“A Zoologist’s Study of the Human animal” This is how Morris describes the book.
Having been published in 1967, the book has some old feeling to it but it is a must read if you are interested in human origins or human behavior in general. So many things that we do today, in modern world, was coded in our brains thousands of years ago. By examining our ancestors, besides other animals, Morris had a very clear image of who we actually are: Naked Apes.
I would like to give some insight about the author first: Desmond John Morris (born 24 January 1928) is an English zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter, as well as a popular author in human sociobiology. He is known for his 1967 book The Naked Ape, and for his television programs such as Zoo Time. He studied zoology at the University of Birmingham and he got his PhD degree in animal behavior, at the University of Oxford.
Morris makes my job way easier and divides his book into 8 major parts: Origins, Sex, Rearing, Exploration, Fighting, Feeding, Comfort, Animals. I intend to follow his path in this review. What is most striking about his style is that he can describe a process in a very detailed way. He first starts the chapter with the observations he made on animals, after detailed descriptions, he explains how we see these traits in humans as well, then he makes his own comments on the subject. Some of them are well known facts but some of them are extremely surprising. Especially the ‘Fighting’ ‘Comfort’ and ‘Animals’ parts were interesting since I learned a lot of new things.
In this review you will find out:
Why are we naked in comparison to other primates?
Why do we hate snakes and spiders?
During a fight which one is an indicator of danger?: Your enemy’s face turning white or red?
Why do babies smile?
Why stares are intimidating?
Do we coded for monogamy or polygamy?
‘Naked Ape’ (aka Homo Sapiens) is an odd kind when compared with the other primate species, marked off by his nudity from all the thousands of hairy, shaggy or furry land-dwelling mammalian species.
It is the biological nature of the beast that has molded the social structure of civilization, rather than the other way around. Only the names have been changed: for ‘hunting’ read ‘working’, for ‘hunting grounds’ read ‘place of business’, for ‘home base’ read ‘house’ for ‘pair bond’ read ‘marriage’, for ‘mate’ read ‘wife’ , and so on.
This chapter in the book starts with explaining how due to the climatic conditions apes were forced to become hunters rather than fruit pickers. The ancestral ground apes already had large and high quality brains. They had good eyes** and efficient grasping hands. They inevitably, as primates, had some degree of social organization. With strong pressure on them to increase their prey-killing skills vital changes began to take place. They became more upright-fast, better runners. Their hands became freed from locomotion duties – strong, efficient weapon holders. Their brains became more complex – brighter quicker decision makers.
It could be argued that evolution might have favored the development of a more typical cat- or dog- like killer, a kind of cat-ape or dog-ape, by the simple process of enlarging the teeth and nails into savage fang-like and claw-like weapons. But this would have put the ancestral ground ape into direct competition with the already highly specialized cat and dog killers. It would have meant competing with them on their own term, and the outcome would no doubt have been disastrous for the primates.
The forest ape that became a ground ape that became a hunting ape that became a territorial ape that became a cultural ape and we must call a temporary halt.
**The sensory equipment of the higher primates is much more dominated by the sense of vision than the sense of smell. In their tree-climbing world, seeing well is far more important than smelling well, and the snouts shrunk considerably giving the eyes a much better view. In searching for food, the colors of fruits are helpful clues, and unlike the carnivores, primates have evolved a good color vision.
Socially the hunting ape had to increase his urge to communicate and to co-operate with his fellows. Facial expressions and vocalizations had to become more complicated. With the new weapons to hand, he had to develop powerful signals that would inhibit attacks within the social group. On the other hand, with a fixed home base to defend, he had to develop stronger aggressive responses to the members of rival groups.
A new development, for the general primate rule is that virtually all parental care comes from the mother (It is only a wise primate, like our hunting ape, that knows its own father).
Because of the extremely long period of dependency of the young and the heavy demands made by them, the females found themselves almost constantly confined to the home base. In this respect the hunting ape’s new way of life threw up a special problem, one that it did not share with the typical pure carnivores: the role of the sexes had to become more distinct. The hunting parties, unlike those of the ‘pure’ carnivores, had to become all male groups. If anything was going to go against the primate grain, it was this. For a vigorous primate male to go off on a feeding trip and leave his females unprotected from the advances of any other males that might happen to come by, was unheard of. This was something that demanded a major shift in the social behavior.
Male- Female Bond
Male and female hunting apes had to fall in love and remain faithful to one another. This is a common tendency in many other group of animals but it is rare among primates. This shift helped many things: Serious sexual rivalries between the males were reduced. This aided their developing cooperativeness. Also with the newly developed weapons, the hunting ape was under strong pressure to reduce any source of disharmony within the tribe. The last effect was on the little hunting apes. The heavy task of rearing and training the slowly developing young demanded a cohesive family unit. With the male-female bond (monogamous) this unity was formed.
Why on earth should the haunting ape have become a naked ape? We can be fairly certain that it did not happen before our ancestors left their forest homes. It probably happened while they were on the open plains. There are several theories for our nakedness, let’s have a look at them briefly:
Neoteny: To continue to possess some larval or immature characteristics in adulthood. If you examine an infant chimpanzee at birth (after exactly 8.5-9 months, like us) you will find that it has a good head of hair, but that its body is almost naked (see the picture above). If this condition was delayed into the animal’s adult life by neoteny, the adult chimpanzee’s hair condition would be very much like hours. BUT unless it had some special value to the new species, it would be quickly dealt with by natural selection. So why did it stay? Here are some other theories:
What is the survival value of naked skin? When the hunting ape abandoned its nomadic past and settled down at fixed home bases, its dens became heavily infested with skin parasites. Also, such messy feeding habits that a furry coat would soon become clogged and messy would create a disease risk. There are hundreds of species who lost their hair during evolution due to this problem.
Another theory is that development of fire led the loss of the hairy coat since hunting ape felt cold only at night and fire was handling the problem.
This theory is very interesting: Before becoming a hunting ape, the original ground ape that had left the forests went through a long phase as an aquatic ape in search of food. Close examination reveals that on our backs the directions of our tiny remnant hairs differ strikingly from those other apes. In us, they point diagonally backwards and inwards towards the spine. This follows the direction of flow of the water passing over a swimming body. So the idea that we might have lost our body hair to reduce resistance when swimming. Also, we are unique among all the primates in being the only one to possess a thick layer of sub-cutaneous fat, a compulsory insulating device. Even sensitive nature of our hands support the aquatic theory: Because it takes a subtle sensitized hand to feel for food in the water
Another argument that we lost hair because it was a social trend; it arose as a signal. Hunting ape wanted to look different to be easily identified.
Another suggestion is that the loss of hair is an extension of sexual signalling. Sensitivity to touch was sexually important and by exposing their naked skins to one another during sexual encounters, both male and female would become more highly sensitized to erotic stimuli.
The last suggestion, if you ask me, was the weakest one that was argued. Hunting ape lost hair to prevent himself from being over-heated. Exposure of the naked skin to the air certainly increases the chances of the heat loss, but it also increases heat gain at the same time and risks damage from the sun’s rays.
It is a confusing situation for today’s naked ape: As primates they are pulled one way, as carnivores by adoption they are pulled another, and as members of an elaborate civilized community, they are pulled yet another.
The female of our species has to reach the age of twenty nine before she can match the orgasm rate of the fifteen-year old male.
Why do we want to build our own family?
During the long, growing years, the young hunting ape will have had the chance to develop a deep personal relationship with his parents, a relationship much more powerful and lasting than anything a young monkey could experience. The loss of this parental bond with maturation and independence would create a ‘relationship void’ – a gap that had to be filled. He would therefore already be primed for the development of a new equally powerful bond to replace it.
Other primate females do not pair with their male partners during their pregnancy but the naked ape does: because with one male- one female system, it would be dangerous to frustrate the male for too long a period. It might endanger the pair bond.
Why our lips are inside-out?
All primates have lips but not turned inside-out like ours. Giving a kiss on the lips is a greeting signal for the chimpanzee.
Kiss is both greeting and a sexual one for the naked ape. Why?: Sexual arousal produces some physical changes in the body; a swelling and reddening of the lips, and the clear demarcation of this area (the line between your lower lip and upper lip and the line around your lips) are shaped in a way that they become more recognizable. Even in their un-aroused condition, they are redder than the rest of the face skin simply by their very existence, they will act as advertising signals drawing attention to the presence of a tactile sexual structure.
Another supporting fact to this is that if climatic conditions demand a darker skin, then this will work agains the visual signalling capacity of the lips by reducing their color contrast. If they really are important as visual signals, what they have lost in color contrast, they have made up for in size and shape by becoming larger and more protuberant.
Monogamy or polygamy?
If the violent hunting life results in adult males becoming scarcer than females, there will be a tendency for some of the surviving males to form pair bonds with more than one female. However, this will bring home the problem since the female won’t want to share him with somebody else. To have a peaceful relationship with his hunting mates, a peaceful family life at the home base, to keep the peace in the group, naked apes evolved to be monogamous.
We can sum up by saying that, whatever obscure backward tribal units are doing today, the mainstream of our species express its pair-bonding character in its most extreme form, namely long-term monogamous mating.
Our Smell Preferences
Before puberty, there are strong preferences for sweet and fruity odors, but with the arrival of sexual maturity this response falls off and there is a dramatic shift in favor of flowery, oily and musky odors. This applies to both sexes, but the increase in musk responsiveness is stronger in males than females.
If the old primate patterns are left unmodified, the adult male will soon drive out the young males (his sons) and mate with the young females . These will then become part of the family unit as additional breeding females along with their mother, and we shall be right back where we started. But this wouldn’t work anymore for the new cooperative hunting ape. Because of its home-base needs and female-male bond that already improved, as the children reach puberty, they set off to establish a new breeding base and find their mate themselves.
Where did the urge for covering our genitals come from?
If sexuality had to be heightened to keep the pair together, then steps must have been taken to damp it down when the pair were apart, to avoid the over-stimulation of third parties. Because of their vertical posture it is impossible for a naked ape to approach another member of his species without performing a genital display. The covering of the genital region with some simple kind of garment must have been an early cultural development.
ABNORMAL or NORMAL sexual behavior?
If outside matings conflict too strongly with the pair bond, then some less harmful substitute for them has to be found. The solution has been ‘voyeurism’ meaning obtaining sexual excitement from watching other individuals copulating.
There is nothing biologically unusual about a homosexual act of pseudo-copulation. But the formation of a homosexual pair bond is re-productively unsound, since it cannot lead to the production of offspring and wastes potential breeding adults. One theory is that under serious over-crowding with no signs of any easing up in the immediate future, anti-reproductive sexual patterns must obviously be considered in a new light.
If either males or females cannot for some reason obtain sexual access to their opposite numbers, they will find sexual outlets in other ways. They may use other members of their own sex. or they may even use members of other species, or they may masturbate.
If the naked ape is trying to breast feed her baby and the baby doesn’t want it, there are two possible reasons:
Nipple is not protruding far enough into the baby’s mouth.
It is failing because it is being suffocated.
This is caused by the anatomy of the human female breast. Other female primates has much longer shape and does not swell out into the great rounded hemisphere that causes so much difficulty for the baby. This is because for our species, breast design is primarily sexual rather than maternal in function.
Why we breast feed on the left side?
The mother, either instinctively or by an unconscious series of trials and errors, would soon arrive at the discovery that her baby is more at peace if held on the left, against her heart, than on the right.
This is why babies sleep better with a ticking metronome with a heart beat speed . This also may explain why we insist on locating feelings of love in the heart rather than the head. Also, we rock back and forth on our feet when we are in a state of conflict. rocking like a heart beat calms us down.
Voice and Crying
The astonishing fast rate of learning in the field of vocal imitation is unique to our species and must be considered as one of our greatest achievements. Chimpanzees are like us, brilliant at rapid manipulative imitation, but they cannot manage vocal imitations. This difference is a question of brain, not voice. The chimpanzee has a vocal apparatus that is structurally perfectly capable of making a wide variety of sounds. So do birds. But they are too bird-brained to make a good use of this ability.
By crying, the baby alerts its parents, the adult alerts the other members of its social group. There are two important factors to baby’s crying: physical pain (including hunger) and insecurity.
Laugh has evolved from crying: the crying infant has become segmented, chopped up into small pieces and at the same time has grown smoother an slower.
Laughing does not appear until the third or fourth month. Its arrival coincides with the development of the parental recognition. Smiling is a secondary form of laughing. It has become specialized as a species greeting signal. Any social contact is at best mildly fear-provoking. Both smile and the laugh indicate the existence of this fear and its combination with feelings of attraction and acceptance (Blogger’s note: Maybe this explains the nervous laugh and nervous smile! I have a strange story actually, when I heard that my grandfather died in a tragic traffic accident, I was devastated. I was the one who broke down the news to my mom, but while I was telling her the terrible news, I found myself smiling! I was thinking to myself: What the heck? Stop smiling! But it was uncontrollable, I couldn’t control it. Maybe it was my fear that smiling!).
Also the evolution of smile is the clinging that apes do but we can’t since we do not have any fur on our mother to cling to. A young chimpanzee screams its head off when it needs attention, like we do. Once his mother comes he clings to her showing that he wants his mother to stay. We do the same by smiling. We signal to our mother that we want her and her attention to stay by smiling.
We never stopped investigating: this is the greatest survival trick of our species. Experiments with monkeys have revealed that not only does isolation in infancy produce a socially withdrawn adult, but it also creates an anti-sexual and anti-parental individual.
Animals fight among themselves either to establish their dominance in a social hierarchy, or to establish their territorial rights over a particular piece of ground.
There is a rigidly established social hierarchy in most species of monkeys and apes, with a dominant male in charge of the group. When he becomes too old or weak to maintain his domination, he is overthrown by a younger, sturdier male, who then assumes the mantle of the colony boss.
The book explains the physical changes in our body during the preparation of a fight, which I’m not going to write here. Rather, I will share some interesting information.
When a mammal becomes aggressively aroused to fight a number of basic physiological changes occur within its body. The whole machine has to gear itself up for action by means of the autonomic nervous system. This system consists of two opposing and counterbalancing sub systems:
The sympathetic system: the one that is concerned with preparing the body for violent activity. It says “You are stripped for action, get moving!”
The parasympathetic system: the one that has the task of preserving and restoring bodily reserves. It says “Take it easy, relax and conserve your strength”
The enemy provokes fear as well as aggression. The aggression drives the animal on, the fear holds it back. The intense state of inner conflict arises. Typically, the animal that is aroused to fight doesn’t go straight into all-out attack. It begins by threatening to attack. If the enemy gets scared and leaves, then you win without shedding any blood. This is preferable.
In the tense state of conflict between aggression and fear, everything is suspended. The result is that parasympathetic system fights back wildly and the autonomic pendulum swings frantically back and forth. As the tense moments of threat and counter threat tick by, we see flashes of parasympathetic activity intermitted with the sympathetic symptoms. Dryness in the mouth may give way to excessive salivation. Tightening of the bowels may collapse and sudden defecation occurs. The urine, held back so strongly in the bladder, maybe released in a flood. The removal of the blood from the skin maybe massively reversed: extreme paleness being replaced by intense flushing and reddening. The deep and rapid respiration may be dramatically interrupted, leading to gasps and sighs. These are desperate attempts on the part of the parasympathetic system to counteract the apparent actions of sympathetic. This explains why in extreme cases of shock, fainting or swooning can be observed. In such instances blood that has been rushed to the brain is withdrawn again so violently that it leads to a sudden unconsciousness.
One of the side affects of an intense inner conflict is that animal sometimes exhibits strange and seemingly irrelevant behavior to show its fear + anger. There are so many variations to this in animal world. One of them that is similar to us is to indulge in ‘instant sleep’ momentarily tucking their heads into a snoozing position, yawning and stretching. The other one is scratching even though nothing is itching. Modern humans do this by rearranging ornaments (see below, 45. President of the USA’s behavior), lighting a cigarette, cleaning our glasses, looking at our watch, pouring a drink, etc. (Bloggers note: Also have you ever thought why we feel so sleepy while studying for our finals? That is our ‘instant sleep’ reaction to our fear.)
So what do animals do to show their enemy that they don’t want to fight anymore?
They either switch off the signals that have been arousing the aggression, or they switch on other, positively non aggressive signals. Because aggression involves violent movement, a static pose automatically signals non-aggression. Usually this is accompanied by crouching or cowering. Aggression involves expanding the body to its maximum size (look how the both men are opening their arms while threatening each other in the above video) and crouching reverses this . Facing away from the animal also helps.
In certain rare cases a loser will admit defeat by offering a vulnerable area to attacker. A chimpanzee for example, will hold out its hand as a gesture of submission. Modern human does this by a hand shake or raising our hands.
submission gesture 2
Sometimes they adopt juvenile begging postures which will talk to the enemy’s parental instincts. Modern human does this by adopting a ‘baby-talk’ that we see among couples.
The last thing the animal tries is grooming. A great deal of social or mutual grooming goes on in animal world and it is strongly associated with the calmer, ore peaceful moments of community life.
Human animal in Fight
We cannot intimidate our opponents, for example, by erecting our body hair. But we can go ‘white with rage’, ‘red with anger’, or ‘pale with fear’. It is the white color we have to watch for here: this means activity.If it is combined with other actions that signal attack, then it is a vital danger signal. If it is combined with other actions that signal fear, then it is a panic signal. The angry, red-faced opponent who faces you is far less likely to attack than the white-faced, tight lipped one. Red-face’s conflicts such that he is all bottled up and inhibited, but white face is still ready for action. White face is much more likely to spring in to the attack unless he is immediately appeased or counter-threatened even more strongly.
Pale angry face (the most dangerous one)
As naked apes, because our urge to attack and escape are both strongly activated simultaneously, we exhibit some characteristics movements. For example: raising of clenched fist or raising a hand, back and forth striking movements of the forearm. We blow our fist but at a safe distance form the opponent.
Naked ape make short approach-intention movements but repeatedly check themselves from going too far. maybe the stamped their feet or bring down their fists in any near-by object. This redirection activity happens a lot in animal world. Because the opponent is too frightening to be directly assaulted, the aggressive movements are redirected towards some other less intimidating object dor example a harmless bystander . Gorillas, chimpanzees frequently perform similar display, tearing up, smashing and throwing around branches and vegetation.
Watch the two men’s fight. It takes them about a minute to threaten each other (repeatedly check themselves from going too far). Their body move back and forth, they raise their hands up. You can easily see the guy with the green shirt’s face is turning red as the argument heats up. Also at the minute 0:30 by shooting the ball, actually he is redirecting his anger.
Our aggressive faces are the same with other primates, the more the urge to attack dominates the urge to flee, the more the face pulls itself forwards. If you are exposing your teeth, your forehead is wrinkling and eyebrows are raised, the fear is taking over.
The crouching of animals as a sign of defeat turns into groveling and prostrating in humans. The key signal here is the lowering of the body in relation to the dominant individual. When threatening, we puff ourselves up to our greatest height, making our bodies as tall and as large as possible. So submissive behavior must be the opposite. Like military salute; removing the hat actually a procedure of lowering the height of the body. Also the key feature here is the lowering of eyes. A direct stare is typical of the most out-and-out aggression.
Chimpanzees appease by holding out a limp hand towards the dominant individual, to show submission. We do the same gesture. It is our greeting gesture in the shape of a friendly hand shake. Friendly gestures often grow out of submissive ones.
The Power of Stare
During ordinary face-to-face conversations we typically look away from our companions when we are talking, then glance back at them at the end of each sentence, or ‘paragraph’, to check their response to what we have said. Even though a professor with much experience is in such a dominant position, there are so many students in the auditorium, all staring at him, that he experiences a basic and initially uncontrollable fear of them. Only after a great deal of practice can he overcome this. The simple, aggressive, physical act of being stared at by a large group of people is also causing the butterflies in his stomach. He has all his intellectual worries about the qualities of his performance and its reception, of course, but the mass threat-stare is an additional and more fundamental hazard for him. This is again a case of the curiosity stare being confused at an unconscious level with the threat-stare. The wearing of glasses and sunglasses makes the face appear more aggressive because it artificially and accidentally enlarges the pattern of the stare. Mild mannered individuals tend to select thin-rimmed or rimless glasses (without realizing why they do so) because this enables them to see better with the minimum stare exaggeration, arousing counter aggression.
Moths have a pair of startling eye-markings on their wings. These lie concealed until the creatures are attacked by predators.
On a smaller scale certain products have been given threat-face brand names such as OXO, OMO, OZO or OVO. The attention has already been drawn.
In animal world, during the fight, destruction of life is avoided because the enemy either flees or submits. In either case, the dispute is settled. But the moment that attacking is done from such a distance that the submission signals of the losers cannot be read by the winners, then violent aggression is going to go raging on. In modern aggression, the result is wholesale slaughter on a scale unheard of in any other species.
There are 5 solutions proposed by the author to end the massacre:
massive mutual disarmamaent
de-patriotize the members of the different social groups.
provide and promote harmless, symbolic substitutes for war
improvement of intellectual control over aggression.
According to the author none of these are really possible for the near future. So he proposes this as the only sound biological solution to this dilemma: 5. Massive depopulation or a rapid spread of the species on to other planets, combined if possible with assistance from all four of the courses of action already mentioned. To sum up then, the best solution for ensuring world peace is the widespread promotion of contraception or abortion.
From out ancient background there remained a need for all-powerful figure who could keep the group under control, and the vacancy was filled by the invention of a god. At first sight it is surprising that religion has been so successful, but its extreme potency is simply a measure of the strength of our fundamental biological tendency. Because if this, religion has proved immensely valuable as a device for aiding social cohesion, and it is doubtful whether our species could have progressed far without it. We all simply have to believe in something.
Why do we like to eat our food hit?
it helps to simulate ‘prey temparature’ :Although we no longer consume freshly killed meat we nevertheless devour it at much the same temperature as other carnivor species.
We have such weak teeth that we are forced to ‘tenderize’ the meat by cooking it. But it doesn’t explain why want to eat it hot.
byincreasing the temperature of the food we improve its flavor.
Like other primates we find it hard to resist sweets.
The urge to eat meat appears to have become too deep -seated.
The place where the environment comes into direct contact with an animal, its body surface, receives a great deal of rough treatment during the course of its life. Animals have evolved a veriety of special comfort movements that help to keep it clean.
Social grooming, (animals picking food from each other’s fur) the development of a friendly mutual aid system. This can be seen in a wide range of both bird and mammal species, but it reaches a peak of expression among the higher primates. When they groom each other, they do lip-smacking to communicate. Look at this video:
We no longer have a luxuriant coat of fur to clean. Smiling has replaced lip smacking and vocalization replaced grooming. The behavior pattern of talking:
Information talking: Talking with verbs about everything
Mood talking: nonverbal mood signals
Exploratory talking: Talking for talking’s sake
Grooming talking; Meaningless polite chatter during gatherings
Fluffy or furry clothing, rugs, or furniture often release a strong grooming response. Pet animals are even more inviting, and few naked apes can resist the temptation to stroke a cat’s fur or scratch a dog behind the ear.
So, why the grooming adoption of humans did not involved our hair? The explanation appears to lie in the sexual significance of the hair. Its sexual associations have led to its involvement in sexual behavior patterns, so that stroking or manipulating the hair is now an action too heavily loaded with erotic significance to be used as a simple social friendship gesture.
In today’s world we have some psychological disorders and they are coming from the grooming need of our ancestors. Medical care is one of the grooming actions among apes. Minor infection and sicknesses are usually treated rationally, as if they are simply mild versions of serious illnesses, but there is strong evidence to suggest that they are in reality much more related to primitive ‘grooming demands’. The medical symptoms reflect a behavioral problem that has taken a physical form, rather than a true physical problem. This is happening because by examining, writing a prescription, taking care of the patient, the doctor is doing grooming. If psychological the person needs constant grooming, this is a disorder. In modern world we call it: Münchausen’s Syndrome. Those members of a community who are either very successful or socially well adjusted rarely suffer from this. Those that have temporary or long-standing social problems are, by contrast, highly susceptible.
Also, another disorder is hidden here: Some individuals have such a great need to care for others that they may actively promote and prolong sickness in a companion in order to be able to express their grooming urges more fully. This way a vicious cycle of a chronic invalid demanding and constant attention is created. This is called: Münchausen by Proxy syndrome.
OUR OTHER SIMILARITIES
Like other primates we still scratch ourselves, rub our eyes, pick our sores,. and lick our wounds. We also share with them a strong tendency to sun bathe. In addition we have added a number of specialized cultural patterns, the most common and widespread of which is washing with water. This is rare in other primates, although certain species bathe occasionally.
We also sweat like primates. There is a further distinction in the ares of emotional sweating, the palms and the soles differing from the armpits and the forehead. The first regions respond well only to emotional situations, whereas the last two react to both emotional and to temperature stimuli.
The last part of the book is about how naked ape sees other animals. There is some interesting information here. Higher forms of animal life regard other animals in 5 ways: as prey, symbionts, competitors, parasites and predators.
The most ancient symbiont in our history is undoubtedly the dog. We cannot be sure exactly when our ancestors first began to domesticate this valuable animal, but it appears to be at least ten thousand years ago. The wild, wolf-like ancestors of the domestic dog must have been serious competitors with our hunting ancestors. In time – we do not exactly know how- they made a deal in each hunt to share the kill. In time, possibly young puppies were brought in to the tribal home base to be fattened so that they could eat them later. However, their value as watch dogs were discovered. Then, these that were allowed to live in a now tamed condition and permitted to accompany the males on their hunting trip show immediately their talent of track down the prey.
Having been fed and raised, the dogs would consider themselves to be members of the naked-ape pack and would cooperate instinctively with their adopted leaders. Selective breeding over a number of generations would soon get rid of the trouble makers and a new, improved stock of increasingly restrained and controllable domestic hunting dogs would arise.
Individual dogs with unusually well developed abilities in a particular direction were inbred to intensify their special advantages.
With the development of large-scale grain storage, rodents became a serious problem and rodent-killers were encouraged The cat the ferret and the mongoose were the species that came to our aid and in the first two cases full dommestication with selective breeding followed.
Animals We Like and We Don’t Like
They asked 80,000 British children aging between 4 to 14 what their favorite animal is in the zoo. The figures are as follows: 97.15% of all the children quoted a mammal of some kind as their top favorite Birds accounted for 1.6%, reptiles 1%, amphibians 0.055. If we narrow it to top ten animals:
Bushbaby (A nocturnal ape) (8%)
It is immediately clear that these preferences do not reflect aesthetic influences. The top ten are not the most elegant or brightly colored of species. They include instead a high proportion of rather clumsy, heavy-set and dully colored forms. But they look like ‘us’ or they act like ‘us’ somehow. Look at these facts:
They all have hair, rather than feathers or scales
They have rounded outlines (chimpanzee, monlkey, bushbaby, panda, bear,e lephant)
They have flat faces (chimpanzee, monkey, bush baby, bear, panda, lion)
They have facial expressions (chimpanzee, monkey, horse, lion, dog)
They can ‘manipulate’ small objects (chimpanzee,. monkey, busbaby, panda,elephant)
Their postures are in some ways, or at some timesrather vertical (chimpanzee, monket, buhbaby, panda, bear, giraffe)
This is not a conscious process. Each of the species listed provides certain key stimuli that strongly remind us of special properties of our own species. Non-mammalian species score badly because they are weak in these above respects. Among the birds, the top 2 picks were penguin, which is a vertically walking animal, and parrot, who speaks like a human.
The younger children prefer the bigger animals and the older children prefer the smaller ones. Because smaller children viewing the animals as parent-substitutes and the older children are looking upon them as child-substitutes.
Let’s look at the animal hates:
These animals share one important feature: they are dangerous. Most of them lack the anthropomorphic features that describe the top ten favorites. Most of the people can’t even stand looking at their pictures. They cannot hurt you from the pictures, so what is this disgust?
So the fear for top two is very interesting…
An analysis of the reasons given for hating these forms reveals that snakes are disliked because they are slimy an d dirty and spiders are repulsive because they are hairy and creepy. This means that they must have a symbolic significance rather than being dangerous. We might have a powerful inborn response to avoid these animals (MariaExample): 1. They might be symbolizing unwanted sex 2 .Inborn aversion response towards snake-like forms, aversion response has a survival value.
As far as the spider fear is concerned, there is a marked sex difference. The level of reaction to spiders is the same for girls with boys up to the age of puberty, then the fear in females doubles with a sharp increase. This leap in spider hatred that accompanies female puberty because of the growth of unwanted hair on the body of a young girl. That’s why they describe it as ‘nasty, hairy things’ .
At the end of the seventeenth century the world population of naked ape was only 500 million. It has now risen to 7,600 million. Every twenty-four hours it increases by another 150,000. In 210 years’ time, if the rate of increate stays steady – which is unlikely- there will be a seething mass of 400,000 million (400 billion) naked apes crowding the face of the earth. This is scary.
Many exciting species have become extinct in the past and we are no exception. Sooner or later we shall go and make way for something else.
Some people think that our intelligence can dominate all our basic urges. I submit that this is rubbish. Our raw animal nature will never permit it. Of course we are flexible, of course, we are behavioral opportunists, but there are severe limits to the form our opportunism can take. By stressing our biological features in this book, I have tried to show the nature of these restrictions.
If you enjoyed this information as much as I did, don’t forget to add this great book into your library!
When I came to the USA in 2008 for the first time, I was in so-called ‘honeymoon stage’: Everything was new and exciting. Even my jet-lag. I was ready to explore, meet new people, eat new food, buy new clothes. However, after about a month, I started to feel frustrated, lonely and tired. Everything was so different that learning curve was painful. So many things that I had to figure out ‘by myself’ and when I couldn’t figure it out, there was no one to cry to.
In this post, I would like to share with you the things I wished I had known before I arrived. Although I believe that learning these by experiencing on your own would be challenging but fun, also I know that a lot of people eventually go back to their countries because they can’t cope with these challenges by themselves, especially in the first critical 1-3 months. Statistics say that around 34% of all new college students will drop out in the first year. One of the main reasons is homesickness.
If you want me to define ‘homesickness’, it is not just missing your parents or best friends. It is losing the sense of ‘belonging’, also the fear of the ‘unknown’ and lacking the strength to fight with ‘problems’ as they hit hard one after another. I remember one day I missed the bus to school which was running every 30 min. I was running late for the class, so I had to walk to the class in snow. But half way to the school, I realized that my cute looking boots that I bought from Turkey were not suitable for snow. By the time I arrived my class, my socks were soaked in snow water. The very same day I learned that for my thesis, I needed to go on a field trip and camp for at least 40 days. The problem was, I hadn’t had a car or driver’s license at that time, I hadn’t camped in wild at all, not even for one day. Then of course in the evening I felt sick because of the cold and I remember shivering and thinking to myself: If I die here, nobody will know. I’m so alone.
Now, let’s talk about the most important things before you move to the USA:
CULTURE SHOCK, HOMESICKNESS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
As I mentioned, it was very difficult for me to adapt the host culture. It took me 5-6 months to start feeling normal. I was home all the time, watching movies and doing homework. I wanted to make friends, go out and explore. But I needed a car to go anywhere in Kansas and it was too hard to make friends. Americans seemed like they were communicating among themselves very effectively and confidently. Yet, I felt like I was left outside. Masters students at Geology department were doing projects together, were going to a bar (Henry’s in Lawrence, KS to be exact) every weekend but nobody was inviting me. That made me feel rejected… How was this even possible? The social butterfly in Turkey (me) had turned into a caterpillar.
Then, we went to this Spain field trip. I was staying with 5 other friends in the same hotel room. We finally started talking about things that are different than geology. We went out at night and we chat about everything. We were laughing, dancing. The whole week we spent in Almeria, Spain, I had gained a part of me back. I thought to myself “I’m still lovable and respectable”. After we returned to KS I joined their gatherings a lot more. When I confessed that I was waiting for an invitation, they were puzzled. They asked me why I waited for an invitation. They said they were discussing about where to go right in front of me, that meant I was automatically invited! Oh boy, how could I know that?!
Then as I read about it, I realized that it wasn’t only me! There was a science behind it. They mapped the psychological ups and downs. Now, you can learn about it too here and I hope that it will help you during your journey.
Below is a chart that shows the stages of adaptation process to a host culture:
During the first stage, Anticipating Departure, you go through mixed feelings. You are anxious about leaving your family and friends behind. You are trying to be excited but the fear of the unknown still makes you feel on edge.
Upon entering the new country, your excitement will be at its top level. This level is called ‘Honeymoon Stage (Emotional High Point)‘. This stage lasts about 1-3 months. Everything is new, there are so many things to explore, so many things to take picture of, to taste and to smell. I still remember the smell of the BBQ sauce on the first ribs that I tried. And the taste of fried pickles. The smell of Britney Spears perfume (There were so many cheap perfumes everywhere). Also, I remember taking a picture of birds and bugs. They looked and sounded different. At this stage, I was like a tourist and I was enjoying it!
Then comes the Critical Low Point. This was the time when I first realized that I didn’t have anyone to share this excitement with. This was the period that I realized, in order to buy a toothpaste or a loaf of bread, I had to drive to Walmart which is 10 minute drive from home. There was a little problem though: I didn’t have a car. I didn’t even have a drivers license. Then I realized my masters program was way different than what I was expecting (It is way different than Turkish education). So much homework, so many lab and field reports. Proposal, poster presentation, application for scholarships and funding, everything had strict deadlines. Besides, my adviser was horrible, so it didn’t help my adaptation process at all. I remember crying in front of her once. I truly think she didn’t care.
Then comes the ‘Initial Adjustment‘. When I met my Turkish neighbors, Fatih abi and Zeynep Abla, I felt so happy, they were letting me borrow their car so that I could do groceries whenever I wanted. I had figured out the school’s system better, so I was finally meeting the deadlines and I was made aware of the danger called ‘plagiarism’ (please read more about it here: http://www.plagiarism.org/article/what-is-plagiarism). On the Spain trip I mentioned earlier, I had gotten closer with my American friends, I had joined ISA (International Student Association) which was the best decision I have ever made. In this organization, I met so many international students who were going through the same stages as me. This was such a good relief. Besides, we were having so much fun while we were learning about each other’s cultures. For the very first time, everything seemed to be working… Until the next stage…
‘Confronting Deeper Issues‘ is an interesting stage. Because this is the stage after which you decide to stay or go back. Also, if you decide to stay, this is the stage that will make you more mature than ever. This is the time period that your communication with your home country gets little disrupted: Some friends of yours stop talking to you, or they get really busy with their own lives that they become not as available as they were before to chat. Suddenly when you look around, you see that you are living in a dorm or in an apartment with used furniture, your school work is a constant struggle, you are still trying to figure things out: You are trying to understand why your new friends are not checking in even though they know that you are sick. You are still trying to figure out how to open a bank account and call the bank when a problem arises. You, for the first time in your life, shovel the snow. You can’t figure out why your engine is not working after a freezing night. What is that scary storm alarm? Why do you have to make reservation for a taxi 24 hours in advance?? What is a social security number and how do you get it? What is credit history? Why do you even need it? How do I pay taxes here? While working on those complicated issues, your friends and your relatives in your country are getting married, getting promotions, celebrating birthdays, having babies. Your family members are having health problems, and you can’t be there. This feeling of ‘helplessness’ -can’t help anyone, can’t even help myself- is a real struggle. Because of these negative feelings, you will tend to focus on negatives, so you will start using phrases like “This is easier in my country” “This tastes better in my hometown” “In my country, they do this way differently! Ugh” So this is why it is called ‘deeper issues’; you question everything: your family and friendships, YOU and your country’s weaknesses and strengths. This is the stage you analyze all the ups and downs you had.
‘Adapting and Assimilating Stage’ is the best. You realize that you can enjoy the new culture while still keeping your core values. You accept the difficulties, find ways to solve them. You accept the good sides and bad sides of your own country and the host country. For example, I really like how people respect you as an individual and give you your own space in the US. Also the fact that the system rewards you if you work hard. But I still miss the warmth, friendliness, helpfulness and randomness of people in Turkey.
In this stage, your small circle of friends and acquaintances keep you occupied. Finally, you start traveling or focusing on your hobbies. Finally, you think about buying new furniture for your apartment, maybe some plants, some photos and paintings? You start to invite people over and cook for them. You start to find what to discuss with Americans since you know the local sports teams, TV shows and local news. You enjoy the cultural exchange; learning about their culture and teaching yours.
Finally there is this ‘Reverse Cultural Shock‘ stage which is labeled as ‘re-entry adjustment‘ in the chart. After you adjusted yourself and accepted your host country as your ‘home’, going back will be a different experience. Your people will be more different than where you left them. It will be hard to explain them what you saw, what you experienced. Some of them won’t understand very easily. They might underestimate the difficulties you went through and think that what you encountered could not be such big deal because you live in the strongest country in the world. You are finally in your country, the food is great, you go to the places that you missed, meet up with people that you love but then you can’t help but focus on rude people, traffic, long bank lines, smokers, governmental procedures, so many things that will annoy you, and you wished that were different. You will have difficulty adjusting back to your own culture. Frankly, I think this was the weirdest feeling that I experienced in this all adjustment period.
If you are going through any of the above stages, I have a few suggestions for you:
Get involved! Socialize. This is crucially important. Put yourself out there. Sign up for a student organization, or find your country’s cultural group, or join meet-ups. Go to school gatherings and talk to people. Don’t be afraid about your English. People in America are used to accents. Also, you are the one who knows two languages! I have found it easier to socialize with international students or expats rather than Americans because we all were going through the same issues.
Make your living space unique, your style. Place things that will give you positive energy around your room: Pictures of your family, your best friend’s gift, your favorite book, a Star Wars poster, a fish tank or a cute little plant. Make your living space your ‘shelter’ your own ‘peaceful space’.
If you are a student, contact your school’s international students services office. Learn about activities, deadlines, etc.
Talk to your family and friends back home via Whatsapp, Facetime or Skype regularly. It really helps.
Stay connected with your peeps on social media. If you don’t have one, open a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account.
Get hobbies! You can keep the old ones or you can find new ones. You can read a book, write a blog, take drawing or dancing lessons. It is always great doing something different than papers and work.
Get an on-campus job if you can. It keeps you busy, allows you to meet different people, besides you make some pocket money!
Save money for your future trips! There are so many places to see in the USA! You would like to visit these places before you leave.
Exercise! When you start exercising (at gym or at home) you will be in a way better mood.
Eat healthy food. Eating crappy food everyday will also make your mood crappy.
Be careful about parties. American colleges are party lands. They start partying on Thursday and it continues till Sunday. Of course it is your right to join these parties and have fun, but do not forget about your reason to be here. Do not get side tracked, or alcohol poisoned.
Have you ever spent 1.5 hours in a supermarket? It is ridiculous. It was my first time in Walmart: It was like going to IKEA, but for food. That is how big it was. Now another question: Have you ever spent $100 for food for 1 person? I did. I was so curious about the new brands, new tastes that I realized I bought too much stuff. Plus, back home, I used to shop for 3 people: my brother, my father and I. I guess I just didn’t know how much a single person would eat (Bloggers note: Also, do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry)
LEARN ABOUT YOUR AREA
In the US, most cities do not have a good public transportation. This wasn’t a problem for my Saudi Arabian students who mostly drive anywhere back home, but if you are from Turkey, you might have a difficulty getting used to driving everywhere. When I lived in Chicago public transportation was great. There were two trains running 24 hours. You could go anywhere in the city by buses or train/metro (known as ‘L’). In Boston, also the public transportation works pretty well. You can definitely see public transportation in New York City, Jersey City, Washington (in Seattle), Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But other places are usually a hit or miss. So please arrange your budget accordingly: Are you going to need a car? How much are second hand cars? How do you get a driver’s license?
Learn About Crime Rate in Your Area
It was around midnight when I woke up from my sleep with sounds of gunfire in my apartment in Uptown, Chicago. Someone was killed in our backyard. It was a gang crossfire. Then I couldn’t help but think ‘What if I was taking the trash out at that exact time?” I wished I had lived in a safer area. Bear in mind that the less safe neighborhoods will have cheaper housing options. So, if you are going to live in an apartment, and you are looking for cheap rent, make sure to check the crime rate online. One of the options you have is here: Go to http://www.mylocalcrime.com to check the crimes around the area you are planning to live in. Don’t forget, there will always be some sort of crime reported. Americans are pretty good about reporting a crime.
Check the Weather
Please check the climate and weather information about the city before you arrive. Some people cannot really survive in cold and in some cities in the US it is brutally cold, especially if you are from a country that has warm climate. My students from Turkey, Brazil, Colombia, Saudi Arabia were complaining about how cold Chicago and Boston were. But my students from Northern Europe and Russia were totally fine with it. Also, don’t forget to check the weather everyday before you leave home, because it might change pretty quickly.
Here are two videos about two extremes: A little girl Mila is talking about Arizona summers (42 Celsius-average, 49 Celsius recorded) and in the second one you see a news report talking about last December’s arctic wave.
What is the City Like?
Some of my friends confessed me that before they arrived in Kansas, they were expecting to see skyscrapers, expensive cars, bars, restaurants and cafes everywhere (In other words, they were expecting to find a replica of New York City). They imagined lots of people in the streets. Instead, this was what they got:
Learn what your city offers and what its limits are. For example, if you live in a bigger city, your chances of finding a market that sells ingredients for your cuisine are high. Also, if the city has colleges and these universities with international students, then you are lucky. Again, you probably will find some international markets or restaurants in your city. But frankly, don’t expect to find Iskender kebab in Idaho, or grape leaves in a market in Mississippi. However, one thing I learned about America is that it can surprise you. So, I cannot speak for sure.
Do not bring your electronics here other than your computer and phone charger (if you need to). Because of the voltage difference, your electronic devices will break down. While it is 220-230 V in most European, African and Asian countries, it is 120 V in the US (https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plug-voltage-by-country/). It happened to me with my toothbrush charger, hair straightener and epilator. First they worked slowly, then they completely stopped working. Besides, you will need a converter (see the image) if you are using a device from your country in the US.
Do you remember those days that you had a migraine or persistent stomachache and you couldn’t help and went to emergency room? Well… You can’t do that in this country unless you are wealthy enough. Let’s look at this hospital bill of Peter Drier, 37, who had a neck hernia surgery in 2013:
As you can see ‘ER General’ Says $976. Let’s say your insurance will cover half of it. You still will need to pay about 500$. Also, let me remind you, monthly insurance payments vary but they can go from 150$ to 500$ a month. So, please do not get sick in the US.
Dentists are also another story. These numbers are taken from the website: http://www.phoenixendodontist.com/blog/root-canal-cost-vs-cost-of-implant
The most pricey ones are implants, as you all know. So, let’s look at this comparison:
As you can see, there is a huge gap between the medical costs in the US and in other countries. One might argue that the equipment used is the highest technology and that is why the costs are high. Although I believe this is partly true, there is also the fact that hospitals are trying to find ways to get more of your money. If you are rich, you get the best treatment. If you are poor, you might get a below average treatment and we don’t care if you die in 10 years. I’m not talking about doctors or nurses here, I’m talking about the health system. Insurance is also such a complicated issue that (deductibles, in network versus out of network, HMO PDO plans, etc) I still have many questions and confusions even after 6 years I spent here.
BE AWARE OF SCAMS
When you are looking for a room to rent or a car to buy, be aware of scams. They will try to get your money or credit card information by sending genuine-looking emails. Especially with Craigslist, you have to be extra careful. One of the ways you can understand if the email is scam or not, scam ones tend to have too many personal details or many grammar or spelling mistakes. Let’s look at this example:
As you can see from this email, the person is in Alabama and he will ‘mail’ the keys to them once the buyer sends the security payment. Do not fall for this, my friends. No realtor, no landlord will ask for your money without meeting face to face. They would NEVER mail you the keys, either. Look at all the grammar mistakes he made! Especially in the last paragraph: “My job factor” “very saddened (without ‘I am’)” “very perfect (no native will say this)” “you meet up with application process?? (haha application process is a person’s name I guess)” “my keys will be mail to you (Wrong passive voice usage)” and nobody will use “God” in their ads. This is also a big red flag.
Another thing that you should be careful about is the phone calls you will get while in the US. I remember one time a person called me and said they were from “Credit Card Protection Services” and my card needed to be protected. They had a jingle and everything when they put me on hold. They sounded real! But then he insisted on learning my credit card number. I was trying to be polite but at that moment I understood that they were just a scam.
Your phone or internet company, maybe AT&T, Xfinity, etc. They will keep calling you as well. They will try to convince you to upgrade your plan, which means you will have to pay more. I remember when I first moved in the US, I got a call and the person was speaking English with a heavy Indian accent and he was so fast that I had no idea what he was talking about. After saying ‘Could you repeat please?’ like 2 times, I gave up and I started to say ‘Yes’ to everything he said. After about 3 and a half minutes, we hung up. Oh Lord, at that moment, I was so relieved. Well… The following month my telephone bill came and it was 250$. Apparently I had upgraded my internet and phone to the most expensive plan!!! It was painful to call them back and fix everything again.
LEARN ABOUT YOUR VISA (STATUS) AND ITS RESTRICTIONS
Some students come here with the wrong idea that they can both go to school and work. For student visas J-1 and F-1 you cannot work except campus employment. There is also a myth that your SSN (Social Security Number) allows you to work legally in the US. Again, this is a myth. If you are working without a valid work permit, you will get in trouble. People who are caught working illegally are deported and they can never come back to the US again. Please read the below link carefully:
Before you come tho the US, you have to learn about American culture. While most western countries have similar cultural elements with Americans, when you compare Asian, African, Latin and Middle Eastern culture to America, you get a very different picture. I can only speak for my own cultural experience, of course.
Americans prefer indirect communication in one sense and direct one in another. For example, it is not OK to ask about one’s salary, their personal life or their illness. You cannot comment on their hair looking messy or the pimple on their nose (unless they are your best friends). Before giving any criticism, you have to make sure that your words are encouraging and friendly. While discussing about racism, gender inequality, you have to be extra extra careful not to offend anybody. On the other hand, when they ask a question, they usually want a straight answer. They appreciate honesty. Let me give you a funny example. My first year in the States, we went to a bar with my friends from Geology department. My friend asked me if I wanted a beer. Because I was culturally programmed that way, I said ‘No, thanks’ Even though I would, of course, want a free beer! (duh) In Turkey, when someone offers something, it is polite to refuse it for the first time. That’s why you should keep offering till the person finally says yes. Well, after my first ‘No’ my friend said ‘OK’ and just left!!! Haha. I was like: “But… But…How about my beer??”
Americans will have this distance from you that is called “personal bubble”. Forget about getting intimate on the train, in the movie line or restaurants. Forget about giving a warm friendly kiss to your friend on the cheek. Forget about giving random hugs to your colleagues. Oh and of course, forget about hand jokes including hitting on the head or back. My American friends walking down in Taksim Square, Istanbul were so confused with the fact that guys were walking arm in arm, girls were holding hands but they weren’t gay or lesbian. They were just showing friendly affection. Also, not only at work or school but be aware of the personal bubble in the customs at the airport. One day, one of my students with a very low level of English was trying to tell the customs officer her purpose of visit. The envelope that she handed to the officer included some complicated paper work. So, my student wanted to help and leaned towards the officer and put her arm through in the glass. That moment was the scariest memory of her. The officer went for his gun in a tiny fraction of time and yelled a ‘Put your hands up!’. She was questioned for half an hour after this incident.
Most Americans are religious. All Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while the Catholic Church by itself, at 23.9% is the largest individual denomination. God is the Father, Jesus Christ is the Son and there is Holy Spirit. This is what they call ‘Trinity”. In Catholic belief, Virgin Mary is holy. Christians’ holy book is holy Bible and they worship every Sunday at church. Unfortunately, I’m not a very knowledgeable person when it comes to religion, but please do some research before you come to the States. I highly recommend going to church one day, it is a remarkable, interesting experience.
When you are driving, if a police officer stops you, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR. Pull your car off the road, stop your engine and wait. There might be an awkward 5 minutes that you are sitting in your seat and the officer is sitting in his seat. What he is doing is that he is communicating with the main office and trying to gather information about your license plate before he talks to you. Also, don’t even try bribing. Bribery is one of the biggest offenses in the States. You can literally go to jail.
Americans love socializing and entertaining people. You will find yourself eating and drinking out a lot. Watch those pounds on the scale! I have personally gained 22 pounds (10 kilos) here! Their burger, fries, BBQ and pizza are the best! Make sure you exercise daily! Although Americans are famous for the high obesity rates, they are also aware of self care. Most Americans that I met don’t smoke, and more than half of it exercise daily. It is such a great motivation (!) when you open your mouth to eat that juicy greasy slice of pizza, you see those runners outside running in snow with their perfect bodies. Another reason why it is easy to get fat here is the amount of variation. Variety of snacks, alcohol, soups, sauces, Indian food, Viatnemese Pho, Chinese dim sum, Korean BBQ, Italian lasagna, Brazilian steak… You want to try all. Then you get fat.
I hope this article will help you before your adventure begins in the USA or in another country! Make the most of it! Many wonderful memories are awaiting! Enjoy this incredible experience 🙂
When you ask any Turkish person what they are proud of about being Turkish, they will mention:
Their country’s history
Their country’s nature
None of them will talk about how ‘practical’ their minds are or how they all have a good ‘sense of humor’ because they were raised to be modest (at least, most of them). But as in every culture that once experienced prolonged times of poverty, Turks are very resourceful and they are hilarious. Let me define resourcefulness first. Google says:
the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.
“his films show remarkable technical resourcefulness”
It totally makes sense actually; the more you come across with problems, the more you think of different ways to solve those issues. Sometimes it becomes so crucial to solve the problem immediately that you don’t feel the urge to care about the safety measures. Because if you don’t finish that task fast or right away, you won’t get the money or you will get fired.
Let’s look at some examples:
I’m sure this picture above terrifies most of you, and the guy standing must agree with you haha
When you meet a Turkish person, 75% chance that they will have a good sense of humor. I really did not study the reason why or how this has become a part of our culture, but it is. Even in the toughest times we manage to smile, make people laugh. Maybe when you have a history full of rough times, this is the only way to deal with the problems as they come along. Most Turkish jokes are cultural or caricatures are written in Turkish but I thought these pictures below might give you a tiny glimpse of it.
Hope you enjoyed this post! I will see you next Wednesday, with my new article!
I must confess that I have learned a lot from this book. The more I learned about the true nature of the human beings, the more I have experienced a wide range of feelings… I felt disgusted, scared, then as the stories moved along, I felt surprised and started laughing! Then I felt angry again. The author used Google searches to measure racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, hateful mobs, the science of humor, sexual preference, anxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics. This great emotional roller coaster book is written by the internet data expert Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.
Davidowitz worked for one-and-a-half years as a data scientist at Google and is currently a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. He is a former visiting lecturer at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BA in philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, and his PhD in economics from Harvard.
His 2017 book that I will review today, Everybody Lies, published by HarperCollins, was a New York Times bestseller; a PBS NewsHour Book of the Year; and an Economist Book of the Year.
For this study, Davidowitz downloaded all of Wikipedia, pored through Facebook profiles, and scraped Stormfront. Plus PornHub, gave him its complete data on the searches and video views of anonymous people around the world.
Google Trends, a tool that was released with little fanfare in 2009, tells users how frequently any word or phrase has been searched in different locations at different times. The everyday act of typing a word or phrase into a compact, rectangular white box leaves a small trace of truth that, when multiplied by millions, eventually reveals profound realities.
RELATIONSHIPS: On Google, the top complaint about marriage is not having sex: Searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage”. Relationship themed most searches are “abusive relationship” 😦
Sometimes new data reveals cultural differences: The writer gives the example of different ways that men around the world respond to their wives being pregnant. In Mexico, the top searches about “my pregnant wife” include “frases de amor para mi esposa embarazada” (words of love to my pregnant wife” and “poemes para mi esposa embarazada” (poems for my pregnant wife”. In the United States, the top searches include “my wife is pregnant now what” and “my wife is pregnant what do I do.” (Blogger’s note: Nope. Not as romantic.)
After daters took some recording with them and data analysts digitized these audios into words, we had an interesting set of information about how to have a successful first date! On the first date, for instance, one of the ways a man signals that he is attracted is obvious: he laughs at a woman’s jokes. When speaking, they limit the range of their pitch. There is a research that suggests a monotone voice is often seen by women as masculine. The scientists found that a woman signals her interest by varying her pitch, speaking more softly, and taking shorter turns talking. A woman is unlikely to be interested when she uses hedge words and phrases such as “probably” or “I guess”. Also, a woman is likely to be interested if she is using “I” and self making phrases such as “Ya know?” and “I mean”. This research revealed that men are more likely to report clicking with a woman who talks about herself. If there are lots of questions asked on a date, it is less likely that both will report a connection.
Among the Facebook data scientists’ findings, Christmas is one of the happiest days of the year BUT Davidowitz doesn’t trust Facebook data very much: He thinks Facebook is digital brag-to-my-friends-about-how-good-my-life-is serum. In Facebook world, family life seems perfect, in the real world, family life is messy. So don’t trust relationship posts very much.
Compare, for example, the way that people describe their husbands on public social media and in anonymous searches:
So human beings are liars? NO WAY! haha!
FEMALE-MALE: Parents are 2.5 more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”. Which is funny is that in American schools, girls are 9 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. So what are the most searches about daughters?: “Is my daughter overweight?” This phrase was searched roughly as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?”
Parents are also 1.5 times more likely to ask whether their daughter is beautiful than whether their son is handsome. And they are 3 times more likely to ask whether their daughter is ugly than whether their son is ugly. (Author’s note: How Google is expected to know whether a child is beautiful or ugly is hard to say 🙂 ) (Bloggers note: Maybe parents are the ones who were causing females’ insecurities about how they look?). In general, parents seem more likely to use positive words in questions about sons.
Another interesting male/female difference: women use the word “tomorrow” far more often than men do. Adding the letter “o” to the word “so” like “Sooo” is one of the most feminine linguistic traits.
On Facebook, among the words used much more frequently by men than women are “fuck” “shit” “bullshit” “Fucking and Fuckers ” (Blogger’s note: Dear men, take a chill pill! haha) Whereas for women it is “shopping””excited” “cute” “happy””family” “soooo” “yay”(Blogger’s note: Soooo happy to be a woman! Yay!”)
SEX: Data science makes many parts of Freud falsifiable – it puts many of his famous theories to the test. For example: Freud’s theory of the phallic (shape of male genital) symbols in dreams. According to big data, the substance that is most dreamed is water. The top twenty foods include chicken, bread, sandwiches, and rice – all notably un-Freudian. Bananas are the second most common fruit to appear in dreams. But they are also the second most commonly consumed fruit
Consider all Google searches of the form “I want to have sex with my…” The number one way to complete this search is “mom”. 😮 Overall, more than 3/4 of searches of this form are incestuous. Again, according to Google and PornHub Data, men retain an inordinate number of fantasies related to childhood (including mom, babysitter, wearing diapers, breast feeding, etc.)
Americans search for “porn”more than they search for “weather”.
There are twice as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than that a girlfriend won’t have sex. By far, the number one search complaint about a boyfriend is “My boyfriend won’t have sex with me”.
Do women care about penis size? Rarely, according to Google researches. More than 40%
of complaints about a partner’s penis size say that it’s too big. For every search women make a partner’s phallus, men make roughly 170 searches about their own! Men’s second most common sex question is how to make their sexual encounters longer. Once again, the insecurities of men do not appear to match the concerns of women. Women’s concern isn’t about when or how long it happened but why it isn’t happening at all.
However, women still outpace them when it comes to insecurity about how they look.
In 2004, in some parts of the US, the most common search regarding changing one’s butt was how to make it smaller. Beginning in 2010, however, the desire for bigger butts grew. Does women’s growing preference for a larger bottom match men’s preferences? Interestingly, yes. Again internet says men show a preference for large breasts. But natural ones: About 3 percent of big-breast porn searches explicitly say they want to see natural breasts (Blogger’s note: Thank you Beyonce, J-Lo, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian!!)
Men make as many searches looking for ways to perform oral sex on themselves as they do how to give a woman an orgasm (This was among authors favorite facts in Google search data) (Blogger’s note: How is it even possible?? And nope, I won’t Google it!)
RACISM: Roughly one in every hundred Google searches that included the word “Obama” also included “kkk” or “nigger(s)”. There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from the traditional sources but was quite apparent in the searches that people made. Places with the highest racist search rates included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois, along with West Virginia, southern Louisiana and Mississippi. The true divide, Google search data suggested, was not South versus North; it was East versus West, and racism was not limited to Republicans.
Black Americans told polls they would turn out in large numbers to oppose Trump. But Google searches for information on voting in heavily black areas were way down.
You can see on Google, where users ask sometimes questions such as “Why are black people rude?” or “Why are Jews evil? Below, in order, are the top five negative words used in searches about various groups:
Shortly after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015, the top search in CA with the word “Muslims” in it at the same time was “kill Muslims”.
What is super interesting that as Obama gave more speeches on TV about ‘equality’ and ‘racism’ it created an opposite effect. In his speech, he said “It is the responsibility of All Americans – of every faith – to reject discrimination” Searches calling Muslims “terrorists” “bad””violent” and “evil” doubled during and shortly after the speech (But then one of Obama’s speeches succeeded, to find out which one, keep reading!)
Guess when are searches for “nigger(s)” or “nigger jokes” most common? Whenever African-Americans are in the news. Among the periods when such searches were highest was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when television and newspapers showed images of desperate black people in New Orleans struggling for their survival. They also went up during Obama’s first election. And searches for “nigger jokes” rise on average about 30% on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Davidowitz claims that there is a hidden explicit racism in the USA.
POLITICS: Nate Silver, an American statistician and writer, noticed that the areas where Trump performed best made for an odd map. Silver looks for variables to try to explain this map. Then he found that the single factor that best correlated with Donald Trump’s support in the Republican primaries was that made the most Google searches for “nigger”.
Google searches for “how to vote” or “where to vote” weeks before an election can accurately predict which parts of the country are going to have a big showing at the polls.
The most important year for developing political views is age 18 (Blogger note: I guess voting age being 18 was the right decision).
STRESS: Google searches reflecting anxiety tend to be higher in places with lower levels of education, lower median incomes, and where a larger portion of the population lives in rural areas.
The author was surprised with one fact. you would think that people would search for more jokes when they are sad or depressed to cheer themselves up. However, data shows that searches for jokes are lowest on Mondays, the day when people report they are most unhappy. They are lowest on cloudy and rainy days. They actually seek out jokes when things are going well in life.
In winter months, warn climates, such as that of Honolulu, Hawaii, have 40 percent fewer depression searches than cold climates, such as that of Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago, IL winter
Honolulu, HI winter
HEALTH: In Google, searching for a back pain and then yellowing skin turned out to be a sign of pancreatic cancer; searching for just back pain alone made it unlikely someone had pancreatic cancer. These weren’t listed as symptoms before.
We tend to overestimate the prevalence of anything that makes for a memorable story. People rank tornadoes as a more common cause of death than asthma. In fact, asthma causes about seventy times more deaths. But deaths by asthma don’t stand out- and don’t make the news. Same goes for flu and shark attacks.
Search rates for self-induced abortion were fairly steady from 2004 through 2007. They began to rise in late 2008, coinciding with the financial crisis and the recession that followed. They took a big leap in 2011 jumping 40% – when 92 state provisions restricted access to abortion were enacted. The state with the highest Google searches for self-induced abortions in Mississippi, a state with roughly three million people and, now, just one abortion clinic.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Google engineers created a service: Google Correlate that gives outside researchers the means to experiment with the same type of analyses across a wide range of fields. One day Davidowitz put the US unemployment rate from 2004 through 2011 into Google Correlate. Of the trillions of Google researches during that time, what do you think turned out to be the most tightly connected to unemployment? “New jobs”? No. It was “Slutload” That’s right the most frequent search was a pornographic site. Many are stuck at home, alone and bored. The second most common search: Spider Solitaire. Again, not so surprising.
More rich people in a city means the poor there live longer. Poor people in NYC for example, lives a lot longer than poor people in Detroit: Contagious behavior maybe driving some of this (Behaviors like healthy eating habits, exercising, less stress, etc.)
SPORTS: The data tells us that in worse-off families. in worse-off communities, there are NBA-level talents who are not in the NBA.
Internet data shows that the most important year in a man’s life for the purposes of cementing his favorite baseball team as an adult, is when he is more or less 8 years old. This peak age for women is 22.
HOW BIG DATA WORKS: In prediction business, you just need to know that something works, not why. For example: Before a hurricane hit Southeast in 2004, Walmart (the biggest supermarket chain in the US) suspected -correctly- that people’s shopping habits may change when a city is about to be pummeled by a storm. They pored through sales data from previous hurricanes to see what people might want to buy. A major answer? Strawberry Pop-Tarts. This product sells seven times faster than normal in the days leading up to a hurricane. We don’t ask why, we care about what.
By using Google Ngrams, you can search through millions of digitized books for particular words or phrase. This way, you can see how the popularity of a phrase changed among hundreds of years.
If you type “Why is…” the first two Google auto-completes currently are “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is there a leap day?” suggesting these are the two most common ways to complete this search. The third: “Why is my poop green?” And Google auto-complete can get disturbing. Today, if you type “Is it normal to want to…” the first suggestion is “kill” If you type in “Is it normal to want to kill…” The first suggestion is my family.
People are seven times more likely to ask Google whether they will regret not having children than whether they will regret having children. Adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision than are adults without children.
MARKETING: One day, across the internet, the researchers found 949 scanned yearbooks from American high schools spanning the years 1905-2013. Americans, and particularly women, started smiling as the years pass by. They went from nearly stone-faced at the start of the twentieth century to beaming by the end.
When photographs were first invented, people thought of them like paintings. Subjects in photos adopted the same look. In the mid-20th century, Kodak, the film and camera company was frustrated by the limited numbers of pictures people were taking and ended up with a strategy to get them take more. Kodak’s advertising began associating photos with happiness. (Blogger’s note: SO CLEVER, isn’t it? This reminded me of the increase in dental cleaning appointments since ‘selfies’ became a thing. Although, I’m sure dentists are not behind this whole selfie craziness).
Answer these questions for me:
Have you ever cheated on an exam?
Have you ever killed someone in your dream?
Were you tempted to lie? Many people under-report embarrassing behaviors and thoughts on surveys. They want to look good, even though most surveys are anonymous. This is called social desirability bias. Why do people misinform anonymous surveys? Roger Tourangeau, a research professor emeritus at the University of Michigan explains: “About 1/3 of the time, people lie in real life. The habits carry over to surveys.”
Netflix was confused because in the beginning, when it let its users to create a queue of movies to watch later, they realized something odd. When the users were reminded of these movies later, they rarely clicked. Because they were filling the queue with award winning highbrow films like black and white World War II or foreign movies. But when they come home from work, they were clicking on at lowbrow comedies or romance films. They were lying to themselves. So, Netflix created an algorithm based on users’ choices. The former data scientist at Netflix, Xavier Amatriain says “The algorithms know you better than you know yourself”.
Also, apparently on Facebook or YouTube, “Content is more likely to become viral the more positive it is”. (Bloggers note: I found this very strange when I think about my news feed which is full of bad news.)
CRIME: For every percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, there was an associated 3 percent increase in the search rate for “child abuse” or “child neglect”. The author argues that it’s safe to say that the Great Recession did make child abuse worse, although the traditional measures did not show it but Big Data did.
BIG DATA LESSON: When we lecture angry people, the search data implies that their fury can grow. But subtly provoking people’s curiosity, giving new information, and offering new images of the group that is stoking their rage may turn their thoughts in different, more positive directions. According to Google researches, Obama’s one of the most successful speech was this: “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes and yes, they are our men and women in uniform, who are willing to die in defense of our country.”
Here is his speech:
DOPPELGANGERS AND A/B TESTING
Doppelgangers play a huge role in predicting. Let’s see what it means first:
Doppelganger: an apparition or double of a living person.
Of course, we are not talking about looking exactly the same, but we are talking about correlating the data to find the most similar people in database to predict the future of that person.
Think about a sick person suffering from certain disease symptoms. Her age is 34, her height is 5’5, her weight is 132 lbs, she has no smoking or drinking habits, she had Pneumonia when she was seven. She lives in Kentucky. If we run the analysis and find once upon a time 24 year old female who lived in Kentucky with 5’5 height and around 132 lbs, with no smoking or drinking history who had Pneumonia when she was little, suffering from the same symptoms, we can predict what might happen to the patient. Because what happened to her doppelganger(s) will probably happen to her, as well.
Let’s explain it with a real example: 35 year old baseball player Ortiz was about to be fired because of his old age. But, data analysts went through every single information about him and correlated to historical records. They found 20 ballplayers who played like he did when he was 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33. Then see how Ortiz’s doppelgängers’ careers progressed. Data showed that Ortiz was about to enter the peak of his career. So Boston decided to be patient with is aging slugger. And they won. He took his team to World series at the age of 37, Ortiz was also voted for World Series MVP.
So how about A/B testing? What is it?
A/B Testing is basically testing two different controlled groups. Google wants to know how to get more people to click on ads on their sites, they may try two shades of blue in ads – one shade for Group A another for Group B. Then Google can compare these click rates. Facebook now runs a thousand A/B tests per day. A former Google employee Dan Siroker, used A/B testing for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He A/B tested the campaign home page. In 2012, he used 3 different pictures (see below), 2 different slogans and 3 different ‘click buttons’ which one do you think got more clicks and so more donations?
The winner was picture of Obama’s family and the button “Learn More”.
EDUCATION: What makes some places better at allowing a poor kid to have a pretty good life?
Areas that spend more on education provide a better chance to poor kids.
Places with more religious people and lower crime do better.
Places with more black people do worse. Interestingly, this has an effect on not just the black kids but on the white kids living there as well.
Places with lots of single mothers do worse.
To see which cities/states have the most successful people the author zoomed in names of the people who are baby boomers and who took a place in Wikipedia. Roughly 1 in 1,209 baby boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964) born in California reached Wikipedia with their success. Roughly 1 in 748 baby boomers born in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, where Boston is located, made it to Wikipedia. Be careful, not ‘went to school’ but ‘born’. The reason for this seems to be early exposure to innovation. Besides, New York City apparently produces notable journalists at the highest rate, Boston produces notable scientists at the highest rate and Los Angeles produces notable actors and actresses at the highest rate.
The greater the percentage of foreign born residents in an area, the higher the proportion of children born there who go on to notable success (Davidowitz’s note: Take that, Donald Trump!) (Blogger’s comment: Ditto that!)
Education spending did not correlate with rates of producing notable writers, artists, or business leaders.
What I found very motivational as a reader was on page 237. Even though you couldn’t finish the best school, you still have an equal chance to be as successful as those people who graduated from Harvard, MIT or Stanford. People adapt to their experience and people who are going to be successful find advantages in any situation. The factors hat make you successful are your talent and your drive.
Davidowitz also discusses other interesting topics, which I don’t mention here such as “who gets loans more easily, who doesn’t” or “How much the casinos let you lose” or what other jaw dropping data analyses are being used in marketing.
In his final words, he emphasizes that social science is becoming a real science (Blogger’s note: Finally!!! I was so tired of people not seeing social science as real science! Thank you Davidowitz!). And this new, real science is poised to improve our lives.
If a violent movie comes to a city, does crime go up or down? If more people are exposed to an ad, do more people use the product? If a baseball team wins when a boy is twenty, will he be more likely to root for them when he is forty? These are all clear questions with clear yes-or-no answers. And in the mountains of honest data, we can find them
This is the stuff of science, not pseudoscience.
I strongly recommend this book! And after you read, please feel free to share your comments below 🙂
Think about a country that is 96% Muslim (I believe in reality this number is way lower than the official one), and although alcohol is forbidden by their religion, their national drink is ‘Rakı’; a hard liquor with 40% alcohol. Imagine a country that ranks in the top 5 most Facebook users, top 10 most YouTube users, and top 6 most WhatsApp Users in the World, and yet still prefers socializing mostly by going out with their friends, no matter how broke they are, and paying random visits to their neighbors or family members. A country that follows the latest technological trends, buys the latest version of their favorite cellphones, but still uses a printed plane ticket rather than a QR code at the gate because it feels ‘safer’.
Think about a country that admires, respects their gay and transsexual music stars deeply, but when their own family member admits that they are homosexual, it is (in most families) absolutely unacceptable.
When I tell you ‘think about China’ or ‘Think about the USA’ or ‘Think about Kenya’ or ‘Think about France’ what do the people look like? What is the religion like? How about the culture? Which continent are they located in? You have most of the time a somewhat clear picture in your mind. But when it comes to Turkey… The picture gets a little blurry for everyone.
My country, Turkey, has been in so-called identity crisis since its birth in 1923. This makes me sad because Turkey has SO MUCH potential to thrive, to be unique, to be successful in many many ways. However, In my opinion, it is this so-called identity crisis that is preventing it from moving forward.
I’m pretty sure some people will be surprised or maybe even upset that my very first post about Turkey is not about how breathtaking its nature is or how its history is mind-blowing. I will talk about those later for sure. But first, I chose an issue that I have been wanting to write about for a long time. I’m not a historian, politics major or sociologist. Thus, only my opinions are discussed here. I just want to make sure that nobody gets offended since I’m going to touch on some sensitive topics here.
Turkey is one of the two countries in the world that has its soil on two different continents (the other one is Russia): Europe and Asia. So can we count Turkey as one of the eastern or one of the western cultures? Culturally speaking, it would be safe to say my country is a lot closer to Asian cultures than European ones; highly hierarchical, collectivist, and engraved with very old roots of traditions. Turkey was the home for some of the oldest civilizations that are known: Hittites, Lydians, Ionians, and Urartus. Also, it was home to Byzantines, Romans, and finally, Ottomans. Each of them worshiped different Gods, lived under different rulers with different rules. Years of immigration from Asia – including east Asia and the middle east-, European countries such as Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Hungary created such an interesting mixed blend.
Since the Republic of Turkey was founded by one of the greatest minds ever existed on Earth, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a lot of things have changed. When he ended the monarchy and brought democracy, I think Turks were not ready for this change yet. It was a huge step forward, which I will explain here later. Ataturk changed the alphabet from Arabic script to Latin alphabet so that we could improve in world literature, science and technology. He shut down religious schools so that the focus would be science and there would be equality between women and men. Ataturk reformed the clothing style from a traditional to a western look, so that we could set our eyes on more modern. He knew that how we look represented how we think. So we needed to change. He gave voting rights to women before Italy, France, Switzerland, Japan, or China did. By the time 19th Amendment granted the ballot to American women, it was 1920. But let’s remember, the USA was founded on July 4, 1776 and when demand for the enfranchisement of American women was first seriously formulated at the Seneca Falls Convention, it was 1848. So America waited 144 years whereas Ataturk did this in just about 10 years. That is why these quick changes were not very welcomed by some traditional and/or conservative Turks.
Ottoman Fashion Before Ataturk’s Clothing Reform
His reforms, victories and patriotism are the reasons why most of the Turks have been thankful to him. Unfortunately I said ‘most’, because there was a considerable amount of Turkish people who didn’t like what Ataturk did. They didn’t like this change at all. They felt like they were suppressed. Even though there was the freedom of religion, freedom of thought, this group of people didn’t like the fact that religious schools and institutions were shutting down, the religious outfits were gone, and Arabic script, in which the original language Quran was written, was all gone. All happened in a relatively very short period of time as well and that created uneasiness among people.
Another possible reason for Turkey’s identity crisis might be the ‘Nationalistic Indoctrination’ that Ataturk had to implement those days in order to build a republic from scratch. Because he needed a reason to unite everyone against the Monarchy (Power of Sultan) and knowing the behavior and culture of the Turks very well, nationalistic approach was the best way to go: modern nation had to become homogeneous in terms of culture, religion, language and national identity. This meant bad news for minorities. Especially for the Armenians, Greeks, and Kurds. They paid a price while Turkish Republic was being born. It’s my belief that with the early death of Ataturk at the age of 57, a big void had opened in Turkey’s heart. People in charge thought to themselves: “Everything is still new, Ataturk would have known what to do, how to run the country, how to bring back all those minorities together, but now… He is gone!! What the heck are we going to do??”. This early loss and the dependence of the baby republic to its father created a big big problem later in shaping the identity of the nation.
The mourning Turkish nation after ‘Father of Turks’ Ataturk dies on November 10, 1938.
Without a ‘father’ figure, Turkey was lost: the baby republic had just lost the only parent it had. Now, it was going to grow up with self-esteem problems, and it will have painful, angry adolescence years… Actually by the end of this post you will have realized that Turkey would never learn from its mistakes or, in other words, would never actually be a grown up due to its relentless search of another ‘father figure’.
1960, 1962, 1971, 1980, 1997, 2007, 2016… Marks the military coups and military coup attempts in Turkey. In one of which, the president of the country was hanged in public. Many arrests, torture in investigations, lost jobs, soldiers wandering around the streets with machine guns and tanks. These caused instability and fear in the nation and as we all know, fear eventually leads to wrong decision making.
Since the beginning, we have been divided, constantly: Students fought with police, ‘Sunni’s fought with ‘Alevi’s, leftists and rightists killed each other, military was against the government, Kurdish vs. Turkish, women with veil vs women without veil, and now, pro-government conservatives versus anti-government democrats. We have been always and we still are…DI-VID-ED.
The assassination attempt for Pope John Paul II took place on Wednesday, 13 May 1981, in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City. A Turkish extreme nationalist Mehmet Ali Ağca was the assassin who murdered left-wing journalist Abdi İpekçi on 1 February 1979, and later shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, after escaping from a Turkish prison. This opened a whole can of warms. Later, in the light of a highway accident, the Turkish nation learned about the existence of ‘Secret State’: a combination of nationalists, mafia, police and the rich: On the surface, the government was ruling, but the secret state was the one who was actually running the country.
Journalists who attempted to investigate ‘Secret State’ later, were all going to be assassinated so that nobody else could dare to write about them again.
Many singers, journalists, writers, poets (including the writer of the Turkish National Anthem) were forced into exile. Most of them died far away from their own land.
Now for the past 15 years, the same single party has been ruling us; The conservative ‘Justice and Development Party’ won the elections in 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2015 with almost 50% of the votes (again you can clearly see that we are divided). My country is clearly deteriorating in the hands of a dictator leader and this 50% is OK with that. The current President, and 3-times-elected former Prime Minister Erdogan knows how to manipulate Turkish nation, so well that in every speech of his, he mentions ‘us’ and ‘them’ and each time, the number of his supporters grows. He says: “We are the good ones (conservatives), we are hard workers, we are villagers, laborers, farmers, and they (meaning democrats) are mocking us! they are terrorists, anarchists, OR alcoholics, atheists, OR they are rich and educated, they think they are better, smarter than ‘us'”
Why I mention Erdogan here is the fact that how well he used this ‘identity crisis’ of Turkey for his own good to become the absolute power:
He knew that with the failing coalitions and the former disastrous female prime minister, and for the obvious historical reasons, Turkish people would vote for a ‘self sufficient’ ‘male’ figure with a ‘strong personality’.
In the beginning of his term he was talking about reuniting with minorities; he played us well. The first time he was elected, he re-opened an Armenian church in Van after 100 years, he lead the way to open a Kurdish TV channel and a radio station. He seemed friendly, fatherly, kind of liberal-conservative. Economy was improving and unemployment rate was diminishing. Then in just a few years, everything has turned and he revealed his and his party’s real identity. He started to suppress the media, arrested people as he liked, tried to raise drinking age to 24, made the relationship with Kurds worse, opened more and more religious schools, stole money from the government assets, made the judicial system corrupt, and so on.
He was aware of the fact that we had been going through self-esteem problems: We were not ruling the world like once Ottoman Empire did and we were not as strong anymore as in those times Ataturk brought us together, we were weakened by military coups and fights between divided groups. Having been rejected by European Union so many times, we were feeling frustrated, degraded. He saw this status quo as an opportunity to promote himself as a hero and in his hate speeches he made it clear that: “We don’t want Europe, we don’t need European Union”. Suddenly everybody was in agreement with him as if they were all hypnotized: “Yeah! Why do we need Europe?” He literally finished almost our all relationship with the West and he pushed us towards the Middle East, where people adore him and he could reign like a king.
He was aware of that suppressed anger people had towards Ataturk and his democratic republic. He used this in his speeches, everywhere he went.
He knew well that he could divide us pretty quickly. With the chaos he created each time, he knew he would split the opposition parties’ votes.
I feel like Turkish nation has been in some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, which is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological attachment with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. Psychologist, former FBI agent Thomas Strentz states, “the victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma.” A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a “defense mechanism of the ego under stress”. Some of the people who voted for him in the first place want to keep him in power because they are afraid that without Erdogan, everything will be worse, they will lose their jobs, their food, their lands. The sad fact is, everything has already been going downhill, but their denial is blindfolding them.
Final words… Here comes the question: Now what? When is this problem with our identity will be solved? My answer is when we stop looking for one. Maybe we don’t need to belong west, or east. Maybe we should create our very own identity. Call it ‘Turkish Way’ of doing things. An identity that cares for others, value family, respect people, works hard, thrives for advancement, improvement, production, believes in religion and respects non-religion, sees people through without labeling them, known as being self-sufficient and self-confident. But most importantly, an identity that doesn’t require a savior, a leader, a father figure to function…
As Ataturk said: “If you feel desperate one day, don’t wait for a savior. Be the rescuer yourself.”
“Şayet bir gün çaresiz kalırsanız, bir kurtarıcı beklemeyin. Kurtarıcı kendiniz olun.”
Before traveling to the US, you hear all bunch of things from your family and friends. Usually scary things. Because they worry about you, they tend to focus on the worst all the time and force the limits of stereotyping . Before my American Journey started I had heard things like “There is racism there, you will be discriminated, get ready!” “They don’t like people from Turkey, they don’t like Muslims, look what they did to Iraq” “They love guns, you might get shot” etc. I remember when I first arrived in Lawrence, Kansas in January of 2008, the first thing I realized was (besides the bone chilling cold) how big everything was: Big cars, broad highways, large parking lots, the houses were big, too. Then I went to a restaurant. Oh… Those portion sizes! With one portion in the US, you can feed 3 people in Turkey, easily.
What surprised me the most was the fact that people were so respectful and friendly. There were no judging stares, no cutting in line, no honking when the light turns green in traffic. People were so patient and positive (well, most of the time 😀 ).
Let me make this clear here. I do believe that not everywhere in the US is the same and without being in every state, meeting a lot of people from different levels of status, it is really hard to say what American culture is like for 100%. But I can share with you my experience so far, and I don’t want to offend anybody, I just want to share my observations and experience. If you had a different opinion, please feel free to comment below. I have lived in KS and IL for 3 years each and I have been living in Boston, MA since October 2017. I also had a chance to visit New York City, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Boulder, many places in Utah, Iowa City, Cleveland, Hartford, somewhere in Arkansas, St. Louis, St. Antonio, Atlanta, Kansas City, Bronson, Wichita, Topeka, and Detroit. So my experience comprises those places only.
Anyway, where were we? Kansas is considered as part of the Midwestern Culture. The stereotype for Midwestern culture is friendly, neighborly and a laid-back. Also, they tend to have a neutral accent, which makes it perfect for an international student (It was awesome for me). Chicago, Illinois was my second home and lucky me, IL was a Midwestern state as well.
On this page, I will try to write about my my understanding of American culture and I will often compare it to my Turkish heritage.
If you are an international individual who wants to travel/move to the US, or an American who is curious about how their country is perceived by a foreigner, or a person who is just curious about American culture, you are going to enjoy my posts! – At least I hope so!
As a person who interacts with International students everyday, I must say that this video mentions different aspects of Eastern and Western cultures quite accurately. Especially when it comes to language, the difference is mind blowing. It is kind of an old video, but it is still very interesting.
This book is full of interesting facts about psychology, economy, business, education, culture, marketing and even biology. Sheena’s writing style was a little challenging for me in the beginning, because she prefers to start with a story, setting the scene and then she explains what that story was all about. So, for a while you find yourself thinking ‘What is her point?’. Despite the pretentious writing style of hers, it is still easy to read and her intelligence and wittiness are remarkable throughout the book.
A brief info about the author: Despite the difficulties posed by her blindness, Iyengar pursued higher education. In 1992, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School and a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in English from the College of Arts and Sciences. She then earned her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Stanford University in 1997.The following year, her dissertation “Choice and its Discontents” received the prestigious Best Dissertation Award for 1998 from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. She taught management classes in MIT and Columbia Business School.
So let’s talk about this wonderful book. I will share with you the highlights of the book and the lines that I thought were so interesting and thought provoking.
In order to choose, first we must perceive that control is possible. We should feel that we have the control to do things. In this experiment, the group of dogs that couldn’t escape and suffered in the first set of experiments tended to show almost no effort to overcome the obstacles although it caused pain to them in the second experiment. Because these dogs, having earlier suffered a complete loss of control, had learned that they were helpless.
BIOLOGY: When we look at FMRI scans, we see that the main brain system engaged when making choices is the corticostriatal network. Its main component, Striatum, evaluates the reward association. It is responsible for alerting us that sugar=good and root canal = bad. However, we have to also make the connection that too much of sugar can cause root canal. That is where the other half of the corticostriatal network, the prefrontal cortex, comes into play. While motor abilities are largely developed by childhood and factual reasoning abilities by adolescence, the prefrontal cortex undergoes a process of growth and consolidation that continues into our mid 20s. This is why young children have more difficulty understanding abstract concepts than adults, and both children and teenagers are especially prone to acting on impulse.
WHY: Sometimes we like to choose things even though it is not practical. For example in this experiment, there were two paths that lead to the same amount food, one was branched the other one was direct. So, one held no advantage over the other. After multiple trials, nearly every rat preferred taking the branching path. Another example from human beings: People were given a casino chip. they had two choices; whether they were going to play it at a table with two identical roulette-style wheels and at a table with a single wheel. Even though they could bet on only one of the wheels, and all three wheels were identical, almost all of them chose to play it at the table with two wheels. Why? Because WE LIKE TO MAKE CHOICES.
HEALTH: Health wise, making choices is good for you as well because when human beings feel trapped, having no choice over things, they feel stressed. As you all know stress had both horrible physical and psychological effects. Because of these, captivity can often result in lower life expectancies despite objectively improved living conditions. According to the research, the less control people felt they had over their work, the higher the blood pressure during the work hours. People with little control over their work also experienced more back pain, missed more days of work due to illness in general and had higher rate of mental illness. Another study suggests that minor but frequent choice making can have a disproportionately large and positive impact on our perception of overall control.
RELIGION: Iyengar interviewed 600 people from 9 different religions with three groups: Fundamentalists, conservatives and liberals. To the author’s surprise, the study showed that members of more fundamentalist faiths experienced greater hope, were more optimistic when faced with adversity and were less likely to be depressed than their counterparts. Indeed, the people most susceptible to pessimism and depression were Unitarians, especially those who were atheists. The reason why the author was surprised was this is the controlling nature of religion. It has so many rules and it doesn’t leave you much room in terms of choices. Yet the presence of so many rules didn’t weaken people, instead, it seemed to empower them. Many of their choices were taken away and yet they experienced a sense of control over their lives.
CULTURE: Culture’s effect on our choices comprises a big part in the book. Iyengar, talks specifically about one dimension of the cultures: Identity. When it comes to making choices, there is a huge gap between the collectivist cultures and the individualistic cultures. Those of us raised in more individualistic societies, such as the Unites States, are taught to focus primarily on the ‘I’ when choosing, primarily motivated by their own preferences, needs, and rights and give priority to their personal goals over the goals of others. Iyengar also explains the roots of individualism going back to enlightenment of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe where the influence of Greek philosophers, Protestant Reformation, scientific advances were profound. Whereas collectivism has been on earth extensively for a longer time. The earliest hunter – gatherer societies were highly collectivist by necessity as looking out for another increased everyone’s chances of survival and the value placed on the collective grew after humans shifted to agriculture as a means of sustenance. As populations increased and the formerly unifying familial and tribal forces became less powerful, other forces such as religion filled the gap, providing people with a sense of belongingness and a common purpose. In Eastern cultures, individuals tend to understand their lives relatively more in terms of their duties and less in terms of personal preferences.
Why is it important to understand the difference between the two: Example of Japanese children and Anglo American children. Iyengar performed an experiment with two groups of children (Please see the chart I made below): American and Japanese children were going to color an anagram. But they were given 3 choices; in one group they were going to choose their own anagram type and the color, in the second group, the anagram and the color were already chosen for them by the teacher and the teacher told them that it was his/her choice, and the third group was told that the anagram and the marker were chosen by their mother. As you can see from the chart, American kids did way better and spent much longer time on their projects (because they enjoyed them) when they made their own choices, whereas Japanese pupils were way more successful when the project material was chosen by their mothers. Another interesting result is that, when the choices were made by this random teacher, a stranger, both groups of children felt the imposition and reacted negatively.
Cultural aspect of choice at WORK: The employees working at the same bank and for the same manager – who reported giving the same levels of choice to all the employees – perceived different degrees of choice available to them, depending on their culture. For example: Employees in Asia, along with the Asian Americans, were less likely than Anglo American, Hispanic American, or African American employees to think of their day-to-day activities at work in terms of choice (meaning freedom of decision making is lacking and/or at work, my supervisor makes the majority of the decisions about what I do), and Latin Americans’ perception of choice fell in between these groups.
It turned out that for all the American employees except Asian Americans, the more choice they thought they had, the higher they scored on all measures of motivation, satisfaction, and performance. Conversely, the more they felt their jobs were dictated by their managers, the worse they did on all of these measures. In contrast, Asian participant, whether from Asia or the United States, scored higher when they thought their day-to-day tasks were determined primarily by their managers. Latin American employees once again fell somewhere in the middle, slightly benefiting from both greater personal choice and greater control by their managers.
WHAT IS ‘FREEDOM’? :Berlin wall was demolished in 1989, even 20 years after its reunification, in many ways Berlin still feels like two cities, divided by a barrier of ideas as powerful as the Wall itself. In Iyengar’s conversations with people from East Berlin, she realized that rather than being grateful for the increasing number of opportunities, choices, and options that they have available, to them in the marketplace, they are suspicious of this new way of life, which they increasingly perceive as unfair: Consider the economic system adopted by the Soviet Union and its satellites, including East Berlin. The government planned out how much of everything – cars, vegetables, tables, chairs- each family might need, and projected from that to set production goals for the nation as a whole. Each citizen was assigned to a particular career depending upon the skills and abilities he had demonstrated in school, and the careers that were available were also based on the projected needs of the nation. Since rent and health care were free, consumer goods were all that people could spend their wages on, but centrally controlled production ensured that everyone had the same things as everyone else, down to the same television sets, furniture and types of living space. So, the Eastern Berliner man said “In the Soviet Union you had money but couldn’t buy anything. Now you can buy anything but you don’t have money”
The Idealized capitalist system provides: ‘Freedom from’ external restrictions, one’s ability to rise in society’s ranks.
The idealized communist/socialist system provides: ‘Freedom To’ obtain adequate standard living, aims for equality of outcomes rather than the opportunities. So while the American democracy has led to unprecedented national wealth, it also created a widespread inequality.
TEMPTATION: When we all know that one option will lead to a better outcome, why do we yearn for the other? We have two interconnecting systems for processing information and arriving at answers or judgments.
The first one is: the automatic system which operates quickly, effortlessly, and subconsciously.
The second one: the reflective system, driven not by raw sensation but by logic and reason, that is the one we have to turn on and tune into.
For example, someone offers you a choice between $100 today and $120 a month from today. What is your answer?
Then the same person offers you a choice between receiving $100 one month from now and $120 two months from now. Which amount do you choose this time?
In the first example, people tend to choose taking $100 right away, here, their automatic system is speaking. In the second example, people usually choose waiting for two months to get $120 and here, the reflective systems is talking. This is a very interesting result because the two is identically the same. In both cases, the person needs to wait for a month between $100 and $120. Therefore, in case of temptation, we may be aware that our desire is being fueled by the automatic system and that we’d be better off if we followed the reflective system, but just because we know the ‘right’ answer doesn’t mean we can bring ourselves to choose it.
According to the psychologist Prof. Paul Ekman, the best way to combine the reflective system with the automatic system; allowing the person to make snap judgments that are also highly accurate is ‘informed intuition’.
Lake Wobegon Effect (Illusory superiority) is also explained in detail: Ninety percent of us believe ourselves to be in the top 10 percent in terms of overall intelligence and ability.
PRESENTATION AFFECTS OUR CHOICES: Every time we encounter new information or reexamine old information, we’re influenced by its presentation. Research has consistently demonstrated that losses appear far larger in our minds than do gains. We do whatever we can to avoid losing the things that are most important to us, but we don’t take similar risks to achieve gains because we worry that we might incur a loss instead.
We tend to have a better memory for things that excite our senses or appeal to our emotions than for straight facts and dry statistics.
Research has shown that people are willing to spend significantly more when paying with a credit card than with cash because when we take the bills out of our wallet and hand them over, our senses register that we now have less money.
Even the order in which we encounter options can affect their availability. We tend to better remember the first and last options in a group, so rather than focusing on the merits of each alternative, we may be influenced primarily by the position in which each appeared. This is why items displayed at either end of a store shelf sell more than those in the middle, and it’s also the reason an interviewer might unwittingly pay more attention to the first and last candidates in a job interview. Even in elections, the candidate whose name is on the top of the ballot is most likely to be chosen.
Iyengar also argues that interviewers often subconsciously make up their minds about interviewees based on their first few moments of interaction. In order to break the bias, instead of asking the generic questions like experience and educational background, interviewers should try obtaining samples of candidate’s work or asking how he would respond to difficult hypothetical situations, are dramatically better at assessing future success, with a nearly threefold advantage over traditional interviews.
HAPPINESS: Studies consistently showed that money can buy happiness, but only up to a certain point. Once one’s basic needs are met, the value of the additional material goods that come with greater wealth diminishes rapidly. There are stories proving that rising income doesn’t increase the reported happiness, this is true even for Americans who earn more than $5 million per year.
MARKETING: The name, the packaging the attractiveness of the product we buy affects our choice making. Iyengar explains in this chapter that big fashion brands create a trend and they impose on all of us from different channels of media to increase their sales, taking advantage of “mere exposure effect”. The more we are exposed to a particular object or idea, the more we like it, provided we had positive and neutral feelings toward it at the outset. That is to say, the higher the exposure a product receives and the greater its perceived social acceptability, the more people will buy it, which in turn further increases its exposure and acceptability.
In blind taste tests people enjoyed all of the wines about equally, but when shown the prices, they preferred more expensive ones since they associate the price with quality.
Everything from the color of a product’s logo, or of the product itself, to the shape of its packaging can change people’s preferences in ways not captured in blind taste tests.
When the bottled water say “pure”, “fresh” “natural” on it, the implication is that any water not packaged in such a bottle is probably impure or unnatural, maybe dangerous. However, Iyengar argues that a quarter of bottled water brands are tap water and federal quality standards for tap water are more stringent and more strongly enforced than the standards of bottled water.
In this book, there is an interesting experiment about Coke but I will not write it here. Iyengar talks about Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy quite extensively. Did you know Coca Cola Company holds a patent on the color of Santa Claus? So, Coke is Christmas. Also, free Cokes were distributed in a lot of big events that represented freedom. The collapse of Berlin Wall was one of them. So Coke also tastes like freedom. These positive attributes made the product more than just sugar and natural flavors.
WE ARE UNDER INFLUENCE: Our minds don’t organize stored information alphabetically or chronologically or by the Dewey decimal system but rather by its web of association to other information. Something that activates these automatic associations is known as “prime” and its effect on our mental states and subsequent choices is known priming (imagine a lemon in your mouth, what do you feel? Is your mouth watery?)
Buying a product that a celebrity also wears allows us to feel a little more glamorous by association
The prime itself may be perceived only subconsciously as in subliminal messages.
In 2000 general elections, S. Christian Wheeler wanted to increase education tax from 5.0 to 5.6 in order to increase education spending. The researchers found that the 26 percent of people who were assigned to vote in the schools were more likely to support schools by saying yes than were those people who voted at other polling locations. They did a similar experiment online. Results showed that the people who were exposed to the school images were more willing to support raising taxes to fund education.
A 2007 study showed that about 70% of elections were won by the candidate whom people rated as more competent based solely on their appearance.
Numerous studies also found out that height and salary positively correlated, especially for men, and highly attractive people of both sexes earn at least 12 percent more than their less attractive co-workers.
SOMETIMES VARIETY IS NOT GOOD – DILEMMA: George Miller, Professor of Psychology at Princeton wrote the paper “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” in 1956. For example, determining or distinguishing between the positions of points, the direction and curvature of lines, the hue and brightness of objects, the frequency and volume of tones, the location and strength of vibrations, and the intensity of smells and tastes. For each of the senses, most people can handle only five to nine items before they begin to consistently make errors in perception.
Iyengar talks about the interesting experiment that she performed at a supermarket. There were two booths that were set up for tasting different kinds of jam. The first booth had about 20 kinds and the second booth had only 6. Although the booth with the largest selection attracted 50% more customers to itself, only 3% bought a jar after tasting. They looked actually really puzzled. Whereas the 30% of the customers who visited smaller selection booth bought a jar.
Some brands actually decreased their product variety down to almost 50% and their sales jumped 10%. Chances are that quite a few other companies could benefit from reducing the amount of choice they offer to the customers. Studies show that when people are given a moderate number of options (4-6) rather than a large number (20-30) they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose.
BUT ALSO, we need to still have variety, because we would suffer from being limited to any single item, no matter how much we enjoy it. We would eventually become sick and tired of it, a process known as satiation. Therefore, we need varieties. A study by the USDA found that as the total amount and variety of food in the US increased in the recent decades, average food consumption rose at even faster rate.
Finally, study shows that people can learn to choose from more options, but they are less likely to drown if they start off in the shallows and then slowly move toward the deep, all the while building their skills and nerve.
WHEN CHOOSING COMES WITH THE PRICE: Iyengar leaves the most touching study to the last. Think about the same situation that applies to two families: You just had had a baby and the doctors explained that your baby was in a critical condition and even after weeks, there is no improvement. They say: “Her critical condition implies severe neurological impairments that would confine her to bed, unable to speak, walk, or interact with others. After much deliberation, they have decided that it’s in your baby’s best interest that they withdraw treatment – by turning off the ventilation machine – and let her die.” Here, doctors make the decision and they don’t give any possible courses of action or their prospective consequences.
The second time, in the same situation, they say this “There are two possible courses of action: Continue to the treatment, or withdraw the treatment by turning off the ventilation machine. They also explain the consequences of each action. If the treatment is withdrawn, your baby will die. If the treatment is continued, there is about a %40 chance that she will die and about %60 chance that she will survive with severe neurological impairments that would confine her to bed, unable to speak, walk or interact with others. Because of her critical situation, the doctors have decided it’s in her best interest that they withdraw treatment and let her die” Here, hearing the possible courses of action and their possible consequences probably made it easier to accept their decision, both increasing your confidence that it was the right one and reducing the emotional stress associated with it.
In the last example, they tell you “There are two possible courses of action: Continue to the treatment, or withdraw the treatment by turning off the ventilation machine. They also explain the consequences of each action. If the treatment is withdrawn, your baby will die. If the treatment is continued, there is about a %40 chance that she will die and about %60 chance that she will survive with severe neurological impairments that would confine her to bed, unable to speak, walk or interact with others. It is going to be your decision to continue the treatment or let her die.” Here, the choice lays in your hands. You are responsible for the consequences.
In France, the second example takes place whereas in America, the last example is the case for the same situation. With the study done on parents who had to go through these painful times, the results have shown that American families suffered from personal guilt, doubt and resentment much more than French families who blamed neither themselves nor doctors. Because they did not make the choice, doctors did.
As a final word, I highly recommend this great book. Iyengar shares more interesting studies and she expresses her own opinions and speaks with expertise. This book needs to be on your bookshelf. Forever.