Aug 2nd 2007
From The Economist print edition
GEOFFREY MILLER is a man with a theory that, if true, will change the way people think about themselves. His idea is that the human brain is the anthropoid equivalent of the peacock's tail. In other words, it is an organ designed to attract the opposite sex. Of course, brains have many other functions, and the human brain shares those with the brains of other animals. But Dr Miller, who works at the University of New Mexico, thinks that mental processes which are uniquely human, such as language and the ability to make complicated artefacts, evolved originally for sexual display.
Geoffrey Miller（杰弗里·米勒）这人有一个想法，如果是真的，将会改变人们认识自己的方式。他的理论是，人脑所担当的角色就相当于雄孔雀的尾巴，换句话说，即人脑是用于吸引异性的一个器官。当然，大脑的功能还有很多，而且人脑与其它动物的大脑一样都具备这些功能。但是新墨西哥大学（the University of New Mexico）的Miller博士却认为，人类所特有的智力活动，如语言和复杂的装模作样，最初都是为吸引异性而发展形成。
One important difference between peacocks' tails and human minds, of course, is that the peahen's accoutrement is a drab affair. No one could say the same of the human female psyche. That, Dr Miller believes, is because people, unlike peafowl, bring up their offspring in families where both sexes are involved in parenting. It thus behoves a man to be as careful about choosing his wife as a woman is about choosing her husband.
Both sexes, therefore, have reason to show off. But men and women will have different criteria for making their choices, and so the sexual-display sides of their minds may differ in detail.
Testing this hypothesis will be a long haul. But in a paper he has just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in collaboration with Vladas Griskevicius of Arizona State University, Dr Miller goes some way towards it. He, Dr Griskevicius and their colleagues look into two activities—conspicuous consumption and altruism towards strangers—to see if these support the “mating mind” hypothesis, as Dr Miller has dubbed his idea. Their conclusion is that they do.
Altruism, according to the text books, has two forms. One is known technically as kin selection, and familiarly as nepotism. This spreads an individual's genes collaterally, rather than directly, but is otherwise similar to his helping his own offspring. The second form is reciprocal altruism, or “you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours”. It relies on trust, and a good memory for favours given and received, but is otherwise not much different from simultaneous collaboration (such as a wolf pack hunting) in that the benefit exceeds the cost for all parties involved.
根 据书本上的解释，利他主义有两种表现形式。一种在理论上被称为亲戚选择，即俗称的裙带关系，它可以间接而非直接地传播某一个体的遗传基因，不过在其它方面 来看又类似于帮助自己的子孙。第二种形式是互惠利他主义，即“你帮我，我也帮你”，它建立在信任的基础上，并且需要牢牢记住自己所施和所受的恩惠，而在其 它方面则与联合协作（如狼在追逐猎物时采取的群狼战术）相差无几，两者都是所获利益超过了各方付出的成本。
Humans, however, show a third sort of altruism—one that has no obvious pay-off. This is altruism towards strangers, for example, charity. That may enhance reputation. But how does an enhanced reputation weigh in the Darwinian balance?
To investigate this question, the researchers made an interesting link. At first sight, helping charities looks to be at the opposite end of the selfishness spectrum from conspicuous consumption. Yet they have something in common: both involve the profligate deployment of resources.
That is characteristic of the consequences of sexual selection. An individual shows he (or she) has resources to burn—whether those are biochemical reserves, time or, in the human instance, money—by using them to make costly signals. That demonstrates underlying fitness of the sort favoured by evolution. Viewed this way, both conspicuous consumption and what the researchers call “blatant benevolence” are costly signals. And since they are behaviours rather than structures, and thus controlled by the brain, they may be part of the mating mind.
这 是性别选择结果的一个典型特征。一个人要炫耀自己有很多资源可以消耗——不论是生物化学类的物质储备如时间，还是人类的物质财富如金钱——都是要花费这些 资源付出昂贵的代价来表现自己，这也证明了进化过程中生存下来的物种要具有潜在的适应能力。如此看来，炫耀性消费和研究人员所称的“显耀的善举”都是代价 昂贵的表现行为，而且由于这些是人类的行为而非身体的组织器官，所以都是受大脑控制的，因而也就成为配对意识的一部分。
There is, of course, a lot of evidence for the first part of this conjecture. Everybody knows that fast cars attract fast women. The second, though, may come as a surprise. So the team did an experiment to compare them.
They divided a bunch of volunteers into two groups. Those in one were put into what the researchers hoped would be a “romantic mindset” by being shown pictures of attractive members of the opposite sex. They were each asked to write a description of a perfect date with one of these people. The unlucky members of the other group were shown pictures of buildings and told to write about the weather.
The participants were then asked two things. The first was to imagine they had $5,000 in the bank. They could spend part or all of it on various luxury items such as a new car, a dinner party at a restaurant or a holiday in Europe. They were also asked what fraction of a hypothetical 60 hours of leisure time during the course of a month they would devote to volunteer work.
The results were just what the researchers hoped for. In the romantically primed group, the men went wild with the Monopoly money. Conversely, the women volunteered their lives away. Those women continued, however, to be skinflints, and the men remained callously indifferent to those less fortunate than themselves. Meanwhile, in the other group there was little inclination either to profligate spending or to good works. Based on this result, it looks as though the sexes do, indeed, have different strategies for showing off. Moreover, they do not waste their resources by behaving like that all the time. Only when it counts sexually are men profligate and women helpful.
得 出的结论正是研究人员所希望看到的。在浪漫意识培训组中，男性都狂热地挥霍这笔能够独占的财富；相反，女性则志愿牺牲自己的生活。不过这些女性继续做着吝 啬鬼，而男性则依然对那些没有他们富裕的人冷漠无情。与此同时，另一组则对挥霍性消费或义务工作没有什么倾向。根据这一结论，似乎两种性别确实对做秀采取 了不同的策略，而且，他们并不会一直肆意消耗所拥有的资源，而是在有利于吸引异性时，男性才会恣意挥霍，而女性才会热心公益。
That result was confirmed by the second experiment which, instead of looking at the amount of spending and volunteering, looked at how conspicuous it was. After all, there is little point in producing a costly signal if no one sees it.
As predicted, romantically primed men wanted to buy items that they could wear or drive, rather than things to be kept at home. Their motive, therefore, was not mere acquisitiveness. Similarly, romantically primed women volunteered for activities such as working in a shelter for the homeless, rather than spending an afternoon alone picking up rubbish in a park. For both sexes, however, those in an unromantic mood were indifferent to the public visibility of their choices.
正 如大家所预料的，浪漫思想的男性希望购买可以穿或用的东西，而不是只为放在家里做摆设，因此他们的动机就不仅仅是占有。同样，浪漫思想的女性会从事一些义 务工作，如在庇护所里帮助那些无家可归的人，但不愿意整个下午一个人在公园里捡垃圾。然而对于那些没有浪漫意识的人来说，无论男女，都认为其行为的公众吸 引力是无关紧要的。
These two studies support the idea, familiar from everyday life, that what women want in a partner is material support while men require self-sacrifice. Conspicuous consumption allows men to demonstrate the former. Blatant benevolence allows women to demonstrate the latter. There is, however, a confounding observation. The most blatant benevolence of all, that of billionaires giving away their fortunes and heroes giving away (or at least risking) their lives, is almost entirely a male phenomenon.
这 两项研究支持了一种观点，即同日常生活中大家所熟知的一样，女性对伴侣要求的是物质上的支持，而男性需要的是自我牺牲。炫耀性消费让男性展示了物质方面的 能力，而显耀的善举则令女性表现出自我牺牲的精神。不过研究人员在其中也观察到了一个令人困惑的现象，最炫耀性的捐助和付出，如亿万富翁拿出自己的巨额财 产，或者英雄献出了自己的生命（或至少冒着生命危险），几乎都是男性所为。
To examine this, the team did another experiment. They found that when requests for benevolence were financial, rather than time-consuming, romantically primed men were happy to chip in extravagantly. Giving money to charity is thus more akin to conspicuous consumption than it is to blatant benevolence. The primed men were also willing (or at least said they were willing) to act heroically as well as spend—but only if the action suggested was life-threatening. Women, romantically primed or not, weren't.
为 了研究这一点，研究人员做了另一个试验。他们发现当慈善行为要求付出的是金钱而非时间时，那些浪漫思想的男性都会很热衷地大肆捐助。因此拿金钱做慈善更象 炫耀性消费而非显耀的善举。这些男性同样愿意（或者至少说他们会愿意）象花钱一样干出一些英雄行为——不过仅当这些行为没有生命危险的时候。而女性，无论 是否具有浪漫思想，都不会这样做。
Heroism, of course, is a pretty high-risk strategy. But if you survive, you really have proved the quality of your genes. As the old saw has it, faint heart never won fair lady. On the other hand a soft heart, it appears, wins a gentleman.