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RE: [evol-psych] Video gaming as an adaptation

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  • roger.d.masters@dartmouth.edu
    THIS IS (I BELIEVE) TOTALLY MISLEADING. LIKE TV, COMPUTER/VIDEO GAMES DO *NOT* REACT TO THE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSIONS AND RESPONSES OF THE CHILD. AFTER 20
    Message 1 of 18 , May 31, 2000
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      THIS IS (I BELIEVE) TOTALLY MISLEADING. LIKE TV, COMPUTER/VIDEO GAMES DO *NOT* REACT TO THE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSIONS AND RESPONSES OF THE CHILD. AFTER 20 MILLION YEARS OF SO OF INVOLVING INTERACTIVE CUES OF EMOTION, WHICH JUST HAPPEN TO CONTROL ATTITUDE AND BONDING (WE DID EXPERIMENTS SHOWING THAT IMAGES OF A CANDIDATE'S NONVERBAL BEHAVIOR USUALLY CHANGE VOTER ATTITUDES -- STUDIES THAT WERE REPLICATED WITH THE SAME RESULT IN THREE COUNTRIES, WHICH IS NOT SURPRISING FOR INNATE CUES). THE LACK OF ABILITY TO EMPATHIZE WITH THE EMOTIONS OF OTHERS IS A WIDELY OBSERVED FEATURE OF BEHAVIOR AMONG THE YOUNG WHO HAVE ALWAYS WATCHED TV OR COMPUTER SCREENS.

      Children brought up watching TV today (esp. if they rarely even eat meals with parents) are so unsocialized that a screen that provides "pseudo-social interaction" without emotion or emotional commitment is more attractive than some social interactions where one's responses produce reactions that can change outcomes. The result is a generation in which "give and take" means: "YOU give and I take." Lest this seem wild, a complaint of a Dartmouth student just today: the lack of deep social commitments between individuals, as every interaction is superficial and short-lived. This does NOT apply to everyone (children are all different). But it is more widespread than would be implied by the exchange below.

      roger d. masters

      (For the experiments to which I refer above, see one of the following two books of mine: THE NATURE OF POLITICS or BEYOND RELATIVISM.)

      --- You wrote:
      Warren makes some very useful points, to which I would add that children's use of computer/video games is often intensely social, including shared playing of individual games and demonstrations of skill to a group. I suspect too, that there is a predictive element to this. Children took up computer games long before they were good games. Space Invaders being a good example. As an active playworker over that period, I asked many children why they liked computer games so much. It was apparent from their answers that they saw much more on the screen than I did. In addition, they saw the development of these games much more comprehensively than adult commentators.

      Stephen Rennie, Leeds Metropolitan University
      s.rennie@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Warren Sarle [SMTP:saswss@...]
      Sent: Sunday, May 28, 2000 9:05 PM
      To: evolutionary-psychology@egroups.com
      Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Video gaming as an adaptation

      > From: Jerrod Hansen <jhansen@...-u.ac.jp>
      > ...
      > If our minds were shaped by evolution for success in social interactions,
      > why is the technological non-social activity of video gaming so enticing?

      Childhod play--in all species that play--is mainly pretending to be
      an adult. Humans have expanded this theme to include pretending to
      be a super-adult, as in power fantasies. Video games cater to power
      fantasies very effectively.

      What puzzles me is why so many adults get hooked on banal computer
      games like Windows solitaire.

      --

      Warren S. Sarle SAS Institute Inc. The opinions expressed here
      saswss@... SAS Campus Drive are mine and not necessarily
      (919) 677-8000 Cary, NC 27513, USA those of SAS Institute.

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    • Rennie, Steve [HES]
      Despite the apparent intensity of his feelings, I feel I am missing something in Roger s mailing. Certainly, TV, books, comics, films, computer/video games do
      Message 2 of 18 , Jun 1, 2000
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        Despite the apparent intensity of his feelings, I feel I am missing something in Roger's mailing. Certainly, TV, books, comics, films, computer/video games do not react to the emotional expressions or responses of the child. Neither for that matter do live performances on stages with footlights, as the audience is not visible to the players. The point I was trying to make is that in my experience, children often access computer/video games in social groups. They then react to one another's emotional expression and responses and weave these responses into their verbal commentary on their playing of the games. In addition, when discussing these games, children attribute subtleties of feeling to characters which do not appear to be portrayed by the crude graphics in which they are presented on screen. I cannot comment on Roger's material in respect of adults. It is not my field.

        Stephen Rennie, Leeds Metropolitan University
        s.rennie@...
      • Aleks Jakulin
        ... Patent law is not really mass market (although there have been several games about defending a case in court), but there have been quite successful games
        Message 3 of 18 , Jun 1, 2000
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          > > Computer games are not about social interactions, neither about adult
          > > emulation. They seem to be based mostly around the pleasure of
          > > mastering a skill. Normally, people should enjoy acquiring skills that
          > > are relevant to life.
          >
          > Aha! That explains why so many popular computer games are about
          > plumbing and patent law!

          Patent law is not really mass market (although there have been several
          games about defending a case in court), but there have been quite
          successful games about plumbing (Pipe Dreams). Extremely popular
          games such as the SimCity series also involve building urban plumbing.

          Games mainly draw on a person's innate desire to master skills. There
          are several aspects of how to satisfy that desire:
          - skill relevance for the reason (simulations, educational software)
          - exploration/learning, happy-end thrill, and positive emotion for the
          brain (storytelling, adventure, games of survival)
          - a rapid reinforcement loop for the neurons (arcade action)

          And there are social elements beyond the mere mechanics of gameplay,
          as other posters to the mailing list have pointed out. I would regard them
          as marginal, though. Social perspectives apply to all activities,
          especially entertainment activities, not to games in specific. People
          gather socially to indulge in pleasant activities, ranging from sports to
          playing computer games. Claiming that violent games are consequences of
          genetic adaptations to rituals of initiation would make Occam turn in his
          grave, and make others recall the concept of overfitting.

          But, school children desire to be astronauts, athletes, businessmen,
          generals, racers, fashion designers, even scientists rather than plumbers,
          seamsters, typists, bricklayers or dish-washers. They don't yet know that
          most of them won't be winners, and our society is feeding them with
          optimism. Besides, many useful skills cannot be modelled in computer games,
          or flunk the rapid reinforcement loop requirement listed above.

          Regards,
          Alex
        • roger.d.masters@dartmouth.edu
          Rennie s reply to my posting indicates that it is harder than one might think to get across some things about the integration of emotion and cognition in
          Message 4 of 18 , Jun 1, 2000
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            Rennie's reply to my posting indicates that it is harder than one might think to "get across" some things about the integration of emotion and cognition in human social behavior. But two things are essential:

            FIRST, in prior evolution, very young children normally have NOT received a very large proportion of their "socialization" by looking at a machine that produces a pseudo-social stimulus. Many children today are watching TV for 3 to 5 hours per day from the age of 1 to 5. Questions of PROPORTION always matter. Despite Rennie's point, I don't think going to the theatre or opera is a normal experience for very young children (at least, it wasn't for me).

            SECOND, it is (from my limited by real experience) FALSE that the actor(s) are NOT influenced by audience reactions. To be sure, where it happens in this case it is a GROUP reaction (laughter, applause, tears, shifting in seats as a lack of attention, etc.). Homo sapiens is a social species, and if you are in a room of people who are smiling, or ANGRY, or sleeping, you are aware of this. AT my last class yesterday, I was quite aware that one young man (Todd by name) fell asleep).

            The eseential point. The field of primate ethology has developed specific methods for the observation and study of social behavior and the developmental processes involved in the emergence of the normal social repertoire. The issue of "body language" was first introduced by theorists who knew and applied this literature (Ekman, et al.). The name of our "list" is "evolutionary psychology." This means we need to be AWARE of the differences between the methodologies of the field and of conventional social psychology.

            Sorry to sound upset, but experiences with real live children these days are revealing a SERIOUS problem, at least in the U.S., with an apparent lack of capacity to intuit, predict, or adjust to the likely behavior of others. Shootings in schoolyards are really NOT the worst example, but they are EXTREME illustrations. AND this is, in my view, what you are "missing."

            roger masters

            On John Caulfield's rejoinder, the crucial question is what cognitive neuroscience tells us about the role of emotion in learning and attitude formation. (Cut the links between the neocortex and the amygdala, and learning STOPS). As for "commensurability," that is a matter of approximation by experimental methodology -- and such approximation is the basis of experimental research on social behavior (whether in ethology or psychology not to mention evolutionary biology). It is easy to get a number of people to quantify their subjective responses to a video or audio-tape of behavior. On 0-10 scales, if you take a video of Ronald Reagan that has an average rating of: Happy = 8 and Angry 2; and another video of Reagan rated by the same group as: Happy 2 and Angry 8, you can then insert them as silent images in two coies of the same TV newscast about Reagan. If you compare the ratings of Reagan on any cognitive scales before and after viewing one or the other of these videos, you will normally see that the ratings IMPROVE after the first of the videos, and GET WORSE after the second one. It should be mysterious to talk about this type of method. AND it is very useful for professors and teachers at all levels to remember that the tone of voice used when communicating to students has a very important role in what they learn.

            Finally, Jay Feierman's posting is very important and useful. We found, consistent with his remark on the utility of studying a printed version of the verbal message, that exposure to ONLY this part of the communicative act produces a different response. The responses to written messages are, of course, not without emotion, as I was trying to illustrate with my message (and clearly succeeded, since it attracted some reactions that included an emotional element as replies.)

            rdm

            --- You wrote:
            Despite the apparent intensity of his feelings, I feel I am missing something in Roger's mailing. Certainly, TV, books, comics, films, computer/video games do not react to the emotional expressions or responses of the child. Neither for that matter do live performances on stages with footlights, as the audience is not visible to the players. The point I was trying to make is that in my experience, children often access computer/video games in social groups. They then react to one another's emotional expression and responses and weave these responses into their verbal commentary on their playing of the games. In addition, when discussing these games, children attribute subtleties of feeling to characters which do not appear to be portrayed by the crude graphics in which they are presented on screen. I cannot comment on Roger's material in respect of adults. It is not my field.

            Stephen Rennie, Leeds Metropolitan University
            s.rennie@...

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          • Rennie, Steve [HES]
            Sorry Roger, but I think we are still talking past each other. I accept that children have not received a very large proportion of their socialisation by
            Message 5 of 18 , Jun 2, 2000
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              Sorry Roger, but I think we are still talking past each other. I accept that children have not received a very large proportion of their socialisation by looking at a machine in prior evolution, but I do not believe that is true today either. They may adopt some dressing up of behaviours in the form of things they have seen or heard via machine based media, but their core behaviours are drawn from direct relationships with others. In my experience, children are far more aware of the distinction between direct experiences and those observed through TV, video, computer game or film, than are adults. Even printed media for adolescents are more careful to distinguish between the actors in soaps and the characters they play than adult comics like the Sun, Star or Mirror.

              In the main I see children in play settings outside of the home. I accept that this does not offer a broad representation of children's use of video/computer games, but it does offer a good overview of their behaviours in the company of their peers. In those settings, children tend to play these games in social groups, not at all surpising since, as you say, homo sapiens is a social species. Their behaviours, reflecting emotional responses, appear to be far more influenced by the group than by the screen. The socialisation process is therefore based on the group, rather than on the screen material, much as it would appear to have been throughout our recent period of evolution.

              I remain unconvinced that watching television is any more harmful or influential, than gazing out at the world from a window, or peering round from the shelter of your mother's arms at the dangerous world around you. I am equally unconvinced that video/computer games are a major qualitative change from books, comics or even from stories told round a campfire. Context still appears to be the major factor, not content.

              Stephen Rennie, Leeds Metropolitan University
              s.rennie@...
            • Todd Zywicki
              Roger mentions some studies involving children and their ability to intuit, predict or adjust to likely the behavior of others. This raises an issue that I
              Message 6 of 18 , Jun 2, 2000
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                Roger mentions some studies involving children and their ability to
                "intuit, predict or adjust to likely the behavior of others." This
                raises an issue that I have been interested in for classroom issues. It
                is my impression that the ubiquitous use of laptop computers and other
                technilogical gadgets in the classroom has been a mixed blessing at
                best. Technology seems well adapted to the transmission of information
                quickly and directly. On the other hand, it seems to undermine the
                skills of reflection, thought, and synthesis. Put differently, when a
                student uses a laptop in class, it seems like all I ever see is the top
                of his head as it seems like he taking down a virtual transcript of the
                class rather than being engaged in the Socratic dialogue.

                Is there any relevant material that tends to confirm or disconfirm my
                impressions on this from an evolutionary and cognitive psych
                perspective?

                -Todd Zywicki
                GMU Law
              • isa
                ... I would like to inquire about another change which has occurred during this same time period. My understanding is that prior to WWII, virtually the whole
                Message 7 of 18 , Jun 2, 2000
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                  roger.d.masters@... wrote:

                  Sorry to sound upset, but experiences with real live children these days are revealing a SERIOUS problem, at least in the U.S., with an apparent lack of capacity to intuit, predict, or adjust to the likely behavior of others.  Shootings in schoolyards are really NOT the worst example, but they are EXTREME illustrations.   AND this is, in my view, what you are "missing."

                    roger masters

                  On John Caulfield's rejoinder, the crucial question is what cognitive neuroscience tells us about the role of emotion in learning and attitude formation.  (Cut the links between the neocortex and the amygdala, and learning STOPS).

                  I would like to inquire about another change which has occurred during this same time period.

                  My understanding is that prior to WWII, virtually the whole population (more than 90%) had a stable home throughout their childhood, namely families did not break up and move during pre-school and school years. In fact, one usually grew up, got married, raised a family and dies within the same community. This made larger, multi-generation family networks, as well as other social networks stable through childhood. It also made one's play group stable throughout most of one's childhood, and relationships and responsibilities within one's social network clear.

                  This changed drastically, starting in the 50s, up to the point where it is now unusual for any family to remain in a stable social network during the individuals' childhoods. Families move, break up, changing schools and neighborhoods. Family networks are reduced to occasional interactions through telephone and gifts and occasional holidays. One can have several sets of siblings which can change and other than one or two individuals, no stable relationships throughout childhood.

                  Throughout the evolution of the species for sure, children grew up in stable social networks where bonding was permanent throughout life and social roles were well defined. I mean, there were always the same grandparents, parents and siblings and parents' siblings and so forth throughout childhood at least. Children were not emotionally dependent on only a one or two individuals, and there was a wide range of models and bonds. Close kin were clearly defined and formed a stable emotional network.

                  It is well known that poor social networks have serious negative effects on health of adults. Today children grow up in homes where all but one or two individuals are unreliably present, where schools are frequently changed, where there are no stable relationships with play groups, and no stable relationships with either adults or peers.

                  It would seem to me that this would have at least as profound an effect on emotional development and learning emotional response and interpretation as lack of social response in media, although what the effect would be would differ. It would seem to me that the grand economic alterations which have occurred in the later half of the 20th Century have created socialization contexts completely unique in the history of the species.

                  To what extent have these factors been examined?

                  Isa

                • isa
                  ... Women died primarily in childbearing. It was the major cause of death. Hidden abuse of children has hardly changed and it could easily be argued that they
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jun 2, 2000
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                    "steve.devos" wrote:

                    > Isa.All
                    > The social costs on women, children and (actually) men
                    > were enormous. Death rates for women - (sorry but I do
                    > not have them to hand) - hidden abuse for children and
                    > the sheer unpleasentness of existing within the extremely
                    > violent socities of the time.

                    Women died primarily in childbearing. It was the major
                    cause of death. Hidden abuse of children has hardly changed
                    and it could easily be argued that they are worse. There is
                    an epidemic of child abuse today. Virtually 100% of all
                    federal prisoners in the Canadian federal prisons where
                    such statistics are kept, have medical histories of life
                    threatening physical abuse and sexual abuse as children,
                    for example. Sexual abuse of children was apparently the
                    norm in Freud's Vienna.

                    I have not read the most recent ethnographies and the most
                    recent reports on higher primate life styles, but it is
                    hardly any more violent than anything current. Generally
                    people lived in stable relationships throughout the whole
                    range of human evolution as far as we can see. The local
                    group in pre-agricultural societies in all ethnographies of
                    pre-agricultural societies I have ever read was more stable
                    than anything now. Violence occurred on occasion, but not
                    usually within the local group. The extended local group
                    was essentially stable over the life of the child for most
                    children. Violence occurred and is an important factor when
                    counting up causes of death, but hardly were daily
                    occurrences or matters which impinged upon daily life, any
                    more than road accidents do in ours. They occur but they
                    are not daily occurrences impinging upon normal
                    development. This is clear in the detailed descriptions of
                    higher primates as well.

                    As far as early 20th Century, I am only aware that prior to
                    the Second World War, most individuals grew up, got married
                    and were buried within a small distance of a few miles,
                    according to demographic statistics. Working hours do not
                    greatly interfere with stability of a relationship unless
                    the person is absent for long periods, weeks and months.
                    Working hours in pre-agricultural society are estimated to
                    about 8 a week. Working hours in agricultural societies are
                    estimated at 20 hours a week. In both cases children are
                    with their parents while they work. It is only in
                    industrial societies where working hours go up and where
                    workers are removed from their families. Most work in the
                    US until the 20th Century was rural agricultural work and
                    most workers lived with and worked with their families
                    together.

                    The stability of the local extended family is pretty
                    established and local social relationships and pray groups
                    were in fact also stable.

                    We as a species never were naked savages bent on eating
                    each other alive. And most parents were not involved in
                    abusing and sexually abusing their offspring. That is a
                    fantasy.

                    In pre-contact Australian society, the senior women made
                    the most important economic decisions and had control over
                    the most important sources of social wealth, their own
                    daughters. The Mother ot the mother in law was the person
                    who decided who would be bestowed as mother in law and this
                    bestowal was the only way to obtain any kind of social
                    recognition or respect in the society. All other matters
                    depended on it. The woman had the choice. And held the
                    power.

                    >
                    >
                    >> This changed drastically, starting in the 50s, up to
                    >> the point where it is now unusual for any family to
                    >> remain in a stable social network during the
                    >> individuals' childhoods. Families move, break up,
                    >> changing schools and neighborhoods. Family networks are
                    >> reduced to occasional interactions through telephone
                    >> and gifts and occasional holidays. One can have several
                    >> sets of siblings which can change and other than one or
                    >> two individuals, no stable relationships throughout
                    >> childhood.
                    >
                    > Prior to the 20thc and in the early parts of the 20thC
                    > death and the extremes of working hours rather eradicated
                    > stable relationships.

                    In may have made life difficult but hardly eradicated any
                    relationship. It is a serious mistake to confuse stability
                    of a relationship with time devoted to it or its intensity.
                    These are quite different things. If I have a cup of coffee
                    at the same coffee stand for 30 years every morning, that
                    is a pretty stable relationship. It may not be intense, or
                    take up a lot of time in my life, but it is certainly
                    stable.

                    With regard to extremes of working hours in pre-20th
                    Century work, quite the country. Pre-industrial society
                    labored approximately 20 hours a week in the most marginal
                    environments and families labored together. In
                    Pre-agricultural societies in desserts such as the Kalahari
                    or North Alaska, the average work week was about 8 hours.
                    In lush environments, there was a continuos and rich and
                    constant stable relationship among the members of the local
                    group. Most people in the US were not industrial workers
                    until quite recently, when looked at from an evolutionary
                    perspective.

                    >
                    >
                    >> Throughout the evolution of the species for sure,
                    >> children grew up in stable social networks where
                    >> bonding was permanent throughout life and social roles
                    >> were well defined. I mean, there were always the same
                    >> grandparents, parents and siblings and parents'
                    >> siblings and so forth throughout childhood at least.
                    >> Children were not emotionally dependent on only a one
                    >> or two individuals, and there was a wide range of
                    >> models and bonds. Close kin were clearly defined and
                    >> formed a stable emotional network.
                    >
                    > The average age and early death rates for women - in
                    > childbirth etc suggest that this is another "golden age"
                    > argument. Try Donzelot's Policing of families for a short
                    > and sharp historical reminder of what a phantasy the
                    > extended and/or nuclear family actually constitutes.
                    > Alternativly any reasonable feminist criique will do as
                    > well.

                    Not a golden age argument at all.

                    Death rates were high for women, but my point was not that
                    life was easy or fun, but that children played in stable
                    play groups during their early development and that their
                    was always a known and recognized adult around and no
                    strangers. One's relationships and the range of
                    relationships in most of human history was very limited to
                    a very well known and restricted group that was defined by
                    one's birth and didn't change.

                    That is the record in all ethnographic accounts I am aware
                    of.

                    Extended and nuclear families are such separate issues as
                    to be almost unrelated. The nuclear family as such is not a
                    strongly recognized entity in most ethnographic accounts
                    that I am aware of, but a stable local group, no matter
                    what you want to call it is the well established fact of
                    nature of social groups throughout the human species, and
                    throughout all the species closely related to us. In
                    non-human species, the group is based on female kinship,
                    and in humans, it would be unreasonable to assume otherwise
                    in the absence of any contrary evidence. It does seem to be
                    the fact in most human groups. I am talking of bonded
                    dyadic relationships and not cultural categories.

                    One's kin friends and neighbors is known and remains stable
                    throughout life, in the Gombe reserve, or the Neanderthal
                    camp or the Olduvai Gorge troop.

                    >
                    >
                    >>
                    >> It is well known that poor social networks have serious
                    >> negative effects on health of adults. Today children
                    >> grow up in homes where all but one or two individuals
                    >> are unreliably present, where schools are frequently
                    >> changed, where there are no stable relationships with
                    >> play groups, and no stable relationships with either
                    >> adults or peers.
                    >>
                    >> It would seem to me that this would have at least as
                    >> profound an effect on emotional development and
                    >> learning emotional response and interpretation as lack
                    >> of social response in media, although what the effect
                    >> would be would differ. It would seem to me that the
                    >> grand economic alterations which have occurred in the
                    >> later half of the 20th Century have created
                    >> socialization contexts completely unique in the history
                    >> of the species.
                    >>
                    >> To what extent have these factors been examined?
                    >>
                    >
                    > Not within the scope of the evol-psych areas -
                    >

                    Why not?
                  • isa
                    ... I live in Oman where I don t have access to a library where I can research anything. However, my recollection is that demographic statistics on populations
                    Message 9 of 18 , Jun 3, 2000
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                      Fred Weizmann wrote:

                      > As far as families being raised in the same place over generations, well
                      > there was a lot of immigration in the past which disrupted families and
                      > communities. Much of this immigration was internal; people who settled
                      > the American West came from somewhere. There was also a lot of internal
                      > immigration for economic reasons throughout most of the 20th century,
                      > due to the Depression and World War II. The shift from rural areas to
                      > cities did not being and end in the 1950s. Even if you stayed in the
                      > same place your neighbors may well have come from elsewhere, and this
                      > was portrayed at the time, as a real source of social instability.

                      I live in Oman where I don't have access to a library where I can research
                      anything. However, my recollection is that demographic statistics on
                      populations in the USA prior to 1940 showed that virtually all Americans (my
                      recollection is in the neighborhood of 85-90%) got married and were buried
                      within several miles of their birth place. I am at a loss to verify any such
                      statistic, but my thought was based on this statistic.

                      While I was in graduate school 30 years ago, one of my courses was on
                      migration. Most migrants migrate as families, and as communities. People
                      from the same neighborhood migrate to the same neighborhood, get jobs at the
                      same employers or in the same industry. This occurs even where the policy is
                      to integrate migrants. They move to places where they know people and
                      reconstruct their social networks.

                      In research on Eastern European Germans (Donau Schwaben or Deutsch-Ungarn)
                      )in the Philadelphia area in the 70s, I found that German speakers from
                      Yugoslavia immigrating to the USA after the Second World War maintained
                      special social network relations, worked for each other, set up businesses
                      with each other, formed social clubs and sports clubs and singing societies
                      and went to church together, and got married together. They had a word for
                      someone from their native community and a member of their network, "Unser
                      Leute" Our People. Although there is transition, there is a large scale
                      stability of groups.

                      In pre-historical sapiens, there was only the local group and there were no
                      strangers. One's entire society and every member in it was a given at birth.
                      A !Kung could identify anyone and everyone by a footprint and would know
                      that person's relationship and all intervening kin.

                      All the higher primates have stable social groups which remain stable over
                      generations. These groups are formed on the basis of mother daughter dyadic
                      bonds and sibling bonds. Stable play groups form the basis for later stable
                      social groups. When social groups bifurcate, it is along lines of female
                      kinship based groups. Alliances are formed on the basis of sibling bonds.
                      That is the basic primate pattern that humans built on. It is the pattern
                      found throughout human groups throughout most of humanity's evolution.

                      Isa
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