Monday, 9 July 2007

Bill Gates, Paul McCartney and criminals.

Today, just for something different, I have taken four parts of a Psychology Today article and carried a common theme across all four of my blogs. And that theme is psychology, evolution and human behaviour.

And none of it is politically correct. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals

For nearly a quarter of a century, criminologists have known about the "age-crime curve." In every society at all historical times, the tendency to commit crimes and other risk-taking behavior rapidly increases in early adolescence, peaks in late adolescence and early adulthood, rapidly decreases throughout the 20s and 30s, and levels off in middle age.

This curve is not limited to crime. The same age profile characterizes every quantifiable human behaviour that is public (i.e., perceived by many potential mates) and costly (i.e., not affordable by all sexual competitors). The relationship between age and productivity among male jazz musicians, male painters, male writers, and male scientists—which might be called the "age-genius curve"—is essentially the same as the age-crime curve. Their productivity—the expressions of their genius—quickly peaks in early adulthood, and then equally quickly declines throughout adulthood. The age-genius curve among their female counterparts is much less pronounced; it does not peak or vary as much as a function of age.

Paul McCartney has not written a hit song in years, and now spends much of his time painting. Bill Gates is now a respectable businessman and philanthropist, and is no longer a computer whiz kid. J.D. Salinger now lives as a total recluse and has not published anything in more than three decades. Orson Welles was a mere 26 when he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane.

A single theory can explain the productivity of both creative geniuses and criminals over the life course: Both crime and genius are expressions of young men's competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success.

In the physical competition for mates, those who are competitive may act violently toward their male rivals. Men who are less inclined toward crime and violence may express their competitiveness through their creative activities.

The cost of competition, however, rises dramatically when a man has children, when his energies and resources are put to better use protecting and investing in them. The birth of the first child usually occurs several years after puberty because men need some time to accumulate sufficient resources and attain sufficient status to attract their first mate. There is therefore a gap of several years between the rapid rise in the benefits of competition and similarly rapid rise in its costs. Productivity rapidly declines in late adulthood as the costs of competition rise and cancel its benefits.

These calculations have been performed by natural and sexual selection, so to speak, which then equips male brains with a psychological mechanism to incline them to be increasingly competitive immediately after puberty and make them less competitive right after the birth of their first child. Men simply do not feel like acting violently, stealing, or conducting additional scientific experiments, or they just want to settle down after the birth of their child but they do not know exactly why.

The similarity between Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, and criminals—in fact, among all men throughout evolutionary history—points to an important concept in evolutionary biology: female choice.

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.


  1. goodness, what a waste, when all you needed to do was open the jar cover, please...

  2. saying it once isn't enough... think meg ryan, harry met sally scene...

  3. Oh I knew it would all be our fault in the end...
    Paul M. has certainly produced some fairly criminal records in his later years.
    Can I do that last meme you got from Hann?

  4. Of course Lucy!

    I, Lee Kennedy, with the powers invested in me by the great spirit of Blogdom, do hereby tag...Lucy!

  5. y'know what an interesting study might be? (this coming from a contrary bit of business like me)

    I read your piece with interest, and who's face shows up in my head?
    and that led to Leonard Bernstein.
    which brought up visions of Carl Sandburg.
    You also are of the exceptional type, eh? Starting the psyche biz at 51.
    Me? I was ten years past m'daughter's birth when I decided I was going to be a professional artist. (anyday now, I expect THAT to kick in)

    Anyway, I've always driven teachers nuts with my finding the exceptions to their statements.
    Then, I wonder...if there are a lot of exceptions... does that make a theory softer? (hey, softer is as subjective as it gets, but fer a nut like me, it's a sure fit)

    Old people who still get things done, still reaching for the brass ring, as it were.
    Mr. Kennedy? (I couldn't help m'self at that one...)

    I'm not denouncing the findings at all, but rather, it's the exceptions that are intersting.
    They made MAJOR changes to the whole world.

  6. Aren't they taking a long time to learn that all they have to do is ask very nicely....

  7. Very interesting finding. I know Stephen Biddulph in his books recommend that one should get boys in the teenager years active with rock bands or sport so they can get all that competitiveness and creativity out of them in a positive way.
    I wonder if he read this findings. I'll teach my boys just to ask! LOL

  8. Theoretically then, the more women say no, the higher the striving should be to impress.
    And it would follow, that the greatest achievments must all be because some woman said no!

  9. Testosterone and hormones are raging in the younger persons...they settle down with age...perhaps! Plus men are putty in the hands of of all when men get older they get their priorities into order (or they should)...and they concentrate more on their women than going off to fight wars, compose hit singles and are more concerned about their own "software"! ;)

  10. All these for women and sex?

  11. well, at least you have confirmed one commonly held generalization/characterization/stereotype: guys think everything revolves around sex and see women as nothing but creatures that exist in order to gratify that , um, need. In other words, if it weren't for the male sex drive, we would all still be in caves.

  12. it's almost like I got a 'new hat" and I'm goin' 'round showing it off.

    Talk about our "man on the street" kind'a folks.


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