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Why we do what we do
Nigel Barber Ph.D.
Alcohol in any quantity may cause health problems, according to recent research. That settles a medical problem, but opens a behavioral one.
When inhabitants move to a developed country, they become wealthier. Their productivity rises and they earn substantially more. How is this miracle accomplished?
The global economy shapes our lives but trade was minor prior to agriculture. Why did our ancestors begin trading? Why have we switched from subsistence to trading?
Prosperity plays favorites in unexpected ways.
War is one evil product of agriculture and industry. Population collapse is another.
Why have modern societies become more accepting of sexual diversity than earlier periods?
As women gain economic and political power, their beauty should matter less, yet this is not happening. Why?
Immigrants have always represented a transfusion of human capital, dynamism, and creativity to the receiving country, despite heated political rhetoric to the contrary.
Popular prescriptions for environmental action make us feel better—like a religious ritual—but may ignore scientific evidence.
Humans prosper everywhere. Are we still evolving?
Women may be achieving greater representation in government around the globe today, but the backdrop is male dominance.
In the U.S., mean age is rising but older people cultivate habits more typical of the young in earlier periods.
In agricultural societies of the past, farmers were mostly self sufficient, and consumed little. Today we consume so much that the oceans are filled with trash.
If marketers treat us like salivating dogs, are we vulnerable? Or can we resist the urge to buy?
“Mankind cannot bear too much reality” as poet W. B. Yeats put it. We see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Without them, we may get into trouble.
Despite a near obsession with the caloric content of food, and restricting intake, we have grown steadily heavier over the decades.
Technology changes societies. Just as the Industrial Revolution stole power from the landed gentry, online social networks challenge government authority.
As a rule, when countries become more affluent, their residents get more liberal, more open to other groups. Why is that rule failing now?
What are we to make of evidence that other species sometimes outdo humans in cognitive tests?
When people opt for surgery, what are their motives? Are they satisfied with the outcome?
The intersection between public acts of grisly violence and the mass media was apparent from the beginning of the school shootings phenomenon.
More than a third of female workers report being sexually harassed at work.
Why is the problem so common?
Why do children resemble parents? Since Charles Darwin's time, many of the brightest biologists who wrestled with this problem came away feeling bruised.
When Darwin was a young man, religious people took to the hills, fields, streams, and moors to pursue enthusiasms for birds, butterflies, and flowers. Here's why.
Bitcoin and other crypto currencies may belong with the dot-com boom, and much earlier manias such as the South Sea bubble and tulip mania.
Scientific literature is designed to omit personal feelings and discourage spontaneity and originality. Is that a mistake?
Why have the habits of the Upstairs Downstairs world departed? What are they for? Have they always existed?
Urban societies of the past all collapsed. Ecological instability seems inevitable. This resembles locust swarms that devastate their ecology.
Parents invest more in their children than they receive in return, and such paying forward makes adaptive sense.
People continue to smoke at the expense of survival, vigor, and reproductive success. Why?
Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.