Although human language allowed egalitarian rules whose uniform enforcement would have greatly reduced the advantages to big-brain conniving, humans had the biggest brains of all to unequally evade such rules. (
I completely agree. It is much easier to be truthful. You only need to keep track of one version of reality. That makes for much lower computation overhead, allowing allocation to more useful things.
Since ultimately the only “competition” is with reality, people who can only compete with other humans via lying can only “win” in the short term, that is until there aren't enough people who can deal with reality left and the technological society that depends on reality collapses.
With technology it doesn't take as many people keeping track of reality to support those who cannot, but those who can't keep track of reality are making it really hard for us who can. We really do need to deal with AGW in a better way than simply denying it.
"A different solution is to have two distinct processing centers, each highly-connected internally, but with only modest between-center connections. One center would manage a coherent set of lies, while the other managed a coherent set of true beliefs. And in fact real brains have exactly this architecture! Left and right brains are highly connected internally, but only modestly connected to each other."
but, but, but ... the people on the planet who seem to deceive/self-deceive the most -- i.e. neurotypicals -- have larger corpus collosums than aspergian types who are not so adept at lying. how does that fit in with what you're suggesting? seems to me that more connections, at least across the corpus collosum, actually means a greater ability to be economical with the truth.
How do left-handers with their 50% larger corpus collosums fit into this? Women, too, have a larger corpus collosum than do men. Do we see difference among men and women and among left and right handers?
I believe modularity is the default in brains, and that there needn't be some special mechanism to enforce it. This is because unlike say the knowledge-base AIs we build, we don't store knowledge as declarative statements and compute behavior based on their implications. Different behavior which seem to use the same piece knowledge could actually be operating with distinct representations of that knowledge, in distinct parts of the brain. Plus, since the knowledge is not stored declaratively but in various parts of the brain in unique forms amenable to various modules in the brain, there cannot be one representation which all modules can then access.
Consciousness of course seems to have access to knowledge of all types, but then only some information surfaces to consciousness at all. Most of our hypocrisy we are not even consciously aware of.
People automatically compartmentalize only because it takes actual effort to decompartmentalize. Those on the autistic spectrum who do this do it via propragating in their consciousness their various explicit beliefs. Most ordinary people simply don't have explicit beliefs in the first place.
My parents basically operates with a similar division of cognitive labor...my mother handles everything practical, from bills, shopping, schools, home improvement, etc. She also holds sway in matters like who to vote for and which church to attend...however, she unfailingly defers to my father in either important novel situations or when he expresses a strong preference.
My understanding is that contemporary families in China mostly operate on this model. In the home the mother rules, controls all the finances (father receives an allowance), but in novel or significant decisions the father tends to take precedence.
If I was so inclined, I might ascribe this to a division between multi-tasking low-risk work and focused high-risk work (i.e. foragers and hunters), but that seems too pat, and I'd like to have a more comprehensive anthropological survey before jumping to evolutionary explanations.
Brains are generally pretty good at re-organizing around limited damage, if I recall my reading correctly...you can shift a lot of functions from one hemisphere to the other if there is damage.
Would be interesting to see if these cases (where limited brain damage is compensated by a shift in activity to a non-standard hemisphere) typically results in greater difficulty dealing with social ambiguity, lies, beliefs, etc.
I've heard of these sorts of difficulties emerging in more dramatic cases of brain damage (or in hemisphere separation, whether intentional or not), but I feel that if the compartmentalization hypothesis is true there should be a lot of noise showing up when the brain tries to functions to a new hemisphere.
Thanks for the book recommendations, I will check them both out. I just read "The Whole-Brain Path to Peace" which discusses exactly this polarity between our hemispheres and the impact it has on not only gender relations but human relations in general. Very eye-opening stuff, which has led me to research the topic some more. Thanks Robin for a thought-provoking article on the subject.
So which side makes up the lies, and which side knows the truth?
What's the evidence that 'near-mode' and 'far-mode' exist in other animals?
I'm convinced that those modes are meaningful for humans, possibly as more than just a metaphor for hypocrisy.
Since men have greater right-left brain separation than women, your theory would suggest that men are more two-faced than women. Is there a consilience here?
Point (1), about vertebrates in general, seems particularly dubious. Source?
The clearest difference between the left and right brains is that the left brain handles the right side of the world, and the right brain handles the left side of the world (the flip-flop is ultimately a consequence of how our eyes work.)
Many vertebrates don't have much in the way of a frontal cortex, it's almost all sensory and motor cortex, so it's hard to see how the sorts of lateralization of function you talk about could exist in them (and the longitudinal fissure, which separates the "left brain" and "right brain," is just a cortex thing.)
Point (3) may be true. I'd be careful about your sources, though.
An idea that's related to what you're talking about is "modularity" which I figure you have probably heard of. If not, check out Robert Kurzban's work- he recently came out with a book titled "Why Everyone Else is a Hypocrite."
Also you would probably like the article "Modularity and the Social Mind: Are Psychologists too Self-ish?" by Kurzban and Aktipis.
Might your ideas here be amenable to testing via experiments with split-brain patients?
For some reason this post reminds me of the old joke about a husband explaining the difference between the topics upon which his word is law and those his wife decides upon. She decides the "little things" in life, such as where they are going to live, how many children they will have and what kind of car they should buy. He decides the important things, like whether China should be allowed to join the United Nations, whether God exists and which candidate should be elected president. Maybe this reflects an opinion about how men and women differently use different sections of the brain in thinking about things.
Your "Right brains tend to" link is broken. I believe you meant to link to this. Also, was "differ a lot more" supposed to link to the same page as "sequenced acts like throwing"?
Could just be a lack of processing power.
I've seen people break the rules they're criticising almost within the same breath (usually when it's about people gossiping and bitching) and they don't notice the contradiction. But you can point it out to them and it's not like their brain fails to process the information. They see it - even if they often refuse to acknowledge it. But in the moment as they're doing it - it just isn't something they're focusing on.
Could be that ironing out contradictions in behaviour and thought takes a lot of processing power that isn't generally rewarded by the external world so we never evolved systems that internally reward such thought processes.