Evolution is great; It has brought humanity to the very top of the food chain and asserted our complete dominance over this planet. Unfortunately, it has also made our minds and bodies extremely ill-suited for life in our modern society.
These are 10 ways evolution screwed you over and made your entire life an uphill battle.
1. Your body craves everything unhealthy
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to stop craving delicious, unhealthy snacks? No, it’s not because you’re weak – it’s because evolution made you that way.
You see, your brain developed during a time when food was often scarce, so at the times when food was abundant, your brain compelled you to eat as much as possible to prepare for the inevitable upcoming period of starvation. And you know what’s good for preparing for tough times? Fat and sugar.
Unfortunately, the situation has changed, and our brains haven’t kept up. We now have unlimited access to this fatty and sugary deliciousness, but our brains don’t know this – they still think food might run out at any moment, so they compel you to stuff your face with as much fat and carbs as you possibly can!
2. Any awkward situation becomes a downward spiral of awfulness
I know you’ve been there; you’ve done something stupid and find yourself trapped in an awkward situation. Your brain completely stops working, your armpits start to sweat uncontrollably, and your face is doing its best tomato impression. You can’t help but notice that none of this is very helpful to the situation.
Well you can thank evolution for this awfulness, as this is just your body’s natural way of dealing with perceived threats. It increases blood pressure, making you blush and sweat, and diverts blood from your brain to focus all your energy on your natural fight or flight response.
Great for surviving in the wild; not so great when you’re holding a presentation in front of your entire class.
3. Your prehistoric brain makes you easy to manipulate
Humans never needed critical thinking to survive in the past – we just needed quick thought processes that would keep us alive for another day. This means our decision-making tends to be based on emotions and automatic responses, all of which are easily manipulated.
Advertisers, sales people and con artists all know how these psychological traits work and how to take advantage of them. It’s why we’re so greatly affected by commercials and sales tricks, and so easily manipulated by scammers.
4. You are inherently afraid of crowds
Most people tend to feel a bit uneasy when they’re around big groups of strangers – especially if they happen to attract the attention of those strangers. This is because the whole “meeting strangers” thing is a relatively new concept to our prehistoric brains.
When our brains developed, we lived in small tribes where we already knew every member. The only times you’d meet strangers back then was when your tribe ran into another tribe, which (surprise!) often ended in one tribe murdering the other. No wonder you have an inclination to feel nervous around big groups of strangers!
5. You suck at long-term planning
Let’s face it: we all suck at long-term planning. We’re much more likely to make decisions based on the short-term gains rather than the long-term benefits.
This is because the opportunity to do long-term thinking is a rather new concept. For the bigger part of our species’ existence, it was all about living in the moment (and not the “enjoying life” kind of living in the moment, but the “live in the moment or you will get eaten” kind). Long-term thinking simply wasn’t practical for our survival, so we never evolved an inclination for it.
6. You are inherently irrational
There you are again, having made another stupid decision in the heat of the moment, and you wonder why the hell you can’t seem to make good, rational decisions based on logic!
It’s probably because you were never designed to.
It takes time to make logical, thought-through decisions – time which our ancestors simply didn’t have. While our species evolved, it didn’t matter if we had all the information, or made the very best decisions. We just had to make a decent decision fast. And so we turned to our emotions and developed automatic thinking patterns which were usually right.
Unfortunately, the situation has changed, but our irrational decision making has not.
7. You’re afraid of talking to the opposite sex
When our species developed, humans lived in small tribes, where competition over girls was often tough. And by “tough” I mean “you’d get your head smashed in with a rock if you talked to a girl who was spoken for.” No wonder we evolved to be a little apprehensive of approaching girls!
And even though you most likely won’t get our head smashed in for talking to that pretty girl in the bookstore, that same fear is still keeping you hopelessly single to this day!
8. Your body is ill-suited for your lifestyle
Do you think your body evolved to support a lifestyle of working at a desk for hours on end and regularly stuffing your face with pizza and hamburgers? Think again.
Your back aches from sitting still too much, you’re constantly tired because of unnatural sleep patterns and your heart is about to give up in the fight against your cholesterol. Your body just hasn’t evolved to put up with your current lifestyle.
9. You have a natural resistance to exercise
Why is it that most people have to force themselves to use that gym membership they got for Christmas? You’d think we would have evolved to have a natural desire for taking care of ourselves –that we should want to do what’s good for us.
Well, we actually did.
Except, what used to be good for us isn’t that great anymore. Back when we evolved, humans were always on the move in order to survive, and food wasn’t exactly abundant. So we evolved a natural desire to preserve as much energy as possible, which meant doing no hard work unless it was necessary for our survival.
Unfortunately, the situation has changed a bit, and we don’t need to hunt down our food anymore. And seeing how our survival needs are met, all physical exercise becomes abundant, and our natural desire to not waste energy kicks in.
10. You are evolved to not be a leader
In the tribes our ancestors lived in, there wasn’t room for too many leaders. An effective tribe (read: a surviving tribe) naturally had one leader and a lot of followers. Those tribes with too many leaders usually suffered from internal fighting, which led to less chance of survival.
So naturally, humanity evolved to produce a majority of natural followers, and only a few leaders. Great for the cavemen – not so great for your odds of ever becoming a great leader!
So the next time you embarrass yourself in public, consume an entire pint of ice cream or make a dumb decision, remember to thank your good friend Evolution!