Natural Rationality | decision-making in the economy of nature


[PNAS] Why Sex is Good, and The Evolutionary Psychology of Animate Perception

in this week PNAS:

A glimpse at the evolutionary psychology of animal perception, by New, Cosmides and Tooby (famous evolutionary psychologists):
Visual attention mechanisms are known to select information to process based on current goals, personal relevance, and lower-level features. Here we present evidence that human visual attention also includes a high-level category-specialized system that monitors animals in an ongoing manner. Exposed to alternations between complex natural scenes and duplicates with a single change (a change-detection paradigm), subjects are substantially faster and more accurate at detecting changes in animals relative to changes in all tested categories of inanimate objects, even vehicles, which they have been trained for years to monitor for sudden life-or-death changes in trajectory. This animate monitoring bias could not be accounted for by differences in lower-level visual characteristics, how interesting the target objects were, experience, or expertise, implicating mechanisms that evolved to direct attention differentially to objects by virtue of their membership in ancestrally important categories, regardless of their current utility.

And the reason why sex makes people feeling good: it's all oxytocyn! Waldherr and Neumann showed that "sexual activity and mating with a receptive female reduce the level of anxiety and increase risk-taking behavior in male rats for several hours" (!) because "oxytocin is released within the brain of male rats during mating with a receptive female"