Lucid dreams are dreams in which you realize that you’re dreaming. You become super aware of your surroundings are able to modify them as you wish to some degree. This opens up numerous possibilities and some lucid dreamers report that they travel to the different planets, talk to historical figures, and even exist as a tree in their lucid dreams.
Despite being one of the most wonderful of human experiences, many people are yet to experience a lucid dream and those that have wish they experienced it more frequently.
A consequence of an increased level of awareness
At its core, a lucid dream is simply a consequence of an increased level of awareness in the dream state. In a lucid dream, you become aware that you’re in a dream. Most people are not very aware and go about their lives in a largely unconscious manner. Those who lack awareness, much less self-awareness, are not very likely to lucid dream.
Awareness is a skill. The more you practice being aware in your waking life the more it’ll spill over to your dream life and you might one day find yourself in a lucid dream. Practice being highly aware of your surroundings, of other people, their behavior, your own behavior, thoughts and emotions in your waking life. Flex those awareness muscles.
Greater dream awareness = vivid dream recall
Ask any random person you know what dream they had last night and they’ll likely shrug their shoulders and make that “I don’t know” facial expression. They may say that they don’t remember or even swear that they never dream despite it now being well-known that we all dream for about 1-2 hours every night but tend to forget them upon waking.1
If you naturally remember your dreams you already have a high level of awareness. If you don't you can practice being more aware of your waking life and dream life. Keeping a dream journal is a good start. Recording your dreams every day will eventually lead to better dream recall and an increased level of dream-awareness.
This actually happened to me. I hadn't seen a lucid dream for long and dreamt that I was seeing one. It's a wish-fulfillment dream that doesn't qualify as a lucid dream.
Relaxation is important for lucid dreams
Many people have experienced lucid dreams when they were practicing some relaxation technique such as meditation. Thing is, a stressed brain doesn’t promote lucid dreams. When you’re stressed or going through some emotional turmoil the mind is rather busy working on important issues and may give you dreams to help you become aware of and resolve those issues.
Lucidity isn’t very helpful in this scenario because the mind has more important things to work on. Also, when you’re relaxed you’re less 'in your head' about some issue and more aware of yourself and your surroundings. Being the ecstatic, relaxing and peaceful experience that it is, lucid dreaming is the exact opposite of a stressed brain in alert mode.
Once you’ve got all these factors covered, you can try some techniques to give yourself that final push into the world of lucid dreams.
This practice involves checking your environment several times a day to check whether or not you’re dreaming. For instance, if you try to push your finger into the opposite palm but are unable to do so, you know that you’re not dreaming (laws of physics are intact). You may, however, be able to do it in a dream and instantly know you’re dreaming, triggering a lucid dream.
Wake back to bed
In this technique, you set your alarm to wake you up around 2 hours before you normally wake up. When you wake up after 5-6 hours of sleep try to think of what dreams you had and think about lucid dreaming in general. Then go back to sleep after around 20-30 minutes. You're likely to lucid dream in this second round of sleep.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD) is a technique where, after sleeping for about 5-6 hours, you wake and repeat phrases such as “I will remember that I’m dreaming the next I’m dreaming” to yourself. Then you go back to sleep for lucid dreaming experience.
A 2017 study done at the University of Adelaide found that participants who combined all the above techniques for about a week or two showed an increased likelihood of having lucid dreams. Especially effective in inducing a lucid dream was falling asleep within the next 5 minutes after using the MILD technique.2
Another study found that frequent and spontaneous lucid dreamers tended to be those who were very insightful in real life i.e. who solved problems in waking life in a creative manner.3
To have insight you need awareness, you need to understand the problem fully and be able to look at it from different angles. Related cognitive skills such as curiosity and inquisitiveness should also promote lucid dreaming. After all, it’s a stroke of insight generated from the curiosity of wanting to know whether or not your dreamscape is real (“Am I dreaming?”) that triggers a lucid dream.
References: 1. Crick, F., & Mitchison, G. (1983). The function of dream sleep. Nature, 304(5922), 111-114.
2. Aspy, D. J., Delfabbro, P., Proeve, M., & Mohr, P. (2017). Reality testing and the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams: Findings from the national Australian lucid dream induction study. Dreaming, 27(3), 206.
3. Bourke, P., & Shaw, H. (2014). Spontaneous lucid dreaming frequency and waking insight. Dreaming, 24(2), 152.
Coma is a state of unconsciousness from which a person cannot be roused. A person in the coma state is neither awake nor aware. He’s alive but incapable of responding to stimuli. You may be able to wake a sleeping person up by shaking them or talking loudly but this won’t work for a person who's in a coma.
People usually slip into a coma when they experience a severe head injury that may cause the brain to move back and forth in the skull, thereby tearing blood vessels and nerve fibers. This tearing causes the brain tissue to swell which presses down on blood vessels, blocking the flow of blood (and hence, oxygen) to the brain.
It’s this lack of oxygen supply to the brain that damages the brain tissues and results in a loss consciousness that manifests as a coma. Coma may also be caused by other conditions such as aneurysm and ischemic stroke, which also block oxygen supply to the brain. Encephalitis, meningitis, low and high blood sugar levels can also lead to coma.
Degrees of unconsciousness
How deep a person falls into the coma state depends on the severity of the injury or illness. Coma belongs to a family of disorders called disorders of consciousness that represent different degrees of unconsciousness.
To understand these types of unconsciousness states let’s say Jack suffered a head injury during an accident.
If Jack’s brain completely ceases to function, doctors say that he’s brain dead. It means he has permanently lost consciousness and the ability to breathe.
If Jack slips into a coma, the brain doesn't shut down fully but works at a minimal level. He may or may not be capable of breathing but he can’t respond to any stimuli (such as pain or sound). He cannot perform any voluntary actions. His eyes remain closed and there’s a lack of sleep-wake cycle in the coma state.
Say, after a few weeks of staying in the coma, Jack shows signs of recovery. He’s now able to open his eyes, blink, sleep, wake, and yawn. He may also be able to move his limbs, grimace, and make chewing movements whilst still being incapable of responding to stimuli. This state is known as the vegetative state.
Instead of slipping into the vegetative state, Jack may slip into what is known as the minimally conscious state. In this state, Jack can show non-reflexive and purposeful behaviors but is unable to communicate. He is intermittently aware.
If Jack is aware and awake, can wake and sleep, and even communicate with eyes but is unable to do voluntary actions (partially or completely) then he’s in a locked-in state. He’s sort of locked-in in his body.1
General anesthesia given to patients renders them temporarily unconscious so that major operations and surgeries, that can otherwise be very painful, can be performed. General anaesthesia can be thought of as an artificially induced reversible coma.2
Credits: James L. Brant
Recovery from coma
A coma usually lasts for only a few weeks and a person is able to recover gradually, transitioning from unconsciousness to consciousness. Brain stimulation via therapy and exercises can aid the process of recovery.
Presumably, the brain circuits need stimulation and activation to restore their normal function. In fact, a study showed that coma patients who heard familiar stories repeated by family members recovered consciousness significantly faster and had an improved recovery than those who didn’t hear any such stories.3
The longer a person stays in a coma, the less the chances of recovery but there exist cases of people recovering from coma even after 10 years and 19 years.
Why do people go into comas?
A safety fuse in an electronic appliance melts and breaks the circuit if too much current passes through the circuit. This way the appliance and the circuit are protected from damage.
Injury-induced coma works in pretty much the same way, except that the brain isn’t entirely shut down (as in brain death) but operates at a minimal level.
When a severe internal injury is detected by your brain, it throws you into a coma state so that any further discretionary movement is avoided, blood loss is minimized, and the body’s resources are mobilized toward repair of an immediate threat to life.4
In this sense, coma is very similar to threat-induced fainting. While fainting is a response to a potential threat, coma is a response to an actual threat. While fainting prevents you from being injured, coma is your mind’s last attempt to save you when you’re actually injured.
References: 1. Mikolajewska, E., & Mikolajewski, D. (2012). Consciousness disorders as the possible effect of brainstem activity failure-Computational approach. Journal of Health Sciences, 2(2), 007-018.
2. Brown, E. N., Lydic, R., & Schiff, N. D. (2010). General anesthesia, sleep, and coma. New England Journal of Medicine, 363(27), 2638-2650.
3. Northwestern University. (2015, January 22). Family voices, stories speed coma recovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 8, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150122133213.htm
4. Buss, D. (2015). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind. Psychology Press.
Imagine you’re alone in a jungle and you sense a predator nearby. This event can trigger a series of fear responses in you that are designed to help you survive. When you first sense the predator, you’ll likely freeze and stand still- minimizing your bodily movements and gestures. This freeze response allows you to evaluate the situation closely and decide whether you’ll run away (flight) or engage with the predator to ward it off (fight).
By making you motionless, the response also helps you avoid detection by the predator since predators are sensitive to the motions of their prey.
But what if the situation is such that neither flight nor fight is likely to work? If you try to run away, the predator will outrun you and if you try to fight, you’ll be easily overpowered.
In such a scenario, an additional fear response is likely to get triggered- fright.1
Fright (playing dead)
Fright is a response in which an organism plays dead by becoming immobile. When flight or fight will not work, playing dead can sometimes help the organism escape and survive. If the predator thinks that the prey is dead, it’s likely to loosen its grip or lose interest. This can provide an opportunity for the prey to escape.
Here's a short clip of a gazelle displaying the fright response:
a gazelle playing dead to escape her predators - YouTube
The fright response is observed in not just humans but in all other mammals. Same is true for the responses that precede it- Freeze, Flight, and Fight. Although the animal plays dead in fright, it does not become unconscious. Instead, the animal is super-alert and its heart rate is super-high as it patiently waits for the right moment to escape or launch some other form of defence.
There’s a species of mammals that can sometimes become unconscious in response to acute fear- homo sapiens.
Fainting (losing consciousness)
Threat-induced fainting is a uniquely human stress response in which a person loses consciousness as a response to a specific type of threat. The person experiences a sudden drop in heart-rate and, consequently, blood volume (about a 30% drop2) after the heart-rate increases upon perceiving a potential threat during Freeze.
It's this lack of blood supply to the brain that causes fainting which explains why fainting may also be caused by hunger and neurological disorders in which the supply of oxygen-laden blood to the brain is hindered.
The faintness or dizziness that you might have experienced after sitting for a long time and then suddenly standing up is also the result of a temporary drop of blood supply to the brain.
Anyway, what we’re interested in here is specifically threat-induced fainting which, because it’s unique to humans, demands a special explanation.
It has been observed that among all the phobias that humans experience, fainting is only associated with what is known as the blood-injection-injury phobia.3 Humans faint when they’re exposed to blood, syringes, needles, knives, etc. and when they experience an injury (even minor, non-fatal skin injuries).
In other words, threat-induced fainting in humans has nothing to do with the predator-prey interaction but everything to with blood, injection, and injury.
It makes sense because if you faint when you’re in the grip of a predator, you might be able to fool the predator into thinking you’re dead and it might loosen its grip but in your unconscious state, you won’t be able to escape once you get the opportunity.
What’s so special about blood, injection, and injury?
“I am not a threat”
Human inter-group and intra-group conflict was a consistent feature of the Paleolithic times as it still is, though the violence has comparatively decreased. During such warfare, it would've been disadvantageous for the warring males to faint in the battlefield for they’d then become easy targets to kill for the enemies.
But for women, children and other noncombatants, fainting could be useful. It could non-verbally signal to the enemies that, “I'm not a threat to you. You can safely ignore me or take me captive.”4
This way they could avoid getting killed and pass on the trait of tending to faint at the sight of an approaching enemy with a sharp object who’s already shed a lot of blood around and probably has blood marks all over his weapon and armor.
Researchers have found that blood donors were more likely to faint when blood was collected by an experienced phlebotomist (fancy name for a blood-collector) rather than an inexperienced phlebotomist.5
Experienced phlebotomists approach you with a sharp object (needle) and get the job done quickly and non-communicatively. Novice phlebotomists are more likely to be slow-moving and talkative. It's possible that the blood donors in the study perceived experienced blood-collectors as a threat similar to the threat of a Paleolithic warrior approaching them quickly and non-communicatively with a sharp weapon.
Consistent with this explanation, epidemiological data on contemporary humans suggests fainting in response to blood, injection, and injury is more common in women and pre-pubertal children and significantly less common in post-pubertal men.6
References 1. Rogers, S. M., & Simpson, S. J. (2014). Thanatosis. Current Biology, 24(21), R1031-R1033.
2. Schwartzman, R. J. (1992). The Autonomic Nervous System: An Introduction to Basic and Clinical Concepts. Archives of Neurology, 49(4), 341-341.
3. Marks, I. (1988). Blood-injury phobia: a review. The American journal of psychiatry, 145(10), 1207.
4. Bracha, H. S. (2004). Freeze, flight, fight, fright, faint: Adaptationist perspectives on the acute stress response spectrum. CNS spectrums, 9(9), 679-685.
5. Kaloupek, D. G., Scott, J. R., & Khatami, V. (1985). Assessment of coping strategies associated with syncope in blood donors. Journal of psychosomatic research, 29(2), 207-214.
6. Bienvenu, O. J., & Eaton, W. W. (1998). The epidemiology of blood-injection-injury phobia. Psychological Medicine, 28(5), 1129-1136.
I’ve studied in an all-boys school and since a very young age, I noticed that not all boys in our class were similar in terms of masculinity and masculine behaviors. On one end of the spectrum, there were those highly aggressive, dominant, super-masculine boys who often had a passion for sports and bullying other kids.
Then there was this large group, the middle of the bell curve, of slightly less masculine boys who acted in a more civilized way, though occasionally showing the same behaviors as the first group.
What intrigued me the most was the third, much smaller of category boys- the boys who behaved like girls. There were three such boys in our class and they walked, talked and moved very differently than other boys.
Specifically, they had a feminine gait, a feminine voice, and feminine mannerisms. They showed little or no interest in sports, athleticism or physical conflict. They were among the most sociable boys in our class.
Of course, it wasn’t just me who noticed that they were different. Other boys recognized this difference too and often teased them by calling them “gay” or “girl”. One of the highly aggressive guys in our class even admitted to finding one such girly boy attractive and made sexual advances towards him.
Genetic and hormonal basis of homosexuality
Homosexuality cuts across human cultures1 and has been observed throughout human history. Moreover, it’s found in numerous animal species ranging from birds to monkeys. This suggests that it has a biological basis.
A study conducted in 1991 found that monozygotic twins (identical twins) are more likely to be both homosexuals. Since such twins share the same genetic make-up, it was a strong indication that the trait of homosexuality had a genetic component.2
It was later found that the gene or group of genes responsible for homosexual behavior are likely to be present on the X chromosome which a person can only inherit from their mother. A 1993 study compared DNA of 40 pairs of homosexual brothers and found that 33 had the same genetic markers in the Xq28 region of the X chromosome.3
Since homosexuality is likely inherited from the mother's side, the same study also showed an increased rate of same-sex orientation in the subjects' maternal uncles and cousins but not in their fathers and paternal cousins.
This finding was supported by a recent genome-wide scan which demonstrated significant linkage of DNA markers on X chromosome and male homosexual orientation.4
Role of hormones in sexual orientation
There's strong evidence that sexual orientation in our brains is set when we’re still in the womb. We all start as females having a female brain. Then, depending on the exposure to male hormones (mainly testosterone), our bodies and brains are masculinized.5
It’s this masculinization of the brain, which is largely responsible for typical male psychological traits such as dominance, aggression, spatial ability, etc.
If neither the body nor the brain is masculinized, the fetus grows to be a female. If the male hormone exposure is significantly low, the fetus may grow to be a super-feminine female.
If the brain is masculinized with large doses of testosterone, the fetus is likely to grow up to be a super-masculine male. Comparatively lesser doses mean a lower degree of masculinization.
Conceive of the brain having two regions- one responsible for sexual orientation and the other for gender-typical behavior. If both the regions are masculinized, the fetus becomes a heterosexual male.
If only the ‘sexual orientation’ region is masculinized, the fetus becomes a heterosexual male with feminine behavior because his brain region for gender-typical behavior remains female.
Similarly, if the body is masculinized but both the brain regions described above aren’t, the fetus may become a homosexual male (with a sexual orientation similar to heterosexual females) with feminine behavior.
The last possibility is that the body and brain region responsible for gender-typical behavior are both masculinized but not the sexual orientation region, producing a gay person with masculine body and behavior. This is why gay bodybuilders who’re also engineers exist.
Same is true for women. They can be lesbians and feminine at the same time, even though it seems counter-intuitive.
The brains of gay and heterosexual people appear to be organized differently. Patterns of brain organization appear similar between lesbian and heterosexual men. Gay men appear, on average, more 'female-typical' in brain pattern responses and lesbian women more 'male-typical'.6
Gays are likely to show behaviors opposite to their sex in childhood.7 Other studies show that gay men navigate in a similar way to women and prefer masculine-faced men.
Adult women with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), a condition where the female fetus is exposed to abnormally large amounts of testosterone, are more likely to be lesbians compared to the general population.8 These women also show male-typical childhood play behavior.
If, during the early stages of pregnancy, testosterone is suppressed by stress, sickness or medications, the chance of giving birth to a gay boy dramatically increases. According to a German study, pregnant mothers who suffered severe stress during the second world war were six times more likely to give birth to a gay son.
One key marker showing how much testosterone a person was exposed to during development is the ratio of the size of the index finger to the ring finger of the right hand (known as the 2D:4D ratio).
In men, the ring finger tends to be longer while in women both the fingers tend to be more or less equal in size. But homosexual women, on average, have considerably shorter index finger compared to their ring finger.9
The finger lengths shouldn't be compared by looking at the level of their tops but by measuring each finger length from top to bottom. There's a good chance this hand belongs to a male heterosexual.
What this hormonal theory doesn’t seem to explain is bisexuality. However, it’s likely an intermediate masculinization stage between a strictly homosexual (extremely rare) and a strictly heterosexual (extremely common) sexual orientation states.
Origins of transsexualism
If the body of a person is male but his brain isn’t masculinized to the extent that he’s not only attracted to males (the way females are) but also thinks he’s a female, this results in a male-to-female transsexual. The person is biologically male but has a female brain. The same principle holds for female-to-male transsexuals i.e. a female body with a male brain.
The area in the brain essential for sexual behavior, known as BSTc, is larger in men than in women. A study showed that male-to-female transsexuals had female-sized BSTc.
A 2016 literature review10 on the topic concluded that "Untreated transsexuals who have an early onset of gender dysphoria (disconnect between gender identity and biological sex) show a distinct brain morphology which is different from that shown by heterosexual males and females."
It’s important to note that environment has little or no role to play in all this. Genetic males who, through accidents, or being born without penises, were subjected to sex change and raised as adults, were typically attracted to women.11 Being gay or trans is as much a 'choice' as being straight.
My classmates were probably right
It’s highly likely that at least one of my three effeminate classmates was gay. When my other classmates called them “gay” teasingly, it’s possible they were right because studies show that homosexuals (especially males) can be identified with a good deal of accuracy by their body type and motion.12 Also, voice tends to be a powerful 'gay detection' cue having an accuracy of around 80%.
References: 1. Bailey, J. M., Vasey, P. L., Diamond, L. M., Breedlove, S. M., Vilain, E., & Epprecht, M. (2016). Sexual orientation, controversy, and science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 17(2), 45-101. 2. Bailey, J. M., & Pillard, R. C. (1991). A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Archives of general psychiatry, 48(12), 1089-1096.
3. Hamer, D. H., Hu, S., Magnuson, V. L., Hu, N., & Pattatucci, A. M. (1993). A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation. SCIENCE-NEW YORK THEN WASHINGTON-, 261, 321-321.
4. Sanders, A. R., Martin, E. R., Beecham, G. W., Guo, S., Dawood, K., Rieger, G., ... & Duan, J. (2015). Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation. Psychological medicine, 45(7), 1379-1388.
5. Collaer, M. L., & Hines, M. (1995). Human behavioral sex differences: a role for gonadal hormones during early development?. Psychological bulletin, 118(1), 55.
6. Savic, I., & Lindström, P. (2008). PET and MRI show differences in cerebral asymmetry and functional connectivity between homo-and heterosexual subjects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(27), 9403-9408.
7. Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 43.
8. Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F., Dolezal, C., Baker, S. W., & New, M. I. (2008). Sexual orientation in women with classical or non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia as a function of degree of prenatal androgen excess. Archives of sexual behavior, 37(1), 85-99.
9. University Of California, Berkeley. (2000, March 30). UC Berkeley Psychologist Finds Evidence That Male Hormones In The Womb Affect Sexual Orientation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 15, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000330094644.htm
10. Guillamon, A., Junque, C., & Gómez-Gil, E. (2016). A review of the status of brain structure research in transsexualism. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(7), 1615-1648.
11. Reiner, W. G. (2004). Psychosexual development in genetic males assigned female: the cloacal exstrophy experience. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 13(3), 657-674.
12. Johnson, K. L., Gill, S., Reichman, V., & Tassinary, L. G. (2007). Swagger, sway, and sexuality: Judging sexual orientation from body motion and morphology. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(3), 321.
Sam and Elena were siblings. Sam was 7 and his sister Elena was 5. They got along well except for some minor quarrels that erupted every now and then. For instance, Sam had this habit of dismembering Elena’s dolls and teddy bears, leaving her in tears. He did the same to his own toys too. His room had become a junkyard of broken cars and guns. His parents were fed up with his behavior and warned him that they wouldn’t buy him any more toys if didn’t stop breaking them.
He just couldn’t resist the temptation. His sister never understood his impulse.
Socialization theory and evolutionary theory
Before the advent of evolutionary psychology, which holds that human behavior is shaped by natural and sexual selection, it was believed that people act the way they do mainly because of how they were socialized early on in their lives.
When it came to gender differences in behavior, the idea was that it was the parents, the family, and other members of society who influenced boys and girls to behave the way they did in 'stereotypical' ways.
According to this theory, we're born as clean slates waiting to be written upon by society and if society doesn’t reinforce these 'stereotypes' they’d likely disappear.
Evolutionary psychology, however, holds that such 'stereotypical' behavior is rooted in evolution and biology and that environmental factors can only influence the degree of expression of such behaviors but they don’t necessarily create these behaviors.
In other words, men and women are born with some innate predispositions that can be further shaped or even overridden by environmental factors.
The problem with socialization theory is that it doesn’t explain why these ‘stereotypes’ are universal and the fact that sex differences in behavior emerge early on in life- before social conditioning can take effect.
Evolution, men, and women
Ancestral men were predominantly hunters while ancestral women were predominantly gatherers. For men to be reproductively successful, they needed to be good at hunting and they needed to possess the skills associated with it such as good spatial ability and a strong upper body for throwing spears, etc. and fighting enemies.
For women to be reproductively successful, they needed to be excellent nurturers. They needed to bond well with fellow women so that they could take good care of the infants together and they also needed to bond well with their own infants in order to understand their emotional and physical needs.
This meant requiring good language and communication skills and also a good ability to read facial expressions and body language.
They also needed to have sharp smelling and tasting abilities so as to make sure they avoided gathering poisonous fruits, seeds and berries thereby protecting themselves, their infants, and their family members from food poisoning.
Over evolutionary time, men and women who had these skills and abilities successfully passed on these traits to succeeding generations resulting in an increase of these traits in the population.
Emergence of sex-typical behavior in early childhood
As mentioned earlier, boys and girls show a preference for ‘stereotypical’ behaviors from early childhood. They’re evolved to ‘practice’ these behaviors early on so that they become good at it once they reach reproductive age.
In short, boys are interested in things and how they work while girls are interested in people and relationships.
Boys like superman, batman, and other action figures that are great at defeating enemies and when engaged in play they fantasize being these superheroes. Girls like dolls and teddy bears and nurture and care for them.
Boys generally like games that sharpen their skills of throwing, hitting, kicking, and manipulating objects while girls generally like activities and games that allow them to bond with other people.
For example, boys play games like “Robber Police” where they take up the roles of robbers and policemen, chasing and catching each other while girls play games like “Teacher Teacher” where they take up the role of a teacher handling a class of kids, often imaginary kids.
As a child, I saw my sister and other female cousins play for hours being teachers and students in an imaginary class with a bunch of imaginary kids.
A recent study showed that infants as young as 9 months old prefer toys typed to their gender.1 When 1st and 2nd graders in another study were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, boys indicated a total of 18 different occupations, ‘football player’ and ‘policeman’ being the most common.
On the other hand, in the same study, girls indicated only 8 occupations, ‘nurse’ and ‘teacher’ being the most frequent.2
When boys break toys they want to understand how these toys work. They will even attempt to reassemble the toys or make new ones themselves.
I myself tried to make my own car numerous times in childhood but failed every time. Eventually, I was content with moving an empty cardboard box with a long string pretending it was a car. This was the most functional car I could make myself.
Boys also compete with each other building tall buildings while girls, when they build things, emphasize more on the imaginary people living in those houses.3
It’s common knowledge that girls are better at reading body language and facial expressions. This ability also seems to develop early in girls. A meta-analysis showed that females have an advantage in reading facial expressions even as children.4
Role of hormones
Numerous studies have consistently shown that gonadal hormones during early development have an influence on sex-typical behaviors in children. This influence has been found to be the strongest on childhood play behavior and sexual orientation.5
There’s a rare genetic condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) in which a mutation results in the masculinization of the brain of a person born as a female due to overproduction of male hormones during development in the womb.
A study published in 2002 showed that girls with this condition played more with masculine toys (such as constructional toys) even when alone, without any influence of parents.6 So much for the socialization theory.
References: 1. City University. (2016, July 15). Infants prefer toys typed to their gender, says study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160715114739.htm 2. Looft, W. R. (1971). Sex differences in the expression of vocational aspirations by elementary school children. Developmental Psychology, 5(2), 366.
3. Pease, A., & Pease, B. (2016). Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps: How to spot the differences in the way men & women think. Hachette UK.
4. McClure, E. B. (2000). A meta-analytic review of sex differences in facial expression processing and their development in infants, children, and adolescents.
5. Collaer, M. L., & Hines, M. (1995). Human behavioral sex differences: a role for gonadal hormones during early development?. Psychological bulletin, 118(1), 55.
6. Nordenström, A., Servin, A., Bohlin, G., Larsson, A., & Wedell, A. (2002). Sex-typed toy play behavior correlates with the degree of prenatal androgen exposure assessed by CYP21 genotype in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 87(11), 5119-5124.
Love has baffled poets, mystics, philosophers, and scientists for eons. It’s a central theme in numerous movies, songs, novels, paintings, etc. But love isn’t unique to humans. If the formation of long-term pair bonds is taken as the criterion for the existence of love, then other mammals and birds also show this tendency to fall in love.
The other important criterion for the existence of love is a huge parental investment in offspring. Because humans invest a lot in their children, the emotion of love evolved in us so that we’re thrown into the company of the person we love long enough to successfully raise our children.
Stages of love
One important factor contributing to the mystery surrounding the emotion of love is that it is not a simple emotion. The emotion of anger, for example, is easy to understand. Someone does something that violates your rights or hurts your interests and you feel anger towards them.
But love, especially romantic love, is more complex than that. In order to ease you into better understanding the stuff that love is made of, it’s a good idea to think of love as comprising of various stages that we all go through when we fall in love, right from the moment we feel the first pang of desire to establishing a secure, long-term relationship.
Lust is the first stage of love where you first begin to like a person. It’s the stage when you have a crush on someone. You may like the way they look, talk, walk or move. Or you may fall in love with their attitude and personality.
Lust is the basic sex drive that motivates a person to seek a range of mating partners. In marketing, we’re taught what is known as the sales funnel. At the top of the funnel are prospective customers who show an interest in your product but may not necessarily buy your product. The bottom of the funnel comprises of the fewer people who're ready to buy from you.
In a similar vein, you might be interested in many people sexually but you may not seek to establish a relationship with all of them.
The physical symptoms of the lust stage include flushing when talking to your crush, trembling and an increased heart rate.1
Your hormones are raging. Dopamine creates feelings of euphoria while adrenaline and norepinephrine are responsible for increased heartbeat and restlessness.
The psychological symptoms may include sexual excitement, fantasizing about your crush, and anxiety that stems from the fear of getting rejected.
You’re constantly under the pressure of trying to impress your crush and not doing anything silly to turn them off. This causes anxiety and you may find yourself committing silly speech and body mistakes in their presence, thanks to your increased level of self-consciousness.
For example, you might find yourself talking absolute nonsense in the presence of your crush because your mind is preoccupied with your crush, not with what you should or shouldn’t be saying.
This is the next stage where you feel a strong attraction to your crush. You get obsessed with them. In this stage, you’re strongly motivated to pursue your potential partner.
This usually happens when your crush also has indicated some sort of interest in you. If lust evolved to seek many sexual partners, attraction evolved to pursue those among them who’re likely to reciprocate your feelings.
The attraction phase activates the reward systems of your brain2 as you feel an overwhelming fixation with your partner. The same part of the brain is activated in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
You may spend a lot of time stalking their social media profile and you may ‘accidentally’ bump into them at work. While asleep, you might dream about spending time with them.
It’s at this stage that love makes you blind. You see your partner in a positive light only and overlook their flaws as endearing quirks.
In the words of Helen Fischer, author of Anatomy of love, “Infatuation is a stage where a person keeps popping into your brain and you can’t get them out. Your brain focuses on the positive qualities of the sweetheart and ignores their bad habits.”
Infatuation is your mind’s attempt to form a bond with your potential partner. It’s an emotion so powerful that it puts on hold your rational thinking faculties.
Essentially, your brain wants to fool you into thinking that this person you’re hooked to is ideal long enough for you to jump their bones and have kids with them.
Finding a mate and reproducing is too important a task, evolutionarily speaking, to think rationally about the shortcomings your potential partner.
When romantic attraction fades away, a stage comes when the blinding effect of hormones and neurotransmitters ends and you finally begin to see your partner for who they really are. If they satisfy your criteria for a long-term mate, you become attached to them and if they don’t you reject them.
On the other hand, if you’re rejected you sink into the depths of despair and if you’re accepted as a long-term mate you’re elated.
In this stage, you ask yourself questions like, “Can I trust my partner?” “Will they be there for me?” Can I spend the rest of my life with them?”
If these questions get answered in the affirmative, attraction then cements into a stable long-term attachment. You may no longer be crazy about each other but you know you want to be with each other.
Thank goodness people don't talk like this.
If you know you’re not a good fit but hold on to the relationship, you begin to harbor the feelings of resentment that would eventually break down the relationship anyway.
In the attachment stage, endorphins and hormones vasopressin and oxytocin flood your body creating an overall sense of well-being and security that is conducive to a lasting relationship.3
The attachment stage, therefore, evolved to motivate individuals to remain together long enough to complete their parenting duties.
References: 1. Crenshaw, T. L. (1996). The alchemy of love and lust. Simon & Schuster Audio.
2. Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D. J., Strong, G., Li, H., & Brown, L. L. (2005). Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love. Journal of neurophysiology, 94(1), 327-337.
3. Loyola University Health System. (2014, February 6). What falling in love does to your heart and brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206155244.htm
Stereotyping means attributing a personality trait or a set of personality traits to a group of people. These traits may either be positive or negative and stereotyping of groups is usually done on the basis of age, gender, race, region, religion, etc. For example, “Men are aggressive” is a stereotype based on gender while “Italians are friendly” is a stereotype based on region.
At its core, a stereotype is a learned/acquired belief about a group of people. We acquire stereotypes from the culture we live in and the information we’re exposed to. Not only are stereotypes learned unconsciously but stereotyping happens unconsciously too.1
This means that even if you may consider yourself free from any stereotypes, you’ll still stereotype people unconsciously. It’s an inescapable feature of human nature.
To test the degree of unconscious stereotyping in people, scientists use what’s known as 'Implicit Association Test'. The test involves showing subjects images quickly and gauging their response to figure what associations they hold in their minds before they get the time to think and react in more conscious and politically correct ways.
It’s these association tests that have revealed that even people who consciously think they don’t stereotype are prone to unconscious stereotyping.
Origins of stereotyping
Why is stereotyping such a pervasive feature of human psychology?
To answer this question, we go back to the Palaeolithic environments in which most of our psychological mechanisms evolved. Humans at the time organized themselves in nomadic groups with around 150-200 members in each group. They didn’t have to keep track of a large number of people. They only had to remember the names and personality traits of around 150-200 people.
Today, the societies in which people live have exponentially large populations compared to ancient times. One would expect that humans should now be able to remember the names and traits of much more people.
But this hasn’t happened. People don’t remember more names simply because they live in larger societies. The number of people a person remembers by name still correlates with what was expected of him during the Palaeolithic times.2
So how do you go about identifying and understanding the immensely large number of people that live in the world today?
You identify and understand them by categorizing them. Anyone who has studied Statistics knows that inordinate amounts of data can be better dealt with by organizing and categorizing it.
Stereotyping is nothing but categorizing. You treat groups of people as individuals. You categorize and attribute traits to groups of people based on their country, race, region, sex, etc.
Stereotyping = Cognitive efficiency
Stereotyping is, therefore, a way to efficiently understand a large number of people by dividing them into groups.
The “Women are emotional” stereotype gives you knowledge about half of the human population so you don’t have to survey or study every single woman on the planet. Similarly, “Blacks are hostile” is a stereotype that lets you know that there’s a group of people with a non-friendly predisposition.
As you can see, stereotyping is generalizing and it can blind you to the fact that a significant number of people within the stereotyped group may not fit the stereotype. In other words, you don’t consider the possibility that “All women are not emotional” or “Every black person is not hostile.”
But stereotypes are there for a reason
Stereotypes usually have a kernel of truth in them. If they didn’t they wouldn’t get formed in the first place. For instance, the reason why we don’t come across stereotypes such as “Men are emotional” because men, on average and unlike women, are good at hiding their emotions.
The point is that stereotypes are not born out of thin air. They have good reasons to exist. At the same time, not all individuals in the stereotyped group will necessarily possess the traits associated with the group.
So when you stereotype someone, the odds that you're right and wrong are both there. Both possibilities exist.
Us vs Them
Perhaps the most important function of stereotyping is that it helps us differentiate between friend and foe. Typically, people within one’s social group are likely to be perceived favorably while outgroups are likely to be perceived unfavorably.
This not only helps us feel good about ourselves and our group identity but also enables us to denigrate and sometimes even dehumanize outgroups. Negative stereotyping of outgroups has been a feature of human conflict throughout history.
Also, negative stereotyping is more powerful than positive stereotyping. Neuroscience studies show that our brains respond more strongly to information about groups portrayed unfavorably.3
To our hunter-gatherer ancestors, not being able to differentiate friend from foe could’ve easily meant death.
How stereotypes get broken
Stereotyping is learning by association. It works in the same way as do all other beliefs. If you’re exposed to only one type of associations, you’ll solidify them over time. If you’re exposed to contradictory associations, there’s a chance you’ll break the stereotype.
For instance, if you previously believed that “Africans are ignorant people” then watching Africans succeed on intellectual fronts could serve to break your stereotype.
However, not all of us have an equal ability to break free from stereotypes. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that people with higher cognitive abilities (such as pattern detection) are more likely to learn as well as break free from stereotypes on exposure to new information.4
In other words, smartness is required to learn and unlearn stereotypes, just as it is required to learn and unlearn all else.
References: 1. Nelson, T. D. (2006). The psychology of prejudice. Pearson Allyn and Bacon.
2. Bridgeman, B. (2003). Psychology and evolution: The origins of mind. Sage.
3. Spiers, H. J., Love, B. C., Le Pelley, M. E., Gibb, C. E., & Murphy, R. A. (2017). Anterior temporal lobe tracks the formation of prejudice. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 29(3), 530-544.
4. Lick, D. J., Alter, A. L., & Freeman, J. B. (2018). Superior pattern detectors efficiently learn, activate, apply, and update social stereotypes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(2), 209.
Dehumanization means stripping humans off of their human qualities. Dehumanized humans are viewed as less than human by the dehumanizers, no longer having the same worth and dignity that humans normally ascribe to each other. Researchers have identified two types of dehumanizations- animalistic and mechanistic dehumanization.1
In animalistic dehumanization, you deny human attributes in the other person and view them as an animal. In mechanistic dehumanization, you view the other person as an automatic machine.
For instance, you might say, “Stop acting like a monkey” to your friend jestingly. In this case, you’ve dehumanized your friend and reduced them from a higher level of being human to a lower level of being a monkey.
On the other hand, calling people "robots blindly falling into the traps of consumerism" would be an example of mechanistic dehumanization.
Though dehumanization may often be used jestingly, it also has serious, unfortunate consequences. Throughout history, when one social group oppressed, exploited or exterminated another social group they often resorted to the dehumanization of the latter in order to justify the atrocities.
“If the enemy group is sub-human, they’re not meant to be treated like humans and killing them is okay”, so the rationale goes. This sort of dehumanization tends to be accompanied by the feelings of disgust and contempt for the members of the dehumanized group.
Origins of dehumanization: Why are humans so special?
Dehumanization by definition requires putting humans and human-like qualities on a pedestal. Only when you ascribe high value to humanness can you demote non-humanness to a low level. But why do we do this?
It’s all about survival. We’re tribal creatures and in order to exist in cohesive societies, we had to have empathy and consideration for other humans, especially the members of our own group because they were more likely to be our relatives than outgroups.
So, attributing high value to humanity helped us co-exist morally and peacefully within our group. But when it came to raiding and killing other human groups, denying their humanness served as a nice self-absolving justification.2
In one of the most extreme incidences of dehumanization in recent history, Abu Ghraib prisoners were tied to a leash and forced to crawl on the floor while soldiers rode them like donkeys in 2003.
Role of beliefs and preferences
Beliefs played, and continue to play, a critical role in tying human societies together. Even in modern societies, all political conflicts, internal and external, are more or less conflicts of beliefs.
The rationale that plays out here is “If we all believe in X we’re all worthy humans and should treat each other decently. However, those who don’t believe in X are lower than us and should be disqualified as humans and mistreated if required.”
X can take any qualitative value in the above rationale- ranging from a particular ideology to a specific preference. Even seemingly innocuous preference such as ‘favourite music band’ can make people dehumanize and derogate those who don’t share their preference.
“What? You don’t like The Beatles? You can’t be human.”
“I don’t consider people who watch Big Brother as humans.”
“Bankers are shape-shifting lizards who want to control the world.”
Moving from dehumanization to humanization
It follows that if we are to ever reduce human conflict resulting from dehumanization, we need to do the opposite. Simply put, humanization is viewing outgroups as humans. It’s the ever-so-difficult task of reminding ourselves that they’re just like us who happen to be living elsewhere or have beliefs and preferences different from ours.
One way to do this is by interacting with outgroups. Research shows that frequent contact with outgroups induces a desire for humanization and outgroup humanization, in turn, leads to a desire for contact with outgroup members. Hence, it goes both ways.3
We can predict that those who believe humans are unique and superior to animals will be more likely to engage in dehumanization. Indeed, research confirms that those who believe that animals and humans are relatively similar are less likely to dehumanize immigrants and have more favorable attitudes towards them.4
Human beings are strange. While we have no trouble, against all our rationality, dehumanizing someone who looks, talks, walks, and breathes like a human, we sometimes ascribe human-like qualities to non-human objects. This weird but common phenomenon is known as anthropomorphism.
Examples include people who talk about their cars as one would about their spouse (“She needs a service", they’ll say), who talk to their plants and who dress up their pets. An ardent photographer I know once admitted that his DSLR camera was his girlfriend and I myself referred to this blog as “my baby” once while I was bragging about its success.
Watching out for what objects people anthropomorphize in their lives can be a good way to understand what they value the most.
References: 1. Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An integrative review. Personality and social psychology review, 10(3), 252-264.
2. Bandura, A., Underwood, B., & Fromson, M. E. (1975). Disinhibition of aggression through diffusion of responsibility and dehumanization of victims. Journal of research in personality, 9(4), 253-269.
3. Capozza, D., Di Bernardo, G. A., & Falvo, R. (2017). Intergroup Contact and Outgroup Humanization: Is the Causal Relationship Uni-or Bidirectional?. PloS one, 12(1), e0170554.
4. Costello, K., & Hodson, G. (2010). Exploring the roots of dehumanization: The role of animal-human similarity in promoting immigrant humanization. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 13(1), 3-22.
Homophobia is a pervasive phenomenon that has been known to occur since the dawn of human history. It ranges from having antagonistic attitudes toward homosexuals to engaging in violent acts against them. Homosexuality is illegal/punishable in many countries of the world as the following picture shows:
If homosexuals have been receiving so much hatred and opposition, it makes sense to assume they’re perceived as a threat by heterosexuals.
In this article, we discuss the possible causes of homophobia…
Bisexuals as a reproductive threat
Male bisexuals present a reproductive threat to male heterosexuals. Unlike women, men need to practice sexual techniques and the more they practice the better they become.
Male bisexuals tend to get precocious sexual experience from both men and women at an early age. They can also practice having sexual relations with different personality types which gives them an edge over heterosexual men lacking this experience.1
Also, male intrasexual competition for females is already intense and male bisexuals only aggravate this average competition such that an individual heterosexual male has to compete more to find mates.
This is probably why almost all homophobic violence is directed toward male homosexuals. Lesbianism has never been officially criminalized. Lesbians aren't as much of a reproductive threat to heterosexual women as gays are to heterosexual men.
Risk of disease
Despite having a reproductive advantage over heterosexual males, bisexual males are at a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and AIDS.
It is possible that what is known as homophobia is an exaggeration of the natural disgust reaction that most male heterosexuals feel when watching or thinking about male homosexual activity. Disgust, after all, is known to function mainly as a disease-avoidance mechanism.2
It is one thing, however, to feel disgusted toward a homosexual activity or imagining oneself in such an activity but an altogether different thing to actively preventing others from engaging in such activity.
Homophobia perhaps wasn’t much of a problem among our nomadic ancestors who lived in small groups where the risk of spreading disease was less but as humanity progressed with inventing agriculture and settling in large populations alongside river valleys, the increase in population density brought with it an increased risk of spreading disease.
This prepared the grounds for enforcing laws banning homosexual activity and explains why most laws that ban homosexual activity today can be traced back to the post-agricultural eras of human civilization.
Threat to masculinity
Most heterosexual men are wired to be masculine. Masculine qualities increase their mate value and hence the probability of attracting mates. A large number of gays are feminine and therefore men, by distancing themselves from feminine gays, can re-assert their masculinity.
This is why boys, since a young age, tease each other by calling each other “gay” because that’s the last thing they all want to be. From this perspective, homophobia can be viewed as an extreme way of protection of male masculinity.
A Cornell University study found that when men felt their masculinity was threatened, they displayed more homophobic attitudes in an attempt to re-assert their masculinity.3
You might have heard of at least one case of a person who vehemently preached against homosexuality but was himself caught with his pants down, literally, in a homosexual act.
This is the example of a person who had repressed their homosexuality. They knew, deep down, that they had homosexual inclinations but couldn’t come to terms with it or become fully conscious of it perhaps due to the stigma associated with coming out as a homosexual.
So they fought fiercely with anything remotely reminding them of their latent homosexuality, denigrating and shaming homosexuals whenever they got a chance.
A study has shown that homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires.4
Furthermore, studies have also revealed that men with homophobic tendencies gaze more at homosexual imagery than other heterosexual men5 and such men even show an increase in penile erection when exposed to male homosexual stimuli.6
References: 1. Baker, R. (2006). Sperm wars: Infidelity, sexual conflict, and other bedroom battles. Basic Books.
2. Curtis, V., de Barra, M., & Aunger, R. (2011). Disgust as an adaptive system for disease avoidance behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 366(1563), 389-401.
3. Cornell University. (2005, August 3). Men Overcompensate When Masculinity Is Threatened. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 14, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050803064454.htm
4. Weinstein, N., Ryan, W. S., DeHaan, C. R., Przybylski, A. K., Legate, N., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Parental autonomy support and discrepancies between implicit and explicit sexual identities: dynamics of self-acceptance and defense. Journal of personality and social psychology, 102(4), 815.
5. Cheval, B., Radel, R., Grob, E., Ghisletta, P., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., & Chanal, J. (2016). Homophobia: an impulsive attraction to the same sex? Evidence from eye-tracking data in a picture-viewing task. The journal of sexual medicine, 13(5), 825-834.
6. Adams, H. E., Wright, L. W., & Lohr, B. A. (1996). Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?. Journal of abnormal psychology, 105(3), 440.
Homosexual behavior, on the surface, doesn’t make any sense when looked at from an evolutionary perspective. Reproduction is at the heart of evolution and if homosexuals, by definition, are less likely or unable to reproduce, one can’t help but wonder why genes responsible for homosexual behavior were passed on.
In other words, homosexuality shouldn’t exist, evolutionarily speaking, because it fails to meet the fundamental criterion by which genes (and therefore traits) are passed on- reproduction. Individuals with homosexual tendencies should’ve died off from the population.
Benefits of homosexuality
If homosexuality has persisted in the population, it means there must some kind of a benefit that it confers to individuals that compensate for its huge cost i.e. less likelihood of reproduction.
When we study the animal kingdom, we find that animals engage in homosexual behavior for a variety of reasons. In almost all the cases, however, homosexual behavior confers the individual with benefits that outweigh its potential costs. (see Why we do what we do and not what we don't do)
Let’s go over the different reasons why homosexual behavior exists in nature...
1) Practice for sex
Since most individuals that show homosexual behavior are bisexuals (holds for animals as well as humans) or go through alternate phases of homosexual and heterosexual behavior, it has been proposed that they engage in homosexual behaviour as some sort of a practice before they can engage in heterosexual behavior.
The practice could be about any behaviour related to reproduction- ranging from courtship to mounting to genital stimulation.
For example, young rams and American bison stick to homosexual sex before they can achieve heterosexual sex. Similarly, same-sex sexual experience in young male fruit flies improves their later heterosexual mating outcomes.
Over 98% of men who show homosexual behaviour have done so by the time they’re 20. Also, women showing homosexual behavior tend to switch to heterosexual mating after staying in a homosexual relationship for about 1-3 years.1
This exposure to sex and sexual techniques provides these individuals an advantage over those lacking this exposure. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.
2) Social bonding
Members of some species engage in homosexual behavior to form and maintain alliances and social bonds.
For example, bonobos often have sex (including homosexual sex) to socialize, reduce conflict and share food. There’s also extreme intrasexual competition among male bonobos for females. Smaller and weaker bonobos often form pairs to defend themselves against stronger and larger male bonobos.
Female bonobos also show increased homosexual behavior during times of high tension and conflict.2 Similar behavior is observed in bottlenose dolphins, acorn woodpeckers, Japanese macaques and even lions.
Here's a clip showing homosexual activity among male lions...
Gay Pride! Male Lions Reinforcing Social Bonds - YouTube
3) Biased sex ratio
Homosexuality may also evolve when there’s a significant bias in the male-female sex ratio in a population. If the sex ratio is close to 1, then the individuals of the population are likely to form monogamous pair-bonds where 1 male is bonded to 1 female.
However, if there are more females than males, then evolution may favor female-female homosexual pair bonding because it’s a better strategy than to be left out by seeking a male who, in all likelihood, might already be bonded to a female.
Researchers studying a socially monogamous colony of albatross in Hawaii observed that 31% of all pairs consisted of pair-bonded females that courted and shared parenting responsibilities.3 The sex ratio in the population was heavily female-biased.
Same-sex pairing, in this case, removes excess females from the population that would, under other circumstances, provide pressure for males in opposite-sex pairs to abandon their partner.
There are more females available that can both participate in extra-pair copulations and provide care for the offspring afterward than there would be if all pairs in the population were opposite sex, or even if excess females remained unpaired.
Similar female-female pairings have been found in several other species such as Roseate terns and California gulls.
4) Helpers in the nest
Members of a family who do not benefit the family directly by reproducing can still aid the survival and replication of the family's shared genes in other ways. They can rear the young, provide resources, and offer other uncle-like services to their families.
For instance, gay men in Samoa are known to spend more time doing uncle-like activities than straight men.4
5) Reduced competition
Studies show that a male with 3 or more older brothers is likely to be gay.5 Having too many sons could lead to greater intrasexual competition and competition for parental resources among them. Hence, having a gay son after you've had a bunch of sons and can mitigate this competition.
6) Lack of heterosexual mates
It’s possible that a lack of heterosexual mates could lead individuals (especially males) to resort to homosexual behavior to release their sexual frustrations.
Male elephant seals that are prevented from mating during the entire mating season sometimes mount younger male pups coercively.
The same dynamic could be at play in prisons where otherwise heterosexual men engage in homosexual activity due to a lack of heterosexual outlets.
This is supported by an important 2013 finding that prisons in the US that allow conjugal visits report a decrease in sexual violence.7
1. Baker, R. (2006). Sperm wars: Infidelity, sexual conflict, and other bedroom battles. Basic Books.
2. Fruth, B., Hohmann, G., Vasey, P., & Sommer, V. (2006). Social grease for females? Same-sex genital contacts in wild bonobos. Homosexual behaviour in animals: An evolutionary perspective, 389.
3. Zuk, M., & Bailey, N. W. (2008). Birds gone wild: same-sex parenting in albatross. Trends in ecology & evolution, 23(12), 658-660.
4. Vasey, P. L., Pocock, D. S., & VanderLaan, D. P. (2007). Kin selection and male androphilia in Samoan fa'afafine. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(3), 159-167.
5. Blanchard, R., & Bogaert, A. F. (1996). Homosexuality in men and number of older brothers. The American journal of psychiatry, 153(1), 27.
6. Hensley, C., & Tewksbury, R. (2002). Inmate-to-inmate prison sexuality: A review of empirical studies. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 3(3), 226-243.
7. D’Alessio, S. J., Flexon, J., & Stolzenberg, L. (2013). The effect of conjugal visitation on sexual violence in prison. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(1), 13-26.
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