Aggression Works Because People Feed It
A pig feeding taught me about the roots of aggression
Posted Jan 30, 2014
But after watching for a while, I realized that more was at stake than food. The pigs seemed to bite when another pig got in their way, like someone cutting you off in traffic. Biting works in the pig world. The pain of a bite is a big surge of cortisol. That paves neural pathways that make you think twice before you cross paths with the biter again. It’s easy to see this in our daily lives. We steer clear of people who "bite," effectively deferring to them unintentionally. We reward aggression inadvertently to avoid pain, even though we oppose aggression consciously.
Then I realize it was SEEKING behavior. Seeking feels good even without an immediate reward because it stimulates dopamine. Our brain evolved for seeking because that promotes survival. The act of seeking may be as important as food or social dominance. I am because I seek. Yet other people’s seeking often gets on your nerves. It’s helps to honor our urge to seek, even as we fine-tune our skill at managing it.
My book I, Mammal has lots more on the social rivalry caused by the mammal brain. It offers strategies for feeling good in a world where everyone else is a mammal.
My book Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity has lots more on how early experience wires our brain, and how we can rewire it quickly.