Every environmental niche is exploited by evolution. The Egyptian plover eats the rotting left-overs from crocodile mouths in a symbiotic relationship with another species. The bluestreak cleaner wrasse eats parasites and dead flesh from visiting fish in a mutualistic relationship with other fish. These are mutually beneficial relationships.
The similarly colored sabre-toothed blenny mimic the "dance" of the bluestreak cleaner wrasse, and trick fish into offering their underparts to be cleaned. Instead of eating parasites, the sabre-toothed blenny eats the gills of unwary victims. Fish that have already been bitten might subsequently attack bluestreak cleaner wrasse trying to clean them. Some animals adopt the coloration of poisonous animals to discourage predators, which can lead some to attack the truly poisonous. A mite only infects one ear of a moth, so the moth can still hear the approach of a bat. A parasite that can only procreate by way of the eggs of its host feminines the off-spring of its host.
These relationships benefit one at the expense of the other. fMRI and genetic studies described in Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley reveal that humans are infested with their equivalent of the sabre-toothed blenny entitled "Machiavellians" or the "successfully sinister":
Just as the cuckoo has found an evolutionary niche laying it's eggs in the nests of other birds (taking advantage of their nurturing instincts), psychopaths and Machiavellians have found their evolutionary niche in taking advantage of the natural altruism of other humans. Such variation in emotional outlook is bred into our very genesas exemplified by the man who charms his way into a neighbor's life only to rape their daughter, whose nurturing ways births another Machiavellian at the expense of a normal child birthed from a loving relationship with caring father. Beware the charismatic, the charmers for they are likely Machiavellians with the borderline personality disorders that allow them to manipulate the unwary.
... congenitally deceptive individuals --cheaters-- can thrive and reproduce in societyIsolated Machiavellians merely shock, disappoint and abuse their spouses, families and co-workers with their chameleon antics. Their harm is limited until they gain access to a receptive audience that helps extend their reach to ever larger audiences until positions of power are attained. What makes an audience receptive? "Emote control."
The role of emotion in shaping 'rational"thinking is tremendously underrated. Strong evidence shows that human behavior is the product of both the traditional deliberation that takes place in the front areas of the cerebral cortex and the "emote control" --emotional reasoning-- that originates in the limbic system. ... Rational abilities were gradually added to the preexisting and simultaneously developing emotional capacities.The full rationality of the prefrontal cortex emerged on only the last 2.5 percent of human history. Furthermore, many otherwise apparently normal modern humans have underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, and lack common sense or the ability to reason. Like the weak minded easily influenced by the Jedi in Star Wars, such people are easily manipulated by Machiavellians.
The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is deeply involved in the ability to think logically and rationally about various topics. People with slight problems in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex appear to act normally; however, they may confidently, even arrogantly, draw bizar and irrational conclusions. ... problems with the ventromedial cortex, much like problems with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, can lead to subtly irrational behavior. p. 181Another disturbing aspect of emote control is the reinforcement of irrational decisions.
Subtle brain damage has also been affiliated with odd 'end justifies the means' behavior. ... The medial obito cortex appears to be particularly important in suppressing emotional memories that are irrevelent to the current situation. ... substance abuse also appears to produce prefrontal dysfunction. p. 204
A recent imaging study by psychologist Drew Weston and his colleagues at Emory University provides firm support for the existence of emotional reasoning.15 Just prior to the 2004 Bush-Kerry presidential elections, two groups of subjects were recruited -- fifteen ardent Democrats and fifteen ardent Republicans. Each was presented with conflicting and seemingly damaging statements about their candidate as well as more neutral targets such as Tom Hanks (who, it appears is a likable guy for people of all political persuasions). Unsurprisingly, when the participants were asked to draw a logical conclusion about a candidate from the other -- "wrong" -- political party, the participants found a way to arrive at a conclusion that made the candidate look bad, even though logic should have mitigated the particular circumstances and allowed them to reach a different conclusion. Here's where it gets interesting.Emote control may derive from gene survival via clan survival, much like lion prides will attack one another, despite their being of the same species. By virtue of being identified by parents, friends or leaders as being a member of a group, or by identifying oneself with a group, one may irrationally defend the group and demonize those not members of the group. The self-reinforcing nature of emote control explains the tendency toward political, religious, racial and jurisdiction polarization. See also How facts backfire.
When this "emote control" began to occur, parts of the brain normally involved in reasoning were not activated. Instead, a constellation of of activations occurred in the same areas of the brain where punishment, pain and negative emotions are experienced (that is in the left insula, lateral frontal cortex, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Once a way was found to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted, the neural punishment areas turned off, and the participant received a blast of activation in the circuits involving rewards -- akin to the high an addict receives when getting his fix. In essence, the participants were not about to let facts get in the way of their hot-button decision-making and quick buzz of reward. "None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were consciously engaged," says Weston. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones." p. 189
15. Drew Weston et al., "The Neural Basis of Motivated Reasoning: an fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Political Judgment during the U.S. Presidential Election of 2004," Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 18, no. 11 (2006): 1947-1958.
[I noticed the phenomena while driving 4,000 miles on two-lane roads, and feeling good about my decision to pass multiple cars without breaking. On one hilly/windy rural stretch in Idaho, I was convinced I could pass a car and a semi despite a large distance between the two. I was so convinced of the correctness of my decision, that I would not break as the simi and I approached a hill. I finally woke up to the extremely dangerous reality as my visibility over the hill vanished while I was along side of the semi, which was apparently empty, because he was not slowing up hill. Luckily, there was so little traffic that I passed without incident. Immediately after the scare, I briefly rationalized that it was an OK decision, because of the odds of encountering on-coming traffic, but the flashing head lights of the truck affirmed the reality that I was wrong. Passing both was a stupid decision.]
Democracies are as easily manipulated by political Machiavellians as the faithful are manipulated by religious Machiavellians, but the worst results have occurred in collectivist (Fascist and Communist extremes of Socialism) systems with the murder of many millions by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.
Dr. Li, Chairman Mao's personal physician remarked, "Repeatedly in my years with Mao, I watched him win loyalty from others in the same way he had won it from me. He would begin by charming people, winning their trust, getting them to open up, to confess their faults ... Mao would then forgive them, and make them feel safe. Thus redeemed, they became loyal."This seems as much the behavior of a minister/priest/rabbi, etc. as a politician. Weak-minded journalists and other influential people are often charmed by Machiavellians to help extend their influence.
Using gullible Western writers, Mao created a legend for himself as a Chinese Robin Hood who won the respect of all those he led. The reality was that he ruled by savage caprice, willful incompetence, and messianic egotism. Ultimately, he was responsible for the death of over seventy million Chinese during peacetime alone. p. 28The fundamental immorality of Machiavellians allows them to disproportionately reproduce while they impose chastity on their minions. For example, by virtue of the brutal conquests of Genghis Khan
Mao also deliberately chose an influential American journalist, Edgar Snow, who wrote for the Saturday Evening post and New Your Harold-Tribune, to charm for the western world. Snow swallowed Mao's fabrications wholesale, calling Mao and other party leaders "direct, frank, simple, undevious," 82 Mao's journalistic charm campaign had long-term payoffs for both Snow and Mao. Other prominent figures joined Snow in praising Mao and his regime. Harvard professor John K. Faorbank "returned from a visit to China and remarked: "The Maoist revolution is on the whole the best thing that has happened to the Chinese people in centuries." Feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir excused Mao's murderous regime by arguing that "the power [he] exercises is no more dictatorial than, say, Roosevelt's was." Jean-Paul Sartre, de Beavouir's consort, celebrated Mao's revolutionary violence," declaring it to be "profoundly moral." 83 p. 241
one in every 200 males worldwide alive today, are direct male descendants of the thirteenth century Genghis Khan. ... Giocabgga, progenitor of China's Qing dynasty, has been found to be the probable ancestor of approximately 1.6 million men living today. The average man from Giocabgga's era should have only about twenty living male descendants." p. 267In the effort to control their illicitly acquired wealth and power, in-breeding is common among Machiavellians, increasing the likelihood of psychotic offspring as well as increasing the likelihood of Machiavellian progeny with wealth and power. The likes of the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Morgans are often described in this context.
... Despotism and Differential Reproduction provides a cornucopia of evidence documenting the increased capacity of those with more power --and frequently, Machiavellian tendencies-- to have offspring. The Guinness Book of Records, for example, has long cited Ismail the Bloodthirsty as the most prolific man ever." p. 268
The more Machiavellian, that is despotic, a man might be, the more polygynous he tended to be.
In short, it seems hereditary aristocracies --not to mention the decidedly wealthy-- can attract mates with ambitious, manipulative, controlling, chameleon-like, semi-neurotic personalities, who in turn are more prone ... to have children with a genetic predisposition for similarly idiosyncratic personalities. And indeed, there is a growing body of research literature that reveals how people selectively seat themselves into positions that suit their personalities.55 p. 277One explanation for why humans are less violent than other primates is language. With it, the meek were able to conspire to murder the bullies. Repeated such events breed violent genes from the human pool.
55. For an excellent review of the topic, see T. Carnahan and S. McFarland, "revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could Participant Self-Selection Have Led to Cruelty?" Personality and Psychology Bulletin 33, no. 5 (2007): 603-14.
... It seems that the longer an empire is in existence, the more time the successfully sinister have to find ways to subvert the system and insert themselves into positions of power. But even as empires --be they political, religious or business-- begin gradually to founder, they can still muddle on, year after dysfunctional year. Sometimes, especially in political or religious enterprises, they can slither through century after dysfunctional century.
... By taking advantage of their own dysfunctional but simultaneously advantageous traits, as well as the compliant characteristics and emote control reasoning of others, Machiavellians can build tightly interlocked systems that keep naysayers in check and allow themselves to remain in control. p. 278
When Marcs Aurelius appointed his son Commodus rather than a more deserving candidate as his heir, the results proved devastating for Rome. Instead of taking serious interest in matters of state, Commodus showed himself to be interested only in staged gladiatorial events, for which he charged Rome extraordinary sums, and sex, indulging himself with hundreds of female concubines and young boys. He surrounded himself with syncophantic fellow Machiavellians who ran the government for their personal profit rather than the empire's benefit --which, after an extended period of extraordinary malfeasance, eventually drove the Romans to kill Commodus and his clique.*52 pp. 275-276While this approach may be tempting for those harmed by Machiavellians, there is no explicit medical test for the set of personality disorders that comprise Machiavellians, nor are there explicit genetic tests. Furthermore, murder is not a civil option. However, educating people to recognize Machiavellian traits will minimize their reproduction. Eliminating power centers like governments and religions will minimize the impact of Machiavellians.
* Stanley Bing's delightfully entertaining Rome, Inc. points out the similarities between the Roman Empire and the modern multinational business environment. ...
52. Stanley Bing, Rome, Inc. The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), pp. 62-63, 180.
Just as communicable diseases spread more rapidly and thoroughly in cities than in rural areas, Machiavellians thrive in cities, consistent with the blue and red regions respectively mapped during the 2008 elections.
Densely populated areas, apparently, are the equivalent for psychopaths of ponds and puddles for malarial mosquitoes.Cities are also where those with poor reasoning skills tend to congregate, because they require the products and services of those with reason and common sense to survive. Sensing their own weakness, these people often denigrate the "blue collar workers" who make life possible for them. Running more on emote control than reason, they embrace the simple-minded solutions advanced by Machiavellians, like voting to have someone else do it and pay for it, government and taxpayers respectively. They are easy prey for Machiavellians.
Many of the Democrat, Progressive, Green and Socialist Party members who I have encountered at community forums and debates while a candidate for State Assembly twice, Representative once and City Council once were quickly frustrated by a logical argument. Evidently suffering from their relative lack of reason and common sense, they tense, change the subject, regurgitate catch phrases or a tape recording, or resort to name-calling and ad hominem attacks.
... Hitler's borderline-like thought process followed the emotion-driven pattern of delusion --his thinking was observed to "proceed from the emotion to the factual." ...By virtue of living in cities, many of these same people are usually exposed as children to a broad spectrum of culture and behavior, so they are less apt to be religious or bigoted. Perhaps a lack of common sense equates to less paranoia among collectivist parents, which equates to less tendency to over-protect their children, which is a problem among another segment of society susceptible to Machiavellians: The Authoritarians.
... in discussions, where Hitler was "unable to match wits with another person in a straightforward argument. He [would] express his opinion at length, but he [would] not defend it on logical grounds." One observer noted: "He is afraid of logic. Like a woman, he evades the issue and ends by throwing in your face an argument entirely remote from what you were talking about." 69
"No matter how impulsive, bizarre, destructive, or lawless his actions were, Hitler rationalized them as legitimate." 71 pp. 304-305
69 Langer, Mind of Adolf Hitler, p. 227
71 George Victor, Hitler: The pathology of Evil (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2000), p. 115
"When I appeal ... for sacrifice, the first spark is struck. The humbler the people are, the greater the craving to identify themselves with a cause bigger than themselves." 24 -- Adolf Hitler p. 334fMRI studies now reveal areas of the brain like the "spirituality spot" that when underdeveloped results in a lack of a sense of self. Such people devote themselves to others more than normal. A version of this was exemplified by the secretary of a CEO at a health insurance company in Oregon, which has a nun on site, and where many of the walls and cubicles are littered with religious paraphernalia. She said God always talks to her. I asked for an example. She said he told her to shovel the driveway so it would not freeze over night. She actually believes her thinking to herself like all normal people do to prioritize the days was God talking to her ... a tame version of those who hear demons before they go on a murder spree.
The Spirituality Spot and other brain deficiencies may contribute to supernatural beliefs, but few people would be religious were it not for childhood indoctrination and isolation due to parental superstition and insecurity, which can lead to fundamentalism, bigotry, hatred and the abuse that triggers the expression of Machiavellian genes. The ignorance and low intelligence of many of the religious make them prime targets for political as well as religious Machiavellians, like the Fundamentalist Jewish settler Rabbi who authored "The Complete Guide to Killing Non-Jews," including babies, and whose followers seek luck twirling chickens over their heads and killing them. Similarly, thanks to the leadership of fundamentalist Muslims, the husband of a beautiful young women left her to bleed to death with her nose and ears amputated, because she offended her family. Of course these and other religion devotees often seek the power of government to impose their righteous ways on everyone.
Dr. Persinger stimulates the Sense Pretense area with an electromagnet over the right temporal lobe, and people sense God.
There is a reliable test for Authoritarians, but there is no such test for the sinisterly successful.
It can sometimes be difficult to know whether a political, religious, business or scientific leader is cognitively disturbed or an avant-guard visionary who sees the truth others are missing.*74 Or perhaps both. pp. 306-307
- There are some characteristics of Machiavellians:
- Charming, narcissistic, impulsive, chameleon, ambitious, controlling and sometimes sadistic.
- Cognitively dysfunctional, lack identity, deny reality if it is perceived.
- Project onto others failures that can no longer be denied.
- Temper, hypomania or mania are used to achieve goals.
- If there is exceptional memory, it is used to charm or humiliate.
- If there is exceptional intelligence, it is used for deviousness.
- When not easily identified, the successfully sinister can be detected by following their trail of fear, loathing and lawsuits, but warning others may be a futile endeavor:
Often only those who have experienced the successfully sinister believe they exist. Most believe "the seemingly sinister person can be taught how to act more reasonably, perhaps though the proper modeling of patience, understanding and compassion. ... People aren't generally raised and educated to understand that small percentages of the population --some of whom are outwardly successful-- are quite capable of masking deeply disturbed personalities." p. 319Which is why Machiavellians create trouble and impose secrecy.
The closer you climb toward the nexus of power in any given social structure, the more likely you'll ... find a person with Machiavellian tendencies. ... The larger the social structure and the bigger the payoff, the more Machiavellians eventually ... find a way to creep to the top in numbers all out of proportion to their underlying percentage in society. ...
Machiavellians can have an incalculably restrictive, demoralizing, and corrupt effect on those in their sphere of influence. ... But worse is that Machiavellian behavior ... often seems to reach awe-inspiring proportions before anyone feels compelled to take solid action. ... Ordinary people's emote control also means that sinister behavior can be seen as less important --or because of calcified beliefs about an ideology, institution or person-- even justifiable. ... Taking action against a Machiavellian is often a dangerous proposition ... . p. 333
Opaque organizations, systems, and ideologies that easily allow for underhanded interactions play to Machiavellian's strong suit, allowing them to conceal their deceitful practices more easily. Idealistic systems such as communism and some religious or quasi-religious creeds are perfect for Machiavellians because they often lack checks and balances, or don't use them. p. 334
Altruists who draw up rules and legislation to deter Machiavellian behavior are often surprised to find their policy turned on it's head, and used by Machiavellians for nefarious purposes. ...
Machiavellians are always present in every system that relates to power. It's just in times of troubles and in nontransparent systems, it's easy for them to reach the pinnacle. p. 335
Personality and Individual Differences by Farah Ali, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, journal homepage:
Non-clinical psychopathy and Machiavellianism are personality traits with a particularly nefarious reputation; they are associated with callousness, manipulation, deception, egocentricity, emotional coldness, superficial charm and exploitation.Given that Machiavellians are often undetectable, entrenched and vindictive, the only reliable way to minimize their horrors is to eliminate the concentrations of power that enable the most harm: government and religion.
... primary psychopathy is characterised by impulsivity, aggression, hostility, extraversion, self-confidence and low to average anxiety. Secondary psychopathy, like primary psychopathy, is characterised by hostility, impulsivity and aggression, but unlike primary psychopathy, it is associated with social anxiety, introversion, moodiness and low self-esteem.
Machiavellianism is associated with promiscuity, hostile sexual attitudes and various selfish and deceptive sexual tactics such as cheating, divulging intimate sexual secrets to others, feigning love, inducing intoxication to secure sex and an endorsement of using sexual force.
... deceit in interpersonal relationships, a cynical attitude to human nature and a lack of concern for conventional morality.
Besides the genetic, developmental and child rearing concerns, there are technological concerns: MIT neuroscientists believe they have isolated the brain region — just behind the right ear — where moral judgments take place where they can suspend someone’s ability to judge right from wrong, simply by generating a magnetic field near the same spot where many hold our cellular phones and hang wireless Bluetooth headsets. The technique used by the MIT scientists, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has been described as one that creates “virtual lesions” on the brain. Neurostar makes a device that affects mood and behavior from outside the head. The treatment is becoming increasingly popular for everything from tinnitus to depression. The US military also hopes to use TMS to keep soldiers fighting without the need to stop for sleep.
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