Greedy Goblin

Monday, June 2, 2014

Being social shrinks your brain!

When I kept saying that being social will cost you braincells, I didn't mean it literally. I should have. Recent scientific research shows that humans lost more than 10% of their brain size in the last 20000 years, a trend turned back only in the last centuries. Who else lost grey matter? Social chimpanzees (bobonos) compared to the common ones. Domesticated foxes compared to the wild foxes, over a few generations and other animals forced into sociality.

Why? Because we need brain to make decisions. The World is complicated and we have to figure out what to do from extreme amount of information. However being social is exactly the opposite: accepting the decisions of other people. This can go to the extreme, where obviously wrong answer of peers is accepted.

There is more than that. IQ is more or less stable during adulthood, while improving fast during childhood. An 8 years old kid is more intelligent (and not just more informed) than a 7 year old kid, while a 20 years old person is only more informed than a 19 years old. The increase of IQ stops at puberty. This also causes that people who reach puberty earlier - like women - has lower IQ on average, despite no such deficit in earlier age. Simply their brain development stopped earlier. But what happens in puberty that stops brain development. No, not hormones, since males and females have completely different hormones. Puberty is also known as the time where kids revolt against their parents and start to do dumb stuff like smoking and taking drugs due to peer pressure.

Puberty is the time when the body matures for sexual reproduction. However to sexually reproduce, you need partner. So puberty is the time when the focus move from things to people. In many ancient cultures, there are coming of age ceremonies where the former kid is accepted into the society. So IQ development stops because intellectually challenging tasks no longer interest the kid, people, social relations and such brainless stuff do. In several cultures intellectual and religious positions were filled with eunuchs or at least men living in celibacy. This makes sense if we assume that such practices decrease social interests, therefore increase intellectual capacity needed for these jobs.

Anyway "social" and "for fun" is now scientifically proven to be equal to "dumb".

PS: seka wolf must be a very social person, judged from his mental capacity. But maybe this renter has even more fun in his life. This other renter of evil also surely have a great life with many friends!


Ray Hado said...

The amount of wrong in this post is staggering, even for someone that does not study neurology or psychology.

First there is the completely wrong idea that a smaller brain must be dumber brain. It completely dismisses the possibility of it being more specialized or more effective (needing less volume to perform the same tasks).

It also completely dismisses the fact that brain size scales with body size. Are you attempting to say that an elephant is smarter than the average human? Or maybe we should have stopped evolution when we were still Neanderthals? I suggest you read up on encephalization quocient.

You must also consider the possibility that being part of society (even more so a human society) gives you a perk: you have an easier time surviving. If you don't have to fight for your own survival, you can allocate resources to another task. If that task becomes optimized with time, you need less space.

There is also the whole issue with defining intelligence, which I won't get into, that's a full semester.

And the whole comparison between the growth from 7 to 8 years old and 19 to 20 is just inane. I'll put it in terms you'll understand: imagine you have a neural network that you're training to recognize cats. The first 2 images you give it will create a huge progress on your NN compared to the new info obtained from the 1001st and 1002nd. Did the NN become "stupider"? No, it just had a lot more information, so the rate of growth is decreased. you went from a 100% jump to a <0.001% hop.

Just to end this, I would like to remind you of something that someone that considers himself rational should already know: "Correlation does not imply causation", even when it fits your narrative.

Gevlon said...

Our body grew, we just got taller and taller. The prehistoric men weren't especially tall. Also, bobonos aren't smaller than other chimps. Not to mention domesticated shepherd dogs compared to wolves.

Obviously sociality has an evolutionary perk: it saves you from having to think! Today even a medical imbecile (20-30 IQ) can live its full expectancy due to the help of the society.

Do you seriously say that one in his first 12-15 years learn "all things" and couldn't learn new stuff? Isn't the "he can't care less about anything from now" more reasonable?

Anonymous said...

While it's true that relative IQ doesn't change much with age, absolute IQ does. That is, people in the Xth percentile of IQ at age 10 are most likely in the Xth percentile at age 20, that's comparing people of the same age. There's a full standard deviation of change between 15 year olds and 25 year olds. IQ does not peak at puberty, but over a decade later (the median peaks at 26, but individuals will vary).

Nothing in the article suggests that being social lowers an individual's IQ, what it says is that there is a correlation between aggression and brain size, and so selecting for the former also selects for the latter. At best this suggests that intelligent people work poorly in groups. It in no way suggests that working in groups has any causal effect on your intelligence. No evolutionary argument suggests change at the individual level, and suggesting it shows a deep misunderstanding of biology

Unknown said...

Is it true that people spend a large portion of their time on social things, more or less the majority do. Even children do, just in different circumstances. So it's highly improbable that society by existence makes people dumber in the form you describe. Correlation does not equal causation. I'd argue it is a different thing that is causing the decrease in intelligence.
1. Social interaction is a large category. I could talk to a history professor all day about Britain and the Continent and I'd have gotten a lot out of it. And I've been social. I could even do it in bed after sex if I really wanted to.
2. Speaking of sex, here's some research along the same lines that may interest you. Intelligence of children is influenced by both parents, but the mother more so. Women with high intelligence don't have as many kids or as early (thus further reducing child-rearing time span). As such there are more stupid people. Why don't they die off?
3. We've surpassed evolution. In other words, enough smart people have figured out enough things to raise the quality of life and thanks to human rights (which are great by the way) you have a large population of people who are breeding who don't have to be smart.
4. Smart is not required. Is it a concern that people are on average decreasing in IQ?
5. Yes, although the difference in our life times will probably not amount to much by itself. If it really still worries you have kids with a smart man/woman and pray your kids do the same. If in 20 thousand years humankind splits into two species with the main difference being intelligence we all can celebrate in our coffins.
6. I'm not going to argue the invalidity of your points on multiple fronts, Mr. Hado has done that brilliantly and deserves his place in the spotlight for it. On the subject of your retort however; Mr. Hado is not saying people do not learn after a certain point, he is saying that the greatest percentage increase is in the early years. For example, some people try to learn one new thing a day, the hope is for a school child to learn a lot more a day. I would be hard pressed to learn as much as a kid whose vocabulary is starting to expand at rapid pace and is starting to go past the real fundamentals in school. And when it comes to social interaction, you learned all you really needed to know in kindergarten. Try to check out that essay as well in your intellectual pursuits.

Elbrasch said...

"Our body grew, we just got taller and taller. The prehistoric men weren't especially tall."
*buzz* wrong *buzz*
"The evidence from archaeology supports the idea that hunter gatherer societies were surprisingly healthy. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that average height at the end of the last ice age was around 5'9". With the adoption of agriculture the figure crashed, and by 3000 BC had reached a low of 5'3". "

Less height has more to do with malnutrition in childhood and puperty, something that affects IQ severely (20-30 points) and leaves voids (scars for the layman) in the brain that are visibly with MRT.

Anonymous said...

But if man are considered kids for ever, shouldn't they be having a mega high IQ ?


Anonymous said...

So in the last 20k years, all the evidence points towards humans becoming less capable of intellectual endeavours?

The countries with the most (in your view) social friendly policies should therefore have a reflection in a low number of university graduates, and publications per capita.
This data is publicly available, show us some nice graphs of it :)

killfalcon said...

IQ is meant to measure educational progress. Of course it goes up in absolute terms as you get older, and drops again once you're focusing on whatever it is you end up needing to know for your career, and not the generic prep-for-anything stuff you get in school.

That's exactly what it should do.

Anonymous said...

"Being social shrinks your brain!"
Anyway "social" and "for fun" is now scientifically proven to be equal to "dumb".

If you follow the very first link in the article you quoted and read beyond the first page, you'll see that the researchers explicitly say that you CANNOT make this conclusion from their data:

"The story written in our bones is that we look more and more peaceful over the last 50,000 years,” Wrangham says. And that is not all. If he is correct, domestication has also transformed our cognitive style. His hunch is based on studies—many done by his former graduate student Brian Hare—comparing domestic animals with their wild relatives. The good news, Wrangham says, is that “you can’t speak of one group being more intelligent than the other.”

Hare, now an assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, agrees. “All you can say is that wild types and domesticates think differently.”

So there you have it: the very people you quoted are telling you that you are wrong.

(Relevant link)

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: the most publications per capita are well known to be made in the USA, the country with the most violence between citizens (without failed state or war) and the country with least social security.

@Other anonymous: the researchers must thread very lightly if they want to keep their jobs. Many scientists were fired for saying politically incorrect - though scientifically true - statements. So they have to give a politically correct foreword and/or summary, and hide the results in the numbers.

This case it's "grey matter size decreased by x% but that's only being different, not worse"

Miz said...

Isn't your own definition of M/S that they refuse to learn from others, thus in actually being unsocial?

Social people interact with each other and learn from each other, which is also one of the advantages of humans over other species.

So, the very people you make fun of might as well be the unsocial people who does not accept the decision of other people and instead thinking their own way is the best.

Tegiminis said...

Brain size does not indicate intelligence.

There is a whole huge field of study into IQ and brain size and skull size and etc. The conclusions you draw in this piece are so contrary with every respected, published paper on the topic that it's clear you didn't do your research.

If you want a suggestion, read the book "The Mismeasure of Man" by Stephen Jay Gould. It's a good look at biological determinism, and, while flawed, it does a good job of debunking the most common IQ arguments.

The "brain size = IQ" statement is also founded upon racist principles, and by making such a statement you do unintentionally support racist people. I'm sure that's not your intention, but it is what it is.

Unknown said...

Social animals tend to display greater intelligence (principally driven by the need to interpret & mange interactions).

Additionally, iirc, the degree of convulutions in the cerebellum has a much greater direct relationship with higher brain function than brain pan volume.

Gevlon said...

@Tegiminis: and what about the strong correlation between age of puberty and measured adult age IQ?

folgsam said...

This is one review, I had to read an array of additional publications to make an informed statement. But in this review, they do cite studies that correlate brain size with intelligence.

Accross species, and also accross genders and races.

Gevlons statement that larger brains are smarter is backed by evidence. The conclusion he draws though is highly controversial, at best.

Lucas Kell said...

This seems like a fairly simple one to test. WE'll take 2 newborn children. I'll raise one in a nurturing, social environment, while Gevlon can ignore his and stick it in a room on its own for its entire life with a stack of books. If socialising makes you dumber, then his child should be able to figure out how to read, become a super genius and take over the world while mine will sadly be unable to dress himself.

Lets face it, there's not much point in arguing, since no matter what people say, you will continue to argue this entirely ridiculous point, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary *you know, the fact that through social interaction we more efficiently gather process and refine information, and that your entire education is based on social interaction). I guess that's it then, you are antisocial, and therefore obviously must be smarter than everyone else, right? Please indicate to us how your extreme level of intelligence has led to your extraordinary personal and professional success.

Gevlon said...

@Lucas: you keep mixing interacting with people with SOCIALLY interacting with them. Hint:
- a hamburger with fries please
- Here you go, $5 please
is NOT interacting socially. You could do it with a vending machine.

When you care about the emotions of the other person and your emotions emerging from the interaction, then you are being social.

Tegiminis said...

@Gevlon: Correlation does not mean causation. There's also the matter of IQ tests being weighted towards white men. Both of which you should understand if you want to discuss the IQ testing of people.

Lucas Kell said...

"When you care about the emotions of the other person and your emotions emerging from the interaction, then you are being social."
That's quite the specific distinction. So at what point does it stop, and can they cross over?

The getting fries situation is not social to you because the two people do not care about each others emotions right? So if they did, and they had a laugh while making that transaction, does that make the transaction worth less? Does the act of them emotionally connecting invalidate everything else happening?

In the same way, I have a laugh with some goons, yet at the same time (on the most simplified level) I am providing them with a service while they are providing me with a valuable resource (space to operate). So if I were to not emotionally connect with the other players in my coalition, would that make our interactions suddenly worth more, even though the end result would be the same?

From my point of view, social interaction has only enhanced the experience, provide you with more than the original transaction. You've now built rapport which could enhance future interactions, and on top of that you've had a good time doing it, which is healthy for development. Without that the result is an emotionally damaged yet technically functional individual like yourself.

I'm not sure that I entirely believe that you are the zero fun, super serious individual you put yourself out to be. I truly hope that you write this blog and you run your little schemes because you enjoy it, and that you have a good time. If not I genuinely feel for you, since you are missing out on a valuable piece of what makes us human, and all for what? To make little to no impact in a virtual world? Is that really the peak of your aspirations?

Anonymous said...

@Lucas: you keep mixing interacting with people with SOCIALLY interacting with them.

No, you are falsely separating the two. Interaction is a social act. It is what defines us as a species.

Whether that interaction is learning, playing a sport,sending a text... And sure, a bunch of these things can be automated with vending machines and there is a case to be made that this is actually a bad thing.

You are creating this constructed view of a-social and social interaction when there in fact there is no separation. Lucas' argument to absurdity holds.

Suzariel Kel-Paten said...

Reading *this post* shrank my brain. :-P

But I have a teeny wittle girl brain that I only use for shopping and painting flowers on my spaceship, so I don't need much.

I usually enjoy your posts, Gevlon, even when I don't agree with them, but this one is... *cough*

Gevlon said...

@Tegiminis, Suzariel: no, "white men" training is weighted towards IQ. I don't believe in genetic determination (if I would, there would be no point blogging about it). I believe that people could be improved by being less social. Women has lower measured adult IQ not because they are dumber, but because they are nurtured in a way that turns them towards social things. Women "should" care about people in our society.

@Lucas: so if I tell the same words to a voice-recognizing vending machine, am I socializing with the machine. Are we friends now?

Unknown said...

First, there is no direct correlation between IQ and amount of gray matter. You assume that there is, but there really is none.

You are half-right about puberty and sex drive having impact on personal development. Psychology in general knows (ever since Freud) that there are two general ways to use the energy of libido. First ways is to pursue and enjoy sex life (with all the caveats including courtship, flirting, consummation, jealousy and breakup). Second way is to sublimate - that is direct libido energy towards something other than sex life.

Puberty is all about sex life, sublimation only happens when sex life is not happening, thus sexual energy has nowhere to go, so a person sublimates it in order to adapt and therefore have a greater chance to release libido with sex later. Whether this adaptation leaves a person smarter or not is pretty much random (or rather, involves way too many factors to recount here).

Unless... You exist in a kind of culture that refuses to put a premium on sexual victories to begin with. Even in this day and age, such cultures still exist on the level of families and larger social circles. Socializing with that kind of culture almost guarantees that sublimation will leave you smarter.

The "asocial" thing you preach is a defense mechanism, employed by those that somehow pick up the need to exist in sublimation-driven culture, but for some reason don't have one on hand. The most common scenario for this nowadays is created when people latch to lingering symbols of some declining sublimation-driven culture (say, protestant/capitalist industrial), but see that what is actually in front of them is libido-driven (post-sexual-revolution culture). In that case, rejecting the culture that is actually in front of them results in "asociality".

TLDR: It is true that interacting with some cultures (and i believe modern consumer culture among them) does make you dumber. However it is impossible to get smart without being a part of some culture, with "asocial" being less of a rejection of all socialization at all and more of a protest against the culture that is currently presented to a person.

P.S: It needs to be understood that the notion that people that choose to satisfy their libido over sublimation necessarily forfeit opportunity to get smarter is currently being widely challenged. The theory, in dumbest words possible, goes like this: while sublimation builds your IQ, letting your libido work within a social context (even dumb social context) builds your EQ.
I don't necessarily agree with that sentiment, because i feel IQ is important. But it is hard for me to argue that the only way to get really good at interacting with people is to interact with people :/

Anonymous said...

@lucas: your argument is unfortunately correct even if it's awful. Leave the arguing to smarter people though.

Gevlon uses big words here like "proved," when you really cannot equate correlation with causation. He makes some reasonable judgments but the answer is you cannot make conclusions on data like this.

Jumping to conclusions is a Gevlon trademark though.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a stronger correlation to the amount of competition, efficiency, etc needed to survive in a less social (meaning _wilder_) environment. It is the safety, stability and comfort (and of course the reduced effects of natural selection) provided by the community that causes the loss of brain cells, not 'being social'. So, there is a connection, but it's not causal.