3 Comments
May 19Liked by Sebastian Jensen

I would question your conflation of agreeableness with altruism. Tests of agreeableness conflate different traits, I always thought Europeans were just as high in altruism as East asians but just less conformist giving us lower agreeableness scores. But I've never seen comparisons of them doing the dictator game so I could be wrong I guess. I wouldn't say that Europeans dominating the world over Asians is strong evidence against group selection for altruism, it's probably just other traits that Asians have that stopped them from starting an industrial revolution like low Openness. Both seem high in altruism compared to the primitive low trust societies that failed to develop.

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So real

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With regard to group selection, I think it needs to be disambiguated, so that we know which form you're referring to - because there's more than one sense of the term "group selection". A plausible form of group selection is "cultural group-selection": that refers to culture evolving in response to some form of competition between groups. In which case - and here I'm being speculative - it may be that moderate agreeableness is optimal. Perhaps because it simultaneously allows people to cooperate sufficiently with group members but to discount the interests of members from outside groups. In any case, an explanation in terms of cultural group-selection doesn't necessarily need to invoke selection pressures on alleles for agreeableness per se, via the feedback process that culture can have on the gene pool. Rather, the average or modal level of agreeableness seen in a society could be to a large extent moderated simply by that society's cultural norms and practices. And perhaps societies in Europe evolved to be closer to that cultural optimum, for various historical reasons. Furthermore, this kind of cultural group-selection-fuelled optimization could have regulated the evolved tribal psychology of humans: it could help regulate just how cooperative the average person is with an in-group member, and how hostile or ambivalent they are with respect to out-groups.

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