Saturday, November 02, 2013

Snakes and human hardwiring

Macaque monkeys seem to have neural circuits specialized to detect snakes in the visual field.   What about humans?  If you look at the references I've posted in the comments on my previous post on this topic,  whatever wiring humans may have (which we cannot poke electrodes into them like we do with monkeys), the effect on human behavior is that they detect threats in the visual field faster than non-threatening items such as flowers, but guns just as fast as snakes (i.e., guns are a recent innovation and could not have influenced human evolution, unlike snakes - yet humans detect each equally fast, and faster than non-threatening items.)

PS: this, IMO, fits in with what I see as Stephen Jay Gould's idea, namely, that evolution took primate features and added a great deal of flexibility to them.  So where maybe apes have circuits honed to detect very specific threats, human brains have circuits that are honed to detect threats, just what threat is rather trainable.