Bill von Hippel (@billvonhippel) is a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland and the author of The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy.
What We Discuss with Bill von Hippel:
- What our eyes tell us about how humans evolved to cooperate with one another.
- How a psychological phenomenon called the theory of mind makes us aware that mental states of others don’t match our own, and why this trait gives human beings a unique advantage in the animal kingdom.
- Why hunter-gatherer societies are more egalitarian than what we see in modern Western civilization.
- Why so many of us hate the way we look in photographs.
- Can animals lie?
- And much more…
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Even when you are a human being, trying to explain why you do the things you do can be a bit of a mind-bender. Do you work hard toward elusive goals only to be thwarted by happiness when every metric tells you you’ve succeeded? Do you wish your friends well, but secretly wince with jealousy if they manage to do too well? Have you stepped into the role of boss or parent only to discover with shock that your behavior matches that of bosses and parents you’ve complained about in the past? What makes us such anxiety-driven, contradictory creatures who seemingly sabotage our own chance for joy at every opportunity?
To get to the bottom of these perplexing questions, University of Queensland psychology professor Bill von Hippel joins us to discuss his book The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy. Here, we’ll take a peek at how some of our most maddening behavioral quirks evolved along with us as survival mechanisms that helped our ancestors descend from the safety of the treetops and brave the predator-heavy savannahs to build a world in our flawed but familiar image. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Thanks, Bill von Hippel!
If you enjoyed this session with Bill von Hippel, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy by William von Hippel | Amazon
- Bill von Hippel | Twitter
- William von Hippel | LinkedIn
- Lice Evolution Tracks the Invention of Clothes | Smithsonian Magazine
- Neophobia: Coping With the Fear of New Things | Verywell Mind
- Humans Left the Trees 4.2 Million Years Ago | NBC News
- Walking Upright | The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program
- Cooperative Eye Hypothesis | Wikipedia
- An Evolutionary Whodunit: How Did Humans Develop Lactose Tolerance? | The Salt
- Crafting Stone-Age Tools Requires Complex Thought | Archaeology Magazine
- How the Theory of Mind Helps Us Understand Others | Verywell Mind
- The Evolution of Deception | Royal Society Open Science
- Gendered Division of Labor Served a Purpose. To Make Progress, Don’t Erase It. Replace It. | Behavioral Scientist
- A Peacock’s Tail: How Darwin Arrived at His Theory of Sexual Selection | The Guardian
- Daniel Pink | The Power of Regret | Jordan Harbinger
- Why a Bronze Medal in Hockey Might Seem Better Than Silver | The Atlantic
- Daniel Kahneman | When Noise Destroys Our Best of Choices | Jordan Harbinger
- Status: Why We’re Evolved to Care About It | The Art of Manliness
- Out of Your League? A Scientific Assessment of “Mate Value” | Psychology Today
- Convergent Thinking Versus Divergent Thinking | John Spencer
- Extrapolating Insufferability from Fandom Affiliation: The Case of Elon Musk Fanboys | The Oxford Student
- Did You Know: Studies Show People Believe They Look Like the Retouched Version of Themselves | PetaPixel
- FAE: The Big Mistake You’re Making about Other People (And How to Overcome It) | Jordan Harbinger
- Steven Pinker | Why Rationality Seems Scarce | Jordan Harbinger
637: Bill von Hippel | Where the Social Leap Lands
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Bill von Hippel: When your mate value changes across the course of your lifespan, it introduces potential wedge into relationships because usually, people partner up when they have similar mate values. And then as one person's mate value changes, the other one doesn't, it can cause conflict. We do this demonstration — we give everybody a number from one to 10 and you can't look at your own number, but you put it on your forehead. And all they're told to do is pair up with the person with the highest number that you can.
[00:00:27] So let's say I have a one, and the way you pair up is by shaking hands. And I walk up to you and you're like, "Yeah, I'm not shaking your hand." And I walk into a few more people and suddenly I realized, "Gee, I've got no mate value at all. I'm just going to anyone who'll shake my hand. I'm going to take." But if I've got a 10, everybody's crowding up to me and I'm like, "Oh, I'm a valuable person." And so you can learn this like that. The same thing happens when you get rich. The same thing happens when you get famous.
[00:00:54] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional billionaire investor, Russian spy, gold smuggler, or hostage negotiator. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice. You can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:20] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes, organized by topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show — topics like persuasion and influence Vladimir Putin, abnormal psychology, North Korea, and China, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or take a look in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:44] Social skills and the ability to cooperate are the reason humans were able to come down from the trees and dominate the Savannah. Today, we'll explore how this happened and the unique human characteristics that allowed humans to beat their rivals and avoid becoming a meal for predators. Lots of fascinating evolutionary psychology in this episode, as well as why we're afraid of the dark, how the whites of our eyes evolve to help humans cooperate. Also, most of us hate the way we look in photos, I got some unfortunate news for you if this is you, and it's definitely me by the way. And can animals lie? All this and more with social psychologist, Bill von Hippel right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:02:24] Here we go.
[00:02:27] I knew I was going to like this book when you explained how we can predict, approximately, the time that humans invented clothing, by when we ended up getting body lice. So I want to begin by exploring this rather disgusting factoid.
[00:02:39] Bill von Hippel: Sure. So one of the great things about evolution and science is that people come from a wide variety of different angles. And so you've got a bunch of anthropologists, you've got a bunch of archeologists, but you also have a bunch of biologists. And they can use these molecular clocks to try to triangulate in on the answers to different questions. And sometimes those molecular clocks are used for really interesting funky things like, well, when did humans settle the Pacific? And they look at the DNA from rats and chickens and also the humans and what the various ways of migration are. But the fun one that they've done is to look at the molecular clocks and the lice that we carry. So human beings lost their hair somewhere along the way. And there's good reasons why we would have done that, having to do with body cooling and things like that.
[00:03:21] And as a consequence, lice no longer could lay eggs on us because we simply didn't have enough body hair, but we've been now wearing clothes long enough that they could use our clothing instead to lay their eggs in that. And so we've got a bunch of lice that we originally inherited where we're completely covered with hair, like a chimpanzee. And then as we lost our hair, a bunch of them migrated to the top of our head. Those are what we typically think of when we think of lice, a bunch of them migrated to our crotch where we still have a good patch of hair, if you choose to.
[00:03:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I was going to say, speak for yourself.
[00:03:52] Bill von Hippel: And those are lice that we actually acquired from gorillas. I'm not exactly sure what you're doing with the gorillas but—
[00:03:59] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, where have you been hanging out? But yeah, no, that's overtime, I suppose, yeah.
[00:04:03] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. Look, we were kind of gorilla-like, and what's interesting about speciation is that they separate, they come back together. There's a little bit of canoodling and so we don't know exactly what we in the gorillas were up to five million years ago or so, but we're up to something. And then, what we eventually ended up with is this compromised species that moved into our clothing. And it's hard to say exactly when that happened, but 70,000 years is a good estimate of when that could have come about.
[00:04:28] Jordan Harbinger: You know, judging by how strong gorillas are. We might not have had a choice, but to be canoodling with gorillas. I think if they wanted to come after us, we were living in the same place. It might've been kind of less optional than nowadays—
[00:04:41] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:04:42] Jordan Harbinger: —a type of encounter.
[00:04:42] Bill von Hippel: If they find us attractive, it may not have been fully consumable.
[00:04:45] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
[00:04:47] This stuff fascinates me endlessly because I look — I've got a kid who's two and a half years old and I've watched him grow from an infant. I have another two-month-old baby. And my son, the older one, he's decided one day that the dark was scary, but it's strange because it wasn't always like that. It was like, just as soon as he started getting a little bit more intelligent and playing with toys and other things, he was like, "It's scary. There's no light." I'm like, okay. I didn't teach him that. I'm not scared of the dark in my own house. At least I don't verbalize it to my kid. I was planning not to make him scared of things like that by not jumping out and freak him, but he instinctively was scared of the dark and I thought, okay, this is there's code in the brain that I didn't put in there that wasn't put in there by YouTube or TV. And he just knows that this is dangerous or something.
[00:05:35] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. That's a perfect example. Being scared of the dark makes great sense for our ancestors because, of course, we rely on our eyes, which aren't very good at night. Our nose and our ears are not as good as other animals. And so during the day, we're predators at night. At night, we're prey. There's lots and lots of those kinds of examples, scared of the dark is one of the best ones, because, in principle, there's nothing scary at all about dark, right?
[00:05:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:55] Bill von Hippel: Dark itself doesn't harm you. But those ancestors who thought the dark was fun and liked to wander through the forest. Well, they ended up getting eaten. And so the ancestors that tended to be scared of it were the ones who were more likely to have kids and carrying on that tendency. We see the same thing with lots of other fears.
[00:06:10] If you look at snakes and spiders, for example, there's nothing inherently scary about the way they look, but lots of them are really deadly. And we find that people can learn fears of snakes and spiders more rapidly than they can learn fears of let's say electrical outlets or cars. Now in today's world, electrical outlets and cars are far more likely to kill you than a snake or a spider is, but that wasn't the case ancestrally.
[00:06:32] And so it takes bazillions of generations for our fears to catch up with the actual threats to us. And for the last 10, 20 million years, snakes and spiders have been a threat, electrical outlets for hundred years.
[00:06:44] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Not so much. That is interesting. My kid is afraid of everything, thankfully, I think. So it's been really easy, he'll tell anyone who will listen, that the electrical sockets are dangerous and you shouldn't touch it.
[00:06:56] Bill von Hippel: Good.
[00:06:57] Jordan Harbinger: Which is good. But also, when we try to get him to try new things like food, he's like, "No, it's scary." And I'm like, oh man, this goes both ways. This definitely goes both ways.
[00:07:07] Bill von Hippel: But again, neophobia is this fear of new foods is very sensible in children. They go from a period where their parents are giving them everything. And so that's up to about age two in our ancestral environment. They're typically still breastfeeding. And to the degree that they're not breastfeeding is food provided typically by the mother. And so everything is safe up until about age two, but after age two, they can start to forage on their own. And so it's much more sensible that they start to develop a dubious attitude toward things that they might eat.
[00:07:34] You know, when my daughter was one, she loved the beach sand. I mean, she just shoved it in her mouth. And then she got, so just like your kids, I couldn't get her to eat a burrito or, you know, something that did not strike her as that exotic, but she just wouldn't touch it.
[00:07:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. She was like, "You know what? I don't want these berries. Give me more of that sand. At least I know what I'm getting, better the devil, you know?" Yeah.
[00:07:51] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[00:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny, it's called neophobia. So fear of the new essentially.
[00:07:55] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, exactly.
[00:07:55] Jordan Harbinger: That totally makes sense. Now, you've written about sharing, kids share instinctively with people who helped get something done. And there was a story in the book about a candy experiment, where as long as somebody contributes to the end goal, the kids actually want to share. I have to take a little issue there. My kid, again, 2.5, everything is his, even if it actually belongs to somebody else and is in fact being held by that person at the time that he wants it. So does that kick in at a certain age? Because—
[00:08:24] Bill von Hippel: It will.
[00:08:25] Jordan Harbinger: It doesn't seem to be, yeah, my parents, like you got to teach them to share and I'm like, I don't know how to do that.
[00:08:29] Bill von Hippel: Well, the good news is you don't have to teach them to share.
[00:08:31] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:31] Bill von Hippel: It will happen naturally, typically around age four and the other good news is that parents, you know, we think that the role we play is super-duper important. And in some ways it is, it gives them a happy childhood. But the stuff that they learned that they really care about is this stuff that they learned from children their age and slightly older. And so you can probably already see this in your children, well, at least the one who's two and a half, they get fascinated by other children who are a tiny bit older than they are. Because, of course, what you and I do is almost irrelevant to their lives.
[00:08:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:59] Bill von Hippel: It's things they can't achieve. It's complicated. It's big people's staff, but if you're two and a half or a three-year-old can do well, that's super informative. If you pay close attention to that, maybe you'll cross that bridge a little earlier. And so their peers will whip them into shape, even if you try to raise them to be the most selfish, little bugger on the planet, their peers will have none of that. And by the time, they turn four and they're in daycare, they'll be sharing up the storm.
[00:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: Great. That's good, that's a relief. And I'll tell everybody in the other room here that that's what you said, and we shouldn't worry about it. Because it is a little unnerving, because I don't remember learning things like that, of course, but I knew I'm a sharer. So you got to wonder, like, did somebody teach me that? Or did I eventually just evolve that like instinct?
[00:09:40] Bill von Hippel: Well, it's a little bit of both, right?
[00:09:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:42] Bill von Hippel: You haven't evolved proclivity. And then when you're playing on the playground, somebody grabs something from you and you grab it back and then you eventually learned that wasn't very fun. Maybe I'll use the yellow pale and you use the blue shovel and et cetera. And so kids very quickly learn to negotiate these things. They learn it more quickly if they have older siblings. They learn it more quickly if they're in contact with lots of other children, but they always get it.
[00:10:04] Jordan Harbinger: I always wondered — and the book really addresses this, which is why I enjoyed it so much. I always wondered. Look, if apes came down from, let's just say the trees or in the jungle. And then suddenly decided, "Hey, I'm going to pick berries and hunt things that I can catch." There was always a gap there because we're just so far from the baddest thing on the Savannah, when there's leopards and lions, and that's forget snakes and spiders, just things that are faster and have giant teeth and jaws that like to eat humans.
[00:10:31] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:10:31] Jordan Harbinger: I just didn't understand how we survive that.
[00:10:34] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. And so you can almost guarantee in the beginning, it was super dicey.
[00:10:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:39] Bill von Hippel: That basically, we were trying to stay as close to the trees as we possibly could. We're always an eye over your shoulder. And if your group is larger, you've got more eyes out there. And of course, that's what tons of prey animals do. Tons of herbivores, they just traveled in large groups and try to be the ones in the center, not the ones on the edge is going to get eaten. But the amazing thing about us is that we went from this sort of scared little prey animal to the apex predator.
[00:11:03] And that process to me is what's so fascinating about how we could get from one end of the chain to the other, and what could have easily been a disaster being forced out of the trees, the way our ancestors were. I mean, I imagine if you replayed that scenario, imagine you've got of your own planet and you just keep rewinding the tape and seeing what happens. I suspect 90 times out of a hundred, maybe 99, you end up with either a bunch of extinct tapes or some scared little apes that always stay close to the trees. But we got really lucky in this very particular process that took place that brought us to a very low point. But then from there, everything turned great for us.
[00:11:35] Jordan Harbinger: I know that social skills and social behavior then were essentially the advantage that kept us alive after evolving from apes. Or did we evolve later than that? I guess maybe we don't know.
[00:11:46] Bill von Hippel: So if we look at the record, so 3.6 million years ago, we have this lovely find of these fossil footprints in Kenya, Tanzania, and what these footprints show us is that at that point, we're also Australopithecines. And so we're these ape-like looking creatures, not much taller than a chimpanzee, but what the footprints show very clearly is that we're walking upright with the bipedal gait, just like a human would. If a chimpanzee walks on two legs, its knees are bent, its hips are bent. He can't straighten out and it's very engagingly and can't get around.
[00:12:17] We now know that by 3.6 million years ago, from the fossil record, we can see when we emulate those footprints that we were upright and we can also see it in the anatomy of Australopithecines. And so the first thing that I suspect happened was this upright gait. Now we can chat about why that might be, but the important point for our purposes is that upright gait changed everything because it suddenly allowed a new capacity and that was the capacity to kill with a distance.
[00:12:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because you can hold things and throw things which you couldn't before, I guess.
[00:12:46] Bill von Hippel: Exactly. Throwing is the key.
[00:12:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:47] Bill von Hippel: And chimps don't throw very well. They typically use two hands and kind of go overhead. They're not terribly accurate, even though they're very strong. It's because their musculature is designed to be going up and down a tree. And it's very stable so that they can use their arms, basically as legs. Our musculature is laterally oriented toward a world that's sideways to us. And so that happens to be much, much better throwing. And it turns out that you generate enormous elastic energy through your ligaments and tendons and muscles when you throw in a way that the chimps simply can't because he can't spin its hips, it can't spin its shoulders. It can't flick its writs at the end. So all the things that we're really just evolved to help us walk upright suddenly had this new purpose that they could be used for, and that is throwing, which then allowed us to kill at a distance, which then changed everything because it's simply the most important military invention in the history of our planet.
[00:13:35] Jordan Harbinger: Really? Throwing is?
[00:13:37] Bill von Hippel: Well, killing at a distance.
[00:13:38] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, killing at a distance, okay.
[00:13:39] Bill von Hippel: Throwing was the first—
[00:13:39] Jordan Harbinger: Broader category, yeah.
[00:13:40] Bill von Hippel: Throwing was the first version of that. We adapt to it pretty fancy but think about it this way. You know, imagine that you're going through the Savannah and you come across a lion. Even if there's 50 of us, nobody wants to go first to attack that lion. And so we've got no choice, but to run away, but if we can throw stones at it and then attack it from a position of relative safety, now we can drive the lion away rather than vice versa.
[00:14:01] Jordan Harbinger: So we essentially evolved, well, once we evolve the throwing skill, we may be coincidentally also evolved the ability to defend ourselves against these larger predators that would have eaten us in the Savannah.
[00:14:12] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, absolutely. And then the key was that required a huge psychological change. So we don't know how long this took. We've got no evidence in the fossil record whatsoever that tells us anything about it. But if you think about it, you've got an animal that can throw, but it's not that big it's four feet tall kind of thing. And if it threw a rock at a lion, the lion will go, "Oh, that was kind of uncomfortable. And so it's not going to do it any good. If the penny drops one day and all 50 of us started throwing rocks at the same time at the lion suddenly we've achieved something quite extraordinary.
[00:14:39] And so what that required is that change in body then led to a situation where a change in mind suddenly a great deal of utility. And that change in mind was developing a fundamentally cooperative nature. And so if you and I are together and I feel a bond to you and we're out there on the Savannah and there comes a lion instead of running while you're throwing stones, I throw stones too, when we both benefit from it because we drive it away rather than one of us getting eaten.
[00:15:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You hear about how people put in difficult situations like being chased by a lion in the Savannah will form these bonds together that are — I mean, the military does it on purpose, right? They structure these stressful/traumatic kinds of training events to get everybody to bond together. And I was in boy Scouts. Like I remember going camping and having it pretty easy and being like, "We're the best," like this primal thing comes out of you where you're like stabbing a frog with a spear and roasting it on a fire, or maybe it was marshmallows and you just feel like a total badass and these guys are your ride-or-die bros. And then you go back to your home in Westerville.
[00:15:37] Bill von Hippel: Right. No, that's exactly right. I work with the commandos here in Australia and they feel this incredible bond when they've been through kinetic action or fire with each other. And because for that moment in time, they depend on each other 100 percent and they know they can depend on each other 100 percent. And so that kind of bond is never the same with anybody for the rest of your life, but that was the kind of bond our ancestors had every day. Every day, you and I decided to head out in the Savannah, you know, nowadays we're just rocking up at the supermarket and I don't care if you go your way and I go mine, but in those days I cared a great deal. I want you by my side and you wanted me by your side and that kind of trust and cooperation just doesn't exist in any other continent.
[00:16:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, totally makes sense that we evolved, or at least the people who didn't evolve that got killed because—
[00:16:23] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:16:23] Jordan Harbinger: —nobody wants one of those guys hanging out with them in the Savannah, let them, "Fine, you want to go by yourself, get eaten and see if I care," right? But don't be running away.
[00:16:31] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, exactly. So the beauty is that it windows down to the psychological attitudes that are the most successful. And so we typically think about evolution as winnowing down our bodies. So it makes our hands better at grabbing and things like that. But of course, your attitudes have to match your proclivities or your abilities, they have to match what your body is capable of doing and the things that it ought to be doing. And so in our case, we are exploring this cognitive niche. We're exploiting this social niche. And so what we need to do is form bonds with each other, to feel the sense of connection to cooperate with each other. And that's just as important as developing big muscles or all the other things that we might evolve on the Savannah.
[00:17:07] Jordan Harbinger: What do our eyes tell us about how we're designed to cooperate? This was an interesting little factoid that I — it always amazes me when people find things like this, and then they come up with a reason why this exists or why this happened.
[00:17:19] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. I think it's fabulous too. You run into these great findings and this particular example, if you look at the eyes of the other great apes, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas, by and large, they're entirely brown. And so this is this white part of your eyes, the sclera, and their scleras are brown. Now, they're very clever animals and they can tell in contrast to monkeys and animals that are sort of lower in the intelligence chain, they can tell what another animal can see from its vantage point. So they can look over there and say, "Oh, well, from where you're sitting, you can see out there, which I can't." And therefore, when something attracts your attention, looking out the window, I know I need to go take a look. But interestingly, by virtue of having the brown scleras to their eyes, they disguise that information. They hide it from other members of their group. And what that tells you is that by and large, it doesn't butter their bread for everybody else to know what captured their attention, because they're fundamentally competitive with each other.
[00:18:11] We've now evolved away from that with the white scleras to see very clearly advertises where are you looking. It doesn't matter what your face is doing. You can see the whites of your eyes very clearly. There's a signal that says here's where I'm looking. And what that tells you is that by and large, 99 times out of a hundred, if I look at something, I want you to know that I looked at it because if it's food, you're probably going to help me get it. And if it's predator, you're probably going to help me fend it off or run away from it or whatever we have to do.
[00:18:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's just so fascinating that somebody kind of figured out why our scleras are clear, but also the design of our scleras like, "Hey, look—" it's amazing that there was evolutionary, or I should say selection pressure on the human eye. Like, "Hey, the tribe with the white sclera, where we could see where they were looking, they survived so much better than the humanoids that had darker sclera that those people don't exist anymore. There's no sort of breed or, I guess, ethnicity or anything like that, that has dark sclera. They're just gone.
[00:19:11] Bill von Hippel: That's right.
[00:19:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:12] Bill von Hippel: They're gone. And what we call these sweeps when some genetic change is so important that it gives you such an advantage that just sweeps through the population and a lot of sweeps are complete. The white sclera is a good example. There are no exceptions beyond genetic abnormalities. Some of the sweeps were underway, but that modern medicine interrupted because we don't need them anymore.
[00:19:31] A good example is lactose tolerance. And so until not that long ago, no humans could drink milk into adulthood because it's biologically expensive for you to continue to produce lactase if you don't drink milk. And so we just stopped doing it once we are weeds, but somewhere along the way, some cattle controlling or cattle producing or cattle then, you know, or, or even goats or some other animals. These pastoral people who had these animals started drinking their milk, and somebody had this capacity to keep maintaining lactose in their system to adulthood. And it was just so advantageous, such a great source of protein, that it then spread like wildfire, but it was recent enough that now you go to the shops and I'll have oat milk or something else.
[00:20:13] And so we don't suffer from lactose intolerant. And so that's the sweep that if it had happened, let's say 5,000 years earlier, it would be complete and there would be no lactose intolerant humans. But because it happened when it did, some ethnicities are more lactose-intolerant than others.
[00:20:28] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, I live in Silicon Valley, so Northern California. And I think a huge number of my Asian friends can't eat ice cream, or they can but they have to take some sort of pill that helps them deal with that because otherwise, it's a nightmare. So they'll joke like, "Oh, I can't eat cheese or I can only have one bite of this." And I'm just like, "Ah," because growing up in Michigan, you know this you worked in Ann Arbor, you never meet anybody who's lactose — like if they do, they can't eat dairy. You're just like, "That's so weird. What do you mean you can't eat dairy," but here it's like half the population, honestly, all the menus they'll say dairy-free.
[00:21:05] Bill von Hippel: It's exactly right. And it's purely a function of what was the probability that your ancestors were pastoralists or were relying on milk as an important source of nutrition and where it was less frequent, you just have a lot more lactose intolerance. And the little pill they take is really just the lactase enzyme that your body is otherwise just making of its own volition.
[00:21:25] Jordan Harbinger: That's so interesting. So I've heard theories like, well, if you just keep drinking milk from when you're a child through adulthood, you'll keep making lactase. But I don't know if that's true or not. Do you have any idea?
[00:21:35] Bill von Hippel: No, it's not true. I mean, it is the case that if you happen to be one of these people, who's got this very weak capacity to continue to produce lactase, but your body can do it, but it doesn't really do it very well. If you stop drinking milk, it'll say, "Oh, okay. I don't need to do that anymore." But if you keep drinking it, you keep pressing it, you'll be better off in that regard, but no, if you're genuinely lactose intolerant, you can drink all the milk you want, your body's not going to keep making lactase.
[00:21:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I guess all the milk you want is a very small amount if you're lactose intolerant.
[00:22:02] Bill von Hippel: That's exactly right.
[00:22:05] Jordan Harbinger: You know, the experiments that you write about in the book some of them really do blow my mind. There was one where, and I'll ask you about this in more detail because I could be getting it wrong, but it's like they did fMRI on these stone cutters. And like whoever came up with the idea of how to test this, was it just a frigging genius? Can you take us through this, this experiment, this study?
[00:22:24] Bill von Hippel: Sure. So this is a great example of when we want to know what are the cognitive capacities that are required to do X. One of the things that we can do is shove you into one of these magnets. Now, an MRI is just looking at the structure of your brain and people get that if they've got a brain injury or the doctor needs to look at their brain for whatever reason, but an fMRI is slightly different, F stands for functional. And what it's looking at is what we call a bold signature or the way the oxygen is moving around in your brain. And so we can see the parts of your brain that are being overused, so to speak, by looking at how there's more oxygen going into those parts of the brain.
[00:22:56] And so we know that the first stone age tools that our ancestors made to the best of our knowledge are these Oldowan tools, that are a couple of million years old, two and a half or so. And they're super simple. They've basically sharpened edges and their hands, because of course, if you've got no knife or any of these other implements, you would, you could use that to cut open a high, they get access to things that you couldn't access otherwise. But they're super simple. Obviously, it doesn't look like it requires a lot of cognition to make one.
[00:23:22] The next big step was 1.7 million years ago with Acheulean tools, which are named after the place with their first found in France but in fact, they're originally from Africa as well. And these Acheulean tools, they're bi-facial, they've looked much more like there's a human designer. That somebody had an intention or a plan than they did.
[00:23:39] When you look at the tool you say to yourself, "Well, I bet that's pretty hard to make." But you can ask the question properly by saying, "Well, let me share, let me teach you how to do it. Let me shove you in the magnet. And then I'll show you pieces of the tool along the way of production and ask you, what would you do next?" And when you do that with those Oldowan tools, that very simple, all you light up is motor cortex, right? Where you go, "Oh, I'm going to whack it there." But when you do that with the Acheulean tool, there's all sorts of planning that has to go, "Hmm. What would I do next? Well, let me look at the way — oh, okay. I'd have to plan that. And I have to do this so that I can do that." And that lights up all this planning area in frontal lobes of your brain. As you can see why an animal, that's not super clever just can't do that. But an animal that's good at planning, they can think through a multi-step process. It could now make a tool like that.
[00:24:23] Jordan Harbinger: It's so incredible to be able to test a modern human. I don't know. It shouldn't be that mind-blowing, but it totally is to test a modern human and go, "Well, your brain does this." We can know what's pretty high certainty that that's exactly, or at least really close to how the brain of this person who made, or this human or humanoid, I guess sort of prehuman—
[00:24:43] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:24:44] Jordan Harbinger: —also did the exact same thing because there haven't been that many big changes in the brain over the past, like I don't know, whatever hundred thousand, a couple of hundred thousand years, I don't know. I'm not sure how the brain should be.
[00:24:55] Bill von Hippel: You're right. For the last 300,000 years, our brains are pretty much the same. And that's kind of the time span of Homo sapiens. If you go back to Homo erectus, which the first evidence we have for them is two million years ago, but they weren't making those tools for a good 300,000 years after they were on this planet. But once that point came around, that's pretty good evidence that their minds had taken a pretty big leap. And now, they could engage in these kinds of complex multi-step plans that to the best of our knowledge, no other animal can do. So almost assuredly they're the first animal on this planet that could ever do that.
[00:25:25] Now with that said, who knows maybe there was a dinosaur that was super-duper clever and got wiped out by that asteroid. And we just have no evidence.
[00:25:31] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:25:32] Bill von Hippel: But probably not. We have very good evidence now that they could engage in this kind of complex planning and complex planning changes. And I think about a world where you had to try everything out in order to see if it would work, but both from trying to get a date to try and get the big guy, not to beat you up, trying to do whatever you want to do. If all you could do is give to go, your plans would end up being very simple and you get your face punched in a lot or slapped or yelled at or whatever the case might be. But if you can start to simulate the future and say, "Well, I'll do X, and then I'll do Y. Oh, wait a minute. Now, why won't follow X? Because that will happen." Then you're in this totally different situation where the world becomes your oyster in a way that it just never was before.
[00:26:09] Jordan Harbinger: Speaking of mind and planning something called theory of mind seems to be part of the key to our success here, allowing us to do things that no other animal can, of course, but maybe pass down somebody else's really bad try or really good try to somebody else.
[00:26:25] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. The theory of mind is a really interesting phenomenon. And again, in emergence around age four in humans, and what it is is this awareness that the contents of your mind are not identical to the contents of mine, both with what you know and with your preferences. And so little tiny kids don't have that. And that's part of the reason that they often say things that are really hard to follow. They'll start halfway through a sentence because they were thinking X. And if they're thinking X, in their mind, you're thinking X. And so it follows that they could just pick up the sentence halfway through and tell you something about it.
[00:26:54] But by the time they get to about age four, particularly if they have siblings, so the negotiating with, and stuff like that, the penny starts to drop and they realize, "Oh, I like the yellow jelly beans, but you like the red ones. Our preferences aren't the same." Or, if they're playing hide and seek, they think, "Oh, I hid over here and you didn't seem able to find me." Now, if you try playing hide and seek with your two and a half year old, and you say, "Where are you?" They'll go, "I'm over here."
[00:27:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:17] Bill von Hippel: Because they don't understand that you don't know that already. It's a perfectly reasonable answer to the question. But if he's started to play hide and seek with somebody who has theory of mind by around age four, they're like, "Oh, they don't know where I am. Because even though I know where I am, they don't have the same access to that knowledge that I do." Now that ends up being a super important ability. It allows you to teach. It allows you to manipulate. It allows you to do all sorts of things that no other animal on this planet can do because no other animal has the complete version of it that we have.
[00:27:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I was going to ask about lying because my two and a half year old doesn't exact — I guess he kind of lies sometimes, but it's not, well, it's not that advanced, but he recently started, let's say, he only wants to play with my dad or grandpa who's in the room. He'll say, "Grandpa," and then he'll say, "No, daddy, no daddy coming in the room." So he'll say that, but then recently, and I mean, as of the last two weeks, he starts saying it's dangerous. Or if I pick up one of his Hot Wheels that he wants to say, "No, it's dangerous." And I'm like, he knows that when we tell him something dangerous, he's supposed to stop. He knows this isn't dangerous or does he just not know what dangerous means? And that's what he's saying to stop or is he lying to me about that being dangerous so that I'll put it down? I don't know.
[00:28:27] Bill von Hippel: It's a great example. And it's the kind of deception we refer to this as deception because technically speaking to tell a lie means he has an intent to plant a false belief.
[00:28:36] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:28:36] Bill von Hippel: Now, we can't have an intent to plant a false belief if he doesn't know that you don't know everything he knows.
[00:28:40] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:28:40] Bill von Hippel: And so what he's doing is the same thing that monkeys will do. And that is relying on associate of learning in order to — every time that word dangerous is used, people have to back off from an object. So I'll use that word and I'll get people to back off the object. We've got this great example with where monkeys will do the same thing when they're eating, they'll make an alarm call to try to get the other monkeys to run away so they can hoover up as much food as they possibly can.
[00:29:02] Jordan Harbinger: Tricky.
[00:29:03] Bill von Hippel: I know it's very tricky. It's not exactly a lie because they don't have the cognitive capabilities to go, "Oh, if I do that, the other monkeys are going to think there's a bird, blah, blah," but what they can do is go alarm call makes monkeys runaway. I Hoover up as much food as I can.
[00:29:15] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:29:16] Bill von Hippel: Dangerous makes you leave the Hot Wheels alone, I get to play with them.
[00:29:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. So instead of, yeah, instead of planning out a big lie, like you said, to plant a belief, he just knows, "Hey, look, he drops this dangerous bomb on me all the time. I'm just going to do the same thing to him. It seems to work fine," because of course, I put it down.
[00:29:29] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[00:29:29] Jordan Harbinger: I don't want him to cry. Yeah, that's so interesting. I think it's fascinating that monkeys or apes can kind of lie with nonverbal communication or at least deceive the deception thing being involved. It also just makes so much sense.
[00:29:45] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, it makes great sense because, of course, the first thing you're trying to do in life is, get those things that you have the power and the abilities to get. But the data occurs to you that you can implant a false belief is the day it occurs to you, "Oh, I can get all sorts of things I can't otherwise get. That I don't deserve," or they're not strong enough to hold or whatever the case might be. "It's dangerous, dad. You touched this Hot Wheel and you might burn your hand." and so eventually when he gives you those kinds of lies, he's going to be doing it on purpose. In the sense, he's going to be trying to give you a false belief. For now, he's just trying to manipulate a word that often works.
[00:30:18] We see the same thing with monkeys. Apes are a little bit more complicated than monkeys, and they can engage in some rather complex theory of mind types of deception. So for example, when a chimpanzee, the alpha male in the group, and if it sees two other males together who are a potential threat to you at work, not that far down the food chain from it, if it sees them together, it'll charge them, drive them apart because it doesn't want them to form a coalition and then be able to displace them. A baboon isn't clever enough to do that. And so baboon also doesn't other baboons to displace it if it's alpha male, but it can only do things like a little bribery with food and things like that. It doesn't have the wherewithal to think, "Oh, you two are over there chatting," so to speak—
[00:31:00] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:31:00] Bill von Hippel: "That suggests you're forming a bond. And that suggests you may be an eventual threat to me."
[00:31:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, they haven't thought of divide and conquer. Yeah, probably a good thing.
[00:31:07] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[00:31:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:10] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bill von Hippel. We'll be right back.
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[00:33:56] Now back to Bill von Hippel.
[00:33:59] I wonder why didn't we evolve a better ability to detect lies. Now, some people think they can, but we see through studies that even investigators when they test these like FBI interrogate, they're like 50/50, and even really good detectives are like 50/50 unless they can get a lot of questions in with somebody. It's like a coin toss. Why haven't we gotten really good at that?
[00:34:20] Bill von Hippel: So I think the answer to that is complicated and unfortunately we don't know this with certainty, but what I believe the answer is, is that we did not evolve to detect deception in people we don't know or strangers. Because remember in our ancestral world, strangers were a threat. You don't just walk up to a stranger and ask to borrow their pen. You don't do anything like that because if they're a member of a different tribe, there's a good chance that they're going to try to off you. And so we just stay away from them. And so what that means is that those who are actually in our group, you know, whatever our linguistic group is or our tribal group, they're going to be people, mostly who we've known our whole lives.
[00:34:54] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:34:54] Bill von Hippel: We may not always spend all of our time with them, but we've known them for a great deal of time. And that gives us lots of other ways to detect deception. One, I can see how you normally act. And today you're asking a little bit different. Two, I can try to corroborate what you said. So you claimed to be out bowling last night and not with my girlfriend, but I can go chat with Bob who was also bowling, and see if he saw you at the bowling alley.
[00:35:14] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:35:14] Bill von Hippel: And so there's all sorts of other ways to detect deception. My guess is that the cues that we gathered from strangers simply don't have enough meaning for us. And so we're not very good at using those cues. So my guess is that we evolved to detect deception amongst people we know, but not really among strangers.
[00:35:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's like how your mom can tell you're lying like 90 percent of the time but some friend you met, or you might have a tough time with it.
[00:35:37] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[00:35:38] Jordan Harbinger: That makes total sense, right? You just had limited contact with strangers, or if you didn't have limited contact, you didn't have to evaluate anything other than they weren't born in the same tribe as you. And that's it.
[00:35:47] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. They've got a different accent. They wear different clothes. There are potential threats to me, but they're also potential opportunities. Just because a stranger does minimum to attack them, but I'm certainly going to be ready to do, so I'm not really worrying about corroborating what they're claiming.
[00:35:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. That they didn't have a chance to be like, "Hey, I come in peace," right? That all came later with the invention of language, I suppose.
[00:36:05] Bill von Hippel: Yep.
[00:36:05] Jordan Harbinger: Did humans have to then adapt to, I don't want to say income inequality, but just inequality in general, because if hunter-gatherers are kind of sharing everything, we don't really do that anymore. Or at least Western societies don't really do that anymore. So it seems like that would be almost an adaptation to agriculture or cities or something like that.
[00:36:26] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, that's right. So we see inequality doesn't emerge at all in hunter-gatherers but remember hunter-gatherers or what we call immediate return hunter-gatherers, those who eat today, what they killed today. But remember that they're living on the very edge of starvation all the time. Every single day, you've got to go kill something new, or you may not make it through the next few days because there's no refrigeration. Even if you kill the biggest animal you can, it's only going to last a day or two in the hot sun in which they live. And so they live so close to the edges, so close to the margins that sharing just makes perfect sense. It's the exact kind of insurance system that everybody needs. But once you get to sort of a pre-agricultural world, and we can see this in Europe and in Asia and in parts of Africa, about 30,000 years ago, where people started to settle down and not move around as much, at least seasonally.
[00:37:15] And once we see that, we start to see bigger houses and littler houses. We start to see people who are buried with fancy ornamentation around their neck and people who are just chucked into the clay with nothing on them. And so we know that inequality probably proceeded agriculture by about 20,000 years, and we know as it started to get increasingly so. And we also know that it emerged in hunter-gatherer societies where you can store food.
[00:37:41] And so a good example is in the Pacific Northwest in Washington and Oregon, there's lots of great salmon runs, or at least there used to be, and so the people who live there, they knew that reliably every year at around this time, tons of salmon kind go up this stream. And so they start to develop hierarchies where I said, "Hey, let's partner up. We're going to go protect that salmon stream. And we're going to make sure nobody takes our food. And then we're going to gather enough food for the whole year." And these processes come into place where over many, many generations inequality starts to reemerge. Despite the fact that it functionally disappeared in our ancestors. Chimpanzees are wildly unequal. Hunter-gatherer humans, not at all. And then modern life is widely unequal again.
[00:38:21] Jordan Harbinger: What about division of labor by sex, right? Because hunter-gatherer societies I've read all the time are more egalitarian. Is that just because everyone's sharing or does that have to do with who could plow? I don't know. I guess—
[00:38:34] Bill von Hippel: That's a good question. So hunter-gatherer societies are more egalitarian than any of other societies, but that doesn't mean that there's no sex-based division of labor. So one of the examples that, I don't even know why this is, but somebody out there probably knows the answer or ought to be trying to figure it out, is in every hunter-gatherer society on earth women do the cooking?
[00:38:51] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:38:51] Bill von Hippel: That doesn't seem to be demanded. Yeah, it's bizarre.
[00:38:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I didn't, I never thought of.
[00:38:54] Bill von Hippel: That it doesn't seem to be demanded because the cooking doesn't happen until you brought home your giraffe.
[00:38:59] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:38:59] Bill von Hippel: And I brought home the roots I dug up, but nonetheless, that's what happens all over the world. So there are lots of sex-based divisions of labor, and many of them are based on the kind of needs and demands of motherhood versus the needs and demands of fatherhood. It is the case of human males do a lot less parenting than human females do. But human males do a ton more parenting than any of the great ape males who were way, way better than there. So it depends on what your standard of comparison is. We look great compared to gorillas and chimps. We don't look so good compared to human females, but of course, that division of labor made perfect sense.
[00:39:32] If you meet as a super high-value food, especially when it's a fatty animal. So it brings in lots of calories and lots of protein. And so to go off for a day or two days into the distance to try to find those things requires a willingness to disconnect a bit from your family and just go off and try to achieve that goal. Whereas women tend to go off in dyads or triples and they tend to be digging things up, not hunting things down. It makes perfect sense again, because they've got this probably a little one attached to them. And our ancestral females, they nurse for about two years. And because nursing is, at a border face, it causes you, if you do get pregnant to flush the fetus out. That meant that they had babies about every three years. But that means that they've got little ones on them all the time.
[00:40:20] Jordan Harbinger: All the time, yeah. Oh god, well, my wife would not be up for that. That's too much. I can't even imagine having a life where you have to gather food, you're on the verge of starvation. You probably have some sort of shelter, but it's got to be something you can either pack up and move or find again.
[00:40:39] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:40:39] Jordan Harbinger: And you also have three kids that are, or something like that, that you're feeding or it's just a whole gaggle. It just sounds so stressful. I thought stepping on Legos at night was bad and I don't seem to handle that.
[00:40:51] Bill von Hippel: Look, it does sound stressful, but there's a lot of stresses that exist in our modern world that our ancestors didn't have to worry about. So what's the meaning of life? Why are you and I here? What's going to happen to us when we die? Modern science has disrupted our understanding of all those questions. If we look back at hunter-gatherers, they all have these religions that are, they're not at all like our monotheistic moralizing religions we have today. They're much more about ancestors and spirits and gods out there that may or may not listen to you. But what it did mean is that you had a place in the world and you didn't question, why are you here? And you didn't question, what you ought to do for a living? Nobody a hundred thousand years ago, go, "So what do I want to do when I grow up?"
[00:41:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:27] Bill von Hippel: You're a hunter-gatherer. There are no other options. And so we've got these pressures that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would actually find very aversive too. And so what happens is you get used to a world you're in, they would love the fact that there's a fridge over there. They'd love the fact that they go to the supermarket without getting eaten by lions. They'd love those things, but they'd be pretty thrown by a lot of other aspects of our world, living with strangers and not being concerned about not knowing what happens to you when you die, et cetera, which weren't concerns that they had.
[00:41:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's a really good point. And it's funny though that back then, they're not thinking about purpose and what is my purpose in life. And that's like the biggest crisis right now that a lot of folks have.
[00:42:05] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:42:05] Jordan Harbinger: You know, what am I getting? I'm feeling unfulfilled to try feeling hungry all the time.
[00:42:10] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. And like, what's your passion? You're 18 years old. You're going off to college or getting a job. Nobody asks you, "Well, what's your passion? What do you really want to do?" The proper answer is, "I'm 18. How am I supposed to know what my passion is?" We think of all to find our passion. That's something new where there's now bazillion jobs you could choose from. And, you know, Copernicus and Darwin destroyed our understanding of our place in the universe and the centrality of us, which we always believed every ancestral human believe that they are central to the existence of the world and the world is central to them. And now we're tiny specs on a tiny planet and a tiny solar system in this vast universe. And you can look up in the stars and feel like an insignificant piece of crap.
[00:42:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:42:48] Bill von Hippel: And I don't think our ancestors ever felt like that. They looked up and they thought, "How great is that? I'm connected to all of this."
[00:42:54] Jordan Harbinger: And we're the only people here. We haven't really seen too much else.
[00:42:57] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[00:42:57] Jordan Harbinger: Just the people who live over in the valley and we never talked to them, but that's it.
[00:43:00] Bill von Hippel: But that stuff circles us. We're not out there floating in the universe.
[00:43:05] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable. And it makes concerns like dating seem pretty trivial, but hey, mating and signals is another interesting topic that you discuss in the book, right? Peacocks and peahen. Somehow the peacock's tail is almost analogous to lying about me having a PhD or something, or how much money I make each year, or my height in a dating app.
[00:43:26] Bill von Hippel: It's analogous to lying, but it has the great advantage that they can't lie with that tail. If a peacock reaches adulthood and hasn't been eaten by a tiger, then it's a pretty fit beast because it's dragging around four or five feet of feathers that are completely unnecessary for its existence. And so if you rock up and you say, "Well, I graduate number one of my classes at Harvard and I drive a Ferrari," I'm like, "Maybe," but if you then pull up in your Ferrari the next day, and I see your diploma sitting on your seat, that's like the peacock's tail. You can't fake that stuff. And so unless you stole the Ferrari, so I guess there's some faking in there, but not much.
[00:44:01] Jordan Harbinger: You can rent it and print off a Harvard diploma and I'm sure people have done that, but yeah, generally not. Yeah.
[00:44:07] Bill von Hippel: But the beauty is that females become very sensitive to unfakeable signals in males. And so they know the talk is cheap, but they know that action is not, and that's why you can do a good game by talking. And of course, if you're funny and you're quick-witted, that's actually not cheap talk. That's a good sign that your mind works really well. And we've got more genetic expression in our brain than we have anywhere else in our body. And so that's a really lovely sign that you have good genes and therefore you might be a good partner, but then, of course, you need to go out and achieve those things to demonstrate that you're valued to a potential partner and your value to your group, et cetera.
[00:44:39] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about the crossword puzzle. This is kind of a funny example of maybe honest or dishonest signals, accidentally dishonest signals.
[00:44:47] Bill von Hippel: The crossword is a great example. So when I was in college, I was sitting there waiting for my friends to show up. We're all going to have breakfast together. And I happen to have a copy of the Sunday, New York Times. And I happened to have a pen with me and that's all I had. It was a beautiful day. So I was sitting down and waiting for my friends and they're not there yet. So I'm kind of bored. And I read a little bit, I'm still bored. So I started doing the crossword puzzle, terrible at crosswords. And so I'm staring at the first clue and trying to figure it out. And this old alumni showed up and he says, "Oh," and he pops down next to me, "Let me help you with that." And I could really use his help, so I go, "Sure." Now, his wife looks down at me and says, "Dear, he's doing the Sunday puzzle with a pen. He doesn't need your help." So she's very good at picking up these subtle signals that I must be a very clever guy if I can use a pen and therefore never need to scratch out or erase my answer, which would, of course, turn your crossword into complete mush.
[00:45:34] Now that wasn't the case. It was random that I had a pen and a crossword puzzle, but she was good at picking up that cue up. She drags him off. They leave a friend of mine shows up and she just starts answering all the questions in a row, like 12 answers in 12 seconds.
[00:45:47] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:45:47] Bill von Hippel: And I suddenly realize, you know, "I must scribe here. I'm not actually doing the puzzle anymore." So I'm like, "Go away, go away. I want to do this on my own." And then coincidentally, two minutes later, they walk back by and he tries to sit down again. He clearly wants to work on the puzzle and his wife goes, "Dear, he's already solved half the puzzle without you. He does not need your help." And so in this case, it was all a big fat lie, but on average, that's a really good indicator, an honest signal of quality that you don't need somebody to help and that you really do have these skills. And people are really, really good at picking up what would otherwise be subtle indicators of those processes.
[00:46:20] Jordan Harbinger: You got to love crossword puzzles to stop with your wife two times to try and sit with a stranger and do one. I'm like, "Who is this guy?"
[00:46:28] Bill von Hippel: It's partially that. I know it is funny, but it's also partial, I think part of it is, you know, he's these alumni who love college and he wants to reintegrate with the college kids. And so he just wanted to sit down and do the puzzle. That's my guess.
[00:46:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't relate. I'm not a crossword guy and you're right. I'm the guy who's like, "Huh? Maybe I'll try this." And someone else's like, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. And I'm like, "I'm not going to be good at this. I'm not going to practice or even try."
[00:46:52] Last-place aversion is something that came through in the book. It's particularly interesting, especially because the Olympics that we just had and you see, I can't remember who did this research, but it's like a silver medalist is really disappointed and a bronze medalist is elated and they can tell through all these photos and images, Dan Pink talked about it on our show recently because gold, of course, they're elated. This is the pinnacle of achievement, but silver was, "Just right almost there."
[00:47:19] Bill von Hippel: Yep.
[00:47:19] Jordan Harbinger: And bronze is like, "Man, I wasn't even supposed to place, so I'm pretty stoked about this," generally, right? on average.
[00:47:24] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, that's Vicki Medvec who did that work. They're lovely studies and they're a really good example of the role of counterfactuals. And so when we go through life and we are evaluating what we've got, we can engage in what we call upward comparisons. "Oh, well, what I have is pretty good, but boy, I could have had that, that would've been awesome," or we could engage in downward comparisons. And what Vicki pointed out is that when you come in second place, the gold medal is really salient in your mind that upward comparison and it makes you feel bad. When you come in third place, you're on the medal stand and you know, the Porsche who was one-hundredth of a second behind you is just sitting at home with nothing. And so it tends to make you feel better. The evidence is a little bit mixed about how well those things hold up. But on average, that effect is definitely true. And it's funny how potent it is.
[00:48:08] I got into a ski accident recently when I was just over in the states and broke a bunch of ribs and—
[00:48:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:48:14] Bill von Hippel: It was a bummer, but all I could think about was boy, that could have been a lot worse.
[00:48:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:17] Bill von Hippel: And at least I didn't hurt that poor guy that I skied into. And so what bigger individual than I am. And so you engage in this, bad thing happens, it ruins your ski trip, but you can, as a human being, you can walk away, happy thinking, boy, I'm not paralyzed. I could have skied right over somebody and hurt them really badly. None of those things happen. And so those counterfactuals actually matter a lot more than the actual outcomes in determining how happy you are. When those counterfactuals, when the obvious ones are worse, you feel great. When the obvious ones are better, you feel terrible.
[00:48:47] So Danny Kahneman has these lovely studies where he says, "Imagine you're driving home and you're taking the same route you take every day and you get this terrible auto accident. And how upset are you?" Well, people are pretty upset, but now he says, "Imagine driving home. And today you decided to take the scenic route and you get into a horrible accident. How upset are you?" Well, you're much more upset because it's so easy to imagine not taking the scenic route. You made a change today that therefore caused a bad thing to happen. Whereas if you're driving the same route every day, it's hard to imagine not getting in that car accident. And so people are very sensitive to the probability that lives could have been better or could have been worse.
[00:49:21] Jordan Harbinger: That is something that I can't really stop doing too easily. I'm always thinking about these outcomes and that's evolved how, I guess, we just humans do.
[00:49:29] Bill von Hippel: It makes sense. You ought to be doing that. And in fact, one of the nice things about it. So Shelley Taylor at UCLA has shown that you look at women, for example, with breast cancer. And a lot of them are really resilient to it. And they'll say, "Well, look, it's bad, but it could be a lot worse. Look what happened to that poor woman in the hospital room next to mine who had to have this terrible surgery, I'd got this horrible chemo." And so the good thing about it is it allows us to be very psychologically robust because we can easily envision how things could be worse. And once you can envision how things could be worse since everything in life is relative, you now feel a lot better.
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: Why is it that—? And I've noticed this about myself. I'll compare myself to somebody who's in my circle or sphere. And as I asked this question, I'm starting to get idea for why this might be the case. But like you said, when Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar, I'm not like, "Oh man, I should have gotten one, right? And when I'm watching the Olympics, which I didn't do this year, but I don't look at Sean White and go, "Oh, you know, I should've gotten a gold medal in snowboarding," where I can't even stand up on the dang thing probably. But if a friend of mine gets a windfall, I find a twinge of envy, even though I'm really happy for them. And I might not even be in their industry. I'm like, "Well, why did he get stock options?" Well, he works there and you don't, dummy, right? Like that's what I'm thinking.
[00:50:43] Bill von Hippel: Right.
[00:50:43] Jordan Harbinger: What's going on there? Why am I not comparing myself to everyone — thankfully, because that would be horrible, but why bother at all? Like, it's like my brain knows who to compare itself to and who not to, and it seems arbitrary.
[00:50:56] Bill von Hippel: It does seem arbitrary, but it's like all these other things that is evolved. And unfortunately, these social comparisons are the biggest bummer. They are the biggest source of life dissatisfaction because it's very common that a friend of yours will do well or a sibling will do well or somebody in your immediate social circle. And although you love the person or like them, and you're excited for them, you also cannot help, but feel bad about the fact that that did not happen to you.
[00:51:18] And the reason you can't help but feel bad about it when it happens in your immediate circle, is it, remember our ancestors evolved these very small groups of humans. And so inside these very small groups of humans, they had this situation whereby they need to be chosen by one — if you're a guy you need to be chosen by one of the women as a partner, you need to be accepted by the rest of the group as valuable. And if you're the kind of worst than the group of everything, well, then you're always at risk of the groups just going to toss you out because you're consuming more calories than you're creating. And it's going to be very hard to find a partner, a mate. Whereas if you could achieve a little bit more than those around you, it doesn't matter if you're achieving very little. If they're achieving even less than you're looking pretty good.
[00:51:58] And so again, everything becomes relative. Sexual selection is this process whereby we're constantly jacking for status with others. Now, one of the bummers about status is that it's one of the few zero-sum games that humans engage in. If I rise in status compared to you, then the way that happens is you've lost and I've gained. If I go out and farm and we all have more food, it's not zero-sum. We've all gained something, but status is only relative. I can only rise relative to you to the degree that you drop. And so the unfortunate consequence of social comparison process is that we're constantly paying attention to our status. We're constantly worried about it. Because our ancestors who didn't worry about it tended to get left out of the mating game. They didn't achieve those kinds of things. They didn't attract a partner, et cetera. And that's something that humans are particularly concerned about because evolution cares about you to the degree that you can procreate.
[00:52:48] Now, in today's world, you may think, "Well, I don't want kids," but our ancestors didn't know how to make kids. All I wanted to do was have sex. So we evolved to want to have sex. And then of course the kids came along and then we evolved to be nutrient to kids. And so the process continues in that sort of way, but sexual selection needs to the super unfortunate process of social comparison. And of course, it tends to get into those around you because you know, somebody in another group could achieve anything they want. One of the females in your group is not going to go off with them.
[00:53:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that is fascinating. Looking at these studies on income, for example. You can have a ton of money, but if you live among other people, if you live in Ray Dalio and Mark Cuban's neighborhood or something in Nantucket, you are the broke as a joke, kind of maybe people are gossiping about it, "How can he even afford to eat at this restaurant?" Or, "Who let that guy in?" But if you're that same person and you decide to live in the neighborhood that I grew up in, everyone goes, "Wow, that's who bought the big house on the corner? What do they do for work? Wow, man, what kind of car do they drive? It must be really impressive, but they're good as Nintendo," right?
[00:53:49] So you can see my baggage from a mile away, but like you look at these income comparisons and you see that people — a lot of my friends have moved out of California recently. And they're like, "It's amazing what you can get for X dollars." And I'm like, "You make so much. What do you care what breakfast costs?"
[00:54:04] Bill von Hippel: Right.
[00:54:05] Jordan Harbinger: You know, reading between the lines. They really don't. What they really care about is the fact that now instead of being in the middle of the pack, they're freaking loaded compared to everybody else around them because they're making like 150 or 200 grand a year in a place where people are making 30 to 50, as opposed to making 150 to 250 in a place where everybody makes that amount of money because everybody works at Apple or whatever.
[00:54:26] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, it's an unaffordable process and to the degree, it doesn't matter what anybody else has. It just matters if I have a little bit more or a little bit less. And so if I've got a ton and everybody else has two tons, I'm feeling kind of poor and why don't I have a helicopter? And I can't believe that I have to drive to work. And then I move into a new neighborhood and I've got the fanciest car and suddenly I feel great. And so it's all this status jacking. It's one of the most unfortunate things about being human because the status jacking more than anything else disrupts our happiness. It's super hard to learn, not to do it because our ancestors who didn't do it, aren't our ancestors. They get left out of the mating game.
[00:55:02] So it's not an easy switch to turn off. It's far easier to say, screw it. I'm moving to Iowa where I'm going to be rich rather than in the Bay Area where I'm poor. But one of the things that does happen as you get older, you do get better at stopping and reflecting and deciding do these things still really matter. And the beauty is, of course, once you've got partner, all these things become a little less important as well.
[00:55:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That part has interested me. I always wonder what I have achieved, not that I've achieved all this greatness or anything exactly, but what I have bothered to achieve what I have achieved if I got married in my 20s or would I be like, "I'm all right." You know, it's like guys, we get a little fat after we get married. A lot of my friends have experienced that. I certainly have and it's a little bit of complacency that you swear is never going to happen to you but in a lot of little areas that can creep in if, especially if you're just not paying attention. And I often wonder, like if I got married at 29 instead of 37 or whatever it was like, where would I be now?
[00:55:56] Bill von Hippel: That's a great point. And an interesting thing about it is that human beings evolved to try to grab that lifetime partner when they're at their most attractive.
[00:56:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:05] Bill von Hippel: And so what that means is that men tend to marry a little bit older than women do. And it also means that the more educated you are and the more that your job relies on lots and lots of training, you tend to get married later as well. So if you're the high school football star who then is going to go off into a trade and work in a factory while you're at your most attractive when you're 19, because you're made a muscle and you're super cool. And all those high school trophies are still sitting on your bench. And so that tends to be when people tend to choose their life partner. So what I would say is that it wasn't that had you gotten married that you wouldn't have achieved less but you had lined your life up to try to achieve as much as you could in order to make the most suitable partnership for you that you could. And then the end result of that process is that you were very ambitious. You achieved a lot, and then you married once you got to that point where you can now take advantage of your success.
[00:56:53] Jordan Harbinger: You know, this is way off-topic. And I'm probably going to hear from people about this, but I'm so curious. When I worked on Wall Street, everybody made jokes about starter wives or oh, that's so-and-so starter wife, you know, now they're divorced and it's like, they had a wife with whom they had kids. And then they would make partners or something like that. And they would have so much more money and they would have a different partner. And it was like everyone. I mean, I think I knew like one guy out of 50 or a hundred or something on Wall Street at these levels that was still married to his wife and seemed even remotely happy and he wasn't like he was handcuffed to the radiator.
[00:57:32] Bill von Hippel: So human beings are serially monogamous in most societies. Now, there's exceptions to that rule. And there's some polygynous societies where people can have multiple wives if they're highly successful, or if they're very important. But on average, human beings are serially monogamous. And what happens is they pair up for anywhere from a lifetime to maybe just a few years. And they typically got their pair dissolves and it switches. One of the key things that cause pairs to dissolve is — I don't like this term because it sounds so calculating, but in evolution and psychology, we use the term mate value. And so how valuable are you as a mate. Now in today's world, money is 75 to 95 percent of that value. But of course, there's certain things that make you super valuable if you're really, really good looking, if you're famous and everybody wants to be around you, et cetera.
[00:58:19] And so when your mate value changes across the course of your lifespan, it introduces potential wedge into relationships because usually, people partner up when they have similar mate values and then as one person's mate value changes the other one doesn't, it can cause conflict. We do this demonstration when we teach psychology where we have students, we give everybody a number from one to two. And you can't look at your own number, but you put it on your forehead.
[00:58:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:58:43] Bill von Hippel: So now, it's like one of these card games, you can see my number. And all they're told to do is pair up with the person with the highest number that you can. So let's say I have a one and the way you pair up is by shaking hands. And I walk up to you and you're like, "Yeah, I'm not shaking your hand." And I walk into a few more people and suddenly I realize, "Gee, I've got no mate value at all. I'm just going to anyone who'll shake my hand. I'm going to take." But if I've got a 10, everybody's crowding up to me and I'm like, "Oh, I'm a valuable person." And so you can learn this like that. The same thing happens when you get rich, the same thing as when you get famous, et cetera.
[00:59:13] And so, unfortunately, we do see this process and unfortunately as well, on average, it tends to happen to men. Now, it's happening much more to women as they have lot more careers and they become successful, but men care more about looks in their partner and women care more about success in their partner. And so what that means is that even when women become successful, it often doesn't introduce the same kind of frictions, but when men become successful, it really can. And lots of times, people are falling in love and they just bond and connect and they don't care. And you might look from the outside, "Gee, why is that rich guy with that kind of nobody or whatever, but he loves her and they survived."
[00:59:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:59:50] Bill von Hippel: But nine times out of 10, they don't, they do exactly like you say, and it causes conflict. And it leads to marriage dissolution because this feeling that I've got all these other people who were attracted to me — you know, we look at movie stars and we go, "Oh, those people are so, they're so fickle. They can't stay married."
[01:00:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:06] Bill von Hippel: I remember when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie first got together, I told my students, "Well, this isn't going to last." I got nothing against the two of them, but they both have too many other options all the time. Well, what makes people's marriages last is they don't have too many other options all the time. And so we know that marriages last longer in rural areas than they do in cities. We know that marriages last longer when you're a nobody than when you're famous and it's for all of these kinds of reasons.
[01:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bill von Hippel. We'll be right back.
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[01:02:46] Now for the rest of my conversation with Bill von Hippel.
[01:02:50] That's so interesting. So the idea of, if you want your marriage to last, you should try and keep your mate value commensurate with that of your partner, and maybe encourage them to do the same. Don't make too much money. Don't be famous and move to a BioPharm and stay there.
[01:03:04] Bill von Hippel: It's the best recipe that will keep you together. I can't promise you to make you happy, but it will keep you together.
[01:03:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right. No, you'll still be together. You might be miserable because you're living on a farm and you had to learn another language to keep up with your partner and it drives you crazy. But here you are or you had to gain the same amount of weight as your partner or something along those lines.
[01:03:22] You know, it's funny. I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, but I don't care. My mother-in-law will tell my wife somewhat regularly that she needs to keep up with me or I'm going to lose interest, which is not like that's not in the process of happening by the way — to be clear, Jen, when you listen. But I'm learning Mandarin Chinese and I'm studying a little bit of Russian in Duolingo. And if I've got like all these other sort of projects I'm working on my voice and the business is going well, and she'll be like, "You know, you need to keep up," which is not helpful because we have a two-month-old and a two-year-old. And to have my mother-in-law, you know, to have her mom telling her like, "Hey, by the way, you know, your husband is doing a lot of important stuff. You better pay attention." Not helpful at all, but it's really interesting that she would one, notice that and then two, say that, because I feel like most people would — it's like saying the quiet part out loud. You don't really normally do that. And I thought that was kind of interesting.
[01:04:11] Bill von Hippel: It's the exact kind of advice that family will give because the mother-in-law is most invested in the two of you staying together because she wants your resources to continue to go to your kids. One of the statutes about men is they tend to support the children of their current wife. And so I know it's terrible, but it's true.
[01:04:28] Jordan Harbinger: It is terrible.
[01:04:29] Bill von Hippel: If you divorced the probability that you pay for your kids to go to college goes down, probably that you pay for the kids who are already the children of the person that you remarried to, to go to college goes up. Men take care of kids in part to satisfy their current partner. And this has been happening throughout history. And so mothers, in particular, the wife's mother is very sensitive to the fact that she needs to make sure that she can do what she can to maintain that relationship. One of the more entertaining ways that they do that is if you go to delivery rooms, the mother's mother will often tell everybody in the delivery room, "Oh my gosh, he/she, the baby, looks so much like the dad."
[01:05:05] Jordan Harbinger: They say that all the time.
[01:05:08] Bill von Hippel: Yes. And the truth of the matter is that a newborn baby looks like a semi-boiled egg. It's disgusting looking.
[01:05:14] Jordan Harbinger: Like old Chinese men, even if they're not part of the Asian. Yeah. They look, my wife's Asian and our kids looked like old Asian men for the first year.
[01:05:22] Bill von Hippel: And my kid looked like he went three rounds with Mike Tyson, has this bruised, disgusting foul.
[01:05:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah like boiled egg.
[01:05:27] Bill von Hippel: Someone told me that he looks like me, I ought to be insulted. But immediately my mother-in-law was like, she said, "Oh, he looks just like you, Bill." And I just sort of—
[01:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:05:35] Bill von Hippel: —beamed because it's a little of a reminder probably that kid belongs to me because that's a reassurance that the wife's family always wants to provide.
[01:05:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. No, my kid does look a hell of a lot like me, but it is funny how they said that from the very beginning. And I look and I'm like, "Okay, but he also looks like my wife's dad, you know, and he looks a little bit like so, but they always say, "Oh, every day, he just looks more and more like Jordan." And they'll say that every week without fail. It's so funny that's a thing.
[01:06:00] Bill von Hippel: Well, they want to keep you investing.
[01:06:01] Jordan Harbinger: Well, they got it. I can't imagine. It's hard to hear that guys lose interest in their kids when they remarried because I can't imagine that happening to me at all.
[01:06:10] Bill von Hippel: I know it's bad.
[01:06:11] Jordan Harbinger: And it sounds horrible.
[01:06:12] Bill von Hippel: Part of it is losing interest. Part of it is that, but part of it is also conflict with the new spouse. The new spouse does not like you giving resources to the old spouse's children. And so it becomes costly every time, you pay for the kid to go to university or pay or do whatever, try to spend time with them, it introduces friction. Even if your partner is really good about it, there's this sort of low level of friction that introduces and men don't want that. And men are less bonded to their children than women are anyway. I mean—
[01:06:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:43] Bill von Hippel: —that's across the animal kingdom, but even in the humans.
[01:06:45] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about divergent thinking, you know, what is this? I listened to a little bit about this. And I thought, okay. I feel like this is one area where I feel like I'm pretty good at it. And I never really knew what it was, but looking back at my schooling, I was always kind of this guy as well.
[01:07:01] Bill von Hippel: So divergent thinking is trying to find different ways to solve problems. It's probably one of the main components of creativity. And so if I asked you, named six uses for a brick. If you were poor divergent thinking, you'd say, "Well, I could use it to hold down a blanket. I could use it to hold down a stick. I could use it to hold, I could use the prop. You know, you're holding down and propping open," right? But if you're good at it, you could say, "Well, it's a good weapon. I could hold something down with it. I could build a shelf with it. You'd have all sorts of different kinds of uses that you could come up with."
[01:07:29] Now, divergent thinking turns out to be somewhat important in the animal, in the natural world. You and I are hiking along and we get to this raging river and we got to figure out how to get across it. And if we only can think of what we forgot to wait in, that could be the end of us. But if we can think about six different ways, we might solve this river problem, a raft, the bridge, go to a fork, et cetera, that helps. But it particularly helps when we're dealing with other humans. Because if I start to successfully manipulate you if I've got your number and I can get you to do the things that I want you to do, one day, it's going to occur to you. Or somebody who's going to tell you, "You know, Jordan, you've become Bill's lackey every time he wants to go hunting, you get the sh*tty job. Every time he wants to do something, you are there helping him out." You're going to say, "Oh, you're right. I'm not doing this anymore." And then Bill's going to need a new strategy to persuade you. That's just human nature.
[01:08:19] And so our capacity to engage in divergent thinking almost assured they evolved in order to manage each other. You know, if we think about managing the world that we live in, if you're an Inuit living way up in the Arctic, it's a super difficult environment. If you're the kind of person living in Tanzania or Kenya, it's another super difficult environment and hot and dry, et cetera. But your ancestors lived there for a long time. You've lived there for a long time and you know the rules of engagement. It's with other humans that the rules of engagement can change on a daily level. And why we have such pressure on us to be able to think about the world in these kinds of complex ways.
[01:08:52] Jordan Harbinger: I always find that, I've noticed actually I should say that people right now that we really do seem to at least online admire people that have high levels of divergent thinking. You know, Elon Musk comes to mind. Like if you met him and he wasn't a well-known entrepreneur, who's got all this divergent thinking, he would be a pretty insufferable guy that most people would not like. And I think, I'm not being rude like I think he even acknowledges this a lot of the time. And if you really read some of the things that he writes and say, without putting it in the context of he invented space or founded SpaceX and runs Tesla, you would be like, why would, you wouldn't want to be around somebody like this, right? And yet my license plate says Elon fan. So like, it seems to be something that is highly prized in societies and I guess maybe always has been.
[01:09:42] Bill von Hippel: It certainly isn't, particularly when people can translate their divergent thinking capabilities into actual material success. And so we love the idea that now, you know, we're all driving these petrol-powered and diesel-powered cars, and now we've got an option for an electric car. It just came along like that. And it was a good one. And so suddenly his capacity to engage in divergent thinking made the world a better place. SpaceX is replacing a failed program with Challenger and all these kinds of things. There's all sorts of opportunities that are developing because of somebody's capacity to engage in divergent thinking and their capacity to think big.
[01:10:18] And so there is this tall poppies kind of an effect. If we read tomorrow in the newspaper that Elon Musk lost all of his money because he betted on X and X didn't pan out. We would get a little bit of satisfaction going—
[01:10:29] Jordan Harbinger: Hell, yeah.
[01:10:29] Bill von Hippel: That teaches that bugger a lesson.
[01:10:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:31] Bill von Hippel: But at the same time, we also admire him. And we know that that person's made the world a better place by virtue. And the same reason, Holtzman people only use their diversion thinking for social processes. They don't have to be an engineer who invents new stuff, but if they're just really good at planting their ideas in the minds of others and making the world congenial to them, we just find those people fun and interesting to be around. We admire that ability. It's more than any other ability. It probably plays a really big role in creating a social success out of nothing.
[01:11:00] You know lots of people can create social success out of something. I'm the best hunter in our group. And so you want to be around me. You want to hunt with me. And so I can say, "All right, well, I'll be friendly. Come on, Jordan. Let's go for a hunt." It's easy for me because I've already got the super important ability, but when you've got nothing to start with, and then you can engage in this divergent thinking and create something out of nothing, well, that's super impressive.
[01:11:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, by the way, the license plate was not my idea. It was Jen's idea. My wife's idea. So I'm washing my hands with the whole thing. I just want to note that here before I can take 10,000—
[01:11:27] Bill von Hippel: Now, I know when I see you too.
[01:11:28] Jordan Harbinger: That's right. Yeah. I thought maybe like, should I have that in there, but you know what? People take pictures of it, like every day when we're driving. And I see it on Twitter and stuff when I searched for it. So it's kind of funny too, to see that.
[01:11:40] Something that disappointed me about the book is that we deceive ourselves with respect to attractiveness. That was not what I wanted to hear. Tell me about the photo experiment. This just popped my bubble, man.
[01:11:51] Bill von Hippel: It's a lovely experiment. This is Nick Epley and Erin Whitchurch. And what they did is they brought people into the laboratory and they took their photos. Now, this is a while ago. So they wanted more from it, it took a few days. Now you can do it in 20 seconds, but so they take your photo. They send you home and then they bring you back into the lab and they do one of two things. In one condition, your job is simply to pick the actual photo out of an array of photos that have been morphed. Now, the more photos have been morphed either with somebody more attractive than yourself or somebody less attractive than yourself. So they've got your actual photo and then your uglified self and your beautified self. And then they say, "Which photo of these is yours?" Now, I think about the psychological pressure of being in that experiment. So I'm tempted to choose that really good-looking guy, that Bill who really looks hot, but I know for, well, you know, the answer. That you know that if I pick this morphed Bill who's really good looking and isn't really me, they're going to go, "No schmuck, you don't look anything like that."
[01:12:44] And so people in my bed is that they're trying to be models to try and to pick a photo that is not the best-looking one that they really want to pick because they don't want to be embarrassed. But nonetheless, on average, they pick the photo, that's been more 20 percent with this good-looking person. And so they choose the better-looking one. And interestingly in a follow-up experiment they ran, they simply show you your real photo, your minus 20 percent, so uglified 20 percent or your beautified 20 percent, they show you only one of those three photos in an array of other people. And they see how long it takes you to find it. And you can find your good self faster than you can find your actual self and faster than you can find your uglified self.
[01:13:22] Jordan Harbinger: That's incredible.
[01:13:23] Bill von Hippel: It is incredible. And what it tells you is that we all have this mental image of ourselves or almost all of us. It's actually better looking than we really are.
[01:13:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:30] Bill von Hippel: There's a good reason for that. Originally, in psychology, we thought, "Well, that just makes you feel better and helps you survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But in actual fact, that's not why we do it. It's not a defensive weapon to help you retreat from an unfavorable world. Rather, it's an offensive weapon that helps you convince other people that you have value. So if I think Bill's better looking than he really is, I can send her up to the bar where there's this attractive woman and I can start making small talk with her when I might otherwise feel too insecure to do that. And if I do that and she looks at me and goes, "Why is this torp making small talk with me?" Well, then she'll say, "Well, you know, he looks kind of torpy. But he seems to think a lot of himself and he knows himself better than I do. Maybe I ought to give him the time of day." So confidence is super important. It carries as much of the variability in how people respond to his actual competence does.
[01:14:18] So what this means is that yeah, we do go through our lives, deceiving ourself. Now, if you think you don't, the acid test for me is always, how often do you see candid photos of yourself that you didn't know somebody who's going to take and you actually like them? In my own case, one out of 10 candid photos, I think, "Oh, that's a good picture." The other nine, the photographers to say — I've been designed to look as ugly as I possibly can. And what that tells you is, "No, those candid photos are what I really look like, but they're not what I look like in my mind's eye."
[01:14:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's the part I was talking about why this is not great news, right? That means if you look at most photos of yourself and you say, "Wow, these are kind of bad. Why do people take such bad photos most of the time?" The truth is that is what you look like, right? And I refused to believe that. But unfortunately, the science shows that I do look like most of the photos that are taken to me, which is really a bummer.
[01:15:05] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. It is a bummer. Robert Trivers, he's the one who originated these ideas about self-deception talks about how it'd be walking down the street with some young, attractive female. And then he'll look in the glass of a window that he's passing and he'll go, "Who's that old guy with a Turkey gobbler neck next to that attractive woman?" And he's like, "Oh crap. That's me." Originally, he encodes it as somebody else. It takes a little bit of time for that to sink into a skull. You know that guy is you.
[01:15:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you hear older people say like, "Man, when did I get old?" They look in the mirror and they have that moment of clarity that probably just sort of pops into focus and then back out where they go, "Wait a minute, have I always had these wrinkles?" And you know, the wife is like, "You've had wrinkles for 20 years, man. What are you talking about?"
[01:15:45] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[01:15:45] Jordan Harbinger: It is interesting though, that we may be evolved to at least try to punch above our weight because our tendency towards self-inflation or at least to irrational self-confidence helps us achieve social outcomes that we probably couldn't get if we were more honest with ourselves.
[01:16:03] Bill von Hippel: Oh, absolutely. It not only gets the girl to like you who might not have liked you, but it also gets the guy to back off who might've to beat your face. And so I'm sitting next to you in a bar and I say, "Hey mate, that's my seat." And you look at me like, "You kind of old and small but on the other hand, you seem pretty confident. You seem like, you know, you can get me to leave. Is it really worth fighting over the seat? Even though I think I could beat your face in, maybe I ought to let this one go." And so it gets people that the one thing they remember is that whenever members of the same species come in conflict, they don't want to fight. All they want to know is who would win the fight. And that allows you to introduce a little bit of noise into the system and to trick somebody else. If you know, one is predator and one is prey, and I'm like trying to show off to you, "You can catch me." "Well, let's see." But if you and I are members of the same species, no one wants to fight. We just want to know who's going to win. And so, because we're both motivated to avoid the fight, then if I can ratchet myself up a little bit, I might get you to back off.
[01:16:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right. The cost of actually fighting and getting injured is too high. And even a sort of David and Goliath situation, it's like, well, you know, he might still poke my eye out even if I twist them in half and kill him. I don't want to deal with that either.
[01:17:06] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[01:17:06] Jordan Harbinger: So all we have to do is just one of us or both has to decide, "I don't know. Maybe he knows jujitsu or something like that. You know what? Maybe he's just insane. He's got a knife. I don't want to deal with this. Fine. Take your seat back."
[01:17:18] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[01:17:18] Jordan Harbinger: That is fascinating.
[01:17:19] Bill von Hippel: And even the worst-case scenario, your fist will sore after punching me in the face.
[01:17:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:17:23] Bill von Hippel: Nobody needs that.
[01:17:23] Jordan Harbinger: Nobody needs that. Exactly. What other types of self-deception have we maybe evolved that we still see?
[01:17:31] Bill von Hippel: Well, I think one of the most important ones is that, and we all do this. I hate to say it, but we all do it is that we rationalize our own motives as being pure.
[01:17:39] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:17:40] Bill von Hippel: Even though we don't see the motives of others of being pure. So the end result is that we're all hypocrites. You and I are at a wedding and there's one last piece of cake and I take it, and I've already had two pieces. And then you're standing there and I overhear you saying, "I didn't get any cake."
[01:17:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:17:53] Bill von Hippel: And then I'm thinking, you know, I could think, "I'm such a selfish bastard. That's the third piece I had." But I could say, "I had no idea that whoever planned this wedding didn't think it through carefully enough and have enough wedding cake for all of the guests. And so I didn't mean any harm whatsoever when I did that." And we all cut ourselves these breaks all the time, where we try to recast our morals as being pure. What that allows us to do is go into the next interaction, feeling good about ourselves, being able to sell herself to others rather than going, "You know, I'm kind of a selfish bastard who will eat the extra cake if I can get away with it," because that doesn't allow you to sell yourself easily. And so we tend to view ourselves. And in fact, this applies to our own group as well, that's sort of morally pure and self-righteous and doing the right thing. And we tend to be very dubious about the motives of others.
[01:18:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It kind of goes also to the fundamental attribution error where when I do something bad, it's because of the circumstances and the situation, but when somebody else does something bad, it's because they're a POS and their whole life is a big mess.
[01:18:49] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. It's the same exact same process.
[01:18:51] Jordan Harbinger: So let's wrap hereby, why don't you tell me about the time you saved, you rescued a child valiantly on the escalator.
[01:18:59] Bill von Hippel: So lots of people have lots of heroism in their lives. I have one tiny bit of heroism, and it could have gone completely pear-shaped. I was really, really lucky that it didn't go badly. And in my mind, as I sat there reflecting on it afterwards, it made me realize how much our tendency to cooperate and help is so automatized that we can do really, really stupid things when we're trying to do the right thing.
[01:19:20] And in this particular case, I was living in Sydney at the time and I had two very small children and they're both in strollers and my wife and I — I just bought them an ice cream cone at McDonald's for like 30 cents, right? And so we're going down an escalator, but one of these that doesn't have steps, it's just flat. And so we've got the strollers and we're on the down ramp. And I hear this yelling and I look at the bottom and there's this woman with her small child and he's playing on the outside of the escalator on the little handrail. He's kind of grabbing hold of it. And she's yelling at him not to. And then suddenly she yells really loud and I realized he's grabbed a hold. He's gotten too high and he's afraid to drop off and all you can see are hands over the edge of the thing, because he's hanging from it.
[01:19:59] Now, if I hadn't already watched what was going on, it would've meant nothing to me. I would not have noticed his hands and I would have obliviously, like everybody else in the mall, just kept going down the track, but I saw what was happening. And he was a tiny little guy. I could see that in about 20 feet, he was going to hit a pillar and drop about 25 feet to the floor or something.
[01:20:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[01:20:17] Bill von Hippel: And so I told my wife, I said, "Grab the other strollers." So she did, and I jumped over to the other side of the escalator and ran down and I got to him right before we got to the pole and reached over. He weighed nothing and I pulled them up. But what was so interesting is as I was running to him with my 30-cent ice cream cones from McDonald's rather than like chucking it to the floor so that I could save the world or shoving it in my mouth or doing something, literally, as I'm running down the escalator, I'm transferring it to my pinky so I can hold this ice cream cone on my pinky so that when I reach over, I don't drop this little fellow.
[01:20:48] Now, imagine that I did drop the little fellow and I didn't drop the ice cream. I imagine that trying to hold onto the ice cream may cause the whole thing to go mushy.
[01:20:56] Oh, man.
[01:20:57] Think about what you'd be trying to tell the jury they go, "So tell us again, Professor von Hippel, you held on to the ice cream cone but dropped the child." And I go, "Look, I know that sounds terrible, but I just wasn't thinking."
[01:21:07] Jordan Harbinger: My hands were covered in melted ice cream. I couldn't help it. Yeah.
[01:21:11] Bill von Hippel: Exactly.
[01:21:13] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable.
[01:21:13] Bill von Hippel: It was really, really stupid of me. It was fortunate that I happened to be the one who saw this happening. Now, what made it even worse is now, I've got the kid and I'm going up the escalator and I've got the ice cream cone and she's screaming. And the father sees me from the top floor with his kid and an ice cream cone in my hand. I mean, you can't imagine sort of a worst way — and so he goes running down the escalator and I'm assuming, look, it has to be the death. Some random person's not going to come running at me. That's what I handed him the kid. Now, thankfully he doesn't punch me in the face. He decides I don't know if this guy's a good guy or a bad guy, his ice cream wheeling child thief, but I'm going to take the kid and I'm going to let the situation go. Then when he got to the bottom, I'm not riding back up to the escalator to get to my family. I can see him talking to his wife and then he waves like, you know, thank you. But I easily could have gotten, I could have dropped the kid, I could have got punched in the jaw. Everything could have gone wrong because I was unable to drop this stupid ice cream cone.
[01:22:02] Jordan Harbinger: That is ridiculous. What does this teach us? The ice cream cone obviously plays a part here, right? What is actually, why did that happen?
[01:22:13] Bill von Hippel: The reason that happened is that we've got all these automatic rules that we follow in life. You don't throw ice cream cones off the escalator.
[01:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: True.
[01:22:19] Bill von Hippel: You might hit somebody, it's rubbish, et cetera. You just don't do those things. And so if I had been a hunter-gatherer who didn't have those rules, I've chucked the ice cream cone. If I was a little kid, little kids chuck ice cream cones. But as an adult, I can't throw an ice cream cone on the floor. It doesn't even occur to me. There's all of these automatic rules that we follow. And so all I'm trying to do is rescue this little fellow before he gets to a pole, but I'm making my life so much more difficult with the stupid ice cream cone that I can't get rid of it because I don't have the time to stop and go, "Well, what should a person do with an ice cream cone?" You imagine planning in advance?
[01:22:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:22:51] Bill von Hippel: If I'm ever on an escalator with an ice cream cone and I see a child hanging on the edge, I'll throw it away. Now, you're fine. But if you don't plan in advance, you just follow these scripts and these scripts can lead you astray. It's in fact exactly why so many states have these good Samaritan laws where I tried to go save you when I drown, did you drown you or whatever I did?
[01:23:06] Jordan Harbinger: Broke your ribs during CPR or something like that. Yeah.
[01:23:09] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, exactly. They mean well but they don't execute very well. Unless they're trained. If they're emergency medical techs or police or soldiers, there can be very good at this, but regular schmucks like me, they have no idea what they're doing.
[01:23:20] Jordan Harbinger: Man, it makes me, it freaks me out to think that a kid can just grab onto the side of an escalator like that. And you think there's not really any good sort of safety mechanism for preventing that sort of thing. There's not really anything effective that they can do to make that less likely. And that kid is really lucky. I mean, 25 feet, if you're a toddler that can kill you easily, I think.
[01:23:40] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, he could have crushed his spine. Like all sorts of bad things could have happened to him. And the downside is because nobody else happened to see his hands over the edge. Nobody was doing anything but people riding right next to him who didn't know he was there.
[01:23:50] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[01:23:51] Bill von Hippel: I wouldn't have known he was there either. But for the fact that I noticed his mother yelling at him when he's noodling around him in the beginning. So it's pure luck that it sort of saved the day in these cases. But, you know, we live in such safe world that when we see things like that, it really throws us for a loop. If you travel back to my childhood, or if you travel around in developing countries, you see little kids doing dangerous stuff like that all the time.
[01:24:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:24:12] Bill von Hippel: It tends to work out but of course, it doesn't always. Childhood mortality is way higher, elsewhere than it is in the countries that we're blessed to live in.
[01:24:19] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny. I just saw a video probably yesterday, someone sent to me on Reddit and there was a car that was just, it was like a Jeep. And it was had kids overflowing on the back and hanging on the sides and hanging onto the roof. And they drive up next to the car, they're like, "Who's driving this monster bus, that's rickety and rusty and full of kids." And there is literally like a seven or eight-year-old kid driving this car. And he goes in whatever language it was, "Where are you going?" And he goes, "The beach," and it's a literal child who can barely see over the wheel, but he's the biggest one of the whole group. And he's driving this car with 30 kids on it. And I'm thinking, wherever this is, life is cheap, for sure.
[01:24:58] Bill von Hippel: Yeah.
[01:24:58] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable.
[01:24:58] Bill von Hippel: Now, we live in such safe worlds that we were shocked by these kinds of events.
[01:25:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:25:02] Bill von Hippel: But it wasn't that long ago when I was a child, cars didn't have seatbelts doors popped open and you fell out. I mean, a million things go wrong in life, and we just accepted that. Your steering wheel would impale you and kill you when you got in an accident rather than having an airbag that popped out and saved you. And it was just part and parcel of what life is like. The same thing helped with health. You know, if you go back a hundred years, the chances of dying at a fish and chip shop in Oxford were higher than the chances of dying if you lived in Detroit during the crack epidemic, because food poisoning was so common. We live in such safe worlds now that every time we identify one of these little problematic areas, we get really thrown by it. But our ancestors would have been utterly enthralled by a seven-year-old kid driving this truck full of kids because that's just what life is like.
[01:25:45] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. To me, it is amazing. We had Steven Pinker on the show to talk about how much safer it is now than in the past even though we see more crime and things like that on TV. So things feel more dangerous even to people that sort of know better. And people that have lived a really long time, like, "Oh, back in my day, you could have the kids run around until the street lights came on," and it's like, "Yeah. And they got kidnapped and murdered all the time, but you didn't hear about it."
[01:26:09] Bill von Hippel: Exactly. I mean, the thing is Pinker's absolutely right. The world is so much safer than it ever was, but unfortunately, so Roy Baumeister, a psychologist, talks about how bad is stronger than good. And it makes perfect sense. If every day I go out of my cave and I hunt and I'm successful most days that lets me live another day. But the one day that I get eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, well, that's a really, really bad day. That's worse, that's worse than the good days were good. And so we evolve to pay more attention to the bad and as a consequence, because news is so immediate and because there's so many humans on the planet, we can see all these bad things happening in all these random places. So the world's way safer and way better than it used to be, it doesn't feel that way. It feels just the opposite.
[01:26:48] Jordan Harbinger: Why are young males so freaking dumb and I'm including myself in this, right? Like when I was a kid, I do, and I'd say kid, I mean, up until age 35, I did things where now I look back and I go, "No wonder my parents were worried. What was I thinking? This is a terrible idea. I would never do this now. And I would never let my kid do this." And I did it as much as I could, right? I'm talking about traveling to dangerous places, going to downtown Detroit in the '90s during the crack epidemic and getting a job there because it was dangerous. You know, my dad didn't sleep for years.
[01:27:21] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. It's an unfortunate truth about young males. That if you look at our, you back up a little bit, and you look at our Y-DNA and our mitochondrial DNA. So our Y-DNA tells you about how many male ancestors we have. And mitochondrial DNA tells us about how many female ancestors we have. And when you do that exercise, you can see there's a lot more variability in the mitochondrial DNA indicating that we have a lot more female ancestors than male ancestors. And so what that means is lots of men got shut out of the mating gate and they never got to have kids at all. And lots of men had lots of female partners and lots of kids.
[01:27:52] And so males, and this holds for across mammalian species by and large, in fact, lots and lots of species, and so what that means is that males have evolved to do whatever it takes in order to get into the mating game. Now risk-taking is an honest signal, male quality. It's a little bit like the peacock tail. If you take a risk and you survive it, that's a pretty good sign that you're a pretty robust organism. And so if you can live in Detroit and do your job and nobody mugs you and kills you, well, you must be a pretty intimidating guy. And so all the kinds of things that we do, that look stupid, they actually make us more attractive to members of opposite sex because they're signs of our robustness, signs of our quality.
[01:28:30] Unfortunately, it's a testosterone-driven thing. In my own case that I mentioned the ski accident, it was a perfect example. I went flying over arise and there was somebody who had stopped where they couldn't be seen from above. Well, you're not supposed to stop there, but of course, you're not supposed to fly over a rise where you can't see where you're going to land. And I'm 58 years old. I should know better, but it's so much fun if you like, risk-taking has this positive quality. It's exciting. And so we keep doing it anyway. But we've all wanted to do it for good reason. It's worth taking these kinds of risks to get us into the mating game. The downside being, of course, that the single biggest predictor of death in an industrialized society is being a young male because of all the crazy risks that they tend to take.
[01:29:11] Jordan Harbinger: And this wasn't selected out, why? Because men reproduce before, or I guess because men don't die of necessarily of old age or at least back then, of course, men didn't die of old age.
[01:29:22] Bill von Hippel: You typically don't die of old age, but it's also not selected out because if I can take the risks and I can do it in the right circumstances, then I can attract the female and getting into the mating game. Evolution doesn't mind if I dropped dead, once I've successfully made it. Evolution mind is a lot if I never mate. And so if half, it's probably about half, if half our male ancestors never got to be ancestors because they couldn't attract a partner, then it's worth taking some pretty big risks. It's like, there's a title of a movie. I think it's 50 Cent or one of those movies that's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and it makes sense for a man, not for a woman because women are highly likely to successfully reproduce anyway. But for a man, it makes sense to take these big risks. And testosterone seems to be the hormone that facilitates that.
[01:30:04] Jordan Harbinger: So basically trying to get our at least male kids to avoid risky behavior is pretty much pissing into the wind.
[01:30:11] Bill von Hippel: Exactly. It's impossible. And what you can do that was trying to give them risk that won't kill them.
[01:30:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right. I was going to say sub it out for something, right?
[01:30:17] Bill von Hippel: Exactly. Try to get them to do things that have a real element of risk that it'll hurt if it doesn't come through, but it won't kill you.
[01:30:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's funny that skateboarding is more dangerous than like skydiving. If your kid loves skateboarding, maybe be like, "Hey, you think that's bad, let's try jumping out of a plane, it's going to cost you a lot more, but you probably won't die."
[01:30:34] Bill von Hippel: Yeah. It's a good example. If you can afford it, it's a way better.
[01:30:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Yeah. Wow, man, what else have you, have you put much thought into this? Do you have male children that you have to talk out of killing themselves by accident?
[01:30:44] Bill von Hippel: I do. Yeah. I have a 22-year-old son who thankfully has somehow survived his own proclivities, but he loves to do these things, you know, it can't be stopped. He has a really quick fun car, but it also has airbags. You know you try to do what you can. It's not very big, so it shouldn't kill other people and it shouldn't kill him. You just try to do what you can to balance these forces.
[01:31:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, it's not super comforting, but I looked like I said, my kid is afraid of everything and I almost kind of hope it stays that way.
[01:31:11] Bill von Hippel: It won't.
[01:31:11] Jordan Harbinger: Sorry, Jayden. You're better off a wimp, man. You get that from me.
[01:31:16] Bill von Hippel: I promise you it won't. It would be nice if it would but it changes.
[01:31:19] Jordan Harbinger: Bill, thank you so much fascinating conversation. I have to have you back at some point, we didn't even talk about inner group conflict and baboons versus elephant leaders. All of course in the book, which will be linked in the show notes. I really appreciate your time.
[01:31:31] Bill von Hippel: Yeah, I enjoyed it too. That was good fun. You've obviously been doing this for a long time.
[01:31:37] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this one, but before I get into that, here's a sample of my interview with scam buster Coffeezilla. Whether you or a loved one is being tempted by sketchy investment opportunities, MLM traps, fake guru-led operations, understanding how to identify them and the mechanisms by which they work is the best chance you can have of putting a stop to their shenanigans. Here's a quick look inside.
[01:32:00] Coffeezilla: You see an ad and it's of some guru, you've seen before, you haven't seen before. Let's say Jordan, you're the guru for today. And you tell me, "Oh, come to my free webinar. It's always free. And it's always going to teach me how to get rich." There's no investment that I initially think I have to make. So I go to your webpage. I give you my email and I sign up for this live webinar. It's never live. They've pre-recorded it. It's a three-hour sales pitch for their $2,000 course. And they basically tell you, "Look at all these people who have had success." They will show you the Forbes article that they bought, but they'll not tell you that they purchased it. They'll say, "Hey, look, how successful I am." They put themselves in your shoes. They know that their average buyer is broke, you know, disaffected. Everything he's been trying hasn't worked. And they say, "I was just like you. I was where you are. And I bounced around and I made all these mistakes until I found the one secret. And I will tell you that secret to get you from A to Z. It took me five years to get to a million dollars. I'll teach you, Jordan, a proven blueprint in one year, I'll take you from loser where I used to be. I used to be a loser like you, and I'll take you to winter where I am now. And I'll take you there, blueprint, guaranteed. No problem. Look at all the testimonials, sign up baby, right, right, right, right now." And then they go, "Hey, my course, normally I'd sell it for $40,000. Normally, it's a hundred thousand dollars worth of value, but just this second for the next 50 minutes, I will give this to you for $2,000." And they're coaching you through the little credit card application.
[01:33:27] Jordan Harbinger: You're on the phone with a credit card company. They're coaching you to do this.
[01:33:30] Coffeezilla: You're like sitting there and they're like, "Hey, this is what you're going to say. Go ahead, call them right now. And let's swipe that card, baby. Let's swipe that card before you leave the seminar." They're left with a $40,000 collection debt, you know, for a high-interest rate that can pay it back. They're not making the money they were promised. And then there's a money-back guarantee. There's not a money-back guarantee.
[01:33:50] Jordan Harbinger: To hear more about how to expose predatory shysters for what they are by delving into their shady manipulation tactics, check out episode 368 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Coffeezilla.
[01:34:02] Of course, there's a lot more in the book, for example, why we evolved certain behaviors and characteristics, really a fascinating read, turns out women may be attracted to humor because it shows an agile brain that's able to make connections to things other people find funny. And this makes sense, but have you tried being funny and hot, it turns out I'm funnier now that I'm more attractive and lost a couple of pounds. Interesting, how that works. By the way, you can tell who's attracted to somebody else in a real-life social circle situation based on them laughing at their frankly not funny jokes in a social situation. I used to use this tip all the time when I was teaching dating skills a lifetime ago. And it is very, very indicative of who is high status in a group, not necessarily sexual attraction, but it is high status, and usually that goes hand in hand.
[01:34:47] Also in the book, bias might be an evolved beneficial trait. We persuade others when we ourselves have been persuaded, especially when we have thoroughly convinced ourselves that we are right. Our arguments are better if someone is biased in favor of one viewpoint. So it kind of surprises no one, but it also shows you a lot when it comes to believing fake news. Fake news frankly brings people together based on bias. It increases tribalism, which we are hard-wired to respond to. And as it turns out, and as we've seen over the past five to 10 years, reality really is discovered by consensus, not by searching for objective truth. And this is both dangerous and very, very human, unfortunately.
[01:35:28] Anything, that helps us survive until we reproduce is going to get selected for and anything after that is just kind of gravy or luck. This is why things that we experience when we're older, such as ailments, little aches and pains, bad knees, or other issues, they don't just seem to get selected out of the gene pool. We've already reproduced by that age. And so there's really no pressure to get rid of those genes or at least less pressure. We do know that grandparents are important for the survival of offspring, but it's not exactly the same kind of determining factor as the survival of the parents before having reproduced of course.
[01:36:01] Big thank you to Bill von Hippel. All things Bill von Hippel will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from any guest on the show, it does help support us. Transcripts in the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers' deals and discount codes all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or you can connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:36:23] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, tiny habits that I use every single day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course, and the course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well, before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show subscribe to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:36:42] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who loves evolutionary psychology or the way that we are basically just monkeys with less hair, share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:37:17] This episode is sponsored in part by My First Million podcast. If you're the type of person who's always thinking about new business ideas or wondering what your next side hustle is going to be, I suggest that My First Million podcast. These guys are great. I've known Sam Parr, one of the hosts for a long time. Him and Shaan Puri, they've each built eight-figure businesses and sold them to HubSpot and Amazon, so not too shabby. Each week, they brainstorm ideas that you can start tomorrow. They can be side hustles that'll make you a few grand or big billion-dollar grandiose ideas. And there's a lot of interesting episodes. Like how Raul Paul 10X-ed his money with cryptocurrency. That's all the rage right now. How a friend of mine, John Lee Dumas saved a million dollars in taxes by moving to Puerto Rico? They also chat with founders, celebrities, and billionaires, and get them to open up about business ideas that they have never shared before. Search for My First Million, that's My First Million on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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