Tuesday, July 19

Where You're Not Quite On Top

This paper has been making the rounds, unsurprisingly, given its featured status in Science and the fact that it was picked up by the New York Times.

Baboon Study Shows Benefits for Nice Guys, Who Finish 2nd

From the wild to Wall Street, as everyone knows, the alpha male runs the show, enjoying power over other males and, as a field biologist might put it, the best access to mating opportunities.

The beta is No. 2 in the wolf pack or the baboon troop, not such a bad position. But conversationally, the term has become an almost derisive label for the nice guy, the good boy all grown up, the husband women look for after the fling with Russell Crowe.

It may now be time to take a step back from alpha worship. Field biologists, the people who gave the culture the alpha/beta trope in the first place, have found there can be a big downside to being No. 1.

I don't mean to imply that the paper is bad by asking this, but how exactly does the New York Times decide what to write up in their science section? I suppose a great deal of it must be author dependant, like this one by Nicholas Wade, which was clearly a topic which he would choose to write about.
The paper is a great media story, too, since it addresses a controversial issue, and manages to get into the human element of the back and forth rhetoric between Stephen Jay Gould and... well, a lot of people in paleoanthropology.

Enjoy the read. It covers a lot of old and new ground about what may and may not cause stress among primates from all walks of life, who have achieved varied levels of success. If you're trying to figure out how stressed you are and what personality type you are, you're probably still better off getting some old fashioned tests.

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