I spoke at my Rotary Club about Mismatch; not Mismatch in the usual sense but as the multiplicative interaction of our Psychological Adaptations with our penchant (shared by most living things) for the larger, the newer, the livelier. (1) One, perhaps the essential, weakness in larger organizations is the break down in altruism that occurs, specifically the strategies of Cheater/Sucker and Tit-for-Tat, "generous" or not. (2) "Cheater" wins over all others except under conditions of recurring meetings between the same individuals. Thus, in smaller groups over a longer time period, T4T prevails.
I included slides of smaller schools followed by several of the new high school that is being constructed. The new one will have 4 gyms, several ball fields, and possibly more than one pool. (3) What a wonderful nest for Cheaters. Alliances in larger schools occur primarily within groups of students and groups of teachers. No teacher knows all the students, even over a 4 year stay. We might, therefore, expect many more opportunities for deceit (a.k.a., antisocial behavior) than in a smaller setting. (4)
Shortly before the talk, I discovered a photo in Gould & Gould (1997) of a gull sitting on a grapefruit in preference to her own egg. I planned to refer to the new structure as a "cancer," it became a grapefruit instead.
Incidentally, I reviewed the Commandments with the group. The first 4 seem to relate to defining Alpha and the terms of an alliance. Sagan & Druyan (1992) have touching, convincing language about the behavioral effects of an alpha chimp on the rest of the group. There is concurrent subservience from and assurance for the weaker.
The last 6 relate to Cheater tactics in love, marriage, homicide, and child rearing. Perhaps the Semites, some thousands of years earlier, had their own difficulties with grapefruits and adolescent terrorists. (5)
There are several implications:
a) Nearly every one of our "excesses" will relate to a Psychological Adaptation, a set of skills useful in smaller groups and with fewer resources.
b) Our "excresses" will be duplicated in every human culture to the extent that natural resources allow. The exact form will vary but the excess will be there. The Moslems and the Confucians, the English and the Koreans, even the Buddhists all have their supernormal icons and their hierarchies that extend past the limits of an H&G band.
1) Psychological Adaptations are evolved, almost universally shared, behavior sequences for handling survival problems such as child care, mating, hunting, gathering, etc. "Mismatch" often refers to previously adaptive traits, such as my cat's claw, becoming maladaptive in a modern context, such as being snagged in a nylon shoelace. Nesse (1997) has mentioned our fear of snakes but not of speeding autos as an example of mismatch; our innate, adaptive preferences for fat as another when we enter a modern ice cream shack .
2) Dawkins R (1989) The Selfish Gene. NY: Oxford. He discusses these strategies, their occurrence in other species, and their likely relevance to the emergence of altruism. Altruism is defined as a delayed form of reciprocity in which the donor performs an act that increases the reproductive fitness of the recipient. The act, by definition, entails a simultaneous loss in reproductive fitness of the donor.
Thus, the exchange is not a trivial one for either party. "Cheaters" always accept aid but never reciprocate; "Suckers" always give aid despite the lack of reciprocity. A group of "Suckers" will survive as will a group of "Cheaters." Mixing them, however, leads to extinction of Suckers and survival of Cheaters. Tit-for-Tat wins over Cheaters, driving them to a smaller group size than might be attained otherwise. Suckers & T4T are compatible. However, Cheaters prevail when there is no continued series of contacts between donor and recipient. Cheaters also prevail on the final contact after an extended relationship. "Why bother, I'm outta here!"
3) The present school has no pool yet has produced the State diving champion. She and her parents drove 4 nights per week to Lehigh University to use their pool for training.
4) Pennhurst, a former residential institution for mentally retarded adults, was closed by the Commonwealth as a result of financial pressures (union payscales, escalating maintenance costs in combination with shrinking state revenues) and legal actions (Pennhurst made it to the US Supreme Court). One one level, she was an old whore, doing as she was paid, to keep misshapen humans away from the rest of us. On another, she was an example of altruism (a Psychological Adaptation?) interacting with our preference for Supernormal Stimuli (bigger is better, more specialized - explain that contradiction, please!). Another cancer, another grapefruit resulted. There is no accident in the slut's demise and her replacement by "smaller" group homes that duplicate family structure (as well as being cheaper because staffed by younger, more energetic, more transient workers). See Stu Kauffman, "At Home in the Universe," NY: Oxford, for an analysis of why large organizations founder with changes in the fitness landscape.
5) Incidentally, I imposed a picture of Darwin alongside the Commandments. No one threw me out, no one ejected me from the Board. Lots of applause after the talk, several thanks for making things clear. Perhaps if I did not have a T4T situation going, their reactions would have been very different. What a great group of people! About 35 of us, not too different from hunting-gathering bands.
Gould JL & Gould CG (1997) Sexual Selection: Mate Choice and Courtship in Nature. NY: Scientific American Library. p 189.
Nesse R & Berridge K (1997) Psychoactive drug use in evolutionary perspective. Science, 278, 63-66.
Sagan C & Druyan A (1992) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. NY: Ballentine. pp. 295-302.