Friday, 19 December 2014

Red Queen natural selection (mutation selection balance) is universal, primary, normal and normative: My conceptual breakthrough of the the year

Natural selection is not primarily about the creation of new complex forms, but about the preservation of already-existing complex form.

This is primary and necessary because of the spontaneous tendency for the degradation of complexity by spontaneously occurring damage: de-differentiation is natural.

Indeed natural selection is very poor at explaining the arising of novel forms. Very poor at explaining genuinely new adaptive forms.


Natural selection is good at explaining modification of already existing forms - by re-shaping mechanisms such as partial amplification or suppression, combination - but not good at explaining truly novel forms.

I would go further: there is not, and never has been, any observation or experimental or empirical evidence that natural selection can create genuinely new complex form - not from Darwin until now has there been any such evidence.

That natural selection alone can do this, can create new forms, can by itself and without aid from other processes lead to the whole diversity of life... is an assertion purely based on theoretical arguments. And the theory that natural selection can actually, in real life, make new forms is not convincing, since it takes for granted the pre-existence, the reality and identifiably, of forms.


The Red Queen mechanism of natural selection was originally formulated and elaborated as a special case, a phenomenon sometimes found, but usually not found. It is the idea, from Leigh Van Valen and named from Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass of natural selection working to keep things the same, rather than to change them.  

Traditionally, Red Queen effects have been seen in phenomena such as 'evolutionary arms races', resistance to parasites and pathogens, and in the mutation selection balance (eliminating fitness-reducing mutations) regarded as a process which sometimes happens in particular cases... .

However, it turns-out that the Red Queen is universal, found everywhere; it is normal and usual; it is normative in the sense of being required - by maintaining already existing form, the Red Queen mechanism is what underpins and makes adaptation possible; what make novelty possible.

Because without the Red Queen mechanism to prevent the spontaneously-occurring loss of complex form, further adaptive complexity could not be sustained but would soon break-down.


So, this is what natural selection does - it does two main things: first it maintains (already existent) adaptive form; and secondly it adaptively modifies already-existing form. But it apparently does not create forms - rather natural selection works on already-existing forms


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Creativity is transcendentally the opposite of fashion

Creativity is nowadays frequently confused with - but must be distinguished from,  fashion - because the one is essentially good (although may be used for evil), while the other is essentially evil (although may well have good aspects).

So to regard the 'design' of modern products - such as Apple computers - as prime examples of creativity is strictly mistaken; such design has the imperative of novelty, which makes it primarily fashion - and creativity is an optional extra.

True creativity is about reality - and qualities such as functionality and excellence; but fashion is about the requirement for novelty and change.


I think it probable that high creativity is a group selected trait - which means that (on average) it benefits group reproductive success rather than the individual; many products of creativity have the effect of promoting group cohesion and cooperation.

Fashion, however, is a luxury good and parasitic on the group functionality - because its changes and reversals tend to promote inter--group conflict and damage group cohesion.


Real creativity springs from the individual's motivations, drives and internal reward system: creativity is natural and spontaneous for the truly creative person - although it can, of course, be suppressed - by contrast fashion, design, novelty.

So to control creativity the group would actively need to crush it; otherwise the creative person just will be creative.

Fashion, on the other hand, is done for the usual reasons of external reward: status, salary, sex and so on. Fashion needs to be incentivised; designers need to be paid; recurrent novelty is a consequence of reward; perpetual change is driven by paid managers (and managers do not manage unless they are 'paid' in some valued currency).  


Therefore, psychological tests of the kind that ask subjects to list as many uses as possible for a stick or a hook or a ball are not asking about real creativity, but about something more like fashion - because they are measuring novelty but not measuring functionality or usefulness.

And the Big Five psychological trait of  'Openness to experience' is essentially about novelty/ fashion, rather than excellence/ creativity.

But Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism (flawed as it is) is essentially trying to probe and quantify real creativity, not fashion.


Fashion, novelty, change... these are intrinsic to modernity and have become the primary attribute of secular Leftism: they are more dominant now than ever before.

But real creativity is in a bad way in the modern world. Major geniuses have all-but disappeared, and minor geniuses are ignored, their work (even when potentially useful to group 'fitness') is attacked, suppressed, made illegal; creative people are punished not rewarded.

So real creativity is one kind of thing - being scape-goated and declining fast; while the pseudo-creativity of fashion - which is celebrated and expanding - is a very different thing.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Creativity as the process and outcome of structuring (subjective) emotions to conform with the (objective) field of interest

This basic idea originated in my book Psychiatry and the Human Condition - see excerpt below - but I think I can now formulate it more clearly and precisely.

In a nutshell:

1. Creative thinking is made possible by structured emotions. But creativity applies to objective fields of interest (e.g. a branch of science, technology, music, literature)

2. Emotions become structured to an objective field of interest during the creative Quest stage. That is, emotions are brought-into-line with the structure of the subject matter.

3. Then, in the moment of Illumination, the 'creative 'breakthrough', the structure of the subject matter is brought into line with the structured emotions - to make a more positive and rewarding structure of emotions.

4. If the emotions have been properly structured to the field of interest during the Quest - then the subjective illumination will (plausibly) correspond to a breakthrough in understanding of objective reality.

(Of course, this illumination will need to be tested by further observations - and by consistency with other knowledge.)


Note - Successful creativity requires both a natural ability to structure emotions, and an ability (and motivation) to re-structure emotions, in line with the creative Quest. Either alone will not suffice. Structured emotions in unchangeable, autonomous detachment = a psychosis. But a person unable to structure emotions can be objective, but will not be able to be creative - since they cannot re-conceptualize the subject matter. Therefore the personality trait of Psychotic-ism is creative - since it describes the ability to structure emotions; but actual psychosis is not creative.


From Bruce Charlton, Psychiatry and the Human Condition, 2000.

Consciousness as a storyteller
Human consciousness operates as a storytelling device. The somatic marker mechanism associates perceptions with emotions in working memory, so that thought is accompanied by a flow of emotions. These emotions in turn generate a flow of expectations or predictions, which the story may either confirm, or else contradict in interesting ways that - after they have happened - can retrospectively be seen to flow from what went before by less obvious paths hence are not contradictory after all. What makes a story is essentially this flow of linked emotions, a bodily enactment of physical states that have been associated with those propositions that we use in internal modelling.
Consciousness seems always to ascribe causality - it is not content with recording detached representations, but works by synthesizing events into a linked linear stream which is then projected into the future as a predictive model to guide behaviour. As bodily emotions fluctuate, feedback to the brain will monitor and interpret this flux in terms of the meaning of perceptions - the emotions interpret the perceptions. Since the somatic marker mechanism is a device for using emotions to infer intentions and other states of mind, then sequences of emotions will automatically create inferred narratives of quasi-social relationships - in other words stories.
Consciousness is so compulsive a storyteller as to be a master confabulator - consciousness will always invent a story in terms of cause and effect relations, even when it has no idea what is going on, and available data are inadequate or contradictory. Young children will interpret abstract computer images that ‘pursue’ and ‘flee’ and ‘hit’ one another in terms of exactly these social behaviours - they will give the abstract shapes personalities and intentions even though they are merely shapes moving on a screen. Seeing faces in the fire, or animals in the clouds, is another instance of the same kind of nearly automatic meaning-generation.
Theoretical science works largely by analogy, by modelling. Perhaps nobody can reason in utter abstraction. Scientists build simplified working models of reality, and map these models onto reality to make predictions - seeking a one to one correspondence between the model and the world. Some scientific models are mathematical - where real world entities are mapped onto mathematical symbols and real world causes are summarized in mathematical operations - such as Einstein’s theory of special relativity: e = mc2 where e stands for energy, m stands for mass and c is a very large number. Mathematics predictions can then be tested against observation to see whether the model corresponds to reality.
Other models are much simpler - the ‘ball-and-spring’ models to show atoms and chemical bonds and valencies, and a host of idiosyncratic mental models which are used to make breakthroughs and then discarded, often unacknowledged. The molecular shapes used by Crick and Watson to construct their model of the double helix of DNA are a well known example, the models represented the shape of molecules and some of their ways of bonding to each other - and physically manipulating the shapes was a vital element in solving the structure of DNA. Indeed the ‘eureka moment’ was probably when Watson put together cardboard shapes of the bases and saw that they formed specific complementary pairings. The great physicist Clark Maxwell’s notebook musings about how electro-magnetism works strike modern observers as extraordinarily ‘childish’ - with their peculiar shapes and swirls of how magnetism and electricity might operate - yet they nonetheless led this first-rate genius to the insights that enabled several major breakthroughs in theoretical physics.   
The social nature of scientific models
Stories are perhaps the commonest mode of analogical thought. The link between story-telling and scientific theorizing is instructive. A scientific hypothesis is like a story in the sense that entities and causal processes are analogous to characters and their motivations. I would guess that - at a deep level - the science and the storytelling processes of the conscious mind are identical; what differs are the ingredients. It has even been suggested that theoretical physicists and chemists endow their musings with human like qualities, just as chess masters constantly deploy ‘battle’ metaphors to describe their strategies in what would otherwise appear to be the most objective and mathematical of games.
Certainly, I find that I develop emotions about all aspects of science. For example I must admit to an idiotic preference for adrenergic over cholinergic neurotransmitters, since the adrenergic system was associated with physical action (eg. the ‘adrenalin rush’, while cholinergic activity had connotations of lying around feeling bloated after a meal (acetylcholinergic fibres innervate the gut). Silly, of course, but I couldn’t help anthropomorphizing about entities which were important to me.
I would go so far as to suggest that creative science is constrained anthropomorphism. Learning to do a science involves learning how to tell a particular kind of story: who are the important characters and what are their typical causal motivations - that is the anthropomorphism. Each scientific discipline has a distinctive set of personalities and behaviours - in physics there might be fundamental particles acted on by gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces; in biology there might be cells and organisms acted on by macromolecules such as DNA and proteins under the influence of natural selection.
The constraint comes in because the range of possible stories one is permitted to tell about particular entities is strictly limited by previous relevant science. So that whether the entities in the story are attracted or repelled, counterbalanced or exaggerated, add or multiply their effects… these aspects are controlled strictly by scientific criteria.
But having established a proper set of ‘dispositions, motivations and intentions’ for the entities, we predict what they will do by exactly the kind of ‘story generating’ social intelligence that we have been exploring in the earlier parts of this book. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that most people can only be creative in this quasi-narrative fashion, and scientific creativity involves storytelling of a highly specialized kind - the exception is mathematics, where the outcome of interacting entities is determined not by quasi-social factors but by mathematical functions.
The role of narrative is both to generate theories and to make them useable - because science is a human product it needs to be shaped to the human mind. If a scientific theory cannot be put into a quasi-social shape, then we find it very difficult to think about. Our mind, after all, is bubbling with social meaning even when the world is chaotic: we see pictures random dots, monsters in the shadows. We confabulate causal pathways to explain our emotions and behaviours. Inanimate objects - such as stones, rivers and trees - are imbued with personality and powers of malevolence or benignity. For humans, the world is full of relevance and purpose. Reality comes to us already imprinted with labels of preference. Theories that cannot be subsumed to this world do not have much chance of being remembered or used, they will be forced aside by more ‘interesting’ ideas.
So it is a fusion of constrained reality, trained aesthetic appreciation and emotional preference that makes possible the scientific peak experience. The peak experience is that moment when analogy strikes us - we see underlying unity, similarity in difference, meaning emerging from chaos - a bunch of disconnected facts coalescing into a story. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

The difference between the conscientious personality, the contemplative personality, and the Genius - inner orientation *and* inner motivation

The conscientious personality is driven by external social perceptions - he is attuned to peer pressure, he accepts peer evaluations, and may work hard on problems and jobs which are derived from the social milieu.

But the conscientious personality has not chosen his problem; more exactly his problem does not derive from inner sources. He is motivated to act - but by other people, not by trying to solve his own 'problem'.

The conscientious personality has no sense of being on a track of Destiny; he does not 'own' the problem he is working-on. That line of work may be adopted from obedience, or duty - or as a matter of expediency (for status, or money, or to get sex). But when a line of work ceases to be externally required, or is externally discouraged, or becomes inexpedient then it will be abandoned.

But it is clear that the conscientious personality is not suited to a Genius, is un-original and unlikely to lead to breakthroughs. He has drive to do something in the world; but that something does not derive from within him, and therefore does not mobilize his inner resources. And his motivation will fail when times are tough - he will not push through discouragements.


By contrast to the externally-orientated conscientious personality, the contemplative personality is focused upon the inner world. The mind's eye is turned inward; and the contemplative personality is meditative; occupied by thoughts, fantasies, speculations...

However, the contemplative personality is... contemplative. For a contemplative 'action' is meditative - understanding, experience, the observation of transcendental such as truth, beauty, virtue, unity... this is what provides the greatest satisfaction.

The contemplative personality is a dreamer, not a do-er. Therefore the contemplative will not summon the long-term, stubborn determination required to do Genius-type creative work; the Quest to keep pushing and pushing at a problem until it yields to Illumination - then to communicate the outcome.

The contemplative personality has the kind of autonomy of 'public opinion' which is necessary to originality - but lacks motivation towards actions, lacks the 'drive' to solve a problem - instead he is content to contemplate perceived reality rather than to re-conceptualize reality.


The Genius must combine the inner orientation of the contemplative - in order to find his own problem - the problem he is destined to work on; with an inner motivation towards action - he must desire to translate understanding into engagement, to just to contemplate reality but to 'solve' reality.

Because his motivation comes from within, and his focused upon a problem which also comes from within, the Genius is not easily discouraged; his drive will enable him - will indeed compel him - to keep pushing and pushing, even when support is withdrawn or he is met by discouragement and failure.

Thus - when it comes to his own problem - the Genius is autonomous, self-motivating, tenacious and stubborn in pursuit of his chosen goal.

He will see the Genius Quest through to its conclusion in Illumination or 'die in the attempt' - unless he is actively prevented from doing so.


So the Creative Personality of a Genius involves at least these two aspects:

1. Inner orientation

2. Inner motivation.  

Destiny implies deity


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Creativity is a total mobilization of inner resources in pursuit of an inner and destined goal

Genius can be defined simply as high intelligence/ ability plus creativity - but what is creativity?

Although there is a scientific literature on creativity, describing its psychological mechanism and purporting to measure it quantitatively, there is a serious problem when science addresses creativity - a category error; in the sense that insofar as creativity is captured by science then science captures is precisely not creativity.


What real creativity is, is something uncanny.

It can perhaps best be understood as a consequence of the bringing to bear nothing less that the whole personality upon a problem; not just for a Eureka-moment of illumination, but also for the preceding 'Genius Quest' which may last for years.

Creativity has a source beyond science - inspiration is both within and without; it both seems to come from inside by in-trospection; and from outside by being in-spired like breathing-in.

Creativity is thus an inner fire, and also a yielding to destiny - both are unique. Our inner fire is distinctive, and our destiny is also distinctive - therefore creativity is a key to working-out our uniqueness.


The variations in real creativity between people are therefore in essence a matter of value - value to the creative person; so behind public perceptions and fashion, differences in underlying creativity correspond to a difference between those who are more- and less- spiritually advanced in terms of discovering, realizing and developing themselves - in the way, in the direction, along the path that is their unique destiny and necessity.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Genius's Journey - Destiny, Quest, Illumination

Think of this as analogous to 'The Hero's Journey' as described by Joseph Campbell ^


The Genius has a Journey to make, a Path to take - a Way to live.

This may be embarked upon, but there is no guarantee is will be completed. It may be tried but may fail. The genius may die, or get sick before it is finished - or in some way be thwarted.

The destiny may be accepted, but may be abandoned; because the commitment must be renewed many times. Illumination may actually be achieved but rejected by society - the genius unrecognised.

Or, illumination may be achieved but stolen and no credit given; or achieved and socially-accepted and acknowledgement given - but then the genius become corrupted into careerism, status seeking, pleasure seeking or whatever.


Destiny, Quest, Illumination

We are prone to think of only the last step in this journey: the Eureka moment' of inspiration when the Genius is flooded with Illumination and sees the answer to his problem, and what the answer means.

But there are at least three distinct phases of which this comes late.

1. Destiny

From childhood, youth or early adult life there is a sense of destiny, of having some special role to play. This destiny is accepted, not chosen; so that task is not to manufacture, invent or devise a destiny; but rather to discover, to find-out the nature of one's own personal and unique destiny.

Such a process of discovery is a matter of trial and error, following hunches, drifting; false leads, blind alleys and red herrings - there is no recipe to find one's destiny.


2. Quest

After seeking the genius recognises what it is that he is meant to do (or, meant to attempt): this is his Quest.

Now he has to choose - does he embrace his destiny and accept the Quest - or not. Only he can decide; and he will inevitably decide: the decision is unavoidable.

Life takes a fork.


3. After prolonged effort - months, years, a decade or more - Illumination is achieved: the thing is done! The experience accumulated, the skills gained, the understanding achieved during the Quest at last come together and the breakthrough is made.

Of course there are other phases - for instance the Illumination must be communicated  but beyond a certain minimal effort at recording, reproducing and revealing, this is often 'in the lap of the gods' - and beyond the scope of purposive activities of the genius.


^Here is a nicely animated video summary in What makes a Hero? by Matthew Winkler

Monday, 1 December 2014

Rate of intelligence decline due to mutation accumulation


Michael A Woodley. How fragile is our intellect? Estimating losses in general intelligence due to both selection and mutation accumulation. Personality and Individual Differences. 2014; 75: 80-84.

Abstract: Two dysgenic models of declining general intelligence have been proposed. The first posits that since the Industrial Revolution those with low g have had a reproductive advantage over those with high g. The second posits that relaxed purifying selection against deleterious mutations in modern populations has led to g declining due to mutation accumulation. Here, a meta-analytic estimate of the decline due to selection is computed across nine US and UK studies, revealing a loss of .39 points per decade (combined N = 202,924). By combining findings from a high-precision study of the effects of paternal age on offspring g with a study of paternal age and offspring de novo mutation numbers, it is proposed that, 70 de novo mutations per familial generation should reduce offspring g by 2.94 points, or .84 points per decade. Combining the selection and mutation accumulation losses yields a potential overall dysgenic loss of 1.23 points per decade, with upper and lower bound values ranging from 1.92 to .53 points per decade. This estimate is close to those from studies employing the secular slowing of simple reaction time as a potential indicator of declining g, consistent with predictions that mutation accumulation may play a role in these findings.


From the conclusion of the paper: "Finally, it must be noted that the decline estimate generated here likely underestimates the actual decline in g at the population level in modern Western countries, as there will be an additional contribution stemming from the process of replacement migration involving immigrant groups sourced from populations exhibiting lower average levels of g and higher rates of total fertility. Nyborg estimates that in Denmark, replacement migration may be reducing IQ by .29 points per decade (this corresponds to a heritable g decline of .28 points). Assuming parallel trends in the US and UK, this would entail a further increase in the decadal decline to 1.51 points per decade."

Full paper is available at:



In a ground-breaking paper, Woodley makes the first attempt to estimate the rate of intelligence decline likely to be caused by mutation accumulation.

The idea that mutation accumulation may be the main cause of intelligence decline (as measured by slowing simple visual reaction times)  in modern developed countries was first launched on this blog in February of 2013, as a consequence of discussions between Woodley and myself.

Since then we have accumulated considerable evidence that mutation accumulation is likely to be a very significant problem for modern humans - especially (but not entirely) due to the decline in child mortality rates from an average of about 60 percent or more in pre-industrial England (and similar countries) to only about one percent.


Over the past couple of decades, the work of Geoffrey Miller has argued and demonstrated that fact that brain function and development uses around half of genes means that it is a large mutational target, liable to be adversely affected by mutations - this intelligence is an indirect but valid inverse measure of mutation load.

Using a novel method of estimating the generation by generation load of newly occurring mutations (and bearing in mind that almost all mutations will be deleterious to a lesser or greater extent) Woodley has made an informed estimate of the likely effect of the average mutation load accumulation on average intelligence - expressed in terms of IQ point decline.

(While acknowledging that IQ is merely an ordinal scale - and that IQ units cannot therefore be assumed to be equal in magnitude - but simply to give an approximate but understandable measure of the magnitude of change.)


Given his assumptions, Woodley's conclusion is that mutation accumulation would be expected to lead to a rapid and significant decline in intelligence, of about 0.84: thus getting on for one whole IQ point per decade.

Therefore mutation accumulation may be responsible for a considerably faster decline of intelligence that is due to the average inverse relationship between intelligence and fertility, and estimated using the Breeder's Equation - which seems to account for only about 0.4, or just under half an IQ point per decade.

(Woodley also notes that recent mass immigration and migration may account for a further quarter of an IQ point decline in average intelligence per decade -  exact magnitude will clearly vary locally according to the scale and national/ ethnic/ socio-economic origins of the incoming population.)


My hope is that Woodley's paper will come to be regarded as a trail-blazer, and therefore the first of many on this theme - ideally coming from several independent authors, and using several different methods and data sets to estimate the magnitude of this cause of intelligence decline in various times and places.


Why are modern conditions so hostile to genius? Because those in power are zealously protecting the web of lies

Western Modernity is hostile to genius, in a way that contrasts strongly with the history of the West.

This is not a matter of merely failing to reward geniuses. That is true, but does not really matter; since genius is (and must be) internally motivated; so genius does what genius does (unless it is actively prevented from doing it).


So modern geniuses do what they do - but whereas Western societies of the past eagerly seized-upon the products of genius and exploited them (with or without the geniuses consent - and often while denying the genius any reward or even credit for their discovery) nowadays the West not merely fails to benefit from the activities of genius; it actively attacks the breakthroughs of genius.


This seems hard to understand - because in principle there is power and money to be made from the breakthroughs of genius; but this is in fact why attack is necessary - so as to prevent people spontaneously exploiting the insights of genius.

In general, the breakthroughs of a genius are paradigm-busting; they tend to break-down and re-make structures of knowledge. In the past this was not usually resisted because there was an implicit aim of basing our lives upon truth, beauty and virtue.

But 'reality' as perceived by modernity is NOW a vast and interlocking web of selective facts, distortions and outright lies - sustained by a powerful, enveloping, pervasive and addictive mass media.

Any insight or breakthrough in understanding of any kind threatens the entire edifice of the web of lies; whether that breakthrough is in ethics (virtue), science and technology (truth) or the arts (beauty).


Those in power at the highest levels know that their position depends on sustaining this web of lies - they know because this is the main everyday activity - the manufacture and 'management' of the tissue of dishonesty; and the web of lies is the only world they know.

Therefore, for modern leaders, the most dangerous people in the world are those who threaten the web of lies - the geniuses; therefore genius will be fought, and their insights denied and suppressed, by whatever means are most effective: denigration, mockery, misrepresentation, demonization... whatever works.


Thus, Western Modernity has become more actively and comprehensively and systematically hostile to genius, and the insights and discoveries of genius, than perhaps any previous society; and no matter how much they are needed, the breakthroughs of genus cannot (and will not) be used - for fear of triggering a meltdown in social order; a domino-effect in which one truth leads to another, one beauty or virtuous act leads to another, and another... until the universal web of lies suddenly snaps, and gives way... and then what?


Saturday, 29 November 2014

The problem of finding your problem - Francis Crick as a late-developing genius

Francis Crick (1916-2004) was not picked-out as a genius in early life; although his co-discovery of the structure of DNA, his intellectual domination of molecular biology in its golden age, and his role in understanding the genetic code make him a candidate for the single most influential scientist of the late 20th century.


Crick was clearly well above-average in ability, quick witted and had a flair for problem solving; but he was (and remained) an intensely-annoying person with an arrogant manner, a loud voice, and an irritating laugh.

His exceptionally abrasive personality was certainly a factor in holding him back as a young man - but later it became a crucial asset in his major scientific work.

Crick had an intellectually privileged childhood and went to a premier academic school, but failed to gain entrance to his first choice universities, and graduated with a second class degree; and then started but failed to complete two PhDs, despite changing from physics to biology

So that by the time he met James Watson in 1951 he was in his mid-thirties, on the third attempt at completing a PhD and with poor career prospects (having been told by the Director that he was not wanted at the laboratory after the PhD was completed).

He was a failure, who had squandered multiple chances; and people did not like having him around.


In other words, Crick was a very late-maturing genius - both by absolute and career standards, and for his early life (and what are usually the peak years of achievement) he was just drifting and he was going nowhere in particular.

Then he met Jim Watson, was persuaded that the gene was made of DNA, and that the structure of DNA was solveable - and he was off and unstoppable!

This illustrates how vital it is for a genius to find his problem.

Francis Crick was not visibly a genius until he found DNA - yet of course he was the same man, with the same abilities (the same intelligence, the same personality): but until he met Watson and discovered DNA he was unmotivated - or rather his motivation was too fickle, and too compromised.


It is presumably of some relevance that Crick was psychologically very 'normal' by genius standards; in that he was very sociable and gregarious, had a high sex drive; and, in general, wanted the kind of things that normal men want - alongside being very highly motivated to work at his scientific problems.

The relevance is probably that Crick was for many years too easily distracted from his intellectual destiny by 'worldly' matters, and was less aware of his inner compulsions than are most geniuses.

Perhaps this is a pattern for late-developing genius?


This matter of finding your problem is vital; and not only for genius level scientists but for us below that level who are yet very driven and motivated by intellectual matters: to be working in the right area, to have found one's destiny, is something that makes all the difference.


My own experience has some parallels with Crick - in the sense that I did not 'find my problem' until my mid-thirties when I seized upon evolutionary psychology/ evolutionary theory; up until then I drifted from subject to subject through early adult life.

By 35 years old I had been employed at medical school, medical 'internship', psychiatry training, neuroendocrinology research, English literature scholarship, and lectureships in physiology, anatomy, epidemiology and public health... 

In my case, this sudden clarity about what I should be doing damaged rather than enhanced my career (as so often happens in modern science), but there was and is no doubt that 'here was my destiny', at last.

So I was far more successful than Crick up to age 35, having done well at everything except the internship - but, obviously, the reverse afterwards; and I am not in line for a Nobel!

But - like Crick - I know what it is to have found your problem, and what it is not to have found your problem. 


In later life, aged about 60, Crick  left molecular biology and went into neuroscience to work on consciousness which continued until his death; but for whatever reason made no decisive contributions and was just a 'mainstream' member of the field.

Crick's intellectual deficiencies, in particular his rather crude 'shallowness' as a person and his strident atheism, indeed made him especially un-suited to working in the field of consciousness; where he never really even grasped the scope and nature problem (leave aside solving it).

Also, by the time Crick went into neuroscience, science was becoming very corrupt - and neuroscience was one of the most corrupt parts (because it was so lavishly funded) - so most of the papers Crick will have read (and he read far too much!) were dishonest and/or incompetent - so the data he was working with was unsuitable for theoretical purposes.


Altogether, the life and work of Francis Crick makes a very interesting and relevant study - as perhaps the last British genius to be famous outside of science professionals.


Note: There is a stylish, concise and scientifically-informed biography: Francis Crick by Matt Ridley -  2006. Also, here is what I wrote after Crick's death:


Thursday, 27 November 2014

The nature of creativity - purposive inner thought

Creativity is about a mode of thought relatively cut-off from the environment: it is about inner thought.

Thus creativity implies a disengagement from sensory input (e.g. detached from visual and auditory stimuli), and from engagement with the immediate surrounding environment, including the social environment.

But, to be inner-directed is not sufficient to define creativity; for example, sleep, psychosis and delirium are all states in which attention is directed to inner stimuli - yet these are not creative.

When there is no control over the direction of thought - as in dreams, or in hallucinatory and thought-disordered states - there is no purposive control. Thought is being passively-driven-by the inner world.

Creativity entails that the direction, the subject matter, of thought be voluntarily directed; directed towards something like understanding a circumstance, solving a problem, or making a thing.

Creative inspiration is therefore IN-spiration - comes from inner reflection; but to be truly creative inspiration is sought, it is strategic, it is a product of motivation.

So, there is a type of inner-directed thought which is deranged, and may be pathological (for example induced by drugs).

But, the inner-directed thought of a creative person is a result of the way he is made - the inward-attending-bias of creativity is 'hard-wired', innate, present from young childhood.

The creative person is made so that his attention and interest tends to be relatively cut off from the environment, relatively uninterested in the social world (which - in most people - commands most of their interest) .

And indeed, because he is made with an inward bias - if or when a creative person suffers some mental impairment, he is more-than-usually-likely to become psychotic.

But it is not the psychosis which gives the creativity; rather the creativity and the prone-ness to psychosis have the same basis - presumably the same nature of inner-directed hard-wiring.


The acorn theory of genius

It seems likely that (as a rule) genius is inborn - and the way this works could be described in terms of an acorn which grows into an oak.

The pre-requisites of genius are intelligence, which we know is mostly inherited; and creativity, which is much less well understood, but which is also substantially in-built.

(Intelligence cannot be taught, although IQ tests can - neither can real creativity be taught.)

So a mature, adult genius is a product of the growth and development of a child in whom the ingredients and their balance can be traced right back to early childhood; much as the oak tree grows from the acorn.

So, there is destiny to genius - and the primary qualities are either absent, or present (to varying degrees) from the very start - and (unless thwarted) these qualities will tend to unfold by their own inner logic.

And as with an oak tree, the exact, specific result depends on the environment - if the tree is growing in thin soil on the top of a windy mountain, the tree will be stunted and bent; if alone in the middle of a landscaped park it may grow to symmetrical magnificence.

But, whatever the final result - even if the oak is eaten as a sapling by a rabbit - its basic potentiality and distinctive nature was in the acorn from the beginning.


Note: The acorn metaphor (although not my proposed psychological mechanism) comes from The Soul's Code by James Hillman (1997), who also collected a wide range of examples.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How are highly intelligent people sometimes born to unintelligent parents (and ancestors)?

This (assuming the phenomenon is real) seems hard to explain in the way that intelligence is normally considered - in terms of intelligence being a consequence of very large numbers (thousands?) of genes-for-intelligence. With intelligence genes conceptualized as additive in effect, and in such large numbers, it is hard to understand how a very highly intelligent child could emerge by chance from low intelligence parents.

But if  person's level of intelligence is also determined by the number of deleterious mutations they inherit from their parents, and these mutations are numbered in tens - then it is imaginable that, by chance, a child may be born with very few deleterious mutations, despite his parents having a relatively heavy mutation load.

This notion is perhaps testable, on the basis that a low mutation load should be associated with generally higher fitness - so the high intelligence child of low intelligence parents would be expected to be (on average) taller, healthier, more symmetrical, more long-lived than his low intelligence parents.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Geniuses are "vulnerable and fragile" and "need to be looked after"

Quoted from an article in The Daily Telegraph

Dr Michael Woodley of Menie, from the Free University of Brussels, believes that individuals who can be classified as geniuses have brains that are wired differently and are programmed to be unable to deal with small details. “They’re incapable of managing normal day to day affairs,” says Dr Woodley.
“History is littered with anecdotes of geniuses who fail at the most spectacularly mundane tasks. Einstein got lost on one of his sojourns in Princeton, New Jersey. He went into a shop and said, ‘Hi, I’m Einstein, can you take me home please?’ He couldn’t drive and the small things that most people take for granted were totally beyond his capabilities.”
Dr Woodley believes geniuses are “literally not hardwired to be able to learn those kind of tasks. Every time they attempt to allocate the effort into dealing with the mundanities in life they’re constitutionally resisted; their brains are not capable of processing things at that low level.”
Genius, Dr Woodley says, can be found in people with modestly high levels of psychoticism [often typified by interpersonal hostility] and very high intelligence, with IQs scores of more than 140 or 150. Furthermore they are, he says, often asexual as their brains use the space allocated to urges such as sexual desire for additional cognitive ability.
"You have a trade off between what Freud would have referred to as libido and on the other hand pure abstraction: a Platonistic world of ideas,” he said. The evolutionary reason for this may lie with the theory that geniuses have insights that advance the general population. “It’s paradoxical because you think the idea of evolution is procreation, and that might be true in a lot of cases,” he explains. “But what if the way you increase your genes is by benefitting the entire group, by giving them an innovation that allows them to grow and expand and colonise new countries?”
The lack of common sense is in keeping with the idea that a genius exists as an asset to other people, and so: “They need to be looked after,” he says. “They are vulnerable and fragile.”


Michael Woodley makes an important point here. Far from being high in reproductive fitness, in biological terms many geniuses or vulnerable and fragile, and benefit the group rather than themselves; and therefore they often need to be looked after.

The corollary is that when geniuses are not looked after, they do not fulfil their potential, and everybody loses.

If you look at the geniuses throughout history, which obviously only detects successful geniuses, and not those who were thwarted or crushed - there are a very large number who had some kind of 'minder' - typically a specific person who looked after them; whether an influential colleague, a sympathetic employer, a patron, or a monarch - or else their family or a group of close friends.


So, the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson was 'managed' by Colonel TW Higginson; and Jane Austen flourished in the obscurity of her family. Thomas Aquinas was looked after by his brother Friars; and Mendel in his monastery. Pascal by his family. Plus many a genius was sustained by a capable wife.

When there is a close-knit and idealistic community, this may also do it - for example, the community of mathematicians looked after Paul Erdos, who never had a home and camped out at in the house of one mathematics Professor after another for decades, while collaborating on research papers. The Indian genius mathematician Ramanujan was discovered and protected by the Cambridge Professors Hardy and Littlewood.

But poor William Sidis was exploited rather than protected by his parents, and was a sensitive man who had to survive in a hostile and mocking world; so his achievements were limited, and indeed largely unknown and unappreciated.


Modern society is dominated by 'bureaucracy', that is by voting committees and formal procedures - rather than individual humans making personal judgments.

And committees do not look after geniuses - rather they ignore them, or persecute them.

It is no coincidence that English genius very suddenly all-but disappeared in the era (from about 1955-1980) in which bureaucracy waxed dominant in national life - and nowadays geniuses are absent, invisible, or fighting for survival against the forces of mass media, committees, peer reviewers and other faceless officials.

This is sad for the geniuses; fatal for our society.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Creative Triad: Need for a new concept to replace Eysenck's Psychoticism in relation to creativity?


I am beginning to believe that - important though it was in understanding creativity - it may be necessary to replace Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism to distinguish between adaptive and pathological causes.

The sub-traits which constitute Psychoticism have been summarised here:

In brief they are

High Psychoticism is in bold font; Low Psychoticism is normal font.

1. Cold - versus warm, charming
2. Aggressive - versus submissive
3. Egocentric - versus follows groups expectations
4. Unempathic - versus sympathetic, feels the emotions of others
5. Tough-minded (i.e. impervious to events) - versus tender-minded, strongly affected by experience
6. Antisocial - versus gregarious, needs other people
7. Impersonal - versus life consists of intense, direct relationships
8. Impulsive (behaviour dominated by current emotions) - versus behaviour dominated by predictions or weaker emotions.
9. Creative - versus applies peer-approved, learned rules and traditions 
I believe that there may be two distinct reasons why a person is rated as high in Psychoticism:

1. One cause is pathological, i.e. functional brain damage from various causes - innate/ genetic, traumatic, drugs or toxins, and psychotic diseases. These increase the susceptibility to altered states of consciousness, and damage evolved psychological adaptations for social living.


2. The other cause is adaptive - the evolution (probably by some kind of group-selected mechanism, associated with an extreme K of slow Life History) whereby some minority of individuals are developmentally specialised for socially valuable roles in creativity; by means of a variety of lop-sided maturational trajectories that lead to some highly developed cognitive motivations and intuitive abilities at the cost of others.

For example, among the most extreme creative - creative geniuses - there are 'always' some deficits indicative of an imbalance away from 'normal' abilities and motivations - for example a reduced interest in sex and reproduction, reduced interest (and often aptitude) in social affairs (including indifference to the opinions of others), reduced motivation to achieve power, status, wealth and other socially-valued 'goods'.

And highly creative people often use states of day-dreaming, trance, sleep and other altered states as the primary mode of their creative thinking - but not because these states are imposed on them by disease and deficit; rather as a deliberate strategy, because these states are when creativity is facilitated.

These altered states are usually only deployed in solitude - and switched-off when full alertness is needed (driving a car, operating dangerous machinery etc.), or in social interactions.

So high creativity is a package of positive abilities and emotions, and also a relative indifference to aspects of life which would tend to interfere with creative autonomy and self motivation.


However, pathology might mimic evolved creativity, when there is focal damage to social/ sexual psychological adaptations - leading someone to pour all their interest into a specific and idiosyncratic interest. But such pathologically focused individuals would lack the positive aspects of creativity - the type of mind capable of make wide and unusual associations and jumps of logic. Pathological individuals would perhaps be obsessed with a subject - but only in learning about it and not in making original contributions to it.


So, what could be a term for the trait displayed by those High Psychoticism individuals who are creative?

Perhaps Creativity is indeed the proper and best term?

So, the category of Psychoticism could be broken down into sub-categories of 1. Pathological Psychoticism, and 2. Adaptive Creativity - and the list of sub-traits modified accordingly.


I suggest the following Creative Triad as characteristic of those who display adaptive (and presumably evolved) high level creativity - Creative Genius:

1. A characteristic mode of thought - primarily intuitive, associative and generative; rather than logical and rational and factual. This mode of thought is attained in some kind of altered state of consciousness, usually attained in solitude - rather than full alertness and social interaction.

(Logic, reason and facts are of course necessary to creation - but come after the creative process; as a test applied to the products of creativity.)

2. High ability of a specific kind - different in different creative people: mathematical, inventive, artistic, philosophical etc.

3. Internal, self-motivation to channel one's major energies into the subject of that High Ability.

(High specific ability is of little value unless it is fed with sufficient time and energy to develop that ability, and to apply the outcomes of that ability.)


Monday, 17 November 2014

Evolution of Empathizing and Systemizing personality traits - draft book chapter and request for comments

The following is a draft book chapter I co-wrote for a book on Systemizing and Empathizing which was to be edited by the originator of these terms - Simon Baron-Cohen.
In the draft, Patrick Rosenkranz and I put forward some new hypotheses for the evolution of these personality traits - and these may be of some general interest.
However, the original contract for this book fell-through, and a new publisher is being arranged. This means that there will be time, and need, for the draft chapter to be revised considerably before publication.
Therefore, if anyone has suggestions and comments for how this book chapter might be improved these would be gratefully received.
Evolution of Empathizing and Systemizing:  Economic specialization and the sexual division of labour
By Patrick Rosenkranz and Bruce G Charlton
Draft version February 2013: , Psychology
Email: brucedotcharltonatncldotacdotuk
Introduction: What is it that needs to be explained?
The first purpose of this chapter is conceptual clarification. In other words, we first aim to clarify what an evolutionary theory of Empathizing and Systemizing needs to explain. In other words, we need to be clear what has evolved, before we can suggest why and how it may have evolved.
Therefore we need to define the nature of both Empathizing (E) and Systemizing (S), and to emphasize that they are personality traits rather than abilities. We consider E as the disposition to apply ‘theory of mind’ (or social intelligence) reasoning to experience; while Systemizing is a disposition to apply non-social, abstract and systematic reasoning to experience. Therefore, E and S are distinctive modes of thinking – in an identical situation, an Empathizer would use one mode of thinking, while a Systemizer would use another – even if both had the same underlying cognitive abilities, their preferences or dispositions would be different.
To put matters simply, E and S describe a fundamental orientation towards either People or Things. An orientation could be understood in terms of a spontaneous focus, a preference. The reason for an orientation may be sought in terms of motivational systems of gratification and aversion: a concern with either people, or things, will tend to give more pleasure (or less pain) than its opposite.
But the situation is not symmetrical for Empathizing and Systemizing, because man is a social animal: thus a focus on people is to be expected, while a focus on things in preference to people is unexpected, and invites specific explanation.
In evolutionary terms, we need to explain how it was possible that a preference to deal with things rather than people was able to arise, specifically in men more strongly than in women (Baron-Cohen, 2003)– in face of our presumption that a preference for things over people would be likely to provide a selective disadvantage in terms of social relationships. In particular, this would probably be a disadvantage from the perspective of sexual selection in its major form of female sexual choice.
In a nutshell: we need to explain why ancestral women could have ended-up with a mate who was more interested in things than they were interested in other people (such as herself). 
The second (and main) purpose of this chapter is to describe specific hypotheses as to how and why E and S traits may have evolved in ancestral humans, what may have been their pay-offs in terms of reproductive success under specific conditions, and to clarify the reason for the reciprocity of these traits and the existence of sex differences(Baron-Cohen, 2003).
In brief we regard Empathizing as the default human personality since, as the application of social intelligence,  it reflects the great importance of social relationships to reproductive success. By contrast, we regard Systemizing as having emerged later in evolutionary history as a result of novel selection pressures due to changed economic conditions - especially the development of more-complex humans societies (such as agriculture and trade) with a variety of socially- essential, specialized jobs for men. 
These evolutionary hypotheses are, at this point, necessarily speculative and intended to serve as a guide for future empirical research rather than to provide definitive answers.
Empathizing and Systemizing conceptualized as personality traits
Empathizing and Systemizing are conceptualized as personality traits, dispositions or preferences to behave in certain ways; therefore not as cognitive abilities. E-S variations are this not-necessarily correlated with cognitive abilities – and indeed in some studies there is no significant measurable correlation with cognitive abilities. For example, there is neither a strong nor consistent association between the ‘reading the mind in the eyes’ test (a test of a cognitive ability), and scores on a self-evaluation Empathizing scale (a measure of disposition or personality): so that an individual may score highly at reading the mind in the eyes but score low on an Empathizing scale, or vice versa (Lawrence, Shaw, Baker, Baron-Cohen, & David, 2004; Voracek & Dressler, 2006).
A disposition is a personality trait: understandable as a sustained tendency, an individual’s characteristic of habitually deploying a mode of cognition. A disposition can also be seen as an individual’s preference for using an ability. (In the sense that preferences can only select between a certain set of abilities; one cannot characteristically be disposed to act in any way that one is incapable of acting.).
And preference to behave in certain ways is (presumably) based on a motivation, and motivation is associated with a psychological reward (or gratification) from doing something – or else a psychological punishment (or aversive consequence) of not doing something.
Ultimately, therefore, a disposition reflects that certain types of behaviour lead to increased gratification (increased pleasure or diminution of suffering). Individuals differ in the types of behaviour which lead to gratification, and in the degree of gratification associated with a specific type of behaviour.
In sum, individual and groups variations in Systemizing and Empathizing can be understood as variations in the type of behaviour that (on average) lead to gratification. Put simply, Empathizers gain enhanced gratification from Empathizing behaviour, while Systemizers gain enhanced gratification from Systemizing behaviour. For example, a High-Systemizer may have the ability to understand and empathize with other people, but prefers to spend most of his time doing crosswords; while a High-Empathizer may be able to do crosswords to a high standard, but she would prefer to converse with a group of friends. 
Naturally, the disposition to be Empathizing or Systemizing requires that there be the cognitive ability to do these; to empathize requires the ability to empathize and to systemize requires that ability. And at extremes of disposition there may be a deficit in such abilities, so that the extreme Empathizer may be defective in systematizing ability and the extreme Systemizer may be defective in theory of mind ability.
However, deficiencies in either E or S ability are not necessary to the finding of variations in E-S, and it seems that there may be a wide range of E-S dispositions even when both abilities are fully intact. Therefore, these abilities must have evolved in order that there be a disposition to use them.
Evolution of the Social Brain
The social brain hypothesis sees social selection pressures as the driving force behind human brain growth: higher cortical functions have evolved to deal with the adaptive problems of complex group living{Dunbar, 1995 #47} {Dunbar, 1995 #47}{Dunbar, 1995 #47}{Dunbar, 1998 #48}{Adolphs, 1999 #1}{Humphrey, 1976 #74}{Dunbar, 1995 #47}{Dunbar, 1998 #48}(Adolphs, 1999, 2009; Dunbar, 1995, 1998; Humphrey, 1976). The relative neo – cortex growth in humans and other primates is due to the demands on executive brain function required by living in complex social groups. Evidence in favour of this hypothesis shows that as group size increases across primate species, neo-cortex size also grows(Dunbar, 1995, 1998) {Dunbar, 1995 #47}{Dunbar, 1998 #48}. The set of cognitive adaptations that enables successful group living such as the abilities to perceive, recall and process information about others and act according to this information, is often termed social intelligence (Dunbar, 1998), Machiavellian intelligence (Byrne & Whiten, 1988) or social cognition (Brothers, 1990).    
Group living poses a number of adaptive problems for the individual: attracting and maintaining a mate, monitoring and manipulating social interactions, outwitting rivals and forming alliances, inferring dispositions, motivations and intentions of others, etc . Selection favoured those individuals who were the most successful at solving these adaptive problems of group living. In order to successfully survive and reproduce within a social setting, an individual requires the cognitive ability to react adaptively to social challenges and to affect others positively(Byrne & Whiten, 1988){Byrne, 1988 #122} {Byrne, 1988 #122}.
Amongst the cognitive abilities enabling complex social interaction are face perception, emotional processing, theory of mind (TOM), self-reference and working memory (Grady & Keightley, 2002). These abilities are mediated by interplay of activity of networks of interdependent brain regions which support the behaviours necessary for social interaction (Grady& Keightley, 2002). Amongst the neural architecture that contributes to social intelligence are the amygdala ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the right somatosensory related cortex (Adolphs, 1999; Grady & Keightley, 2002).
An individual clearly benefits in terms of reproductive success by being able to predict the behaviour of others within the group, maintain beneficial social relationships and even manipulating social situations to her own advantage(Byrne& Whiten, 1988; Humphrey, 1976). A lack of the faculties required to function adaptively within the group can have negative reproductive consequences for the individual. The inability to positively affect others, at least to a degree, and to adaptively interact within a group can lead to negative emotional effects for the individual, social ostracism and ultimately, reproductive death .This can most clearly be seen in the devastating effects of lesions and or disorders to the social functioning of the individual(Ylvisaker, Feeney,& amp; Szekeres, 1998). For instance, individuals with the autistic spectrum disorder have abnormal face perception (Klin et al., 1999) as well as strong deficits in the theory of mind mechanism (Grady& Keightley, 2002). Autistic individuals have difficulties in adaptive social behaviour, avoid normal social contact and are generally indifferent to social encounters (Baron-Cohen, 1997).
At the core of social intelligence lies the ability to “mind read” or theory of mind: this is the ability to infer  the contents (beliefs, desires, intentions) of the mind of other individuals, predicting behaviour based on these inferences and empathizing with others states of mind (Baron-Cohen, 1999, 2000, 2006b; Baron-Cohen, Leslie,& Frith, 1985; Dennett, 1971; Premack & Woodruff, 1978). Mindreading is often seen as a predominantly cognitive ability, however emotions play a key role in inferring other agent’s content of mind and reactive adaptively.
Empathizing has evolved to represent the affective states of others and to react with an appropriate emotion. The importance of emotions in adaptive social behaviour is extensive; and they are pivotal in successfully modelling social behaviour. Relevant here is the somatic marker mechanism suggested by Antonio Damasio (Damasio, 1994, 1996, 1999) and further elaborated upon by Charlton (Charlton, 2000, 2003; Charlton & McClelland, 1999).
At the outset, Damasio (Damasio, 1994, 1995, 1999) makes a distinction between emotions and feelings: Emotions are changes in body state (and non-conscious brain state to a secondary extent) primed by either external or internal stimuli. Feelings are the conscious awareness of these changes in body state (Damasio, 1994, 1995). Primary emotions are those that are innate and triggered automatically in certain situations (Charlton, 2000, 2003; Damasio, 1995).  For instance, a “fear” response can be triggered in the presence of a snake. The somatic response in this case would be an increase in heart rate, higher frequency of breathing, dilated pupils etc. This pattern of somatic changes constitutes the emotion of fear which can prime and initiate behaviour, such as a flight or fight response. These changes in body states can be observed in most mammals, however, it’s probably only primates and certainly humans that can be aware of emotions – that is, experience feelings (Charlton, 2000)
Secondary emotions are those emotions triggered by internal events such as remembering an encounter with a snake. Secondary emotions are induced by cognitive representations, i.e. internal events that have previously been associated with a primary emotion. These representations are dispositional in that they include evaluative information about the object/event priming the emotion in the first place. Thus, remembering an encounter with a snake can invoke the same changes in body state as the initial encounter. Secondary emotions can therefore be seen as being acquired through experience and are built upon the foundations of primary emotions (Damasio, 1995). In a nutshell, secondary emotions occur in response to cognitive modelling or cognitive simulations – such as memories or plans (Charlton, 2000).
Feeling an emotion is the conscious awareness of this pattern of changes in body state in relation to the representation that primed these changes. Thus, representations are juxtaposed with relevant somatic states, i.e. emotions, to the extent that these representations are associated or marked with a particular emotion. This juxtaposition of representation and emotion is what constitutes the somatic marker mechanism (Charlton, 2000; Damasio, 1994).
According to Damasio (Damasio, 1994, 1996) the somatic marker mechanism is fundamental to human reasoning and decision making especially within the social and personal realm. The neurobiological site which is critical for the somatic marker mechanism to function is the prefrontal cortex, more specifically the ventro-medial sector (Damasio, 1996). Individuals with damage to this section of the cortex have strong difficulties making appropriate social decisions, while still retaining most intellectual capacities (Damasio, 1996).
Ultimately, a good decision for any organism is one that is advantageous for the reproductive success and survival of the organism, as well as the quality of survival (Damasio, 1994, p. 169). Somatic markers assist and guide the decision making process by modelling outcomes of decisions through changes in somatic state. A possible bad outcome of a decision can manifest itself as an immediate negative feeling such as fears, misery or disgust. The representation of the negative outcome of a given response option is marked with the unpleasant feeling, allowing the organism to reject a possible decision from the outset. Thus, in Damasio’s words “somatic markers are special instances of feelings, generated from secondary emotions. Those emotions and feelings have been connected, by learning, to predicted future outcomes of certain scenarios.” (Damasio, 1994, p. 174). The somatic marker mechanism functions as both a warning and incentive system for possible negative and positive outcomes.
When somatic markers operate consciously, they can assist in the modelling and planning of behaviour towards other organisms. By thinking about previous social encounters and being aware of the emotional /somatic responses that are evoked through these deliberations, dispositions and intentions of others can be inferred (Charlton, 2000; Damasio, 1994) .This means that somatic markers are pivotal in internally modelling social behaviour.
Representations of others are linked in working memory with an appropriate feeling, thus associating own emotional reactions with the representation of others. For instance, the perception of a rival male can invoke the emotional reaction of fear.  The perceptual representation of this individual is then marked with the somatic state of fear. At a later point in time, thinking about this individual, i.e. drawing upon the representation from long term memory can similarly produce the same emotional reaction. Inferences about the disposition of the other individual can be modelled upon the own emotional reaction to the encounter (Charlton, 2000).
The somatic marker mechanism can be seen as being the underlying neurobiological mechanism of the theory of mind mechanism and the empathizing system .Where Baron-Cohen (2005) describes the development and function of these two systems, Damasio’s somatic marker explain the underlying neurobiological mechanism by which both dispositions and inferences about another organisms’ mental as well as affective  states can be made.
Because human intelligence and consciousness have fundamentally evolved to deal with the social world, the spontaneous and immediate experience of the environment is infused by social information. Humans are primed to interpret ambiguous situation (like the fluttering of leaves) as being caused by agency (Barrett, 2000; Guthrie, 1995) and to reading social meaning into natural events  (Bering, 2002). This tendency to anthropomorphise the significant environment and to imbue it with social agency may underlie the evolution of religious beliefs (Charlton, 2002a, 2002b; Guthrie, 1995; Rosenkranz & Charlton, in press).
Empathizing evolved to focus on people, Systemizing to focus on things
Evolved function of Empathizing – social focus
Empathizing is based upon the ‘theory of mind’ ability. Theory of mind refers to the ability, found in some social animals, to infer metal contents such as dispositions, motivations and intentions in another con-specific.
We conceptualize Empathizing as the disposition to apply ‘theory of mind’ cognitive ability – this can be applied to the social situations for which the ability (presumably) evolved, and also to understanding the world in general (and not just the social world). In other words, Empathizing is the spontaneous tendency to focus on people.
Since humans are social animals, and in line with evolutionary concepts such as the Social Brain and ‘Machiavellian Intelligence’, we regard social intelligence as probably deriving from primate ancestry, and closer to the spontaneous form of human interest than is an interest in things. We therefore regard the highly Empathizing personality type as underpinned by an evolutionarily more-ancient personality type than is Systemizing.
In other words, Empathizing is more fundamental to humans than Systemizing and intrinsic to the species: Empathizing came before Systemizing. Further, it is possible that a preference for Systemizing did not evolve in all populations, and may be weak or absent in some human groups still extant. But in ancestral hunter gatherer situations – perhaps including pre-modern hominid ancestors – we would assume that all reproductively successful humans were not just able to infer theory of mind, but disposed to focus on other humans and their mental contents: almost everybody in these circumstances was probably a high Empathizer and it is likely that the the Systemizing trait was low, and that there may have been few or zero high Systemizers.
Empathizing – in its evolutionary origins - is therefore personal in its application, being specifically directed towards actual human relationships. To have an Empathizing disposition is use this cognitive style (evolved to deal with humans) as a general model of understanding. Therefore be a high Empathizer is to see the world through social spectacles: a tendency to focus attention on social relationships and to understand the world as analogous to social relationships.
Empathizing seems to be the natural and spontaneous way for humans to deal-with phenomena they regard as important: this is seen in the tendency to anthropomorphise large and important animals, significant places and landscape features, treasured possessions and so on; and to treat human groups (or modern institutions) as if they were unified, conscious and intentional organisms.
Re-defining Systemizing as a preference for focusing on linear sequences of things
The usual definition of the trait of Systemizing relates to a preference to analyze the world in terms of the rules which govern systems: such that the Systemizer is a person who sees the world as composed of systems, and is interested in categorization and understanding the rules, patterns or principles that underlie these systems(Baron-Cohen, 2010; Baron-Cohen, Ashwin, Ashwin, Tavassoli,& Chakrabarti, 2009).
However, while this is an accurate description of the interests of a high Systemizing personality who also has high general intelligence, it is a potentially misleading description of the Systemizing trait since it refers to the understanding of complex systems, that is systems of processes that are governed by rules.
Yet it seems plausible that an interest in the abstract understanding of the processes of complex systems is underpinned (and evolutionarily preceded) by the simpler abstract task of learning linear sequences. So in terms of a personality trait, the interest in complex systems which is measured by Systemizing questionnaires may be considered a more advanced type of an elementary interest in simpler ‘strings’ of facts, names, numbers, tasks or procedures.
To create categorizations, to infer a pattern, and to extract the rules from a system are in fact higher-level cognitive abilities; possible only to those of relatively high general intelligence. Abstraction of rules is, indeed, one of the main attributes of ‘g’ which is measured in standard IQ tests: for example in supplying the next member of a number series, or establishing group membership, or performing a task like Raven’s matrices (Deary, 2001; Gottfredson, 2005; Jensen, 1998).Those of low general intelligence are poor at these tasks (which is why they are used to measure IQ), and this implies that a focus on understanding the rules of systems is a high-level definition of Systemizing.
Therefore, while inferring categories, patterns and rules certainly count as Systemizing, we would favour a more basic and less cognitively-advanced basis for defining systematizing: that the Systemizing trait is seen at its most basic in trying to learn linear sequences of abstract facts or actions.
The two main aspects of Systemizing, we suggest, relate to the nature of content which is not-social i.e. abstract; and to the content being understood in terms of linear sequences of facts. Therefore Systemizing relates to:
→     Abstract phenomena (things not people)
→     Of a specific identity (these particular things)
→     In a specific order (in this order, or categorized thus)
A modern example of the Systemizing preference, would be the kind of crazes and ‘obsessions’ which are characteristic of people on the autism spectrum or with Asperger’s syndrome: learning lists of names and numbers from the telephone directory, or certain types of dates, or pictures make by highly-literal copying, or learning all the facts on a non-social themes such as automobile performance or the performance of a sports team, or literal recollection of sequences from favourite TV shows or passages from books, or hobbies involving collecting and arranging – such as stamps, cards or train-spotting.
These and other pastimes such as crossword or other puzzles, or some types of computer games, are often about assembling sequences of correct facts or procedures (united by theme or category) in a correct and specific order or pattern – yet these facts or procedures may not have any rule-based ‘systemic’ structure. Typically, one cannot learn these kinds of activity by learning and applying rules; rather, the activity consists in performing exact sequences of correct responses on specific material.
Interestingly, an explanation of Systemizing in terms of the disposition to focus upon ‘close-up’ consideration of abstract linear sequences, bears striking similarities with the concept of left cerebral hemisphere dominance as described in Iain McGilchrist’s The master and his emissary concerning autistic traits and ‘attention to detail’ (Baron-Cohen et al., 2011; McGilchrist, 2009); although at the same time McGilchrist’s evidence and argument renders implausible any direct equation of left hemisphere with male, right with female. The argument is complex and we flag it here as a matter deserving further and detailed consideration.
Systemizing and psychological neoteny
Indeed, this kind of behaviour focused on linear sequence of abstract knowledge is characteristic of children; for instance when they insist on a fairy story being told with exactly the same words and details. Many pre-adolescent boys, in particular, have periodic ‘crazes’ on various subjects (aircraft, trains, a type of book, a type of construction model, a particular sport) about which theme they voraciously learn everything they can manage.
These pre-adolescent boy’s crazes are typically not focused on people nor on social relations, nor are they focused on rule-based understanding; rather they are fact-based, convergent activities involving listing, collecting, categorizing, memorizing – based on learning sequences and patterns but not often complex or dynamic ‘systems’.
This similarity between pre-adolescent boys and high Systemizing men does not tell us why high trait Systemizing may have evolved – does not tell us how high Systemizing may have improved differential reproductive success in our ancestors - but it may suggest how high Systemizing evolved: by perpetuation of pre-adult behaviour into sexual maturity. In other words high Systemizing trait in adults may be a neotenous phenomenon.
(Neoteny is one type of the more general class of ‘heterochrony’in which evolutionary change is brought about by alterations in the timing of developmental events (Horder, 2001)
And this may provide a clue to the proximate mechanism for the evolution of higher levels of trait Systemizing. Natural selection usually works by quantitative modification or amplification of some already-existing trait (as when a hand, or an arm, evolves into a wing in a bat, or a bird; or when a neck, or a nose, become lengthened in a giraffe, or an elephant). In humans, the evolution of the high levels of Systemizing seen in modern people suggests that there was some original trait which underwent evolutionary adaptation.
In other words; if neoteny – or something similar – was the proximate mechanism via which natural selection led to Systemizing, then we need to consider the trait which was present in immature humans that may have provided the basis for the evolution of adult Systemizing.  
E-S reciprocity and sex differentials generated by selection pressure from economic factors
What are the main observations concerning E and S which an evolutionary hypothesis must explain? One is the reciprocity between Empathizing and Systemizing – that when one is high the other is usually low.
In a sense, reciprocity is an intrinsic property of some personality traits: one cannot be both highly extravert and highly introverted, cannot be both highly neurotic and very stable. Similarly, one cannot be fascinated by social relationships such as to spend most of one’s time and energy on that matter, and at the same time fascinated by learning about abstract facts and figures and systems so as to spent most of one’s time and energy on that matter as well.
Most strong personality traits can, in principle, alternate in dominance over time and with circumstance – but they cannot dominate simultaneously. So it is an intrinsic property of E-S being descriptive of a personality trait that the predisposition towards one extreme of the trait is itself a predisposition away-from the other extreme.
However, the E-S personality traits have been persistently observed as different, on average, between men and women. And most of the most highly empathic people are women, while most high systemisers are men. This observation invites an evolutionary explanation. 
We suggest that the ultimate (evolutionary) cause of sex differentials in E-S lies in the ancestral sexual division of labour among humans; men and women having different characteristic roles: women focused child care and food gathering and preparation, men focused on whatever other tasks require doing: e.g. hunting, fighting, crafts(Lee & Daly, 1999; Lee & DeVore, 1968; Ridley, 1997).
Specifically, we regard Empathizing as a baseline state common to ancestral men and women, and Systemizing as having been selected-for at a later stage of human evolution, primarily among men due to the ancestral economic division of labour, and the economic benefits of having some men who are high Systemizers. We assume that there were significant material rewards for those men who were both able and willing to perform Systemizing tasks, and that these extra resources would have enhanced the survival of the offspring of successful Systemizers.
Evolution of the Systemizing trait
To recapitulate, the Empathizing trait refers to theory of mind abilities, which would be expected to be more evolutionarily ancient than the Systemizing trait, since they are found in non-human primates. Therefore a disposition towards Empathizing (theory of mind) are hypothesized to be a feature of pre-human primate and ancestral hunter-gatherer societies. We believe that Systemizing came later in human evolutionary history, and was an ability and disposition that (in a sense) displaced pre-existing Empathizing in some men.
By contrast, it is hard to see any need for, or evidence for, high levels of Systemizing trait in ancestral-type hunter gatherer societies, and it is hard to imagine a plausible benefit for a personality type which is characterized by high Systemizing. Ancestral hunter gatherers were (it is assumed) well-equipped by natural selection to deal with most of the non-personal/ ‘thing’-related problems they would encounter, since they had lived in the same type of environment for up to hundreds of generations. The social brain perspective suggests that the most cognitively-complex tasks our ancestors confronted were related to understanding, predicting and manipulating human social interactions (Byrne & Whiten, 1988). And for these problems, humans were prepared by their theory of mind abilities, and the ‘Empathizing’ personality was motivated to apply theory of mind abilities in relating to the world. 
Furthermore, ancestral hunter gatherers were generalists: apart from a sexual division of labour, essentially all women were involved in gathering and child care, all men were warriors and hunters. Any other activities needed to be fitted-around these requirements, but because the usual group size was small (probably around 15-35 including both the young and the old) there was only a little scope for specialization of function except in terms of sex and age (Charlton, 2000; Lee & Daly, 1999)
Systemizing abilities and interests seems likely to be most beneficial in post-agricultural, more complex, less ‘natural’ human societies. Indeed, agricultural societies are usually characterized by some degree of economic specialization - especially among men (Woodburn, 1982). This is necessary because of the greater need for learned knowledge and technology – agriculture is itself a specialist expert activity requiring not just invention but significant preservation and inter-generational transmission of knowledge (which is why it was not invented as a stable and continuing social form until the past 10-15,000 years)
The evolution of Systemizing can therefore be seen in the context of life history (Rushton, 1985). Woodley (2011) sees ancestral hunter gatherer societies as characterized by a relatively fast life history – with high fertility, rapid maturation of offspring and early maturity – and this leading to an un-specialized type of human – with a narrow range or ‘manifold’ of abilities. This situation may be associated with strong sexual selection – men investing on average little in their offspring but competing for multiple promiscuous matings (with uncertain paternity); presumably men would tend toward early maturity, high vigour and physical prowess, but a short life and a mainly social intelligence (e.g. men being charming rather than Systemizing).
By contrast, as agriculture emerged, and population density increased; it is probable that life history was slowed due to greater competition between humans (Woodley, 2011) In such a situation, men especially would seek a niche in which they could excel, and this would be associated with slower and later maturation – and a wider range (or manifold) of abilities between individuals - which meant that some people were better at one thing while other people were expert at different things. The trend would be towards lower fertility but higher level of parental investment per offspring – and the father contributing economic investment to their offspring (about which they would need have had a high degree of certainty of paternity for this behaviour to be adaptive; Wilson and Daly (1992), Charlton and McClelland (1999).
In ancestral ‘simple’ hunter gatherer societies there were probably a few tasks which focused on dealing with ‘things’ and where a personality preference for such tasks might be adaptive: problems such as navigating across a desert,  manufacturing a spear thrower or stone axe, or preparing poison for a bow and arrow. Typically such jobs require (in pre-literate societies) learning and precisely remembering an exact sequence of steps.
But such tasks are far more numerous, and more important, in agricultural societies where there is more technology, and where farming and the preparation and storage of food must be learned and repeated exactly year after year(Woodburn, 1982) . Such societies also typically develop specialists in religious ritual (priests) and in various crafts – and craft expertise in particular becomes absolutely essential to the survival of societies(Ingold, 2000; Ridley, 1997) .
Yet such crafts must be devised, remembered, and transmitted between generations. Our assumption is that it was this kind of selection pressure in agricultural societies which led to the evolution of high levels of Systemizing seen in some members of modern populations.
Systemizing was therefore a kind of expert ability and disposition; indeed Systemizing was exactly the trait that would enable expertise to develop; because expertise was (we infer) mostly a matter of learning and memorizing accurately precise sequential facts and procedures.  Thus the development of expertise is only partly about ability to perform a type of task – equally (or more) important is the personality which is motivated to do such tasks.
In other words, we suggest that until the development of agriculture, humans were originally towards the Empathizing end of the trait and that sexual differentiation was probably very limited; that the characteristic observed modern pattern of E-S is primarily a product of economic selection pressures following the development of agriculture; and furthermore that the sexual differentials in E-S are a consequence of historical differences in economic selection pressures as they operated on men and women since all ancient human societies display very considerable sexual specialization in terms of economic roles (Indeed, humans are among very few species exhibiting economic sex specialization;(Ridley, 1997).
We suggest, therefore, that the primary evolutionary cause of the range and reciprocity of E-S and also the higher average levels of S in men, was the sexual division of labour in a context of post-hunter gather economic systems. One implication is that men and women in hunter gatherer societies were probably more similar in the E-S dimension than are men and women in agricultural and post-agricultural societies (a prediction that may be partially-testable in modern descendants of these populations).
Sexual selection
Personality clearly affects sexual attractiveness, and may therefore be subject to sexual selection. On the one hand, common sense, personal observation and theoretical considerations suggest that, on average, women do not find the highly Systemizing personality (with its preference for things rather than people) to be (of itself) sexually attractive in men. On the other hand, female sexual preferences are not necessarily an important factor in determining sexual or marriage partners. Many human societies have not allowed much scope for individual female choice of sexual or marriage partners – for instance when young women are allocated to husbands as when marriages are arranged by parents, religious leaders or the wider community (Wilson & Daly, 1992). And in these societies, sexual selection, most often female choice, may be greatly attenuated or insignificant.
Individual sexual choice seems, in particular, to be very limited in most stable agricultural societies – and it is our assumption that it was precisely these stable agricultural societies in which the Systemizing trait is likely to have arisen and been amplified in men.
A further factor is that one of the most powerful factors affecting female sexual preference is male status. Insofar as a high Systemizing trait leads to higher status in a man, then it may be indirectly sexually attractive – unattractive in itself, but associated with a higher status that is attractive (Buss, 1995; Symons, 1980).
But – at the first level of analysis – we suggest that Systemizing trait may have arisen despite sexual selection, rather than because of it.
If the Systemizing trait is probably (on average) unattractive to women, this suggests that - when women are allowed to choose freely, sexual selection probably works to reduce or eliminate the Systemizing trait. This would imply that – under modern conditions of independent femal choice of sexual and marriage partners, Systemizing would be under a negative selection pressure; and that this aspect of male personality may well be experiencing a ‘selective sweep’ in which the representation of the trait in the gene pool will be changing from one equilibrium towards another (Miller, 2010).
Another aspect is that a highly Systemizing disposition would presumably (like all personality traits) be substantially inherited by female children as well as male children – even when there are sex differentials (Miller, 2000). So that highly Systemizing trait women would become more common, as well as highly Systemizing men – simply as a by-product of the economic selection pressure on men.
Then, since Systemizing reflects a person’s interests, and shared interest may be a factor in mate choice; it would be expected that highly Systemizing women would tend to regard highly Systemizing men as relatively more attractive – especially if the woman was expecting to spend a lot of time with her husband. This would be a form of assortative mating, whereby sexual partners are chosen on the basis of similarity (Miller, 2009)  . And assortative mating between high Systemizers could plausibly be a mechanism by which ultra-high Systemizing might become a feature of populations – especially in men (Baron-Cohen, 2006). Therefore this is a plausible mechanism for the emergence of Asperger syndrome at a high frequency and severity – as a by-product of high Systemizing women choosing high systematizing men as partners.
Our hypotheses concerning the evolution of Empathizing can briefly be summarized:
1.      The baseline state is that (since humans are social animals) ancestral human hunter gatherers are assumed to be high Empathizers: more interested in people than in things.
2.      Economic changes, especially related to the development of agriculture, and also other technologically dependent societies (requiring complex tools, weapons, equipment, housing etc) mean that it becomes useful for some men to become more interested in things than in people, as a motivation for them to learn and practice socially vital skills.
3.      This selection pressure applies mainly to men since in the sexual division of labour it is typically men’s role to perform such tasks.
4.      The Systemizing trait is amplified by natural selection in men – perhaps by a neotenous mechanism where childhood traits are retained into adulthood. High Systemizers emerge: men who are spontaneously more interested in things than in people. 
5.      High Systemizers are rewarded for their socially vital work by high status (and supported with resources).
6.      Social arrangements develop (or already exist) that allocate women of high reproductive potential (young and healthy) to successful high Systemizers (for example by arranged marriages, dowry payments or bride price settlements) – these mechanism suppress or overcome the sexual selection mechanism by which women choose sexual partners or husbands who are Empathizers. 
7.      The marriages of economically successful high Systemizing men will experience greater-than-average reproductive success (with more surviving and viable offspring due to differentially increased access to economic resources such as food, shelter, technologies etc.) – thus amplifying the representation of genes that cause high systematizing in the population. 
The theory has a number of testable predictions:
Systemizing may be undergoing (in developed societies) on the one hand assortative mating which amplifies the number of very high Systemizers (Baron-Cohen, 2006a); and on the other hand a selective sweep that is reducing the average level of S, due to the greater operation of sexual selection in the form of female sexual choice.
The male female difference in E- and S may have been less in hunter gather societies  than in agricultural or modern societies – and this may be measurable in the societies which have recently been hunter gatherers and have not yet experienced many generation of the selection effects of complex societies.
The theoretical model suggests possible methods of measuring Systemizing and Empathizing by developing instruments that quantify people’s spontaneous preferences as expressed in choices between focusing on either on people or else things.
 (pp. 289-322). New York: Oxford University Press.