Saturday, June 01, 2002
 
The grey, squishy bits
Two views of the workings of the brain, the first an impressive integrative article from 1995 on the Sociobiology of Sociopathy, in which the author examines genetics, sociobiology, game theory and various other interpretations of sociopathy.

And the second, comes from a beset character in Terry Pratchett's The Thief of Time, an Auditor (of reality, as far as I can tell) who has taken human form for infernal purposes - persuading humanity to shoot itself in the collective foot (easy to do), because they really mess up a nice orderly universe - and is finding being enfleshed an unexpected challenge:
The bag of soggy tissue behind the eyes worked away independently of its owner. It took in information from the senses and checked it against memory, and presented opinions. Sometimes the hidden parts of it even fought for control of the mouth! Humans weren't individuals, they were, each one, a committee!

Some of the other members of the committee were dark and red and entirely uncivilized. They had joined the brain before civilization; some of them had got aboard even before humanity. And the bit that did the joined-up thinking had to fight, in the darkness of the brain, to get the casting vote!


This is the book with the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Death, Pestilence, Famine, War ... and Ronnie, who left the group over artistic differences before they became famous), the secret service of the Monks of History, and their gadget-maker Qu (I'm ashamed to say how much of that scene I had to read before I got that and started snickering in the grounds of the Parliament building), and death by chocolate. Susan Sto Helit finally meets a nice boy; being Death's granddaughter does give one certain interpersonal challenges. And it's the mark of the master that a character emerges with a distinctive personality despite a one word vocabulary. SQUEAK.

What is even more impressive is that - in this churn'em up and pulp'em down publishing market, Pratchett's books-in-print list covers TWO PAGES. I can't recall when I last saw an author who had that.



Commentary from Lynda


My Biopsych text would, I think, concur on the whole with the committee bit and the parts that had "joined the brain before civilization". I used to muse, now and then, about how a non-physical intelligence would cope with a body when stuck in one, if it had to manage manually all the things that run on automatic. Back when my fantasy worlds included Zomarians, in high school. :-)


taken from the essay you cite


According to the two-threshold model, those females who do express the trait must have a greater overall "dose" or "genetic load" (i.e, they are further out in the extreme of the normal distribution of genotypes) than most of the males who express the trait. This proposition has been supported by data showing that in addition to the greater overall risk for males as opposed to females, there is a also greater risk for the offspring (and other relatives) of female sociopaths as compared to the offspring (and other relatives) of male sociopaths. This phenomenon cannot be accounted for either by sex-linkage or by the differential experiences of the sexes.


...might make Erien and Amel seem unlikely, presuming Ev'rel's sociopathology was genetically underpinned in the strong, primary sense. I think the following bit is more likely to apply to her.


Secondary sociopaths, on the other hand, are not as genetically predisposed to their behavior; rather, they are more responsive to environmental cues and risk factors, becoming sociopathic "phenocopies" (after Raine 1993) or "mimics" (after Moffitt 1993) when the carrying capacity of the "cheater" niche grows.

Ev'rel decided it was all about winning early on, and lacking the Vrellish skills to succeed adopted a "cheating" strategy of being seen to be honorable rather than worrying about being honorable. The 'carrying capacity' of the niche was pretty big.


Of course our bottom line on many such things is appealing to the artificial nature of the base Sevolite genome. I have always postulated, for example, that Golden Demish males are more sterotypically female, emotionally, than the average guy. Especially the "Golden Souls" descended from the Pureblood Goldens (Family of Light).
They were based on a female model with a male sexual apparatus added back in without, necessarily, all the more sterotypically male features. (Likewise the female Demish being pretty much mentally male with female sexual functionality, although selective pressure would have quickly weeded out clans in which neither females nor their male relatives cared very much about children. Extreme Vrellish spectrum types of either gender are more concerned about their own clan children than the typical human male stereotype (more like a wolf pack), but Vrellish young mature quickly, also.


Lynda





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