Friday, October 26, 2018

The surprising science of alpha males | Frans de Waal

In this fascinating look at the "alpha male," primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males -- generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping -- and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians. "Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male," de Waal says.

What makes a successful alpha male is not what you think it is. In chimp groups alpha males are generous, kind, considerate, and they like to share food equally, and break up disputes.

The chimp group plays a role in the decision about who becomes the alpha male, and as the alpha male position is much prised, the alpha males sure everyone in happy to ensure he keeps his advantageous position. The troop will do everything they can to keep the more aggressive alpha males out of power, because they prefer the friendlier ones.

When it comes to election time, when it's time to select the alpha male, the male chimps, who normally take no notice of infants, will suddenly start kissing babies to win over the female vote.

When an alpha make gets old, he will often choose a small male to take over. This is good for him, because it keeps a nasty competitor out, but the troop prefer this too.

It's an interesting Tedx talk.

                                                                     An Alpha Male

1 comment:

Konrad said...

“Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male.”

Agreed. In purely Darwinian terms, an “alpha male” is one that has a comparatively high reproductive success. The “alpha male” may have a harem.

Human males experience Darwinism when they hit puberty. Some human males (the “alphas”) get sex. Most males do not, or at least, they don’t get as much sex as they would like.

Some societies cultivate and exploit male sexual frustration, e.g. societies that outlaw prostitution. Sexually frustrated males commit more crime, and help to full prisons. Male sexual frustration is one factor (among many) that contributes to militarism and mob psychology.

Male sexual frustration allows women to use sex as a bargaining chip. This is why feminists are so outraged by the advance of sexual robot technology. Sex-bots threaten to reduce male sexual frustration, and thereby threaten to rob feminists of their power in society.