A theory of male and female Sociopathy pt 3

Note: this is just a theory, developed in reaction to recent conversations. 

From Twitter user FinchesofDarwin comes an interesting tale, about a polygynously-married woman in Guiana: 

Manwaiko had two wives, and each of these had a family of young children. … Between the two wives and their respective children little kindness seemed to exist. One evening, while the party were squatting on the ground, eating their supper… one of the wives, who with her children had been employed in cutting firewood, discovered, on her return, that the supper for herself and her family was not to be found, having been carried off by some animal through neglect or connivance of her rival. It could hardly be expected that she would sit down quietly without the evening meal for herself and her children… and she accordingly applied to Manwaiko for a share of his allowance, which was ample. He treated her request with contempt… She then commenced a furious torrent of abuse, during which he finished his meal with great composure, until, being irritated at his indifference, she at last told him that he was no “capitan,” no father, and no man. …  

Such stormy ebullitions of temper are rare in the Indian families, though, where polygamy is practiced, continual variance and ill-feeling are found. 

From The Indian Tribes of Guiana, their Condition and Habits, by Reverend Brett, 1868

As we were discussing Friday, one form of female sociopathy (at least relevant to this conversation) likely involves manipulating or coercing others into providing resources for her children. On Monday we discussed mental illness and its effects on fertility (generally it lowers fertility in men, but depression has little to no effect on women, neuroticism may enhance fertility, and sometimes the sisters of people with mental illnesses have slightly increased fertility, suggesting that low levels of certain traits may be beneficial.) 

Here is where I get 100% speculative, and to be frank, I don’t like saying negative things about women (since I am one,) but if men can be sociopaths, then women can, too–and conversely, the majority of men are not sociopaths, and neither are the majority of women. 

In the quoted passage, we see two common tropes: First, the evil stepmother, in the form of the wife who let wild animals make off with half of the family’s food. Second, the crazy bitch, who goes on a tirade questioning her husband’s manliness because he has failed to provide food for her children. 

In this case, only the first woman is truly sociopathic (she has harmed the other woman and her children,) but we can see how the second’s behavior could easily spill over into unreasonable demands. 

Female sociopathy–manipulating men out of their money–only works as an evolutionary strategy in an environment where men themselves vary in their trustworthiness and cannot be easily predicted. If the men in a society can be counted upon to always provide for their offspring, women have no need to try to manipulate them into doing so; if men in a society flat out refuse to do so, then there is no point to trying. Only in a situation where you can affect the amount of resources you get out of a man will there be any point to doing so.

Given the environmental constraints, sociopathic female behavior is likely to increase in reaction to an increase in sociopathic male behavior–that is, when women fear abandonment or an inability to care for their children.

This manipulation has two targets–first, the father of the child, whom the woman wishes to prevent from wandering off and having children with other women, or baring that, from giving them any resources. Second, should this fail, or the male be too violent for women and children to be near, the woman targets a new male to convince him to care for her, her children, and possibly beat the resources out of the old male. 

Since children actually do need to eat, and getting enough resources can be tough, society is generally fine with women doing what they need to provide for their families (unlike men doing whatever they need to maximize reproduction, which usually ends with the police informing you that no, you cannot go “Genghis Khan” on Manhattan.) 

But at times women really do go overboard, earning the title of “crazy ex.” Here’s part of one woman’s helpful list of why she went crazy:

1. He told me he loved me, then he left me. … I wasn’t going to make it easy for him to leave me. I promised myself I’d fight for my relationship because I loved him and he said he loved me. …
3. If you didn’t know, one of the quickest ways to drive a woman insane is to ignore her. … This was the most severe phase of crazy for me. I was infuriated that not only was I losing my relationship and wasn’t given a reason why, but I was being blatantly ignored by him too! …
4. He told me not to worry about his “friend,” and now he’s dating her.

Back before the invention of birth control, a woman who got dumped like this was most likely pregnant, if not already caring for several children. Abandonment was a big deal, and she had every reason not to just let her partner wander off and start impregnating new chicks. 

In our modern world, he made it clear that he didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore and left. 

Meanwhile: 

And a similar story on Quora

After my ex boyfriend broke up with me I went crazy… After he dumped me for the third time I felt used and devastated. I wanted an explanation and answers. He was a jerk to me. A cruel son of a bitch. I kept begging, calling, and begging. I never got a reply back. This went on for over 3 months. …

Third. Time. 

This isn’t the only kind of “crazy” I’ve seen around, though. 

An acquaintance recently recounted a story about an ex who actually ended up in the mental hospital for suicidal ideation. She listed him as her contact, something he was not exactly keen on, having already told her the relationship was over. 

Then there is the phenomenon of people actually claiming to be crazy, often with rather serious disorders that you would not normally think they would want to revealing to others. For example, I have seen several young women claim recently to have Multiple Personality Disorder–a condition that is not in the DSM and so you can no longer get diagnosed with it. Though you can get diagnosed with Disassociative Identity Disorder, this disorder is rare and quite controversial, and I would expect anyone with a real diagnosis to use the real name, just as few schizophrenics claim to have been diagnosed with dementia praecox. 

MPD is less of a real disorder and more of a fad spread by movies, TV, and unscrupulous shrinks, though many people who claim to have it are quite genuinely suffering. 

(I should emphasize that in most of these cases, the person in question is genuinely suffering.) 

Most of these cases–MPD, PTSD, etc–are supposedly triggered by traumatic experiences, such as childhood abuse or spousal abuse. (Oddly, being starved half to death in a POW camp doesn’t seem to trigger MPD.) And yet, despite the severity of these conditions, people I encounter seem to respond positively to these claims of mental illness–if anything, a claim of mental illness seems to get people more support. 

So I suggest a potential mechanism:

First, everyone of course has a pre-set range of responses/behaviors they can reasonably call up, but these ranges vary from person to person. For example, I will run faster if my kids are in danger than if I’m late for an appointment, but you may be faster than me even when you’re just jogging.

Second, an unstable, violent, or neglectful environmental triggers neuroticism, which in turn triggers mental instability. 

Third, mental instability attracts helpers, who try to “rescue” the woman from bad circumstances. 

Fourth, sometimes this goes completely overboard into trying to destroy an ex, convincing a new partner to harm the ex, spreading untrue rumors about the ex, etc. Alternatively, it goes overboard in the woman become unable to cope with life and needing psychiatric treatment/medication.

Since unstable environments trigger mental instability in the first place, sociopathic men are probably most likely to encounter sociopathic women, which makes the descriptions of female sociopathy automatically sound very questionable:

“My crazy ex told all of our friends I gave her gonorrhea!”

“Yeah, but that was after you stole $5,000 from her and broke two of her ribs.” 

This makes it difficult to collect objective information on the matter, and is why this post is very, very speculative. 

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Consanguinity and Socialism

So I’ve been thinking about the connection between consanguinity and socialism.

In one account I read recently, a young man, attempting to better his lot in life, took out a loan, produced 30 loaves of bread, and began selling them along the side of the road. He managed to sell ten loaves before his father came along, spotted the bread, and took the remaining 20 loaves to feed his hungry children–the young man’s siblings and half siblings, of which there were well over a dozen.

Obviously the young man could not pay back his loan, and the business failed.

In Kabloona, de Poncins describes the extreme communality of the Eskimo lifestyle (including, it seems, some form of communal wife-sharing.) One man builds up a cache of fish and seals, and another family comes upon it and eats it all–it cannot be helped, says the author. No one was mad or even irritated. Life in the arctic is so precarious, the food supply so unsteady, that everyone would likely die if they could not depend on their neighbors’ catches in such a way.

He describes another case of a mentally retarded couple who were kept alive primarily through the generosity of their kin-folk.

Toward the end of Frederick and Josephine’s adventure through the Congo, they describe conversations with, IIRC, a white person living in the Congo. He noted that although he had lived there for many years, he had not become friends with the natives–that such was impossible, in fact, because friendship carries with it obligations, and those obligations would quickly bankrupt him.

In The Harmless People, anthropologist Elizabeth Thomas describes the distribution networks that determine exactly how a killed animal is distributed among everyone in the tribe. Obviously it makes sense to distribute a giraffe–no one can eat an entire giraffe, and the Bushmen (aka San) don’t have refrigerators. But even when people are hungry and there isn’t enough to go around, the rules still apply: you must share.

In another account (the name of which, forgive me, has slipped my mind over the intervening decade and a half since I read it,) the author discussed the difficulties of getting the Bushmen started on agriculture/animal husbandry. The crux of the matter was that people would give the Bushmen goats to raise, and then a while later some other Bushmen would come visiting, and the goats would get slaughtered to feed their guests. Pretty soon, the goats were gone and the Bushmen had nothing left to eat, until the outsiders donated some more goats and the round of visiting and goat-eating began again.

Apparently they solved this problem by giving the Bushmen cows. Because a cow has far more meat on it than a visiting family can eat in a week–even a large family–the social obligation to slaughter one’s livestock for visiting relatives didn’t apply to cows.

In The Continuum Concept, Liedloff describes life in an isolated Amazonian village. She relates a story about a young man who, after being raised in the hustle and bustle of the city, came back to his ancestral village (he’d been adopted.) He proceeded to sit on his butt for several years, supported by the rest of the village. He was not entirely idle–he managed to get marry and have children during those years. Eventually he got bored and began raising a garden of his own (it was a horticultural society.)

It took me a long time to figure out why people engage in ritual gift-giving, but one enlightening study on the subject found that Chinese folks with gift-giving networks that extended outside their own villages were less likely to starve during the famines–these folks, it appeared, had been able to call upon their networks when the local crops failed. People whose networks were limited to their own villages had no one to call upon when the village’s crops failed.

I recall someone–I think it was HBD Chick–claiming that Russia traditionally had a somewhat communal style of land inheritance/distribution among its serfs, but I can’t find it, now.

This “socialistic” gift-giving/distribution of wealth and catches is the essence of tribalism, and stands in contrast to capitalism. Westerners tend to either gush glowingly about the wonderful primitives who, in their Edenic state, know nothing of greed but share everything with their neighbors, or confusedly attempt to mush capitalism onto this tribal system and then wonder why it doesn’t work. The socialists tend to advocate that we should become more like the tribesfolk, while capitalists look for ways to get people to act more individually.

Of course, noble savages are a myth and people do not share because they’re morally pure; one glance at the homicide rates for tribal peoples dispels that notion. These systems exist (or existed) because they helped the people in them survive–or at least their DNA. You and your brother share quite a bit of DNA, so sharing your food with him can result in more copies of your DNA wandering around (via your brother’s children,) even if it doesn’t befit you, personally.

No man is an island; we all depend on each other for food and other resources. Where resources are few and times are tough, others become especially critical. Then the “rules” in these societies are often just as strict as ours–the young man with his loaves can no more resist his father’s claim than I can resist paying my taxes. And for the Inuit, the rules are even harsher: if you don’t share now, there will be no one left to share with you when you need them–and you will die.

Do such systems only work where people are closely related? Sharing wealth with my brother may be annoying, but that doesn’t mtter so long as my DNA gets passed on. My brother can be a total lout who takes advantage of me right and left and it doesn’t matter so long as my DNA gets passed on. But it is much more difficult to get people to cooperate with non-family–helping strangers does not lead directly to more of my DNA in the world, and if the helping harms me while helping them, then they may well increase the number of copies of their DNA at my expense.

This does not necessarily mean that cooperation with strangers is a bad idea–or that defecting on strangers is a good idea. Obviously if you’re caught out in a blizzard, it’s in your interest to cooperate with anyone around. And many, many groups have merged over the centuries of human history (and not just through warfare.) Groups can indeed merge, to their mutual benefit.

The question is whether some groups are genetically biased toward–or will reproduce better–under socialism or capitalism, and if consanguinity has any effect on this.

You see, not all brothers are created equal. If you and your brother are identical twins, then you share virtually 100% of your DNA, and giving your brother a cow is as good as giving you a cow; your brother having a kid is genetically as good as you having a kid.

Under normal conditions (as you tend to think of them, my reader), you and your brother share about 50% of your DNA–in this case, your brother has to have two kids to make up for the cost of you losing one.

If you and your brother are actually half-brothers, that % goes down to 25. Now your brother needs to have 4 kids to make up for the loss of one of yours.

But if you’re full siblings and your parents were first cousins–a pretty normal state of affairs throughout most of the world and most of history–then the DNA you share with your brother goes up. And if your grandparents and great grandparents were also cousins, well, you and your brother will start looking pretty similar to each other.

Let’s suppose that a gene for generosity pops up randomly among humans. These generous folks love cooperating. If they are closely related to their family, chances are their relatives also have this gene, and that they will all cooperate together. The less closely they are related to the folks they’re cooperating with, the less chance of those folks sharing the cooperating genes and thus, simultaneously, more chance of defection and fewer genetic gains from cooperating.

So it seems likely that the strongest norms for cooperating will exist within groups that are closely related. (Note that even Sweden-style socialism is quite weak compared to Inuit-style socialism.)

But most folks are, at best, neutral toward their out-group, and often highly antagonistic. (The few groups that are not antagonistic seem to mostly be folks who don’t have much experience with out-groups, due to geographic isolation.) But cooperation across groups may be possible if strong civic institutions / social norms exist to prevent defection.