Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Evolutionary Psyc and the Internet

Using the internet further your relationship via dating or even social network "stalking" is big and getting bigger. According to Socialnomics, 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met through social media websites, and as of 2008 social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web.

Although the medium has changed, there are more similarities between our interactions online and in the real world than you might assume. For example, male college students edit their communications more (i.e., have more insertions, deletions, and backspaces) when they think they are typing a message online to females of the same age (49.50 +/- 24.72) rather than other males (24.00 +/- 16.15). Likewise females edit their communications more when talking to males of the same age (70.00 +/- 42.12) rather than other females (16.80 +/- 31.5, see Walter 2007, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2006.05.002 for the study). Plus, online daters value physical attractiveness in a partner just as much as offline ones.

Besides dating, evolutionary psyc might help to explain the online disinhibition effect. In the tribes of 150 close-knit people that humans have spent most of their evolutionary history, guarding your reputation was huge because everyone knew one another and gossip was commonplace. Piazza and Bering (2009, see doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.07.002) argue that without human eyes, voice, and faces, the urge to behave altruistically and conceal secrets that developed due to our evolutionary history will be lost.

Robin Hanson thinks that what makes our era unique is that talking to other people who can talk is as easy as it will ever be. This implies that if humans will ever be able to destroy the in group / out group mentality, it will be now. Let the great social experiment begin.