that higher level of economic income, if sustained in a very long period of time of course, is a direct result of higher level of culture cultivation developed by more intellectually evolved people in the first place

Panda@War said...

Sorry, again :

A tiny change:

3. Synthetic Human Empathy (Panda used to call it ` cognitive empathy` - note it means differently from the one used in yours) : a relatively very advanced feature which was formed by ENFORCING the level 2 via man-made emphathy that were either religion-based, or (moral) rule-based, or open civil law-based, or all of them . In otehr words, this level 3 OBLIGATES(by either religions, or rules, or laws) the moral and/or actual assistance whenever level 1 or level 2 compassions are felt, hence calling it `Synthetic`.

This level 3 empathy should be heavily culture-dependent, and economics-dependent as well since one could assume that higher level of economic income, if sustained in a very long period of time of course, is a direct result of higher level of culture cultivation developed by more intellectually evolved people in the first place

Anonymous said...

" the people who did it **felt** it was right because of their genes"

Fair point, but was it altruism or self-interest? Another example...Charlemagne (and others) spread the message of Christianity to the Germanic tribes by allegedly beheading ten thousand Saxons. If he felt it was right is that because of an inherent altruism, self-interest or parasitic meme?

Anonymous said...

Peter, did you get the following

"Qi suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren. "

from the thesis:

"La notion de zhi et ses corrélats dans la culture chinoise."

If you did, it is wrong as pointed out above.

Anonymous said...

"Fair point, but was it altruism or self-interest?"

I think by definition any genetic part of altruism - if it exists - must be self interest when it first develops or it couldn't physically spread.

Although it might not be self-interest directly i.e. it might be in a woman's interest to marry a man who would die to protect her and her children and it might be in a man's interest to marry a woman who in a famine would starve herself before his kids so it might be *attraction* to altruism in a mate that was selected for rather than altruism itself. The selection for altruism in a mate would be self-interested.

So altruism might spread even though altruism isn't in an individual's direct interest simply because it might benefit reproductive chances.

However the memetic aspect of altruism doesn't need to follow those rules and could be hostile or self-harming.

Also the genetic aspect only needs to have been beneficial when it was first developed in the context it was developed in. If the context changed the genes may no longer be beneficial.

#

" If he felt it was right is that because of an inherent altruism, self-interest or parasitic meme?"

I think it could be any of those.

Slavery was normal for most of human history and then along came a bunch of people who *felt* it was wrong - and i do believe they *felt* it and that feeling made them violently angry.

I think people are largely programmed by their genes and the rationalization comes afterwards but also that an individual's nature can be over-ridden by memetic dominance but only on the surface - they'd still be the same underneath.

#

Also it could be a bit of both. If a minority among a population change in a certain direction genetically the practical social *form* that change takes could be influenced or even controlled by external memes.


Panda@War said...

" So altruism might spread even though altruism isn't in an individual's direct interest simply because it might benefit reproductive chances.

However the memetic aspect of altruism doesn't need to follow those rules and could be hostile or self-harming."

(Anon September 27, 2014 at 12:18:00 AM GMT-4)


------
So memeticly some people somtimes somwhow develop trends that are in direct contradiction to their self-interest of survival? Pls expand theoritically in detail on why so? It sounds to Panda just intuitively counter-evolutionary.

Or is that simply because it is a mis-reading at the memetic level?

Mother nature does things with a clear purpose. It won't grow a pair of wings on human beings withour a clear purpose for survival no matter how good they might look together to some. ( In this sense Panda also doubts onPeter and others' explainations that mother nature let Europeans grew blue eyes and green eyes in order to better attract potential mates... if it is so, why no give Chinese males purple eyes or silver eyes as well for the same reason, given obviously there has been too much pressures on # Chinese males versus Chinese females. Why?)

What's the clear reason that nature gives altruism, sometimes, at the memtic level, to one or several groups,of human beings, if it is not in thier best interests of survival? Why would it do such a thing??

On much cited examples such as in the current political circles: Isn't altruism shown there is in fact to protect one's or a group's inbedded self-interests either for career promotions or (potential) financial gains? If that's faked altruism as it could well be, then perhaps there is actually no " mistycal altruism at the memetic level that doesn't follow the same rules" at all, but merely a thickly-veiled self-interest-serving survival instinct all along, which btw is in tune with those at non-memtic levels so perfectly that could be served as the theoritical reason why "however, it doesn't need to follow the rtule and could..." ?



Panda@War said...

A quick hypothesis from Panda:

"There is NO genetical altruism or effective empathy at all. Altruism and effecive empathy are cultural & economical- dependent."


Hence there is no "contradiction" at all btween memetic level and non-memetic levels.

It fits both sides of Eurasia, historically and in modern era.

1. where was the genetical altruism or effective empathy of the Romans towards to "barbarians"? and vice-versus?

2. where was the genetical altruism or effective empathy of the Euro Americans after landed on the new world?

3. where was the genetical altruism or effective empathy of the the Spanish after landed on the new world?

4. where was the genetical altruism or effective empathy of the British towards in the global supply and demand value chain during the British Industrial revolution?


4. where was the genetical altruism or effective empathy of Apple in the global supply and demand value chain today in the form of profit sharing and takin towards Foxcom?

5. or perhaps you could convince Panda on the genetical altruism or effective empathy of the US troopers in Iraq Wars?

People start to have noteabley higher level of Altruism or effective empathy whenever their own survival chance become much bigger,

-- either due to pro-longed economical superiority: e.g. the Euros didn't seem to me to have had unusually high affective empathy or altruism before landed on the new world - a big "lottery" really due to the huge increase of natural resource per cap - after killed off , or almost killing off, any remaining competitions of course meanwhile hiding their "genetical affective empathy or altruism" at bay .

The West really showed high level of affective empathy or altruism in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, when the West hit its economic high, relatively speaking.


-- or due to superior cultural rules developed on the base of such an economy in the first place,

-- or due to one-time decisive luck ( e.g. hit lottery literally)...

All above envents dramatically increase one's chance of survival and prosper.

All these however will be dramatically different once the underlying economical reason worsens. (e.g. whenever teh West hit economica crisis such as now, such voices arise "why we have so much effective empathy and altruism".

The main force in the West of "genetical affective empathy or altruism" today seem to be academics such as Peter, Hippies, and some political elites. This tells a lot: academics see the danger of the economy and hence he society and show worry? Politicians are self-serving their careers? As for ippies, ok, they are hippies after all. Note that western Aid NGOs are a very recent phynominon, well after the West achieved its economic supremecy.


East Asians ( and all otehrs panda suspects) have taken the same route. Of course one can see so easily today, because the Chinese economically peaked at the different times from the Euros. One may check historical Chinese evidences of affective empathy or altruism in late han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Song and Ming Dynasties... Panda suspects there are plenty similar to what the Euros showed in the 1970s, 80, 90s, and some even today.


(cont.)

Panda@War said...

(cont.)

Other East Asian societies - Japan and Korea - their economic sucecess, partcularly the Japanese one, are a tiny flash historically speaking relative to China ( actually the last 3 or 4 generations were the only time in the entire human history thus far when Japan is more advanced than China), hence one can't find too much evidences of their "altruism and affective empathy" yet.

But where is the evidence of Chinese cultural reflection of their affective empathy or altruism?

"Qi suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren. " 其所不欲,勿施于人! Just to name one, Enough said? Its intellectually depth, its mark on the Chinese psych, and its consistency of implementation throughout history are beyond anything the Eurpoeans have shown historially, as far as I am aware.


As for other people's affective empathy or altruism, e.g. the fact that Africans seem never have shown that much affective empathy or altruism is because of their complete backwater statue in economy thruout the history till today? So that it's hard to find any consistent strong evidences of affective empathy or altruism.


Therefore, Panda's hypothesis seems more or less to be the case across board for all, both historically and today.

Mirco Romanato said...

Anon said:

However the memetic aspect of altruism doesn't need to follow those rules and could be hostile or self-harming."

If meme complexes (not single memes) are always self-harming for the carrier populations, they would be self extinguishing in a short-time frame.

Some meme complex could be useful in some environment and harmful in a different environment. So, if the environment change the same behavior could become damaging instead of useful.


Panda wrote:
"People start to have notably higher level of Altruism or effective empathy whenever their own survival chance become much bigger, "

It appear to me you are mixing cause and effect, as when you write Nature evolved blue eyes in Europeans to allow them to select mates.
Blue eyes are a random accident, like blond hair or red hair. But selective pressure favored them for some reason.

The same is true with altruism.
Altruism, even social altruism directed to non-kin, is a form of insurance against bad times. It work better when it cost subjectively little to help to the helper and the gain is subjectively large for the helped.

If I'm starving, someone else having plenty of food can give me a loaf of bread without losing much (or maybe without losing anything). The act help me a lot and cost him little or nothing. But, if thing go wrong for him and good for me, I could (not sure but possible) reciprocate.

In animals (like bats) this sometimes happen. The live in colonies and some regurgitate some blood to feed some individuals in need. It could have just started for a random reason (some individuals feeding too much and regurgitating the excess when they stay upside down) but this helped others and was selected for in the long term.

For an intelligent species like humans, able to monitor their neighbours behavior, they could have no direct advantage from altruism, but having altruistic neighbours is advantageous (even of you are not altruistic at all) and self interest suggest to help altruistic individuals (if they are or could be altruistic with you and not hostile).

Then, there are other advantages to be altruistic. They are the reason so many not really altruistic people do apparently altruistic jobs. They earn you status with your peers, inferiors and superiors (and often a lot of hate). If you are able to help others often and willing to do so, you have, by definition, a surplus of resources and the will to share them. So people want to be on your good side. Competitors will hate you because people want to be on your good side and not theirs.

What happened in the 70s and laters is social workers took the mantle (and nothing else) of altruism and used it to feed themselves a growing share of the cake.
What make normal people even less altruistic is the discovering or realization the large share of wealth they gave to supposedly altruistic purposes was stolen or wasted and they have not enough for themselves when they are in need and there is no one altruistic with them.

It is not altruism that went out of fashion. It is the realization bureaucrats and bleeding hearts took resources from them to give to themselves or worse to people unwilling to be altruistic or just plainly hostile to them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Panda,

whoever wrote this:

"Qi suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren. " 其所不欲,勿施于人!

got it wrong! They have the wrong first character.

It is highly likely that the Golden Rule is based on the same idea when you get the correct characters. There was lots of ideas going back and forth back then. Not long after the first attestations of that saying, Alexander the Great united a large part of the world near to the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

@panda

"So memeticly some people somtimes somwhow develop trends that are in direct contradiction to their self-interest of survival? Pls expand theoretically in detail on why so? It sounds to Panda just intuitively counter-evolutionary."

No, I meant that memes/culture could develop that were net beneficial in one environment but became net deleterious when the environment changed.

#

@Mirco

"If meme complexes (not single memes) are always self-harming for the carrier populations, they would be self extinguishing in a short-time frame."

Sure. The original discussion was - I think - about how could the current deleterious situation come to be.

One explanation is western non-kin altruism is self-harming because it is solely the product of hostile meme warfare.

My alternative explanation is that western non-kin altruism *began* as a genetic change among a minority of the population in the western countries and that minority adopted a meme complex that supported their genetic inclination and were well organised enough to impose their way on a majority who paid lip service to it.

(However over time the dominance of the meme / culture gradually moved the majority towards the minority view and at the same time continued to move the minority further towards universalish mentality.)

(The first and second stage of this being done through religion and the third stage through liberalism as a secular religion.)

I'm saying this process continued for a long time because it was net beneficial for 600+ years - most obviously so in northwest Europe.

This increasingly universalish mentality becoming deleterious in the last century or so could then be the result of either a) the environment changing i.e. the "universal" became global via technology whereas in the past the "universal" was limited by technology to the national scale or b) via hostile memetic warfare.

It could even have been - for people who really dislike Christianity - hostile memetic warfare from the beginning which *accidentally* created a genetic change which then lead to the widening of the circle of sympathy which turned out to be beneficial (until the last century or so).

#

In a nutshell I'm saying there's no incompatibility between the various standard positions and there being a genetic component involved somewhere along the way - as it won't be *just* a genetic component: genes will generate memes and memes will select genes.


Mirco Romanato said...

One explanation is western non-kin altruism is self-harming because it is solely the product of hostile meme warfare.

I doubt it because memes are hostiles just to other memes.
A population could adopt a meme complex and become hostile to another population adopting an opposite/incompatible/competitive meme complex.
or
hostile populations could adopt and stick to different meme complexes just because it make easy to differentiate the enemy from the friend or the neutral.

My alternative explanation is that western non-kin altruism *began* as a genetic change among a minority of the population in the western countries and that minority adopted a meme complex that supported their genetic inclination and were well organised enough to impose their way on a majority who paid lip service to it.

From what we know from sources of the time, Christians were a religion recruiting more from the middle class than from wealthy, the nobility, the poor peasants or slaves. This because they couple a respect for manual labour not present in previous religions. It always was the king, the warrior, the noble, to be admired and respected. And the source of wealth was, mainly, depredation and not hard handy work or commerce.

This game the first Christians a broad based economic support able to finance their charities. Support them enough some emperors were put in a shaming position being unable to care for their poor as much as the christians were able to care for theirs and others. Because they took care of both.

This put Christians in an advantageous situation, because they were able to take care of people in need during pestilences (not always poor, sometimes even wealthy people abandoned by their family fleeing to the countryside). So after every crisis Christians had more converts and more ability to convert more people in the cities. This is because pagans are called so, as it was used to indicate people living in the countryside.
Even in battle they were more apparently more cohesive and efficient.

So the meme complex was useful to the community, not self harming at the time.

Mirco Romanato said...

(However over time the dominance of the meme / culture gradually moved the majority towards the minority view and at the same time continued to move the minority further towards universalist mentality.)

I would suggest this shift starting when the nation states become dominant (after the 30 Years War) and the Industrial Revolution took roots.

The increase production allowed an increase of taxation and government spending and a class of people were born totally depending from government spending but also able to push for more spending thru the democratic process.

How do you justify more spending and taxation? With "think of the children" and other nonsense appealing to the emotions of people. They hijacked the meme complex to their benefit (knowing it or not) and, for them, the recipients of the help do not really matter. As do not matter if they are really helping them. The help is just a tool to funnel money in their pockets. So really helping people is self-damaging for them.

This is not the meme complex becoming damaging per se, but a class of people using deception and self-deception to exploit the others at their own short term benefit. And higher on the food chain, higher the reward.

There is also the advantage, for people doing "good" to be able to excuse themselves for the bad they do. I work to prevent "Global Warming" so I could pardon myself if I cheat on my wife or speed drive or drink too much.

The point being people doing real good and being really altruistic are pardoned by others for their minor faults, where these other people do "token" acts of good to then be justified to do what they prefer. It is not so different from buying absolutions for your own sins in the MIddle Age. You sin and they pay with your money to buy absolution. This is, essentially, a way to do what you want and profit from it covering it from others and yourself alike.


I'm saying this process continued for a long time because it was net beneficial for 600+ years - most obviously so in northwest Europe.

The process is pretty useful in general, because allow a lot better social cooperation in dense environment like a city or military units. You do not need to self protect yourself in the same degree if the people around you is less prone to screw you if the chance arise.

b) via hostile memetic warfare

The groups / classes I believe hijacked the meme complex prevent and punish critical examination of the content of others meme complexes because this help their meme complex to avoid scrutiny. So meme complexes foreign or hostile are not detected and the reaction is not strong.

This is what people call leftist/liberalisms/progressivism, etc.

Panda@War said...




@ Anonymous 1:

On "Qi suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren. " 其所不欲,勿施于人", you're right that the 1st character is wrong. I copied it without paying too much attention. it should be:

己所不欲,勿施于人( Ji suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren)





@ Micro Romanoto:

Panda had said "People start to have notably higher level of Altruism or effective empathy whenever their own survival chance become much bigger. "

You replied: "It appear to me you are mixing cause and effect..."

No I didn't, but you do.

Why? To follow your own logic that "Altruism, even social altruism directed to non-kin, is a form of insurance against bad times. It work better when it cost subjectively little to help to the helper and the gain is subjectively large for the helped.", you have to ask yourself why have to develop "insurance against bad times" in the first place? ---

why "insurance" is to enhance one's overall chance of survival after all, either at great cost or little cost being relatively irrelevant here.

So the mother cause of all is, as Panda pointed out, to enhance one's overall chance of survival in any circumstances.

Under this mother cause, you cold certainly argue that overtime some developed some effect such as a "insurance policy" or else, hence "altruism" or "effective empathy" being the effect.

Therefore, one of Panda's arguments raised to Peter in earlier posts is that the reason "why different people have different degrees of empathy/altruism level as we all noted, is NOT due to genetics exclusivity as Peter suggested, but could well be due to the different economical(hence cultural, social, etc) statues that different people have had over time, in which the ones have sustained higher level of economical statues (e.g. GDP per cap) for a long period of time tend to have had higher level of empathy/altruism since the "insurance cost" (your concept) for them is relatively lower. Every tribe has strived for higher economical statue all the time, so this endeavour is consistent in serving the mother cause of "enhancing one's chance of survival".

Special note: these effective empathy/altruism levels of varied groups of people could change dramatically as one's economic conditions (hence the "insurance cost" bottomline) change - I also dedicated 2 earlier posts on this line. I am waiting to see some academic works in this area. If they are the case, then just another piece of the evidences logically pointing out that it's not due to genetics after all.


Ditto blue eyes stuff:

"It appear to me you are mixing cause and effect, as when you write Nature evolved blue eyes in Europeans to allow them to select mates.
Blue eyes are a random accident, like blond hair or red hair. But selective pressure favored them for some reason."

I ‘am afraid that “for some reason” just doesn’t cut it , does it? Peter has yet to explain for WHAT exact reason, else Panda would ask why nature didn’t give Panda green hair and silver eyes “for some reason”huh? lol


“Accident”? and “Random accident”? ROFL. I dunno what do those Sciences Textbooks teach the kids in the universities these days, but there is no such a thing as “random accident”, cuz even more than Jason Bourne, the mother nature doesn’t do accidents, let alone random.

Oke, put this way: forget about amateurish Encyclopaedia Britannica, ok? The classic definition of “random” is as follows:

“Random”: a voodoo concept by putting r-a-n-d-o-m 6 letters together, invented once upon the time by a low IQ moron calling himself a “maths genius” and agreed upon by the scientific community since then, to describe (oke, he/they tried to describe) all natural phenomena that he/they had no clue of.

(Panda Encyclopaedia, Volume 6, Page 101)






Panda@War said...

The Rise of Anonymous! lol

@ Anonumous 2:

"No, I meant that memes/culture could develop that were net beneficial in one environment but became net deleterious when the environment changed."


----
I doubt it. There is no such a thing as nature developing sth that "were not net beneficial in one environment but became net deleterious when the environment changed".

Nature has always, ALWAYS!, had an unambiguous purpose.

It won’t give sth to someone that is NOT to maximize one's chance of survival; else Panda could realistically expect nature to give me a pair of wings (or give Peter 4 extra legs,lol, at memetic level or otherwise) anytime soon, say errrrr next Friday please? rofl.

Panda@War said...

Now seriously.

---------
Anonumous 2 said:

" So altruism might spread even though altruism isn't in an individual's direct interest simply because it might benefit reproductive chances.

However the memetic aspect of altruism doesn't need to follow those rules and could be hostile or self-harming."
...

And

"No, I meant that memes/culture could develop that were net beneficial in one environment but became net deleterious when the environment changed."

-------

Yes, althuism *might* benefit reproduction chance. But many things *might* benefit reproduction chance as well, and some of them could be even more beneficial, agreed?

So, as enviroment changes, althuism developed in previous environment that could be beneficial there, should ASLO change or being disgarded, IF the said level of althuism is harming one's overall chance of survival under this new environment. Hence there's no possiblity of *might be still there*, because the nature has always been efficient enough to make sure it won't - see my earlier post.



The the whole point was not only above.

The whole flow Panda has been arguing is about:

- enhance one's chances of survival at any time(mother nature) ===>

- survival for humans has basically been the question of "economy statue" or simply "food" since the very start ===>

- then various econonomy statues that have been ultimately decided by avg IQ level one could aruge ( e.g. gdp per cap, natural resources per cap - by means of wars to occupy max. land, geographic sizes per population, population density which determines the ulying competitiveness for survival, etc) decides various culture/memes etc ====>

- which then decide various sub-strageties such as different "insurance policies"( e.g. high althuism, low emphathy, nationlism or not, etc. etc), along with the different bottomlines of the said "insurance policies".



So the whole point should logically be more about economy rather than genetics.



Anonymous said...

@Mirco

I pretty much agree with that.

"So the meme complex was useful to the community, not self harming at the time."

Yes, I think people project the harm that universalish behavior has caused in recent times back into the past. In the past the "universal" was limited much more by geography than it is today.

#

@panda

"I doubt it. There is no such a thing as nature developing sth that "were not net beneficial in one environment but became net deleterious when the environment changed"."

It happens all the time.

Take malaria protection genes for example. Because malaria was so harmful genes that protected against it could spread even if those genes caused bad diseases themselves but not as bad as malaria e.g. sickle cell.

When people moved north out of the malaria zone those genes went from being *net* positive to wholly negative and those genes were rapidly removed.

Panda@War said...


"When people moved north out of the malaria zone those genes went from being *net* positive to wholly negative and those genes were rapidly removed..(Anonymous)


-----------
"and those genes were rapidly removed" - Bingo! If evidences are plenty for that and you're sure of them, then you start to see my whole point, as I repeated stated in many easier posts:


there is no such a thing as "negative"(in the long run) as Peter puzzles through the piece, and as the title ""Affective empathy, an evolutionary mistake?" suggests.

It is simply because the nature doesn't make mistakes. Once such remaining "negative" genes are found out to be detrimental to the overall chance of survival , the nature will eliminate them for ya automatically.

If Peter finds out sth of the nature that he can't understand as this piece suggests, then he, rather than nature, must get sth very wrong either in the logic of his arguments or in the supporting evidences - that's why Panda challenged him since the very 1st post on

A/ his very definitions of 3-level orders of empathy ( which are troublesome to say the least), and

B/ the validity of his supporting evidences ranging from Siu and Shek (2005) to Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen(2013) - Panda thinks they are nuts.

Mirco Romanato said...

Panda@War

Nature doesn't do mistakes but also doesn't do things right.

Nature do and natural selection weed out what is, in that moment, unfit.
But what it is "unfit" change with time, place, culture, environment.

Nature have no plan or purpose.
Nature just is.

Anonymous said...

@panda

"there is no such a thing as "negative"(in the long run) as Peter puzzles through the piece, and as the title ""Affective empathy, an evolutionary mistake?" suggests"

sure, not in the long run - but on this issue we're currently still in the medium run where there is still a question mark :)

Panda@War said...

Micro Ramanato:

" Nature doesn't do mistakes but also doesn't do things right... Nature have no plan or purpose. Nature just is."

--------
So it does'nt do things right... and it has no purpose?! Dude, are you into sth that Panda is not aware of? ROFL. You contradicted youself back and forth and Panda dunno where to begin...lol




"Nature do and natural selection weed out what is, in that moment, unfit.
But what it is "unfit" change with time, place, culture, environment."

--------
What is "unfit" changes with time, place, culture, environment, and x, y, z , right, but that's according to you, but not nature.

Nature weeds out "unfit" because the "unfit" has alway had 1 , and 1 only, definition in eyes of the nature, which namely is "unfit", is it not? lol.


Panda@War said...

Anonynous:

I have put "in the long run" was aimed to greatly simplize the argument which could be entirely out of the scope of this entry.

To simply put it, actually Padna believes that there is no "long run" or "medium run" for nature. what do "long" and "medium" mean for nature ? 100,000 years? 5 centuries? 10 years? or 3 seconds?

Nature always runs its own course, so called "long"or "short"are subjective human measures. In this sense, one can perfectly argume, as Panda did, that nature is always corrent ( in its own logic) to maxmize one's chance of survival.

Therefore, if there is effective empathy/altruism there, it must be for one's overall survival benefit that sometimes you can see why so and more often than not you can't see why, yet. But the fact that you can't see why(e.g. this piece) is NOT a logical and/or sufficient reason to question the course of nature. If either nature or you are making a mistake, Panda's bet is always on the latter.

Anonymous said...

@panda

I think we're arguing semantics.

Yes, evolution always selects for advantages in the currently existing environment so in that sense it never makes mistakes and there is no long run - if that's what you mean.

However in the context of any particular organism or population then evolution does have a long run and an adaptation that was beneficial in an earlier environment might turn out to be deleterious when the environment changes - so in terms of that organism or population it could be deemed a mistake.

I can kind of see your point but in the context of the history of a particular population group I think the title is valid.