June 16, 2010
Moral Beliefs On Illicit Drugs About Promiscuity

Views on promiscuity are more reliable predictors of a person's views about illicit drugs than one's professed religion or political ideology.

One theory -- the conventional wisdom in political science -- sees drug attitudes as primarily coming from people's political ideology, level of religious commitment, and personality, for example, openness to experience.

The other theory, proposed by the researchers and driven by ideas from evolutionary psychology, holds that drug attitudes are really driven by people's reproductive strategies.

So then slutty girls and pick-up artist guys are the biggest advocates of drug legalization? I'd be curious to know whether this connection between views on promiscuity and drugs holds equally well for men and women.The evolutionary psychology viewpoint also holds that women and men have different and conflicting reproductive strategies. Also, how do views about drug legalization change upon marriage and upon birth of a baby.

When the Penn researchers questioned almost 1,000 people in two subject populations, one undergraduate and one Internet-based, a clear winner emerged between the competing theories: Differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals' different views on recreational drugs.

While many items predict to some extent whether people are opposed to recreational drugs, the most closely related predictors are people's views on sexual promiscuity. While people who are more religious and those who are more politically conservative do tend to oppose recreational drugs, in both study samples the predictive power of these religious and ideological items was reduced nearly to zero by controlling for items tracking attitudes toward sexual promiscuity.

If people use too many drugs they'll reproduce like bunnies. This has got to be stopped. Look at what happened when bunnies were introduced into Australia.

"This provides evidence that views on sex and views on drugs are very closely related," said Kurzban, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at Penn. "If you were to measure people's political ideology, religiosity and personality characteristics, you can predict to some degree how people feel about recreational drugs. But if, instead, you just measure how people feel about casual sex, and ignore the abstract items, the predictions about people's views on drugs in fact become quite a bit better."

Didn't Alice see a bunny in wonderland? In the follow-up to Alice In Wonderland does she become a single mom with kids by 3 different guys? "Go ask Alice, I think she'll know." I can hear Gracie Slick singing.

Once genetic tests can at least partially predict sexua reproduction strategies will genetic tests also predict one's views on drug legalization? Will the legalizers or anti-legalizers make more babies and win in the field of public opinion in the long run by Darwinian natural selection?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 16 11:18 PM  Brain Ethics Law

MarkyMark said at June 17, 2010 2:36 AM:

My initial thought is that this result may not have anything to do with evolutionary psychology but rather could just be measuring a generalized hedonistic tendency.

I would expect that an individuals views on promiscuity and illicit drug use correlate strongly with the actual behaviours and since promiscuity and illicit drug use are both examples of hedonistic pleasure seeking it is perhaps not all that surprising that the go together.

It would be interesting to see if peoples attitude to illicit drug use also correlated just as strongly with liking of other thrill seeking activities (e.g. sky diving, roller coasters, bungey jumping etc).

This finding could also lead to some interesting cocktail party conversations. Just steer the conversation subtly to the pros and cons of the legalisation of hard drugs and await the response with interest.

someguy said at June 17, 2010 7:54 AM:

This is an example of the breadth of life-history strategies. Not only do species, but individuals, vary in reproductive strategy from quantity to quality of offspring. This variance in strategy is accompanied by a large number of individual personality differences related to drug use (e.g., risk taking).

bbartlog said at June 17, 2010 7:57 AM:

'So then slutty girls and pick-up artist guys are the biggest advocates of drug legalization?'

I don't think this is right. You're assuming PUAs are actually cavalier about female promiscuity, but I don't think that's true. They don't, in general, think everything would be fine if everyone acted the way they did, nor are they cool about their own girls sleeping around.
Further there is a divide between intellectual advocacy of drug legalization and attitudes towards own personal use. I remember arguing with a rich kid (heir to a chunk of the Corning fortune) who didn't think cocaine should be legalized, even though he himself had used it many times.

Lono said at June 17, 2010 8:19 AM:

"It would be interesting to see if peoples attitude to illicit drug use also correlated just as strongly with liking of other thrill seeking activities (e.g. sky diving, roller coasters, bungey jumping etc)."


I would argue that this is exactly the larger connection - there is a Huge correllation between risk takers/thrill seekers and permissive attitudes towards illict drugs.

(I know this also from experience both personally and in my peer group)

I would even speculate that there is a large positive correleation of permissiveness towards action/violent videogames as well.

I would get high almost every weekend - if it was legal - and I am a very extreme charasmatic Christian - who has been married for over a decade - and who has children.

My wife is the only partner I have had - and I am not generally permissive towards promiscuity - but that is more due to my concerns for the logistical consequences of unwanted pregnancy and incurable disease.

(which I think ties in well with Christianity's logical discouragment of pre-marital sex)

Randall has published good studies on how many thrill seekers - such as myself - have lower than normal levels of dopamine receptors - and I intuitively believe that to be accurate - as boredom is excessively tortureous to me - unless I am able to effectively self medicate.

SF said at June 17, 2010 8:54 AM:

Views on casual sex may predict views on drug legalization.... But actual behavior may be something else entirely. In "The Marijuana Question," by Helen C Jones, studies are cited showing that marijuana reduces male testosterone production and increases estrogen. And potheads really aren't great conversationalists. Unless they have other alpha characteristics they are likely to be alone a lot. Jones' book is unfortunately out of print, but used copies are available. Most stuff published now is NORML propaganda.

not anon or anonymous said at June 17, 2010 12:21 PM:

bbartlog, most PUAs are hedonistic but not especially thrill-seeking, which is why they would probably dislike the most impulsive kinds of promiscuity and drug use. In fact, many of them don't even drink or smoke, which would make them quite uncool absent their pickup and conversational talents.

Digit said at June 17, 2010 8:12 PM:

Not Anon,

Not drinking or smoking makes you uncool? What is this, fifth grade?

averros said at June 18, 2010 12:28 AM:

Some people are for complete drug legalization simply out of the belief that State has no business telling people what to do with their own bodies - simply because it places the State (or, to be more precise, bureaucrats) into position of slaveowners. With us as slaves.

Besides, in US, federal govt cannot legally pass laws restricting drugs. It is not in the enumerated powers of the feds, per Constitution. The fact that they keep doing all kinds of unconstitutional stuff (like jailing people for selling or using drugs) means that they are not a legitimate government. It is as simple as that.

Randall Parker said at June 18, 2010 6:53 AM:


Some people are statistical outliers.

PacRim Jim said at June 18, 2010 10:03 AM:

This will become mere academic speculation after humans have virtual reality rooms their houses.

not anon or anonymous said at June 18, 2010 12:03 PM:


you've never been around people who regularly drink/smoke/toke up? They might as well be stuck in Kindergarten.

philw1776 said at June 19, 2010 11:13 AM:

Guess I'm yet another statistical outlier. Yet another sociological study of dubious value. Richard Feinman was dead right about the 'soft' sciences.

PacRim Jim said at June 19, 2010 1:52 PM:

Time to start Promiscuity Keepers.

Randall Parker said at June 19, 2010 2:31 PM:

PacRim Jim,

The Congressional Caucus for that movement has a secret membership and its members only make it into the public eye by chance.

Ted Nugent said at July 2, 2010 5:19 PM:

If they smoke, they poke

Mr. Jason Alan Ward said at July 14, 2012 7:20 PM:

We diss' the state for drug laws, but look at the carnage on the roads ? Personally; I can drive when I'm half-cut (provided the windows open just a bit), but I utterly loathe driving while I'm drunk. So; I limit myself to either two J's; or one and an hour or so in the company of others blazing (I'm defo not afraid to cuss' someone for refusing to open a window, when I've got to drive in a bit). But drinking. Nah; I can't stand that. It would have to be a genuine emergency. How can anyone enjoy piloting 2-3 tons of metal down the road, when the road is going from left to right, double then triple ?
No-one has considered feelings of SHAME etc. There's no better way to blot out regret and guilt with a cig or a J.
Alternatively; just get over it (it has to be said).
And fear of a conspiracy to label us/you/them as weak/pathetic etc.
I am weak with women.
And weaker still with cigarettes (not too bad on J's...).
But; without cigs. I get more higher libido, and the whole thing goes around in a circle...

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