EvX’s Greatest Hits: Do Black Babies Have Blue Eyes? and Other Baby Matters

In honor of reaching 800 posts, we’ve taken a look back at our most popular pieces. Some of them have been surprises–like Do Black Babies Have Blue Eyes? (I didn’t think they did, but I wanted to be sure, because I had run across general claims like “All babies are born with blue eyes.”)

Apparently people love babies, so here are some interesting baby facts:

Babies are born with less melanin than their parents, because there’s no need for protection from sunlight while in the womb. This is why black babies are often a bit paler than than parents. (I try not to invade other people’s privacy by posting photos of other people’s infants, but here is a stock photo in which the newborn’s color is about the same as their father’s palms, distinctly lighter than their father’s overall coloration.)

Melanin levels typically increase over time in babies of all races, darkening skin and eyes. So white babies are often born with blue, grey, or light brown eyes that darken to the normal white range of blue to dark brown, but most African and Asian babies start out with eyes that are already pretty dark because they naturally have more melanin–though even their eyes show a range of newborn colors, from dark grey to green.

Hair: Most babies, including black/African babies, are born with soft, silky hair. Baby hair is different from adult hair because it grows from round hair follicles (which produce straight hair) and lacks the central shaft (or medulla) that stiffens adult hair. Over the first few months of life, follicles flatten and medullas grow in, giving hair its stiffer, curlier, more adult form, though the extent of this process differs widely by population.

White babies end up with a variety of hair textures. Most Asian babies end up with thick, straight hair, due to a variant of the EDAR gene that arose about 65,000 years ago. Despite the great genetic variety found in Sub-Saharan Africa, almost all black babies end up with tightly coiled, curly hair. Black hair has probably therefore been very valuable to people in Africa, providing enough of an evolutionary advantage that it has become nigh universal.

(Note that our nearest human relatives, the chimps, do not have curly hair. It is tempting to say that infant hair resembles chimpanzee hair, but I have never petted a chimp and so cannot really judge.)

Interestingly, many facial expressions are universal–emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, and disgust are expressed similarly in people from Sub-Saharan Africa to New Zealand, from Norway to Argentina; in newborns and elderly [pdf]; in blind people and sighted.

What about differences between babies?

More science on reactivity differences in babies: 

433 4-mo-old infants from Boston, Dublin, and Beijing were administered the same battery of visual, auditory, and olfactory stimuli to evaluate differences in levels of reactivity. The Chinese Ss were significantly less active, irritable, and vocal than the Boston and Dublin samples, with Boston Ss showing the highest level of reactivity. Data suggest the possibility of temperamental differences between Caucasian and Asian infants in reactivity to stimulation.

Pregnant ladies may be interested to learn that average gestation length varies by race/ethnicity: 

The average length of gestation is about 5 days shorter in black populations than in white populations. Although some of this difference is accounted for by higher preterm delivery rates in blacks, the most common gestational week of delivery at term is the 39th in black populations, the 40th in white. Black gestational age specific neonatal mortality is lower than that of whites until the 37th week of gestation, but higher thereafter.

Another article with similar findings (though I don’t know how they define “Asian” because the source is British and Brits often include south Asians like Pakistanis in the “Asian” category even though they are genetically closer to Europeans. So far I haven’t found any data that specifically addresses gestation length in East Asians.) This study found that pregnancies vary naturally in length by over a month, even excluding some premature births. There are many reasons why pregnancies may vary, including maternal age, size, stress, and genetics–important factors for Obgyns to keep in mind when evaluating the medical needs of different mothers and their fetuses.

There’s a lot of variety in humans.




Survey: What are your hobbies?

Dividualist has/inspires an interesting question: What non-STEM related hobbies do female nerds have?

Let’s expand this question to everyone who reads this blog: What are your hobbies? Are they mostly STEM-related or non-STEM? (And do you consider yourself a nerd?)

For example, hobbies like “building lasers” or “writing a blog on HBD” count as STEM-related; playing WoW or gardening is non-STEM.

(Then discuss whether this distinction between STEM and non-STEM hobbies is valid.)


For myself: There’s an obvious complication that humans are social creatures and I do a lot of things because other people around me are doing them. EG, I play and enjoy some videogames with my family, but if I lived alone, I wouldn’t have bought a TV, much less a game system.

Similarly, there are things I would like to do if I had more time and money–billionaires can afford more hobbies than we mere plebes. These can be listed as “interests.”

Obviously my chief “hobbies” are writing this blog (which requires a fair amount of reading) and homeschooling my children. I won’t duplicate the blog by listing everything it covers.

I also enjoy writing fiction and reading about topics not covered in this blog, like physics. (Layman level reading.)

Navigation: I am strongly aware of the shape of the local geography and spatial relationship of the sun, shadows, curve of the Earth, progress of seasons, animal migrations, the way prevailing winds shape the local trees, etc. The slanting rays of the afternoon sun have a deep emotional effect.

I like plants and would enjoy having a small farm with more plants, bees, and some chickens. I am fond of afternoons in the woods and foraging for wild edibles.

I enjoy making things, like arts and crafts. I’ve made a number of toys for the kids, built them a small wooden “play house,” and recently finished sewing a dress. If I had money and time, I would invest in woodworking tools and a 3D printer.

I struggle to delineate, exactly, whether these are STEM hobbies or not; “STEM” itself is not a word I like, though I employ it because it is short and utile.

Things I have little to no interest in: sports, cars, travel, sightseeing, holding still (“vacation,”) makeup, celebrities, celebrity gossip, most TV or movies, cupcakes, drinking, bars, hair salons, modern fashion, handbags, and most striver bullshit. These are my misery zone.


What about you?

Is there a correlation between intelligence and taste?

(I am annoyed by the lack of bands between 1200 and 1350)

De gustibus non disputandum est. — Confucius

We’re talking about foods, not whether you prefer Beethoven or Lil’ Wayne.

Certainly there are broad correlations between the foods people enjoy and their ethnicity/social class. If you know whether I chose fried okra, chicken feet, gefilte fish, escargot, or grasshoppers for dinner, you can make a pretty good guess about my background. (Actually, I have eaten all of these things. The grasshoppers were over-salted, but otherwise fine.) The world’s plethora of tasty (and not-so-tasty) cuisines is due primarily to regional variations in what grows well where (not a lot of chili peppers growing up in Nunavut, Canada,) and cost (the rich can always afford fancier fare than the poor,) with a side dish of seemingly random cultural taboos like “don’t eat pork” or “don’t eat cows” or “don’t eat grasshoppers.”

But do people vary in their experience of taste? Does intelligence influence how you perceive your meal, driving smarter (or less-smart) people to seek out particular flavor profiles or combinations? Or could there be other psychological or neurological factors at play n people’s eating decisions?

This post was inspired by a meal my husband, an older relative and I shared recently at McDonald’s. It had been a while since we’d last patronized McDonald’s, but older relative likes their burgers, so we went and ordered some new-to-us variety of meat-on-a-bun. As my husband and I sat there, deconstructing the novel taste experience and comparing it to other burgers, the older relative gave us this look of “Jeez, the idiots are discussing the flavor of a burger! Just eat it already!”

As we dined later that evening at my nemesis, Olive Garden, I began wondering whether we actually experienced the food the same way. Perhaps there is something in people that makes them prefer bland, predictable food. Perhaps some people are better at discerning different flavors, and the people who cannot discern them end up with worse food because they can’t tell?

Unfortunately, it appears that not a lot of people have studied whether there is any sort of correlation between IQ and taste (or smell.) There’s a fair amount of research on taste (and smell,) like “do relatives of schizophrenics have impaired senses of smell?” (More on Schizophrenics and their decreased ability to smell) or “can we get fat kids to eat more vegetables?” Oh, and apparently the nature of auditory hallucinations in epileptics varies with IQ (IIRC.) But not much that directly addresses the question.

I did find two references that, somewhat in passing, noted that they found no relationship between taste and IQ, but these weren’t studies designed to test for that. For example, in A Food Study of Monotony, published in 1958 (you know I am really looking for sources when I have to go back to 1958,) researchers restricted the diets of military personnel employed at an army hospital to only 4 menus to see how quickly and badly they’d get bored of the food. They found no correlation between boredom and IQ, but people employed at an army hospital are probably pre-selected for being pretty bright (and having certain personality traits in common, including ability to stand army food.)

Interestingly, three traits did correlate with (or against) boredom:

Fatter people got bored fastest (the authors speculate that they care the most about their food,) while depressed and feminine men (all subjects in the study were men) got bored the least. Depressed people are already disinterested in food, so it is hard to get less-interested, but no explanation was given of what they meant by “femininity” or how this might affect food preferences. (Also, the hypochondriacs got bored quickly.)

Some foods inspire boredom (or even disgust) quickly, while others are virtually immune. Milk and bread, for example, can be eaten every day without complaint (though you might get bored if bread were your only food.) Potted meat, by contrast, gets old fast.

Likewise, Personality Traits and Eating Habits (warning PDF) notes that:

Although self-reported eating practices were not associated with educational level, intelligence, nor various indices of psychopathology, they were related to the demographic variables of gender and age: older participants reported eating more fiber in their diets than did younger ones, and women reported more avoidance of fats from meats than did men.

Self-reported eating habits may not be all that reliable, though.

Autistic children do seem to be worse at distinguishing flavors (and smells) than non-autistic children, eg Olfaction and Taste Processing in Autism:

Participants with autism were significantly less accurate than control participants in identifying sour tastes and marginally less accurate for bitter tastes, but they were not different in identifying sweet and salty stimuli. … Olfactory identification was significantly worse among participants with autism. … True differences exist in taste and olfactory identification in autism. Impairment in taste identification with normal detection thresholds suggests cortical, rather than brainstem dysfunction.

(Another study of the eating habits of autistic kids found that the pickier ones were rated by their parents as more severely impaired than the less picky ones, but then severe food aversions are a form of life impairment. By the way, do not tell the parents of an autistic kid, “oh, he’ll eat when he’s hungry.” They will probably respond politely, but mentally they are stabbing you.)

On brainstem vs. cortical function–it appears that we do some of our basic flavor identification way down in the most instinctual part of the brain, as Facial Expressions in Response to Taste and Smell Stimulation explores. The authors found that pretty much everyone makes the same faces in response to sweet, sour, and bitter flavors–whites and blacks, old people and newborns, retarded people and blind people, even premature infants, blind infants, and infants born missing most of their brains. All of which is another point in favor of my theory that disgust is real. (And if that is not enough science of taste for you, I recommend Place and Taste Aversion Learning, in which animals with brain lesions lost their fear of new foods.)

Genetics obviously plays a role in taste. If you are one of the 14% or so of people who think cilantro tastes like soap (and I sympathize, because cilantro definitely tastes like soap,) then you’ve already discovered this in a very practical way. Genetics also obviously determine whether you continue producing the enzyme for milk digestion after infancy (lactase persistence). According to Why are you a picky eater? Blame genes, brains, and breastmilk:

In many cases, mom and dad have only themselves to blame for unwittingly passing on the genes that can govern finicky tastes. Studies show that genes play a major role in determining who becomes a picky eater, including recent research on a group of 4- to 7-year-old twins. Part of the pickiness can be attributed to specific genes that govern taste. Variants of the TAS2R38 gene, for example, have been found to encode for taste receptors that determine how strongly someone tastes bitter flavors.

Researchers at Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center, a scientific institute dedicated to the study of smell and taste, have found that this same gene also predicts the strength of sweet-tooth cravings among children. Kids who were more sensitive to bitterness preferred sugary foods and drinks. However, adults with the bitter receptor genes remained picky about bitter foods but did not prefer more sweets, the Monell study found. This suggests that sometimes age and experience can override genetics.

I suspect that there is actually a sound biological, evolutionary reason why kids crave sweets more than grownups, and this desire for sweets is somewhat “turned off” as we age.

Picture 10

From a review of Why some like it hot: Food, Genetics, and Cultural Diversity:

Ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan suggests that diet had a key role in human evolution, specifically, that human genetic diversity is predominately a product of regional differences in ancestral diets. Chemical compounds found within animals and plants varied depending on climate. These compounds induced changes in gene expression, which can vary depending on the amount within the particular food and its availability. The Agricultural Age led to further diet-based genetic diversity. Cultivation of foods led to the development of novel plants and animals that were not available in the ancestral environment. …

There are other fascinating examples of gene-diet interaction. Culturally specific recipes, semi-quantitative blending of locally available foods and herbs, and cooking directions needed in order to reduce toxins present in plants, emerged over time through a process of trial-and error and were transmitted through the ages. The effects on genes by foods can be extremely complex given the range of plant-derived compounds available within a given region. The advent of agriculture is suggested to have overridden natural selection by random changes in the environment. The results of human-driven selection can be highly unexpected. …

In sedentary herding societies, drinking water was frequently contaminated by livestock waste. The author suggests in order to avoid contaminated water, beverages made with fermented grains or fruit were drunk instead. Thus, alcohol resistance was selected for in populations that herded animals, such as Europeans. By contrast, those groups which did not practice herding, such as East Asians and Native Americans, did not need to utilize alcohol as a water substitute and are highly sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

Speaking of genetics:

From Eating Green could be in your Genes

Indians and Africans are much more likely than Europeans and native South Americans to have an allele that lets them eat a vegetarian diet:

The vegetarian allele evolved in populations that have eaten a plant-based diet over hundreds of generations. The adaptation allows these people to efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and convert them into compounds essential for early brain development and controlling inflammation. In populations that live on plant-based diets, this genetic variation provided an advantage and was positively selected in those groups.

In Inuit populations of Greenland, the researchers uncovered that a previously identified adaptation is opposite to the one found in long-standing vegetarian populations: While the vegetarian allele has an insertion of 22 bases (a base is a building block of DNA) within the gene, this insertion was found to be deleted in the seafood allele.

Of course, this sort of thing inspires a wealth of pop-psych investigations like Dr. Hirsch’s What Flavor is your Personality?  (from a review:

Dr. Hirsh, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago, stands by his book that is based on over 24 years of scientific study and tests on more than 18,000 people’s food choices and personalities.)

that nonetheless may have some basis in fact, eg: Personality may predict if you like spicy foods:

Byrnes assessed the group using the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking (AISS), a test for the personality trait of sensation-seeking, defined as desiring novel and intense stimulation and presumed to contribute to risk preferences. Those in the group who score above the mean AISS score are considered more open to risks and new experiences, while those scoring below the mean are considered less open to those things.

The subjects were given 25 micrometers of capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, and asked to rate how much they liked a spicy meal as the burn from the capsaicin increased in intensity. Those in the group who fell below the mean AISS rapidly disliked the meal as the burn increased. People who were above the mean AISS had a consistently high liking of the meal even as the burn increased. Those in the mean group liked the meal less as the burn increased, but not nearly as rapidly as those below the mean.

And then there are the roughly 25% of us who are “supertasters“:

A supertaster is a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average. Women are more likely to be supertasters, as are those from Asia, South America and Africa.[1] The cause of this heightened response is unknown, although it is thought to be related to the presence of the TAS2R38 gene, the ability to taste PROP and PTC, and at least in part, due to an increased number of fungiform papillae.[2]

Perhaps the global distribution of supertasters is related to the distribution of vegetarian-friendly alleles. It’s not surprising that women are more likely to be supertasters, as they have a better sense of smell than men. What may be surprising is that supertasters tend not to be foodies who delight in flavoring their foods with all sorts of new spices, but instead tend toward more restricted, bland diets. Because their sense of taste is essentially on overdrive, flavors that taste “mild” to most people taste “overwhelming” on their tongues. As a result, they tend to prefer a much more subdued palette–which is, of course, perfectly tasty to them.

Picture 8A French study, Changes in Food Preferences and Food Neophobia during a Weight Reduction Session, measured kids’ ability to taste flavors, then the rate at which they became accustomed to new foods. The more sensitive the kids were to flavors, the less likely they were to adopt a new food; the less adept they were at tasting flavors, the more likely they were to start eating vegetables.

Speaking of pickiness again:

“During research back in the 1980s, we discovered that people are more reluctant to try new foods of animal origin than those of plant origin,” Pelchat says. “That’s ironic in two ways. As far as taste is concerned, the range of flavors in animal meat isn’t that large compared to plants, so there isn’t as much of a difference. And, of course, people are much more likely to be poisoned by eating plants than by animals, as long as the meat is properly cooked.” …

It’s also possible that reward mechanisms in our brain can drive changes in taste. Pelchat’s team once had test subjects sample tiny bits of unfamiliar food with no substantial nutritional value, and accompanied them with pills that contained either nothing or a potent cocktail of caloric sugar and fat. Subjects had no idea what was in the pills they swallowed. They learned to like the unfamiliar flavors more quickly when they were paired with a big caloric impact—suggesting that body and brain combined can alter tastes more easily when unappetizing foods deliver big benefits.

So trying to get people to adopt new foods while losing weight may not be the best idea.

(For all that people complain about kids’ pickiness, parents are much pickier. Kids will happily eat playdoh and crayons, but one stray chicken heart in your parents’ soup and suddenly it’s “no more eating at your house.”)

Of course, you can’t talk about food without encountering meddlers who are convinced that people should eat whatever they’re convinced is the perfect diet, like these probably well-meaning folks trying to get Latinos to eat fewer snacks:

Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the United States and bear a disproportionate burden of obesity related chronic disease. Despite national efforts to improve dietary habits and prevent obesity among Latinos, obesity rates remain high. …

there is a need for more targeted health promotion and nutrition education efforts on the risks associated with soda and energy-dense food consumption to help improve dietary habits and obesity levels in low-income Latino communities.

Never mind that Latinos are one of the healthiest groups in the country, with longer life expectancies than whites! We’d better make sure they know that their food ways are not approved of!

I have been saving this graph for just such an occasion.
Only now I feel bad because I forgot to write down who made this graph so I can properly credit them. If you know, please tell me!

(Just in case it is not clear already: different people are adapted to and will be healthy on different diets. There is no magical, one-size-fits-all diet.)

And finally, to bring this full circle, it’s hard to miss the folks claiming that Kids Who Eat Fast Food Have Lower IQs:

4,000 Scottish children aged 3-5 years old were examined to compare the intelligence dampening effects of fast food consumption versus  “from scratch”  fare prepared with only fresh ingredients.

Higher fast food consumption by the children was linked with lower intelligence and this was even after adjustments for wealth and social status were taken into account.

It’d be better if they controlled for parental IQ.

The conclusions of this study confirm previous research which shows long lasting effects on IQ from a child’s diet. An Australian study from the University of Adelaide published in August 2012 showed that toddlers who consume junk food grow less smart as they get older. In that study, 7000 children were examined at the age of 6 months, 15 months, 2 years to examine their diet.

When the children were examined again at age 8, children who were consuming the most unhealthy food had IQs up to 2 points lower than children eating a wholesome diet.



On overlapping bell curves and the irony of being an outsider

Suppose you have a population–we’ll call it PopA. PopA can be just about any group of people–farmers, classical music lovers, Ukrainians, women, etc. In any population, you’re going to get a range of traits (unless you’ve selected your population in some exact way). Farmers, for example, vary in the sizes and productivity of their farms; women vary in height and weight. Variation in many (though not all) traits can be modeled with a bell curve:


Take height: some people are very short, and some are very tall, but most cluster near their group’s average.

Where we have two (or more) groups, they must vary on the distribution of some trait/s. (Otherwise they would not be separate groups.) For example, the group of classical music lovers tends to listen to more classical music than the group of rap music lovers (who, in turn, tend to listen to more rap music.) Women, on average, are shorter than men. But few groups are absolutely distinct–there are some classical music lovers who also listen to some rap music, and rap fans who listen to a few classical compositions, just as there are men and women who are the same height.

We can figure ut something else from thi graph: men lie about their heights
Men and women arranged by height

Picture 9

A graph of male and female heights

In America, the biggest groups people tend to be aware of (or act like they are aware of) are gender and race:

Picture 10

Asians, whites, Hispanics, and blacks.

You can pick just about any trait to label this graph. We’ll use introversion/extraversion. Introverts are on the left; extroverts are on the right.

“Normal” people–that is average ones–tend to have, by definition, a lot of traits in common with the other people in their group. These folks fit in comfortably. For our example, a normal member of Group A, while more introverted than the national average, is perfectly at home among most other members of Group A. A normal member of Group C, while more extroverted than the national average, is perfectly happy among other members of Group C.

Picture 6

To be explicit: normies have it pretty good. They are constantly surrounded by people who are just like themselves. Outliers, by contrast, tend to be alone (and are often ostracized, bullied, or otherwise attacked by more normal people.)

The thing about traits is that they tend to cluster. People from Pakistan, for example, tend to be Muslim, speak Urdu + a second language, and have brown skin. People with a specific mutation of the EDAR gene–found primarily in east Asians–have thicker hair, more sweat glands, smaller breasts, and differently shaped teeth than people without it. People who like country music are more likely to be pro-life than people who like techno. Women tend to like handbags, diets, and babies, while men tend to like sports and cars.

If traits didn’t cluster, we wouldn’t have groups.

One of the results of this is that normal people on one bell curve probably won’t get along all that well with normal people on another bell curve. To use a somewhat simpler graph:

Picture 5 copy

Normies A, B, and C get along well with normal people from their own groups, but tend not to get along all that well with normal people from other groups. Normie A, for example, is a perfectly normal introvert from group A, and finds most people from groups B and C way too extraverted and regards interacting with them as quite unpleasant. Normie C is a perfectly normal extravert from Group C, and finds most people from groups A and B way too introverted. Normie B thinks there are some perfectly reasonable members of Groups A and C, but that most As and Cs are extremists, and that both sides need to be more like B.

But this is not generally a problem, as normies can just hang out with other people from their own group, who tend to be like themselves.

Let’s talk about outliers:

Picture 5 copy2

Our outliers are, by definition, far from average. Our extremely extraverted member of Group A is simply way too extraverted for other As, and our introverted member of Group C doesn’t get on well with the average C at all. But our extraverted A gets on just fine with normal members of Group C, and our introverted C gets on fine with normal members of Group A.

Obviously my graphs have been rather arbitrarily chosen (actually, chosen for their ability to show up well on the screen rather than their accurate portrayal of the ethnic breakdown of introversion/extraversion.) It is easy to imagine traits that vary in all sorts of interesting ways between groups, depending on the shapes of their relative bell curves. Despite the limitations of my visuals, I hope the overall idea, however, is clear.

Anyway, this was all inspired by conversations/observations I was reading the other day on the kinds of people who enter into interracial marriages. No, I wasn’t reading Stormfront; these were perfectly mainstream-to-leftist people who probably approve of interracial marriage. For example, I have read several complaints from Asian women who say that they get a lot of attention from really creepy guys who have some kind of weird Asian fetish. (And here I just assumed that guys like Asian women because Asian women are less obese.) Another post, written by the (grown) child of an interracial couple, asserted that his dad had married interracially because he was too socially incompetent to attract a woman of his own race.

Harsh, but from the normie perspective, people who get along well with members of other races may in fact be outliers from their own, and are thus considered “socially incompetent.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, anecdotal observation of white women who marry black men suggests that they, too, are not “average,” but instead have a lot in common, personality-wise, with black men. They tend also to have more limited social opportunities due to poverty. (This should be a caution, by the way, for people trying to model the effects of racial admixture: admixture is unlikely to come from a random sample of the population, but to have been selected in some way.)

I feel like repeating here that even though normal people are harsh on outliers, does not automatically mean that being an outlier is morally reprehensible. Highly intelligent people and criminals are both outliers; very short and very tall people are outliers. Blind people and homosexuals are outliers. Outliers can be good, bad, or totally neutral. They’re just not normal, and normal people think that being normal is morally good, because they’re normal, and people default to thinking that they and people like them are good.

As I noted back in the post about adoption, 61% of whites say they’re okay with intermarriage, but only about 2% of them have mixed or other-race children, including step and adopted kids. Given the number of minorities in the country + random chance, about half of the whites who say they’re okay with intermarriage ought to have a mixed-race family–30% of whites, not 2%. Breaking it down by liberal vs. conservative doesn’t help–2% of conservative whites live in mixed-race families, vs. 2.4% of liberal whites, which is really not much of a difference to crow about.

Being okay with intermarriage is a normative value among whites (and probably other racial groups, too,) but differences in the distribution of personality traits may prevent most normal people from forming a lot of friendships (or romantic relationships) with people from different races. By contrast, outliers may get along better with people of other races. Ironically, this means that people whom normals might characterize as “racist” are likely to actually get along pretty well with people of other (or certain) races.

Hence why Derbyshire, a “white advocate,” is married to an Asian woman.

Homeostasis, personality, and life (part 2)

Warning: This post may get a little fuzzy, due to discussion of things like personality, psychology, and philosophy.

Yesterday we discussed homeostatic systems for normal organism/organization maintenance and defense, as well as pathological malfunctions of over or under-response from the homeostatic systems.

But humans are not mere action-reaction systems; they have qualia, an inner experience of being.

One of my themes here is the idea that various psychological traits, like anxiety, guilt, depression, or disgust, might not be just random things we feel, but exist for evolutionary reasons. Each of these emotions, when experienced moderately, may have beneficial effects. Guilt (and its cousin, shame,) helps us maintain our social relationships with other people, aiding in the maintenance of large societies. Disgust protects us from disease and helps direct sexual interest at one’s spouse, rather than random people. Anxiety helps people pay attention to crucial, important details, and mild depression may help people concentrate, stay out of trouble, or–very speculatively–have helped our ancestors hibernate during the winter.

In excess, each of these traits is damaging, but a shortage of each trait may also be harmful.

I have commented before on the remarkable statistic that 25% of women are on anti-depressants, and if we exclude women over 60 (and below 20,) the number of women with an “anxiety disorder” jumps over 30%.

The idea that a full quarter of us are actually mentally ill is simply staggering. I see three potential causes for the statistic:

  1. Doctors prescribe anti-depressants willy-nilly to everyone who asks, whether they’re actually depressed or not;
  2. Something about modern life is making people especially depressed and anxious;
  3. Mental illnesses are side effects of common, beneficial conditions (similar to how sickle cell anemia is a side effect of protection from malaria.)

As you probably already know, sickle cell anemia is a genetic mutation that protects carriers from malaria. Imagine a population where 100% of people are sickle cell carriers–that is, they have one mutated gene, and one regular gene. The next generation in this population will be roughly 25% people who have two regular genes (and so die of malaria,) 50% of people who have one sickle cell and one regular gene (and so are protected,) and 25% of people will have two sickle cell genes and so die of sickle cell anemia. (I’m sure this is a very simplified scenario.)

So I consider it technically possible for 25% of people to suffer a pathological genetic condition, but unlikely–malaria is a particularly ruthless killer compared to being too cheerful.

Skipping to the point, I think there’s a little of all three going on. Each of us probably has some kind of personality “set point” that is basically determined by some combination of genetics, environmental assaults, and childhood experiences. People deviate from their set points due to random stuff that happens in their lives, (job promotions, visits from friends, car accidents, etc.,) but the way they respond to adversity and the mood they tend to return to afterwards is largely determined by their “set point.” This is all a fancy way of saying that people have personalities.

The influence of random chance on these genetic/environmental factors suggests that there should be variation in people’s emotional set points–we should see that some people are more prone to anxiety, some less prone, and some of average anxiousness.

Please note that this is a statistical should, in the same sense that, “If people are exposed to asbestos, some of them should get cancer,” not a moral should, as in, “If someone gives you a gift, you should send a thank-you note.”

Natural variation in a trait does not automatically imply pathology, but being more anxious or depressive or guilt-ridden than others can be highly unpleasant. I see nothing wrong, a priori, with people doing things that make their lives more pleasant and manageable (and don’t hurt others); this is, after all, why I enjoy a cup of coffee every morning. If you are a better, happier, more productive person with medication (or without it,) then carry on; this post is not intended as a critique of anyone’s personal mental health management, nor a suggestion for how to take care of your mental health.

Our medical/psychological health system, however, operates on the assumption that medications are for pathologies only. There is not form to fill out that says, “Patient would like anti-anxiety drugs in order to live a fuller, more productive life.”

That said, all of these emotions are obviously responses to actual stuff that happens in real life, and if 25% of women are coming down with depression or anxiety disorders, I think we should critically examine whether anxiety and depression are really the disease we need to be treating, or the body’s responses to some external threat.

I am reminded here of Peter Frost’s On the Adaptive Value of “Aw Shucks:

In a mixed group, women become quieter, less assertive, and more compliant. This deference is shown only to men and not to other women in the group. A related phenomenon is the sex gap in self-esteem: women tend to feel less self-esteem in all social settings. The gap begins at puberty and is greatest in the 15-18 age range (Hopcroft, 2009).

If more women enter the workforce–either because they think they ought to or because circumstances force them to–and the workforce triggers depression, then as the percent of women formally employed goes up, we should see a parallel rise in mental illness rates among women. Just as Adderal and Ritalin help little boys conform to the requirements of modern classrooms, Prozac and Lithium help women cope with the stress of employment.

As we discussed yesterday, fever is not a disease, but part of your body’s system for re-asserting homeostasis by killing disease microbes and making it more difficult for them to reproduce. Extreme fevers are an over-reaction and can kill you, but a normal fever below 104 degrees or so is merely unpleasant and should be allowed to do its work of making you better. Treating a normal fever (trying to lower it) interferes with the body’s ability to fight the disease and results in longer sicknesses.

Likewise, these sorts of emotions, while definitely unpleasant, may serve some real purpose.

We humans are social beings (and political animals.) We do not exist on our own; historically, loneliness was not merely unpleasant, but a death sentence. Humans everywhere live in communities and depend on each other for survival. Without refrigeration or modern storage methods, saving food was difficult. (Unless you were an Eskimo.) If you managed to kill a deer while on your own, chances are you couldn’t eat it all before it began to rot, and then your chances of killing another deer before you started getting seriously hungry were low. But if you share your deer with your tribesmates, none of the deer goes to waste, and if they share their deer with yours, you are far less likely to go hungry.

If you end up alienated from the rest of your tribe, there’s a good chance you’ll die. It doesn’t matter if they were wrong and you were right; it doesn’t matter if they were jerks and you were the nicest person ever. If you can’t depend on them for food (and mates!) you’re dead. This is when your emotions kick in.

People complain a lot that emotions are irrational. Yes, they are. They’re probably supposed to be. There is nothing “logical” or “rational” about feeling bad because someone is mad at you over something they did wrong! And yet it happens. Not because it is logical, but because being part of the tribe is more important than who did what to whom. Your emotions exist to keep you alive, not to prove rightness or wrongness.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. Men and women have been subject to different evolutionary pressures, for example. But this is close enough for the purposes of the current conversation.

If modern people are coming down with mental illnesses at astonishing rates, then maybe there is something about modern life that is making people ill. If so, treating the symptoms may make life more bearable for people while they are subject to the disease, but still does not fundamentally address whatever it is that is making them sick in the first place.

It is my own opinion that modern life is pathological, not (in most cases,) people’s reactions to it. Modern life is pathological because it is new and therefore you aren’t adapted to it. Your ancestors have probably only lived in cities of millions of people for a few generations at most (chances are good that at least one of your great-grandparents was a farmer, if not all of them.) Naturescapes are calming and peaceful; cities noisy, crowded, and full of pollution. There is some reason why schizophrenics are found in cities and not on farms. This doesn’t mean that we should just throw out cities, but it does mean we should be thoughtful about them and their effects.

People seem to do best, emotionally, when they have the support of their kin, some degree of ethnic or national pride, economic and physical security, attend religious services, and avoid crowded cities. (Here I am, an atheist, recommending church for people.) The knowledge you are at peace with your tribe and your tribe has your back seems almost entirely absent from most people’s modern lives; instead, people are increasingly pushed into environments where they have no tribe and most people they encounter in daily life have no connection to them. Indeed, tribalism and city living don’t seem to get along very well.

To return to healthy lives, we may need to re-think the details of modernity.


Philosophically and politically, I am a great believer in moderation and virtue as the ethical, conscious application of homeostatic systems to the self and to organizations that exist for the sake of humans. Please understand that this is not moderation in the conventional sense of “sometimes I like the Republicans and sometimes I like the Democrats,” but the self-moderation necessary for bodily homeostasis reflected at the social/organizational/national level.

For example, I have posted a bit on the dangers of mass immigration, but this is not a call to close the borders and allow no one in. Rather, I suspect that there is an optimal amount–and kind–of immigration that benefits a community (and this optimal quantity will depend on various features of the community itself, like size and resources.) Thus, each community should aim for its optimal level. But since virtually no one–certainly no one in a position of influence–advocates for zero immigration, I don’t devote much time to writing against it; it is only mass immigration that is getting pushed on us, and thus mass immigration that I respond to.

Similarly, there is probably an optimal level of communal genetic diversity. Too low, and inbreeding results. Too high, and fetuses miscarry due to incompatible genes. (Rh- mothers have difficulty carrying Rh+ fetuses, for example, because their immune systems identify the fetus’s blood as foreign and therefore attack it, killing the fetus.) As in agriculture, monocultures are at great risk of getting wiped out by disease; genetic heterogeneity helps ensure that some members of a population can survive a plague. Homogeneity helps people get along with their neighbors, but too much may lead to everyone thinking through problems in similar ways. New ideas and novel ways of attacking problems often come from people who are outliers in some way, including genetics.

There is a lot of talk ’round these parts that basically blames all the crimes of modern civilization on females. Obviously I have a certain bias against such arguments–I of course prefer to believe that women are superbly competent at all things, though I do not wish to stake the functioning of civilization on that assumption. If women are good at math, they will do math; if they are good at leading, they will lead. A society that tries to force women into professions they are not inclined to is out of kilter; likewise, so is a society where women are forced out of fields they are good at. Ultimately, I care about my doctor’s competence, not their gender.

In a properly balanced society, male and female personalities complement each other, contributing to the group’s long-term survival.

Women are not accidents of nature; they are as they are because their personalities succeeded where women with different personalities did not. Women have a strong urge to be compassionate and nurturing toward others, maintain social relations, and care for those in need of help. These instincts have, for thousands of years, helped keep their families alive.

When the masculine element becomes too strong, society becomes too aggressive. Crime goes up; unwinable wars are waged; people are left to die. When the feminine element becomes too strong, society becomes too passive; invasions go unresisted; welfare spending becomes unsustainable. Society can’t solve this problem by continuing to give both sides everything they want, (this is likely to be economically disastrous,) but must actually find a way to direct them and curb their excesses.

I remember an article on the now-defunct neuropolitics (now that I think of it, the Wayback Machine probably has it somewhere,) on an experiment where groups with varying numbers of ‘liberals” and “conservatives” had to work together to accomplish tasks. The “conservatives” tended to solve their problems by creating hierarchies that organized their labor, with the leader/s giving everyone specific tasks. The “liberals” solved their problems by incorporating new members until they had enough people to solve specific tasks. The groups that performed best, overall, were those that had a mix of ideologies, allowing them to both make hierarchical structures to organize their labor and incorporate new members when needed. I don’t remember much else of the article, nor did I read the original study, so I don’t know what exactly the tasks were, or how reliable this study really was, but the basic idea of it is appealing: organize when necessary; form alliances when necessary. A good leader recognizes the skills of different people in their group and uses their authority to direct the best use of these skills.

Our current society greatly lacks in this kind of coherent, organizing direction. Most communities have very little in the way of leadership–moral, spiritual, philosophical, or material–and our society seems constantly intent on attacking and tearing down any kind of hierarchies, even those based on pure skill and competence. Likewise, much of what passes for “leadership” is people demanding that you do what they say, not demonstrating any kind of competence. But when we do find competent leaders, we would do well to let them lead.

Back to part one.

New Yorker: Adopting 20 kids is awesome, except for the years of crippling suicidal depression

The August, 2015 issue of the New Yorker is out, with an article about a couple who decided to adopt 20 children, (and have two biological kids of their own.) We have a fancy name for a house like that: orphanage.

There are a lot of names in the article, so I’m going to write this in quick-guide form.

Sue Hoag: Mom. Middle class background (last name Scottish,) came from a family of four. Once read a book about a family that adopted a lot of kids and decided it sounded like a great idea. (I suppose I should be glad that my childhood fantasies were clearly impossible, like “fly like a bird.”)

Hector Badeau: Dad. Lower-class French-Canadian background; one of 16 children.

They married in 1979, (about the same time as my parents) and decided that Jesus–for they are Christian conservatives–wanted them to devote their lives to supporting the oppressed and seeking social justice. They now have great-grandchildren (by contrast, my parents only have grandkids, and they’re still little.)

Children, in order:

Chelsea: Biological child, born 1980. “They had planned to wait a few years to have kids, taking time to pay off their loans for college and the bookstore, but Sue got pregnant a few months after the wedding.” (Translation: they know abstractly that people should behave responsibly, but don’t actually have any impulse control.) Chelsea got pregnant after college but before marriage, but eventually became a productive member of society with a job at a media company in Philadelphia. (Note to those with the paper copy: the electronic version of the story has a correction about the timing of Chelsea’s pregnancy.)

Jose: Adopted from El Salvador, where his parents had died in the war. Stayed out of trouble and is now a programmer for a bank in Zurich. Possibly the most successful of the bunch.

Isaac: biological child. He stayed out of trouble, eventually married and joined the military.

Raj: Adopted from India, premature, cerebral palsy.

These first four children were born/adopted in close succession. The parents then took in several foster kids, and Sue discovered that she sucks at parenting, so Hector became the stay-at-home parent while Sue worked, which seems to have gradually improved the family’s otherwise disastrous finances. Two years spent running a group home for teenage boys: 23 boys.

Joelle: adopted from Florida; fetal alcohol syndrome. She got pregnant while still in school.

Sue decides to have her tubes tied so they can maximize the number of adopted children without any more biological children getting in the way.

“It was their calling to adopt, and if they filled up their family with more biological children their mission would be compromised.”

Abel: 10; SueAnn: 8; George: 7; Flory; 5. A sibling group adopted together from New Mexico.

SueAnn got pregnant at 15, gave the baby up for adoption, then got pregnant again and dropped out of college.

At 28, Abel got sent to prison for 7 years for statutory rape of a developmentally disabled 16 yr old adoptive sibling.

Flory got pregnant twice while still in school.

Here the narrative pauses to describe the emotional high Sue got off adopting children:

“There was something about the difficulty of new children that Sue loved. …

“Sue: It was almost like a high, that new time, getting to know them and the challenge of finding the right school and the right this and the right that. It’s something that, after everyone’s settled, you sort of miss, and you say, Oh it’s time to do that again.”

Obviously Sue suffered from some form of addiction, like a cat-hoarder unable to see the effects of adding yet more cats to her household on her ability to care for the cats she already has.

George: local adoption from a mom who’d read about Sue and Hector and thought they’d be good parents for her unwanted kid.

David: 13; Tricia: 15; Renee: 16; Lilly: 17; Fisher: 18; JD: 19;  and were another sibling group, from Texas. David was deaf; Renee was sexually abused by her father when she was five (and then beaten by her mother for it.) Then their dad got shot and their mom abandoned them. Technically, only the youngest three were adopted; the oldest three were too old for adoption, but were unofficially taken into the family.

“All the teen-ages were nervous about being black in Vermont, but Fishe and Lilly were wildly popular in high school. Lilly was a track star, and Fisher was cool and good-looking.

Fisher: I was popular. It went to my head, I won’t lie to you. All the little white girls saw I was the best dancer in the school, and I was the only black guy.”

Fisher dropped out of college, got three girls pregnant and went to prison for beating one of them. Lovely guy, I’m sure.

JD got his girlfriend pregnant.

Lilly got pregnant during college and dropped out.

Tricia got raped while in high school and had a baby (raised by Hector.)

Renee got pregnant while still in school.

At some point, Sue and Hector start running an adoption agency; Sue has a succession of adoption-related jobs.

Alysia: Severe cerebral palsy, adopted from Texas. The family taught her to walk and dance. Hector was convinced god told him to adopt her. She got pregnant twice before the age of 16, and then had sex with her 28 yr old adoptive brother, Abel, who was sent to prison for statutory rape. Has the intellectual abilities of a third grader.

Dylan: 4 yr old with shaken baby syndrome. Blind, severe brain damage. Adopting him was Hector’s idea. Died at 24.

Wayne: 3 yrs old, Sanfilippo syndrome. Guaranteed death; made it to 25 years old. Sue and Hector were convinced god told them to adopt him.

At this point, even the kids start telling the parents not to adopt anymore kids.

“Isaac: You can only stretch yourself so thin. We’d ask them, Are you sue this is something you want to do, and they said it was something they needed to do, that if they didn’t help this boy then nobody was going to. … ”

Chelsea, [on the subject of adoption]: I’ve never wanted a large family. I’ve witnessed firsthand everything that’s gone into adopting, and I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that.”

“Sue and Hecor told the children they would consider their opinions and pray on it. Not long afterward, Sue flew down to Florida to bring Adam home. … Most people would think first about how an adoption would affect the children they had; but to sue and Hector, the need of the child who was still a stranger weighed equally in the balance.”

So Sue and Hector didn’t give a shit about their children’s opinions or what was best for them.

Adam: 6 yrs old, Sanfilippo and FAS. He died at 11.

Aaron: 4, Adam’s brother. Adopted after another family sent him back to the adoption agency because he had severe anger issues. Sue and Hector thought he would be good for his brother (they might have been right.)

Geeta: 14, originally adopted by another family from India, but other family decided they couldn’t handle her anymore. She got pregnant twice while still in school.

At one point, 8 refugees from Kosovo were also living in their house; later, 4 from Sudan.

They move into a bigger house that they can’t afford to heat. Family has to huddle together for warmth, along with 4 teenage squatters and various other comers and goers, like runaway friends of their kids. Sue gets a new job, and their marriage begins degenerating.

Sue and Hector are totally mystified at why their kids keep getting pregnant, and swear that they have explained how pregnancy works and even gotten the kids Depo-Provera and the like, but obviously that’s a lie.

Ladies and gents, be responsible: spay or neuter your teenager.

By now, the stress of dealing with all of these kids and their problems has plunged the parents into a black hole of depression, alcoholism, and despair. They can’t get the kids who are the product of people who had no impulse control to control their impulse to fuck. It takes only an iota of understanding biology and heritability to understand why that might be, but the parents don’t seem to have grasped this and instead blame themselves.

“It wasn’t just the awful stuff that hadn’t worked out the way they’d hoped: Only a few of the kids still went to church. None of the kids had adopted kids of their own.”

No shit, Sherlock. If you’d adopted kids from families with a strong impulse to take care of their and other people’s children, they might grow into people with a strong impulse to adopt. If you’d adopted children from conservative Christian families, they might grow into conservative Christians like Sue and Hector. Instead they’d literally castrated themselves and adopted many of their kids from families with no impulse control and severe violence and sexual dysfunction, and they got kids with similar traits. The most functional adoptee, Jose, came from a war zone, and so very well might have had competent, loving parents who died nobly defending their community rather than fuckups.

Not all adopted kids turn out fucked up; most adopting couples are genuinely motivated by the desire to provide a loving home to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Both a strong desire to parent children and a generous, trusting nature toward others are features of NW Euro society, and such people can help make society a nice place to be.

But morality is not castrating yourself and giving away all of your resources to other people. If everyone did that, all of the moral people would die out and be replaced by the children of immoral people. Altruism can persist if returns benefits to your own genetic line (altruism directed at your cousins, for example, can increase the overall number of your genes in the population even if you yourself are less likely to reproduce as a result.)

Morality is a system of mutual obligations between people. You are obligated to your family and friends, as they are to you. You are obligated, to a lesser degree, to your community and nation, as they are to you. You are not particularly obligated to, say, the citizens of another country, just as they are not obligated to you. As such, the Hector and Sue’s first obligations were to the children they already had (and each other.) It is not moral to take in so many children that you can no longer take proper care of them (and when your developmentally disabled kid gets pregnant twice before the age of 16, you are actually doing something wrong.) You are not morally obligated to destroy your own life to help strangers.

Also, for those of you who are considering adoption, remember that no matter how kind and loving and good-hearted you are, you can’t erase who your kids are. That’s not always big stuff, like criminality or pregnancy. It might be little things, like whether they go to church or like to study, how much they talk. Genetics has a huge effect on personality, so any adopted kids are likely to have a very different personality than you do. Chances are good that adoption will not be all peaches and roses; most kids don’t get put up for adoption unless something is seriously defective about their families or themselves in the first place, so be prepared for some pretty severe issues.


Oh look, W. Hunter posted about Lotteries.
“Lotteries can be useful natural experiments; we can use them to test the accuracy of standard sociological theories, in which rich people buy their kids extra smarts, bigger brains, better health, etc.

David Cesarini, who I met at that Chicago meeting, has looked at the effect of winning the lottery in Sweden. He found that the “effects of parental wealth on infant health, drug consumption, scholastic performance and cognitive and non-cognitive skills can be bounded to a tight interval around zero.” “

I count this as evidence in favor of my theory that winning the lottery does not have a significant effect on a person’s likelihood of committing crimes (eg, drug consumption,) and that the converse, becoming suddenly poor, probably also has no major effect.

There’s also a somewhat garbled reference in the article to an interesting 1800s land-lottery in Georgia; I recall the longer post on the subject and recommend it if you can find it.

Microaggressions and Isolation

The first time I heard the term, “micoaggression,” I thought it was brilliant. Here was a concept that succinctly encapsulated so much of my life.

Since then, the term has been worked to death in the salt mines of political whining.

I kinda hate it when particular terminology ceases to be useful because it has accreted layers of political and social signaling, such that just trying to use the term in a technical sense activates everyone’s “Oh now we’re talking about politics; let’s fight!” sub-routine.

I’m pretty sure a lot of dry, technical, long-winded language is really just an attempt to talk about stuff without triggering that sub-routine.

I seem to have said, “triggering.”


I understand what it is like to be one tiny person in a sea of humanity with whom you have little in common, with whom you struggle to connect on a basic level. People who make no damn sense; people who are too aggressive or too passive; people who might as well be speaking another language for all you can understand them.

I understand immigrants, hoping for a better life but stuck in a community full of people who aren’t like them. I understand adoptees, removed from the families and communities that would have made intuitive sense to them–people who perhaps couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them, more’s the hurt. I imagine this is what it feels like to be interracial, inter-cultural, or transnational–to feel like nowhere is exactly right for you.

I understand because this is my life, too.

When I feel like I fit in, it is such a relief. My people! My kind! It doesn’t happen often.

I was not raised around most of my family. I like them, but they are still alien to me. What is it like to be raised in one culture and then go back to the culture where you were born, where your family lives, and have no idea how to interact with it? What if you have been raised with prejudices (from your adopted family or society at large) against your birth culture? What if you yourself don’t like your birth culture? How would you know the difference? How do you deal with that?

I feel more comfortable around Asian immigrants than around members of my biological family’s culture.

I took the term microaggression seriously when people first started bandying it about. At the very least, I desire to be polite to people and not annoying.

But eventually I started to wonder, if people hate being around each other so much, if people are constantly hurting each other, annoying each other, or otherwise offending them, then why be around each other?

People should be with the people they like, people they feel comfortable with. People they trust and who make them feel normal and happy. That’s what I want for myself, anyway. I assume it’s what you want for yourself. So why don’t we just let people live, work, and associate among people who make them happy, instead of forcing people among groups of people who are radically different and then yell at them for not spontaneously all acting the same?

The source of most microaggressions, in my experience, is not a conscious desire to be a jerkface to the other person, but differences in personality that cause endless friction. For example, a shy, introverted person may have difficulty dealing with loud, friendly, aggressive extroverts. The shy person finds these interactions excessively antagonistic, overwhelming, and retreats from them. The shy person does not enjoy taking to these people. The shy person who lives among a great many introverts ends up lonely, anxious, and stressed.

By contrast, an extrovert in the land of introverts finds themself constantly shut out of social events and dumped by friends for being “too loud,” “too emotional,” just too intense. Even people they like get suddenly freaked out by them and stop returning their calls. To the extrovert, these people are unfriendly and rude. The extrovert surrounded by introverts is miserable, confused, and lonely.

People who have simply moved from one part of the country to another feel this all the time. It is quite easy to find someone who would be happy in type-A, aggressive NYC, but miserable in laid-back Seattle, or vice versa. It is easy to find people who hate homogeneity and would die of boredom in a rural town, and easy to find people who can’t stand heterogeneity and just want to have simple, familiar people and things in life.

These are fundamental differences in people that I doubt can really be changed. I don’t think a shy person (over the age of 22, anyway,) is likely to transform into a loud, aggressive one. Aggressive people I know have tried to make themselves less aggressive, but just can’t. Deep down, you can’t really change who you are.

And that’s without throwing major racial, ethnic, or gender differences into the mix. (Whites from different parts of the US are genetically/ethnically different from each other; the differences are just a little more subtle.)

The modern world seems bent on forcing people together whether it makes them happy or not. Then we complain about how unhappy we are.

We should all be with the people who make us happy.

Live Fast, Die Young: The amazing correlation between self-control and not dying

Impulsive people die younger than non-impulsive people, so much so that how your teacher rated you as a student back when you were a kid is actually a decent predictor of your later mortality.

. The first two probable reasons for this are obvious:

1. They do risky things like drive too fast, hold up conbinis, or take drugs, all of which can actually kill you.

2. They engage in behaviors with potentially negative long-term consequences, like eating too many donuts or failing out of school and having to do a crappy job with bad safety precautions.

But the third reason is less obvious, unless you’re Jayman:

3. There is no point to planning for the future if you’re going to die young anyway.

Some people come from long-lived people. They have genes that will help keep them alive for a very long time. Some people don’t. These people live fast. They walk earlier, they mature earlier, they get pregnant earlier, and they die earlier. Everything they do is on a shorter timeframe than the long-lived people. To them, they aren’t impulsive–everyone else is just agonizingly slow.

Why save for retirement if you’re not going to live that long?

Impulsive people are like normal people, just sped up.