Robert Sapolsky is a neuroendocrinologist and author. He is currently a professor of biology, and professor of neurology and neurological sciences and, by courtesy, neurosurgery, at Stanford University. His latest book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst is available now.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Check it out the job Rogan experience during my day, Joe Rogan podcast by night. First of all, thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it. I found out about you several years back. It heard something about talk, so Plasmo Sis Machinery, yeah yeah, anion, seen a speech that you had given on it. You were talking about how many people have been. Affected by this cat parasite. I've. I cats my whole life and I even had feral cats and I've always wondered it's probably get tested and I'm about the result well the it was just fascinating to me that it literally I mean what is the number that you estimate in and Americans alone, that might have been. In fact, it's on the order of I'm not sure with Americans but worldwide it. Something like fifty percent of humans is, the best guess fifty percent of humans worldwide on that scale.
We have for people never heard of this. Would you mind explaining what this parasite is and how it affects rats and cats? And then people? Ok, totally bizarre. So it's this protozoan parasite talks, Asthma Gandhi, and it's got one of these weird parasitic lifestyle's. The only place on earth where it could reproduce sexually is in the God of the cat. I don't know why there are people who know this, but so reproduces there comes out in the Feces feces are eaten by rodents and now talk shows evolutionary challenge is to get there braided into a cat stomach. So talk so has evolved. Is this? ability is slowly migrates to the brain of rodents, an basically wipes out the innate fear that rodents have of cat smells
like you, take a lab rat who's been like the descendant of lab rats for, like one thousand years, I've never seen a cat and put like a little puddle of cat pee in its cage. It's getting on the other side of the cage, just hardwired. Actual aversion to cat pheromones and then put on assuming a and it looses that a version, and back in the subset of rat. They like the smell so out in the natural setting you now going and approach the cat and soon the rodents inside the cat stomach and talk soon We lose life cycle. Well, I had heard that it was so it's a subset of rats that it actually are gravitated towards it, because I heard it actually requires I'm sexually right. Yes, that that's actually work that we did in my lab that it be across is some of the circuitry in the brain in the hypothalamus, so that that Pheromones that used to be activating every alarm circuit in Europe like limbic system and these rd
now, instead of taps, sexual arousal pathways, and in male rats when they smell cat pheromones, they increase testosterone production, so Talk so has just figured out the most brilliant way of doing it and makes cat pee smell sexy. Do is there any understanding at all of them, mechanism of how a parasite can figure out how to rewire an animals sexual reward system, the fear of predators like how does that work. No, that's something. My lab spent a bunch of years on trying to figure out when you Look at some of these parasites. This taps into this whole world of he's. You roll manipulation of hosts by parasites and turns out they've like evolved unbelief truly brilliant mechanisms for manipulating hosts for their own benefit mean think about it. You get rabies. You get a rabid dog and with that
about, is a virus that has back to the nervous system of that dog so that it's now rabbit and more likely to buy somebody with viral party, holes in its saliva, which it now pass onto the next individual, like you, Ten thousand newer scientists and stick them in the convention on the, or biology of aggression and ray These knows more about the neural watering of aggression than we do and Talk so knows quotation marks something fear and aversion and the neurobiology of attraction, part of what it seems to involve, is so somewhere along. The way has picked up a gene that is pertinent to the dopamine system in mammals, dopamine. Is this neuro transmitter? It's about pleasure. There's protozoan parasite for billion years? That's had any use for this stuff, except it's part of how talk so seems to be.
Manipulating the reward system in rodents and then couple years ago, there's a paper showing that in chimpanzees talks makes you less afraid of the smell of leopards. So this appears to be a parasite that has evolved, like this spectacular insight into fear, circuitry in attraction circuitry an it's all for its own benefit to wind up in a cat, Scott so, specifically, cats like it did, do the chimpanzee still over versions to snakes and other things you can tell them yeah yeah wow and at one point my lab was full of like ball cat pee in Wolf. He is actually like a company You could buy urine from No, why anyone would want it, except for us, but they so urine from actually what they use it for is you can go, Burt sit around your garden to scare the deer away their coming in here,
stuff. So there's I don't know they get the urine from, but it's like comes Sir hit and all of that and yeah, it's remarkably specific so, like other ed, ever done test where they test. Like Wolf urine or anything like that, around with champs do they have any aversion to that. As far as I know, the chimps that he is only been with big khaki or not, but the rodent studies exactly that, showing it's a fair specificity, the rodents lose a little bit of their general skittishness they get a little bit disinhibited behavior lake. So just in general, there out more and more exploratory more likely to get eaten, but the most selective laser in effect is they're, not scared, anymore of cat pheromones it's fascinating to me is that I've also read that there was a disparate amount of test full soccer teams that are in
shoes, with high rates of infestation of Toxo plasma Okay, that ones that one's new to me, but that that like exactly the sort of epidemiological studies that are popping up about humans array. So what about humans? um there's two branches of interesting stuff with talks with humans, One is a literature. That's been around for quite some time, show thing that talks so seems to increase the risk of schizophrenia, there's higher rate with schizophrenia of individuals who have antibodies against talk, so in other words, sometime in the past, their body was dealing with it, who cats growing up who's We had cats during pregnancy and like any. Who gets pregnant knows you immediately get all anxious about cat litter boxes because of the possibility of talking Plasmo Sis. The feel nervous system. Do all sorts of damage
a subtle version of it seems to be a sweeper effectively. The risk of schizophrenia The other realm is toxo. Infected humans gets rule changes in personality nurse call Jeep certain nurse psychological profiles, they get a little bit disinhibited. If you are talk so infected you're, more likely to die in a car accident involving reckless speeding if your talks to infected and clinically depressed for the same. Severity of depression, you're more likely to impulsively, kill yourself. In other words, this is doing something kind of similar. If you're are at one of the just wired scary things in the universe out, there is a smell of a cat. If for human, it's hurt. Going through space really fast and jumping out of windows and oxo seems to blunt a lot of those effects there in this
The speech that I saw you give you were talking about your time working in a hospital and that there was a disproportion amount of motorcycle victims. This was actually something I heard from a clinician, a cold old parasitology infectious disease, who sort of when I was first telling him about this sort of merchant talks, his story. He had like one of these bolts of memory, saying my god, I remember back when I as a resident. There is this old doctor saying if you're ever harvesting organs from an accident victim I don't know why. I don't know why. But if Somebody who was in a motorcycle accident make sure you check to see if they have toxoplasmosis. I don't know why but there's a high rate of that that you find in organs from people who were driving motorcycles recklessly
totally anecdotal an equals one kind of thing, but nonetheless this was a guy who likes studies factious disease and Toxoplasmosis an had not heard about sort of the behavioral findings before in the why the recesses of his memory, so what initially seemed like. Ok, this is a parasite. That's very selectively. Develle this life cycle between pat stomachs and rodent brains and complete life cycle and weird when it gets into humans. I have some behavioral effects, also this just kind of evolutionary spillover, but then you see if it's doing something similar between chimps and leopards. Adjusting that lifecycle. Manipulation has been selected for in primates as well, very strange it's a very strange and for me the strangest thing is the certainty with which there's a could zillion vine
versus and bacteria, and God knows what else out there that manipulate behavior in ways we just haven't figured out yet or have this, we haven't discovered the particular yeah What does it do to women? Similar effect seems to have less severe effects on nurse psychological profiles in women, again. The literature on this is pretty scanty in humans, but It seems to have some similar effects, but not as extreme However, the story now gets a little bit more complicated, and this is actually this fabulous scientist on JV us who's. My post office now Professor in Singapore, whose continued study this. Okay so normally One of the things animals have evolved to be really good at is picking up sick Somebody else is unhealthy. It's like a potential mate is
unhealthy, there's sickness, behavior, there's very olfactory factory If you're a rodent, makes perfect sense. The last thing you want to do is to be mating with somebody who's like This is an infectious and rodent equivalent of std so normally sick animals, parasite infected animals and such are detected by other rodents and avoided toxin. Does something different? You get a it so infected mail, and now he smells more attractive to female rodents and when mating talks who gets into the sperm and because be transmitted to the female So suddenly, we've got a different story here we start off with the parasites to rewear toxin was just ruthlessly exploiting the poor. Rooms for its own. Like reproductive benefit. It's, an evolutionary selfish gene will be, but now Instead it
what elements of instead of parasite, ism symbiosis, so Your male rat infected with talks, downside you're more likely to get eaten by a cat upside you're, more likely to pass on copies of your jeans by increased sexual selection. So it might be, in fact, more of a balance, symbiotic relationship between male rats and talk, so you know more research is needed, blah blah it's just like cool, sort of biology out there, it's crazy and is it is transferred sexually with men and women too, as well as with rats. I don't know, I don't think it's been looked up. Wow. That seems like something I would want to look at right away. What about organ donors
some other than again pure anecdotal ism, that one elderly doc somewhere back when saying watch it when you're getting organs from like people killed in motorcycle accidents. Beyond that, I don't know, I mean people are looking Yeah. I don't I'm sure, do they even test like say if you got a liver and you know like you needed a liver transplant with a suspect they do and sort of in the clinical world of people who worry about talk so talk. So pregnancy, scary, alarms, going off toxic anything else. After an acute period of infection, you have a latent toxoplasma infection in other words the agreed upon sort of notion there is toxic, just calling latent. It's formed sort of these cysts that are in dirt and you got nothing to worry about then, but the whole notion that. Meanwhile, up in the nervous system, there's effects happening fair
infectious disease. People are thinking about inflammation, side in the body there for them. Chronic talks to infection is not something you worry about a whole lot, but if it's having behavioral effects up there, nervous system. Maybe it is something to worry about. Well, it's just it's to me, it's unfathomable how this little thing figures out how to hijack a whole a whole body. Old biological system and work to its own desires. It's very it's very hard for me to grasp. Well, if you Thank you for in terms of I don't know talk so has had like one hundred thousand more generations to evolve its ways of exploiting mammals and mammals. Had ways of fighting it off. What's most remarkable is it turns out? This is like a whole world of
sites that do bizar, manipulative things to their hosts, most of it. In the realm of mammals instead, there's like some parasitic, something or other gets into barnacles and takes over their reproductive system so that the barnacle it's a whole for them them not the barnacle but the parasite. Lay eggs into There's the worm that infects. The grasshopper makes it commit suicide. Exactly that was bizarre bazaar there's this wasp that gets into cocoro and takes a lot of nervous. If fascinated by parasites beyond, but it's just it's, So confusing to me how something I mean, obviously you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of generations for it to get to this. This current state, but like How something evolves to be so effective, yeah, it's just it's
confusing it's remarkable, just to flip to the other end of the spectrum. In terms of what coevolution between two different species to be like over the last twenty thousand years, look at what we've done, we've taken wolves and we turned him into these creatures- we put Halloween costumes on and finding a couple years ago, which, like floored me this hormone oxytocin, which is totally trendy oxytocin, is completely cool, mother, infant bonding is mediated by oxytocin pair bonding and monogamist species. Oxytocin makes you more trusting dresses and generous and comic games and oxytocin has all these prosocial effects within a species and then it turns out that there hormone that is spent the last. I don't know hundred million years having mothers and infants connect to each other emotionally
when you and your beloved dog, sit there and stare into each other's eyes. You both Sikri Oxytocin, and If you pump up oxytocin levels in your dog, it will stare at you longer and you will stare longer back and secrete more oxytocin. This is like an ancient ancient hormone having to do with mother infant bonding. Twenty thousand years, which is like a blink of an eye evolutionarily. Definitely we're doing this weird oxytocin tango thing with another species and species feed and take care of, and they like manipulators wildly into like getting in like good treat bones and stuff like that, and they in turn do all sorts of one. For our self esteem, because they like lick us unconditionally and where, that come from, I just twenty,
thousand years and you've like hijack this ancient Neuroendocrinology about like parental behavior and Now it's got to do with this weird symbiotic thing. We in wolves worked out somewhere back when Does it have any affect on friendship like with human beings staring at each other. Do that if anybody ever tested that I would assume people have looked at that it For example, it strengthens Menachem sponsor and there's a literature by now looking at oxytocin has its effect by binding to an oxytocin rider there's a gene for the Oxytocin receptor comes in a number of variants, and if you have one super variant, that's associated with oxytocin, having less effective of a gnome in your nervous system, that's associated with less stable relationships so None of this stuff is deterministic your your you
Sex life in your romantic life is not being determined by this. One. Gene like nothing remotely resembling that, but that's just part of the mix and I just wonder if that makes applies to like botanic friendships like male, bonding and stuff. I wonder if there's like, when guys are out having a good time if there are also getting a good juice of oxytocin, my guess, is when you have your basic basic, like pathetic male sociality, which is like you like talk about search for five minutes with some guy and, as a result, you're willing to give up your life for him because, like This is male male Bonnie. I bet that's got something to do with oxytocin Yeah I mean it only makes sense. I mean how many of these different factors are there in the manipulating human behavior, I mean this is essentially your specialty right. This yeah, Okay. So, switching over to this part of the brain, the frontal cortex, which is just like the cool most part of the brain. It's the most
recently evolved. We've got more of it or it's more complicated than us than any other species. What is the frontal cortex do? It makes you do the harder thing when it's the right thing to do self control. Long term planning gratification post emotional regulation, all this sort of stuff and frontal cortex its function- is totally amazing how it does this? so another way of stating that is over and over in life we come to. It's in the road where we've got temptations, we've got impulses and we've got yeah, go for it right now. You know you want it and the frontal cortex is At that juncture, as to whether we like to in Maine and pulse of self indulgent thing that we may perhaps regret for the rest of our lives or, if you tough it out, and do the right and like what your frontal cortex as a critical juncture. This is like one of the most consequential pieces under a biology. We've got
so you ask what kind of things affect? How well frontal, cortex is working in that one second, where you to decide if that person is holding a cell phone or a handgun into you, pull a trigger, or, I have one second, where you decide to you, take this thing and run or does temptation, get resisted in. So what sort of biological. Things affect what your frontal cortex is doing. How hungry you are. You're hypoglycemic. How tired you are, if you're in pain, all of those make the frontal cortex work as well. If your mail, what you're to stop levels are at the time, no surprised Austrian makes your frontal cortex all sluggish and stupid, with your ask for money. Levels were if you've been Walmart Ized over the previous five months, because sustained stress will, after a few the frontal, cortex but wait.
What versions of the number of genes you've got? How much stress hormones you were exposed to from your mother when you were a fetus? How much lead there was in the water when you were a kid, if you ancestors were nomadic pastoralists and developed a culture of honor. What you're, attritional status was when you were kid and everything in between all of it's coming down to whoa, there's just biological forces, shaking what we're doing to an incredible extent, exact same story about any other part of the brain This is just like one of the most dramatic ones, oh a moment of agency and free will and volition whether or not I'm going to resist this temptation, or not by age. Five, for example. The kids socioeconomic status is already a predictor of how much frontal development there is in this part of the brain, because
if you've been foolish enough in this country, they choose the wrong parents to get born into there and you're being raised in poverty on the average, stress hormone levels, are higher and as that on the average, your frontal court this is thinner and not developing. This fast and on the average already at age, five you're, not is good is on average at the holdout relief? you're going to be glad you held out for this long term reward thing. Wow now is also have an effect on the frontal cortex. Almost certainly that's. That's a hot area of research we were originally hoping to see that oh toxin was just going to like laser in on just some key parts of the brain that are absolutely essential to its behavioral effects. Seems to wind up more widespread, so that was sort of makes a tougher story, in some ways, this sort of impulse
of behavior is either Youtube. A stronger biology of impulsiveness, which has much do with the limbic system, the image or a week, biology of hold on a SEC, Are you sure this is such a great idea, the hold on second is just such a great idea is the realm of the frontal cortex. So it could very readily be half of the equation right there now the cortex is not fully online until your way two thousand and twenty five, it's like it's a boggling thing, So you just live your life like an ape until you're mean you're deep into your adulthood, you're responsible for yourself for over seven years and years yeah which has some like stupefying implications, and not just for like explaining why your freshman roommate was the way it was Is it uniform with men and women yeah
female development, maturation of the frontal, cortex configures faster, of course, in males of course, but none the less it's this very delayed match. We're, not sure that has to do with you. Talk about with testosterone did impeding it seems to be a different mechanism of their own, but just in general, so because it rained so This is not that testosterone impedes it and then there's something else as well. Sure does not help, but it's this completely. Well, it's basically the explanation for why adolescents are adolescent they brain. That's going full blast, especially the open mean system with reward and sensation, seeking a novelty seeking anticipation and a frontal cortex That's like half baked at that point and is now very good at controlling impulses. That's why lessons from the way they are. So two sort of really interesting implications with that. First,
one is sort of in the kind of big picture legal implications, realm this fact that the frontal cortex is not fully developed. Till you're in your mid twenties was in possibly the main driving force around the Supreme Court some years ago saying you can't execute somebody for a crime they did before age. Eighteen and you can't put him behind bars for the rest of life without a chance of parole. Because there are frontal, cortex, isn't quite there. Yet, of course, the flaw with that thinking is the presumption that magically on the very morning of your 18th birthday, you suddenly have a spanking new frontal cortex that his memorized all those Sunday morning sermons and can like get you to do the right thing, but at least the courts have implicitly recognized that brain, maturation, parentheses, frontal cortex is such that adolescent most controls is not what you see in adults and it has to be judged differently.
The other issue, that sort of fascinates me a neurobiological level. You know most year quartet, This is doing just fine by the time, your three four five years old and there's the frontal cortex taking another like twenty years to get there. So you say so! Is the want to protect, just a tougher construction project and the rest of the brain. Does it have like fan see type neurons. You don't see elsewhere that taken wiring or like unique neurotransmitters like what is it just like a tougher construction project Is that why you get that lay? And you look closely an no it's. Not it's not implicitly a tougher project, you, don't get delayed frontal maturation, because it's so hard to water up you get the delay this we've been selected to have the delay, you want Frontal cortex that spends long long time. Learning. Ok, how come
because, by definition, if this is the last part of the brain to wire up. It's the part of the I mean that's most sculpted by experience and environment and least constrained by jeans, and this the part of the brain that does social, appropriate context, learning and that's incredibly, tough stuff like every society, every culture on earth you think about it. Every culture on earth celebrates some types of murder. An horrified and punishes other types some get medals, some gay damnation. Some get like simply that one every culture has some sort of strictures against lying. Yet, in some certain, expect you to have socially appropriate line certain circumstances of someone and every culture does this differently: every culture, culture, specific Moraes and situational ethics, and things like that.
Like fancy, complicated stuff that takes a long time to learn that you're doing is an adolescent as a young, adult you're learning all the subtleties of appropriate behavior. That's your frontal! Vertex learning, not just how to get you to do the right thing that there's a harder thing to do, but all most complexities of what actually counts is the right thing and all the things that make us human above all the other primates, above all others, because we're this species that in cultures can say we strongly believe in monogamy and build our theology surround that yet the same time have incredibly high rates of people failing to remain monogomous yet condemned. We have cult here's where, like you're, not Postal. I yet at some point you have to learn like okay, okay, ok, to lie in a circumstance of Sotelo.
Are you harboring those refugees in your attic? No, no, of course not situational ethics, like that it takes a very strong frontal cortex. To keep you from lying in certain tempting circumstances? But once you decide you're going to lie, it takes a frog, a strong frontal cortex to do it right to do it effectively, because how to regulate your voice and your facial questions and where your eyes are looking. Wow, so this is a part of the brain. That's got to incorporate make your societies rules as to when it's ok to lie, and in fact, this sort of thing that we've used heroic, but when it's not ok to lie, but once you decide you're going to lie how to do it effectively, This is like complicated neurobiology. It can't just come with a genetic program, the wires it up. It's gotta be totally it didn't by learning all those subtleties wow, an
is there another animal other than humans that does delay reward yeah. The dopamine system, the reward system, the interactions with the frontal cortex happening a rodent like RD, should learn to master okay. If I press this lever once I get one reward, but if I do two lever press, if I work twice as get free, rewards. Whoa, that's the way to go, it could mask That monkeys can master that, but it's just implicitly a different thing like a monkey, could do a delayed gratification. Task where it's got wait a couple of minutes for the reward, and the exact same neurobiology of a as us doing, delayed gratification except you too delayed gratification. Like you study hard
to get a good seat, squirting into a good college, to get into a good grad school to get a good job to get into the nursing home of your choice needed delayed gratification that takes sixty years. Depending on your theology. We do delayed gratification where the rewards not going to come supposedly until the afterlife, so like yeah, a monkey can have its frontal cortex. Do delayed gratification for wow on the scale of the minutes, and we'd go and we'd like to it for seventy years, it's we're just in a different league in that regard, wow essentially, maybe even some religious rules are some ethical guidelines that we follow could almost be a scaffolding for the frontal cortex. Truly the rule of what counts as the right thing, and what counts is the harder thing is very, very culture specific and that, tough neurobiological job to master. Do we have any
idea when this was do. You said this is the most recent thing developed and humans are the most recent we understand. Well, it's the it's. The most recently evolved part of the brain, which is to say, like wizards cortex, so to write home about, but they've got like primitive cortex. It's not who you go to mammals that you start getting, fancier cortex that does more abstract stuff and not to your to mammals that you start seeing the first hints of frontal cortex. So you know recently of the last five thousand two hundred million years. So in other words, the frontal cortex is like spanking new, an it's not till you get primates mates. You get a big frontal cortex and is particularly large apes and then proportionally, it's particularly larger, Complex Sweetwater, us. No. I know you spend a lot of time studying baboons and I listen to that radio podcast that you did where this baboon call troop called I've been
that was next to the place that was dumping, human ways or human garbage and These baboons became accustomed to eating this human garbage and the until accidented change in their behavior when the males, the dominant males got sick from tuberculosis, yep okay, so as you said, I've been studying baboons. Do you study them by the way like? How does that work? What do you do? Oh it's been thirty. Three summers I spent out there going back to single every year it ended eight years ago, but it had been essentially thirty. Three St Somers wow of like you go back. Same animals in you camp under the tree- and this is enough- a national park in EAST Africa. You? Go back to the same animals and sort the killer area? I focus my work on over the years is stress and health and what stress does to the brain and
and with the baboons it was trying to make sense of What does your social rank and your personality and your pet social affiliation have to do with which baboons have the in cholesterol levels, which baboons have the high blood pressure who's healthy who's. Not so these are animals where you'd go. Do your basic, Jane, Goodall scene of just like watching him endlessly and knowing all their personal lives and in addition I would dart anesthetize the baboon's easing up a system which was totally fun to do but anesthetize them when they're down to basically the same clinical work up. So you would do in a human sort of ok, as this guy is immune system working this year house there just working, Last time I was out, I had a portable the cardiogram machine for looking at cardiovascular. Laskin cardiac function these guys. So
keeping their for day. You do various tests and then you let him go back to their bodies and then do you have a sense of how is there bodily function, functions, health, healthier diseases; there stress physiology related to aspects of behavior First, ten years out there I thought what I had learned was: if you want to be a healthy, baboon, with a minimal number of stress, related diseases and you get a choice in the matter. You want to be high, ranking took me about twenty five years and almost certainly that had to do with my having to grow up a little bit on my own to realize that there's much interesting, stuff, going on If you got a choice between being a high ranking, baboon or a bad, with a lot of stable affiliate of relationships, translated into english friends friend We're going to be even better for your health, like that's even more protective,
how often do you sit in groom with somebody else? How often you're sitting in contact? How often you playing with infant, turns out that's much. Have a buffer for good health and simply what your dominance rank is these baboons. They started eating food from a resort and a their behavior to the point where they were no longer getting up very early and foraging. They knew when the food was coming. So they just wander down. This dump and then they would basically essentially fight over dominance of the dump and a few strong, powerful males had control over that until they got sick, great yep. So this was the troop next word. Am I not have this tourist lodgings? territory and thus had a garbage dump them, like national parks everywhere, have this issue of having a control wild animals access to. So this garbage dump true and she said to take him to basically just living in the trees above the dump waddled down each morning. Just in time for the like Food Chung
leftovers from the lodge to be dumped there and delight a few studies on this troop. They got high cholesterol levels. Airline diabetes they put on like subcutaneous fat? you really should I start yeah exactly that tooth decay. They got a different like parasites in their stomachs, so they're, just fine living off of the good life there like thrown out. H, mistress launch and in, a true a couple of kilometres away, I don't know how this works but in some baboon way, some of my mails got word of this feasting going on up there like they smelled it. I don't know but it evolved that in the mornings about half the mails from my troop would pick up an run, those couple of kilometres to go punch it out with the guys there to get access to some of this garbage.
The thing was that it wasn't random, which of my baboons would go over there. So you're a guy from like an outside troop, and you show up at this garbage dump and there's eighty baboons like feasting there and you're an outsider, no one from my true but like dream of going near the garbage and less he's a big aggressive guy, The other thing is morning is when baboons do most of their socializing stuff, he said around and they groom and they gossip before they go out, and they do the days foraging so If you were willing to pick up instead spend each morning fighting with strangers over garbage. That means very socially affiliated so, in other words, the mails from my troop we're going to eat the garbage were the most aggressively socially affiliated guys so This is going on for a couple years and then there turns out to be a tuberculosis outbreak. Among the humans over there, because there was tubercule, are meeting the law and Sean Amidon
Spectre, who's being bribed and all sorts of horrifying things and you know human gets tuberculosis and they can sit around and write thousand page novels about it from the next ten small, the small the ways to break team be kills other primates like over the course of weeks. It's like wildfire non human primates. So there's an outbreak of TB from the infected meat in this launch dump and it basically all truth, and it kills all My baboons, who been going over there every morning for food so now what you have is half the number of males as usual. So have two to one female to male ratio, which is pretty typical for a baboon troop, and the key thing is the Babu. Which were left are the nice guys socially affiliated there, the least aggressive, what's baboon aggression about your
bad day. You find somebody smaller and weaker to take it out on they weren't dumping on weaker animals. They weren't having displaced aggression, and it turned to just to be technical here like A much nicer troop they were at much higher rates of grooming, less aggression, more sitting in contact mail. Boones would groom each other, which he don't see MEL baboons grooming, each other in this troop they would so we ended up itself. That's totally fascinating, so ok, you get rid of eighty percent of the males who the jerks and you have a I mean there are going on what was most interesting, the thing that just flat and me was ten years later? The truth is still like that ten years later, all the males who were there during the TB outbreak, who survived an and ushered in sort of the the commune there, long gone Who is the new mails mail pick up at puberty. They leave their
true and they go wondering and joined some adult troops somewhere else and spend the rest of their life. There hang up the hierarchy, in other words, ten years later, all the males in this troop who were still being less dresses and more socially affiliate if they had grown up someplace else and some other true and transferred adolescence into this troop and true power author learned, even though they grew up in the normal big bad baboon world out there, some How they learned, we don't do crap like that here, cut it out, wow and I did a ton of work, sort of seen what that was about an it. Take six months, once these new mails show up for them there, subject to resident males jumping on them, because there's less of this displacement, aggression, females, who are getting dumped on less by males and thus are much more relaxed, lower stress hormone levels are more.
Going to be affiliated with him, you're some new adolescent male and you show in your typical baboon troop, and it's like eighty days on the average before some female grooms you in this troop. It was like three days every because everybody is much more relaxed because no one's being miserable to each other, and it turns out you take the turkey, adolescent male, because these guys were just as jerky as any transfer males were in to any of the neighboring troops and, like you even nicer and they calm down over the next six months and literally what you had what social anthropologist would be forced to define as cultural transmission non genetic transmission of a style of behavior from one generation to the next. This was culture, being transmitted the culture of high. Affiliation and less aggression, and these baboons are essentially living in Naturalizer, not getting food from people. Yeah they're, just living,
out in the Serengeti in EAST Africa and just going about normal bathroom life for me, What was most striking about this is like baboons are rates of aggression as you find in any non human may call dominance. Highly hierarchical structure, societies since the early 60s they've, not just metaphorically but they've, literally been the textbook example of primates evolved for regression and male dominance in hierarchy and stratification at and all it took was one generation of a radically unique circumstance. An you see. Pattern of baboon behavior that had never been seen before. So, in a sense what we see in human beings, we see big differences in
troops in the way people are treated the way women are treated the way. The way we they cohabited with each other. The way you just whatever did did the community they live and there's differences. The way would be a, but with most prime mates. Would you essentially say like most Can panzies are most Bonobo's that you can kind of uniformly say, but no, behave this way, chimpanzees behave. This way. Is this the only time you've ever seen like a complete variation of the standard behavior of a primate as far as I know, this is the only example of something like this that's been seen, but there are ecological extremes and you get some medical shifts, but in lots of ways. This is the biggest cultural shift that, anyone is seen in sort of the social milieu of baboon troop. And for me what the biggest take home messages. That is exactly what you just honed in on uzis.
These are textbook examples of the inevitability of stratification, aggression and turns out. It's not inevitable. It can suddenly flip with some like unique certain it doesn't be transmitted multi generational E. Anyone who could look at humans and say that there certain inevitability is to some of the most unpalatable things we do. Then I have like stand on yes, baboons have the behavioral sort of flesh? ability plasticity built in to them just lurking for a unique situation like this and suddenly six months of a different cultural style and you adopt it and pass it on again I would like to stand on to say that certain of the worst things about human culture and behavior is inevitable, but we vary so wildly from it. And a continent that we've kind of gotten used to it. But to see it in
in another kind of primate and to see that circumstances can change the way they behave and and really change their entire community to the point where decades later, it's twenty years later, they're still the same right. Is it the case? They, the culture there went for about twenty years, and is it does it evolve back to normal unfortunately, it basic we ended when the troops would have moved into the vacuum created by the tv breaking the neighboring troop movements Lodge area and they kind of disintegrated, as is true lot of got the Bechu eighted enough to the humans there to represent the danger again park rangers had to kill about half of them. So the troop. Basically does not exist anymore, but I went through about twenty years
creepy. Well, thank you hope for comes to human beings, because it seems like it's such a radical shift to the behavior of a at and prime it without a language yeah that too, to see that that it's possible that just a shift from stands, can change the entire behavior pattern of this troop yep. I mean sort of the easy take home messages to usher in world peace with humans. Just like go give TB to like really aggressive nails. But I guess that's not the sort of most obvious take home message, but I mean look at humans change, human cultures change the 17th century, like the most terrifying people in Europe were the Swedes. They spent the whole century rampaging through Europe and they've. I've gone more than two hundred years since they've had a war world war, on Christmas trees in one thousand, nine hundred and fourteen all it took was about four hours british and german troops fraternising from across the lines, while they were suppose really doing nothing more than retreiving
dead bodies from no man's land between the trenches and before it was over with they were praying together and having Christmas dinner together and playing soccer together and exchanging addresses to meet after the war and where they held out for days at some of those points until officers have to show up and threatened to shoot, these guys in less. They went back to trying to kill each other change. Which can occur very dramatically. I mean these days. There's higher travel agencies that devote that are devoted to Vietnam, veterans going to Vietnam going back? work reconciliation ceremonies are going to foundations that literally build bridges across rivers help schools, all of them. Could have been conceived of that like one thousand nine hundred and seventy yeah humans have astonishing capacity to change,
it's so fascinating when you consider all of the variables that cause uh listen to be who they are to behave, who they are and then them into. Acting with all these other people who share variables and have unique variables and there's so many different factors in what makes a community. A city, a country- it's pretty mind, boggling, consider all the variables it's utterly mindboggling and just to really get sort of provocative or at this point What one does with all that complexity and with all the biology we haven't discovered yet and all those gay Thanks have holes of explanations to wear that behavior comes from this thing we call free will yeah All free will is, is the biology we haven't discovered yet yeah SAM Harris broke my brain talking.
Very well once where I really believed it was real until he started explaining to me determinism and all the different, variables and yeah. I mean there is a little bit of something that we have where you're talking about the frontal cortex. That allows you to resist things, but why is yours. The way it is is the big question right, yeah and if Some of it had to do with how stressed your mother it was when you were a fetus yeah like how like here's, yeah it's just on the level of sort of sensory stuff going on just the three cues were the world and how that's influencing our behavior put up a pair of eyes of posted with showing a pair of eyes on a bus, stop and people litter, less display a pair of eyes on the computer screen and people become. More generous in online economic games, because it's tapping into I'm being watched.
Stick somebody in a room with smelly garbage and they become more socially conservative on questionnaires, they're filling out because something just feels viscerally disgusting and that biases us towards the I think, that's something that's different- is different than wrong people. Don't for more conservative about economic issues or geopolitical stuff, they're, just more likely side that them's to do something different from you, it's not just different it's wrong because, nothing just feels kind of disgusting because smelly garbage in a room one very influential study, looking at five thousand judicial decisions over the course of the year and a parole board system and the biggest predictor of what decision the judge was going to make if they gave somebody parole or something after the slammer, was how many hours it had been since the meal, because when you got
higher glucose levels in your bloodstream. Your frontal cortex works better because expensive part of the brain you're hungry. You feel less sympathy, you feel less empathy, people become less generous and economic games. And how much would you contribute to this and what sort A judge has to do there in a situation. Anytime, we judge is, do this difficult frontal, after trying to view the world from somebody elses perspective and you're. Hyper glass make, you haven't eaten in four hours and it's more likely that your frontal cortex in effect is going to say screw that that's too hard the guys and send it back to jail and what's most amazing is if you had gotten one of those judges two seconds after they made that decision that could most be predicted by the effects of cosine brain metabolism and ask him so Why do you make that decision and they're going to like be quoting like? enlightenment, age, philosophers or something- and that's just like
rationalization running to catch up the biology this just rumbling, underneath the surface there and influencing our behaviors wow so like. Maybe one of the best ways we can enhance society is key people well fed and lower stress, yeah, if nothing else like what people. For decades, when we're stressed, are learning and memory doesn't work that well then, people learned more likely to be anxious and learn to afraid of things we don't need to be afraid of and then we learned were more likely to have horrible judgment and have for frontal cortex not work very well. The newest realm of that is, and when you're stressed you're less empathic, because it takes a lot of work, to try to view the world from somebody else's perspective and worry about their worries instead of your own problems and if you
defensive or worried position you're most likely to lash out you most likely to protect yourself quickly, yep and quite literally a part of the brain. That's involved in empathy doesn't work as well. When stressed, Kumon levels are elevated now what about the frontal cortex and an actual damage like damage from car accidents so sure head trauma, one incredibly interesting, contentious area you massively damaged somebody's frontal cortex and They will know the difference between right and wrong, yet they still cannot regulate their behavior on the most fundamental level. Famous neurological patients in the 40s fifties, Phineas gage. He had part of his frontal court. Text destroyed in a he was a foreman of a railroad construction line who problem dynamite. Somebody did something wrong and they thirteen foot metal rod shot
but one of his eyes an out the top of his head and took his frontal cortex with it landing about fifty feet away and gay, she was the sub riotous devout reliable, he was the form in their turns into this disinhibited crass sexually abusive, bully afterward, who never was able to hold a job. Again for years afterward, because you had taken out his frontal cortex can you damage the frontal cortex? Get you get dysregulation of volitional behavior, which is once again way of saying people know What the optimal behavior is the difference between right and wrong, and yet they can't regulate their behavior, something depending on which study you look at something like twenty five to fifty percent of the men on death row in this country have a history of concussive head? the front of their heads and that some world of like
Volitional control is not that foolish that seems to go contrary to the idea of a lobotomy, then okay, lobotomy was just that's great. That lobotomy was just like savaging about the front third of the brain. It was the front. But it was also getting limbic emotional. They do when they hit the or by the time it really got developed. The guy, like one of science, is amazing, ironies, the Gaia Portuguese neurologist named Hagos Moonies, who developed condom use is what they were originally called: got the Nobel Prize in Physiology and medicine for this wonderful technique and then, when it hit America as a sort of psychiatric intervention, good American know how and can do It decided to get a sort of assembly line approach to it. Guy named Walter Freeman Pie, weird sort of rapids, like wham Bam, frontal lobotomies, where You would insert- and I pick through
some an icepick, rather behind somebody's eyeball go up through the optic cavity there and go in there and just scoop around and there you go and he had like instructional films in the 50s for how you could do a frontal lobotomy on, like one person ever hum teen minutes and just like go through an entire hospitals worth of psychiatric patients, and one I devoted afternoon of like Calvinist, ethic card so they were just scrambling it and they were scrambling. So the neurobiology of like what you were disconnecting there's is like virtually random other than you were just making a mess of the front part of the brain. So damage instead is much more selective. Do you shudder when you think about the fact that was just not even? years ago. Yeah, you know Code, Coco, dorm for school library and go eat floors down to the sub sub basement and like go.
Need some of these journals from like nineteen autumn whatever and like yeah, you shudder, my God, the things they didn't know, then my god. Damage they could have done, then the damages to the causes of disease that causes of psychiatric disorders. My but some of the things they were doing then an if cut, got a shred of capacity for self reflection. You then sit there and say well, over the years from now they're going to be looking at our level of knowledge and they'll be saying the same exact thing: what do you think would be the big one? Would you think it would be anti depressants? Do you think would be pain, killers that they're handing out? What do you think would be the big one that people be freaking out about today? about what we think yeah. What we're doing now. That's I think it's overwhelmingly going to be my god that that Meet medieval, destructive belief they held onto them about
the agency and free will wo. They punished people who had brains that couldn't regulate their own behavior. They punished People who, because of toxin exposure or stress during adolescence, wound up with brains couldn't control this or that a particular junctures and they used just justice back wow. I can't believe the stuff they did. It was practically like gangs of like Cordy respect, since getting burning torches and going and burning down to whatever is around the medieval castle. Terms of senses of the word justice applying to what biology has to do with behavior there's so few people that share this idea that you're having and obviously your sense of it is so much more educated than the average person and you first all the mechanisms behind all these particular behavioral problems. People have an all these different, things can affect the way human beings operate, but MOE,
people are not aware of this. I mean that literally most people, I give you out again. Which might be in the ninety percent of people haven't really considered all the factors that lead to someone having a brain that would put them in these impulsive decision. A terrible decision, making situations well what gives me a little bit of sort of optimism is most people, though, at least in the West done that in a couple of realms. I five hundred years ago, if you had a septic seizure, the smartest most reflective, most compassionate, like middle ages, bleeding heart, liberals even would have explanation for what caused an epileptic seizure, which is you were demonically possessed, and the therapeutic intervention was to burn you at the stake. Now, instead were don't know, a century two into having a mindset where, instead, we a biological statement. Oh, it's not
Kim it's his disease. Oh he's, not the actually possessed. These got something screwy with this potassium channels in his brain and less get synchronized outburst and every now and then is a seizure disorder like its tail about five hundred years. To do that, one to go from this is a a this behavior where we know the intervention which is to burn somebody at the state the same. It's a biological problem. We even recognize constraints with it. If somebody has uncontrolled epilepsy, that's treatment, resistant uhm, they may be able to get a drivers license, but you don't sit there and say yeah. Let's have a burning of the drivers licenses of the epileptics. It's about damn time. They were no, it's a realm where words like evil or soul, punishment for justice, is totally irrelevant. It's a neurological disorder, so it's taking this about five hundred years to get to that point so may he, you know, we've done
Cognitive Leap at least once more. We recognize there's no victims. There, though there's no yet I don't know if somebody's that I'm obviously someone's behind the wheel and they have a seizure and someone dies yeah, but we don't think of it as someone doing something we think of it. They lost control of their body like literally yet it's highlighting a car, unfortunately, and that's what happens but versus someone committing a crime five hundred years ago, if an apple, during a seizure with their limbs, flailing struck someone that would have been salt and battery. Because who told did go like sleep with Satan. That's the own fault, and it's like it's a ridiculous mindset. Now these large parts of the developing world that still has exactly that view of epilepsy, but at least in the West, like that's an unread nice obli different mindset, no, no, that was not they didn't choose to do that. That was something screwy with their biology like we've gotten to that
so I don't know, maybe another five hundred years and we're going to be able to do that with maybe half the juries in this country are capable of doing the same thing of saying it's not This is disease when you have somebody paranoid schizophrenia who, in a delusional state to something violent. Maybe I don't know half of teachers in the country are able to, and Great know this kid isn't lazy! That's not why they're not learning to read they have this thing called Dyslexia, meaning, there's abnormalities, micro, crew, wore mapper in their cortex and the part having to do with it under them, it's like so, making a little bit of progress but see see. You seem optimistic that optimistic and five hundred year time span. Do you think it's kind of playing it out in the the right direction just very slowly, but when you see these, like political debates and and and people on television talking up crime and punishment, and and
None of these factors being discusses. It incredibly frustrated sin, credible, frustrating I mean they will look back at us and saying my God, the things they thought the the damage they did then add all we can do at this point. Given that we don't know a whole lot of biology and look at most of the stuff that we've learned about the frontal cortex oxytocin or jeans, and we've learned more than the last fifty years in the last twenty years in the last five years, like you look at the distribution when these papers were published, yeah all we could do in the mean time is like having hell of a lot of humility before I think we understand what the causes of the behavior, especially behavior, that George harshly because the odds are we having a clue what the actual biology is of? What's going on there,
we fill in those attribution you wanting, vacuums you this invention, that we call volition. Has anyone ever used talk so for excuse or for defense for crime, don't use that twenty Kc members Twinkie cake, cookie, murder, Dan White Blood sugar levels that it's been used. Severe Perry menstrual syndrome has been successful in courts of law to mitigate sentencing of women who committed violent crimes around the time of their period. Having certain variants on jeans, this one gene which, unfortunately, this variant just gotten the horrible term, the warrior gene has been successfully. In a couple of quarts of water gates, sentencing we have the use the word it's this it's this call a alpha, monoamine oxidase alpha. It's got some
the near chemistry and something to do with our chemistry of aggression gene comes in a couple of, versions and one the variant is associated with high rates of antisocial aggression in humans? If and only if the human was abused during childhood, in other words, the gene is determining absolutely zero gene environment, interaction. The absence of an abusive childhood having this chain variant has zero impact on this behavior, so like ridiculously define pseudo scientific interpretations. Findings like these so that even to quarts of law, saying oh well, how's that genetic variant, that's never you're. So is this similar in away too? I believe it was India. They used F Mri to determine someone's knowledge of a murder and they convicted the woman who made her guilty of it. Yep yep.
No lie. Mri is the name of the company in the United States that purports to have the technology well enough that they can tell if you're lying or not, but it's all a bit. But from what I understand it was just functional knowledge of the crime yep, which could have been imparted in defend. Or trying to for put together just lands, because you're obviously have a lot invested in this crime because you might go to jail for the rest of your life for yeah. Basically, there's no such names for that. The science is not there yet not so it would never work in America that that case or should not. I should should not and should not work in India and he wasn't yeah yeah. That's so what have they done? With this warrior gene? How is someone been exonerated? Where was it? I think it was an accord and ITALY were just sent Singh was decreased because the defense made an argument afterwards as well. Genetically predisposed so like that's, like
in ITALY the place where they charged. This was not being able to register winners. Earthquake was calendars grey. Yes, by assuring the public, there wasn't an earthquake that is literally tried them for that hi. I think it's my people, animals. I think the dust is still settling from that one. I think most of those convictions of been overturned but but terrifying that those people to go to court. Imagine if you're a seismologist and you have to go hey. This is not working Jesus Christ. I can't tell you when it's coming, you don't think I would be out of the country for his wrong with you. Oh no, my son, the scientist like being convicted of murder, so it's essentially in these are less informed areas where these things have passed like the f R. I thing India in this in in ITALY, the warrior gene thing. Well, what it's dangerous right, yeah I mean you see white, be careful what wish for in terms of wow it people learn
more about science. You way more, this way, plus without a great yes a little bit of his mighty scary. Let's see I'm just knowing I need to know at six hundred and fifteen to it should be wrapped up shortly. Thank you. So much really really appreciate. It is a pleasure. I've been a fan of years for years, so this is a real treat for me. I was really looking forward to it all right everybody. This is a short one, but an awesome one. Thank you.
Transcript generated on 2019-11-17.