June 08, 2010
Neurotic Women In Poor Countries Make More Babies

Neuroticism and extraversion are being selected for in countries with the highest birth rates.

The study, which was published yesterday (7 June 2010) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that women with higher levels of neuroticism and more extravert men, are likely to give birth to a larger number of children in societies with traditionally high birth rates.

I'd really like to know which personality traits are being selected for in Western industrial societies. Natural selection has not stopped. But in industrial societies selective pressures change. Since more educated people have fewer kids intelligence is being selected against. But what other cognitive traits are selected for or against?

Women with higher neuroticism were also less able to feed their children well.

The study also found evidence of a link between maternal personality traits and offspring´s physical condition, as women with higher neuroticism levels were more likely to have children with a decreased body mass index (BMI), reflecting malnutrition.

The existence of a wide range of personality traits might represent competing reproductive strategies where some women have more kids who suffer child mortality rates while other women have fewer kids and suffer lower child mortality rates. Relative reproductive success of the two strategies might vary over time as food availability waxes and wanes.

See the mention here of previous work in Western populations. Anyone know what the research has found on fertility and personality traits in the West?

Personality traits are increasingly being studied to understand individual-level determinants of fertility patterns, and how differences in personality can be maintained by natural selection. Previous work has been carried out in modern Western populations, but the current research was conducted in a more traditional population, enabling the team to test how personality affects fertility rates in a `natural environment´ characterized by high birth rates.

Humans are still evolving. That does not mean they necessarily are becoming more advanced. Rather, they are experiencing selective pressures and different genetic variants are getting selected for and against.

Human evolution accelerated in the last 10,000 years. The ability to do in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo selection using genetic tests with detailed knowledge of the meaning of different genetic variants will soon cause an even greater acceleration of human evolution. Offspring will be chosen before embryo implantation to maximize desired traits and minimize undesired traits.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 08 10:25 PM  Evolution Human Nature

PacRim Jim said at June 9, 2010 1:25 AM:

Human evolution will accelerate fantastically in the coming decades, when we begin modifying our own genes and programming those of our offspring. We can look forward to dozens of sexes and hundreds of races, for starters.

Noodling said at June 9, 2010 11:32 AM:

I would suspect that the genetic component of narcissism is being bred out of the human race at a furious pace. We don't see it on the street yet cuz the nurture side of the nature/nurture balance really pushes a narcissistic attitude onto the kids these days, but those who can resist it and are willing to "sacrifice" their precious self in favor of unfashionable parenthood clearly must have more of a natural resistance to the siren songs than do their counterparts.

In other words, if bobos refuse to breed, eventually there will be fewer bobos. Perhaps the meek ("humble" is the more accurate translation, actually) really will inherit the earth.

Of course, my hypothesis is based on a continued increase in prosperity, and govts are doing what they can to prevent that, so we'll see.

notme said at June 9, 2010 11:53 AM:

Since more educated people have fewer kids intelligence is being selected against.

Interesting but probably fallacious premise. Education does not necessarily equal intelligence, nor intelligence education. That's just a conceit of the educated classes.

wyzbok said at June 9, 2010 12:54 PM:

Neurotic women? Isn't that redundant?

ryan said at June 9, 2010 1:42 PM:

"Since more educated people have fewer kids intelligence is being selected against."
Educated people are being selected against. In my experience education has little to do with intelligence.

Tom said at June 9, 2010 2:36 PM:

Maybe it's the kids who are making these women neurotic.

Re: narcissism - Didn't narcissism just get 53% of the vote 18 months ago?
I do agree it has gone out of fashion since then, though.

RTP76 said at June 9, 2010 6:29 PM:

"Since more educated people have fewer kids intelligence is being selected against."

This is true! This has been tested and documented. On average, High School Grads have an IQ of 106, college grads 116, and college grads with a professional degree 126. The SAT is used as a screen for college entry and SAT scores can be used as a proxy for IQ. Intelligence has everything to do with Education. Not every student has the cognitive ability to do the demanding work required in the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, engineering, and etc.). Additionally, college attendance tends to postpone marriage resulting in fewer children and births at a older age. All of this is in the "The Bell Curve" which is based on pier reviewed literature at the time.

Infidel said at June 9, 2010 7:33 PM:

"Humans are still evolving. That does not mean they necessarily are becoming more advanced."

Evolution is not about 'advancing,' just change from natural selection.

AB said at June 11, 2010 2:01 AM:

Proof of devolution:

wyzbok said at June 9, 2010 12:54 PM:
Neurotic women? Isn't that redundant?

No, wyzbok, it isn't redundant. Misogyny is however as unattractive as racism.

Lono said at June 11, 2010 9:18 AM:


Give it a rest. Women are neurotic as F**k!

It clearly and logically results from the fact that women's brains have developed a greater capacity for analyzing multiple pieces of data at the same time.

However - unlike men - women cannot just shut off this analysis anytime they want - where men - with fewer specific pieces of data being addressed - can more easily compartmentalize those issues and the stresses related to them.

Overall - from experience - this just means that men are more decisive - but make - in general - less thoughtful decisions.

(and thus are less neurotic about it)

Clearly the neuroticism being addressed in the article is not the normal - increased worry and concern - seen in women as a result of their increases parrallel processing abilities - but more extreme perhaps even anti-social behaviors.

I would conjecture that they have tend to have more children to compensate for a reduced self image.

Normal levels of neuroticism (and over-protectiveness) seen comonly in women likely normally increases their ability to raise and care for children - sucessfully - in most all environments.

So take it as a complement - due to your estrogenized brain - you are attentive, introspective, and thoughtful - but to most men - most women just seem needy and overly worrisome and ludicrously picky about their environment.

Vive la différence!

rob said at June 11, 2010 10:28 AM:

I wonder if intelligence mediates the number of children people have within educational categories. Among college grads, do higher IQ women have fewer kids than dumber women with college degrees? I could see it going either way. For instance, smarter women might find it easier to juggle motherhood and career because being smarter makes their jobs relatively easier, and being more capable means employers are more willing to do flex time, work from home or whatever.

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