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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.
According to Davidai it is not personal values or morals nor even hassle or inertia that determines people’s choices and actions but their perception of what is "normal" and what the exception as governed by language alone – not fact. All successful dictators have known this for centuries and the first thing they all brought under their control was the public language. As a corollary absolute control does not require any change or restriction in democratic freedoms and institutions at all, a strict enforcement of politically correct language suffices. In sum this research explains a lot more than the abstract suggests.
What I like about Shu et al. is their second, small and insignificant, but consistent over all sub tests, result. People tend to be more honest when trusted implicitly as compared to being openly suspected, accused, and threatened. I personally detest being mistrusted and if someone tries to force me into something tend not to comply. Unfortunately just minimally raising that suffices to beat nearly everyone into submission. That’s how dictatorships succeed, they usually lack the means of translating their threats into action at least in the beginning and could easily been shown up as hollow shells by any conviction at all, as proved hundreds of times in Germany in the thirties. Alas in all societies that’s the rarest commodity of all. (See also this short story.)
There is one aspect of Dunsworth et al.’s result that I had not been aware or. Even in traditional hunter-gatherer societies breast feeding alone was not enough to supply an infant’s needs and additional food was needed from about seven months of age onwards. This is somewhat in contradiction to mothers’ known ability to feed twins without problems but takes away one of the assumed reasons for the Neolithic demographic transition.
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