Notebook Entries, July 2002

Notebook entry, July 30, 2001

A very interesting article appeared in the July 30th issue of BusinessWeek which was the cover story for that issue: The article title: Buzz-z-z Marketing, by Gerry Khermouch in New York, with Jeff Green in Detroit, p.50. The article tells us of a "new type" of marketing that really is old as communication between our ancestors during grooming.  

It seems that marketers are "taking to the streets, as well as cafés, nightclubs, and the internet, in record numbers...Their goal: to seek out the trendsetters in each community and subtly push them into talking up their brand to their friends and admirers." p. 50. Here is what one, Scott Stern, a senior vice-president at Bates USA, had to say about the technique. "We're arming consumers with the tools or knowledge they can take back to their peer groups so they'll be perceived as being in the know.  Ultimately, the brand benefits because an accepted member of the social circle will always be far more credible than any communication that could ever come directly from the brand." p. 52. In other words, what Mr. Stern is saying, is that word-of-mouth endorsements are much more powerful than broadcast messages because of the "intimate" factor of hearing it from a person that "one trusts." This is basically GOSSIP. Gossip, of course, is a very well known human universal. BusinessWeek, reaffirms this by stating: " That way, instead of coming from a faceless and distrusted corporate conglomerate, the marketing message seems to emanate from the most powerful endorser possible: your coolest friend." p. 53.

Here is what part of what I wrote about gossip in my 1997 essay, Evolutionary Psychology and Hollywood, Part I: The Brain, The Big Screen, and the Origin of Gossip. You may read the whole article by clicking on the link above. "Let's get one thing straight--gossip is not really idle chatter that only little old ladies practice. It is used by all age groups and genders to pass important information. To our ancestors it most likely contained important information concerning food source locations, male territory battles, safe areas to sleep, and mating partner possibilities. Today, depending on our stage in life and gender, gossip fluctuates according to your cultural location and needs. Not only is gossip an information-gathering mechanism, it can also entail complicated and sophisticated manipulative behavior mechanisms."

So, the strategy behind this marketing technique is simply to tap into the gossip network of survivors and let them do the work of major advertising campaigns:  to seek out trendsetters, or individuals who are impatient with social norms and seek to find their own level of excitement, wishes, or desires and convince them to use the company's product.  This new marketing of utilizing  some individuals is basically tapping into behavior that our ancestors did millions of years ago when faced with shrinking resources and all they could do was look around their local environment in order to find solutions to their problem of survival.  "Find someone who is surviving and copy what they are doing."  Hence, follow the leader, or follow the survivor. It is, of course, much too early to identify and label the "follow-the-leader" behavior as modular in conception, but it could lead down the path to some interesting investigative studies in behavior. 

And God, forbid if you deceive the trendsetters.  The same buzz that created astounding growth could also reverse itself and lead to sales and profits falling in the opposite direction.

Notebook entry, July 22, 2001

In the July 23rd, 2001 issue of Time magazine, evolution was once again treated to a cover story: Cover Title: How Apes Became Human; article title: One Giant Step for Mankind by Micheal D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, p. 54. In the article, it describes the latest and oldest fossil discovery of our ancestral past found by University of California, Berkeley graduate student Yohannes Haile-Selassie (no relation to the Emperor), which he has labeled Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (The name comes from the local Afar language. Ardi means ground or floor; ramid means root; and kadabba means basal family ancestor). Dating techniques have placed the fossil remains at 5.2 to 5.8 years ago; very, very close to the suspected date that many scientists view when the split between human and apes occurred. The remains are of a chimp-sized creature that was found in the famous Ethiopian Rift Valley which flows south into Kenya and Tanzania where many fossil remains of our earliest ancestors have been found. What convinces the scientists of the human-like separation from the chimpanzee is the inch-long toe bone found. The structure of the toe clearly determines the gait that the early humanoid was upright on two feet.

But the interesting part of the article goes into the debate about exactly how and why our ancestors became upright walkers as opposed to the four-legged, knuckle amble of the chimpanzee. Convention wisdom up to now has held that our ancestors evolved in a grassland-like savanna and that they began to stand upright to peer over the tall grass to search for possible prey or predator. Along this line, standing would give protection against the searing noon-day sun as an upright body absorbs less heat from the sun. It appears that this theory has fallen from grace very quickly. A companion paper in Nature argues that fossilized flora and fauna, as well as the chemical makeup of the ancient soil, that Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba lived in a well-forested environment. Since the previous bi-pedal theory has been pushed aside, and walking bipedal would be slower than walking on all fours for a chimpanzee, what evolutionary force was so strong as to override the chimpanzee’s evolutionary development of quadpeddaling? Well, Anthropologist Henry McHenry, of the University of California, Davis theory says that climate change was part of the force as lush forests clumps disappeared with savanna grassland replacing them, learning to walk upright helped them to walk long distances with more food. The second theory being pondered is from Meave Leakey, head of paleontology at the National Museums of Kenya who argues that moving into grasslands it would help in eating fruits and berries to be able to reach as high as one could.

And, as they say about sections in a dull book that suddenly "gets to the good part," an interesting point was brought out by anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy of Ohio’s Kent State University, the answer was sex. Walking upright allowed males to carry home more goodies from the hunt or harvest than our four-legged ambling ancestors. Those who came home with more "goodies" were most likely treated to more sex by females who became convinced that this was the best why to ensure nourishment for themselves and their children. Hence the theory goes, the nuclear family evolved, and civilization was born. Although since will and desire leave no physical evidence behind as a fossil, we have to test this theory by posing this question to all young males on the planet between 18 – 34 on the planet. Have you ever done anything out of the "abnormal" (like standing on two feet), to get sex? I am sure that every male scientist already knows the answer to that one.

But the creation of the "nuclear family" also leaves the male brain with a problem. Where do you put all that desire for sex to use when all the females are occupied? For too many of the wrong reasons, the sex drive has been blamed for the destructiveness of war by nations (Freud) rape as a reproductive mechanism, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.

If you are interested, I attempt to find solutions to some of these problems by suggesting a sex trade profession (controlled and run only by females), based on an evolutionary argument. Read the last three chapters of my book, Man in the Mist, by clicking on the link.

Notebook entry, July 16, 2001

I received an interesting email the other day asking what the poster above my cartoon character meant.  Grow up?  World Peace?  Are your trying to tell the world that it is immature and needs to grow up in order to obtain world peace, the email shouted?  Well, here is a close-up photo of the poster that may clear up the mystery.  The Oh, Evolve is a bumper sticker that someone gave me, and the World Peace, "You, may say I'm a dreamer but, I'm not the only one"  -- words, from John Lennon, is really a Tee-shirt that I had framed. So, it is really two statements merged into one by the cartoonists who did the characterization you see above.

Notebook entry, July 12, 2001

The August 2001 issue of Discover Magazine arrived today.  It has an interesting article titled: The Genetic Mystery of Music, by Josie Glausiusz, p.71. It asks the intriguing question of does a mother's lullaby give an infant a better chance for survival?  That is another way of saying that some believe that music appreciation  is innate, and the opposing view, most notably, Steven Pinker, argues that music is just "brain candy." Let the debate begin.

Notebook entry, July 4, 2001

Well, if you read my July 3 entry, you also know that despite the bright horizon in store for our great country there still is a long way to go before all share in equal opportunity.  The New York Times tells us of a study done of loan costs associated with the Nissan automobile company.  Title: Nissan's Loan Cost, Racial Tie Revealed, by Diana B Henriques. p.6A of the July 4th 2001 issue of  The Denver Post.  In a statistical study conducted by professor Mark Cohen of Vanderbilt University of 300,000 car loans arranged through Nissan dealers from March 1993 to Sept of 2000, shows that black customers in 33 states consistently paid more than white customers, regardless of their credit histories.

Among the largest states, the study showed that, on average, blacks paid $245 more in Connecticut, $339 more in New Jersey, $405 more in New York, $$364, and in Florida, it was $533. Of course, we must remember that major car manufacturers lets local car dealers to make the loans and do not even see the face of the customer, but if one is in control, then one's cultural attitudes trickle down to the workroom floor.  Nissan was unable to make a comment as they had not seen the study.

We must always remember that in physics as in society, that which is taken away from something or someone (a fair car loan), the advantage resource is given to some material or someone else. This is not natural selection at work, but resource retention to benefit some over others.  In the long haul it weakens our society.

Notebook entry, July 3, 2001 

A news item from the Los Angeles Times caught my eye this morning. Titled: Ethnic Mix Seen as Key to Movie's Success, by Robert W. Welkos and Richard Natale, p.2A. of the July rd, 01 Denver Post. It seems the the movie "The Fast and the Furious" became the No. 1 movie at the box office this past week.  The Movie, with an unknown cast of whites, Hispanics, Asians, and blacks, has an abundance of car races and a driving hip-hop beat. Last year saw successes in movies like "Bring It On," a sassy white-vs-black cheerleading comedy and "Save the Last Dance," with its theme of interracial dating.  And the latest movie to appear to be heading for success is called "Crazy/Beautiful," another coming-of-age movie about young love but this time the main characters or a Hispanic male and a white female. 

When the movie, Fast and Furious opened, surveys taken at theaters showed that 50 percent of moviegoers were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 10 percent black, and 11 percent were Asian.

The success of the movies indicates that more will follow. When more follow, there will be greater acceptance of groups outside the dominate culture (currently, whites of European descent). This can only benefit and enrich our country even more.  For any evolutionist who knows her or his biology knows that the more diversity nature has to work with, the greater strengths s/he has to choose from.

Notebook entry, July 1, 2001

Copyright, Evolution's Voyage, 2001
Image is free to all if credit is given to Evolution's Voyage

Well, I was going through my email and digital photos of the trip and finally got around to cropping this classic.  I guess this image nicely sums up the trip to London and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society's meeting in that wonderful town June 13 -- 17th. A picture truly does correspond to a thousand words.