Selective Pressure

Note to future self…

I’ve recently found myself noticing when people use this notion of “selective pressure” to explain a phenomenon that’s not directly related to evolutionary theory. I see it being used as a sort of mental model to explain

How can this be useful? Well, if we pay attention we might realize that there a re myriad of external environmental factors that affect our behavior. If we can catch ourselves doing something as a response we got from the environment, we can leverage this situation to either tune out that stimulus (if it encourages negative behavior – eg drinking due to peer pressure) or amplify it (if it encourages positive behavior -eg seeing other people exercise makes me want to exercise).

Next Steps I feel that the next step is to dig deeper and identify and rank the factors that are putting some “selective pressure” on me. I know that two big ones are dating and peers in my field. Another interesting area to explore might be figures of authority (older successful people, etc.) to see how they systematically might push me to behave in a certain way.

The fundamental question is straightforward:

Who do I let put pressure on me in a way that affects my behavior? How is this pressure positive or negative?

After we identify and rank these factors it will be interesting to write a follow up outlining what weight do I believe each factor has in my behavior and whether that should change or not.

Sidnenote: As a young man it’s hard to not recognize the fact that a lot (if not most of what we do) is intended to impress the people that we’re attracted to. We probably don’t seek fame, fortune, prestige and all of its derivatives to just impress one particular person. We probably do it to impress the general pool of people that we might be interested in at any given point in the future. Social signaling at its finest. This is sometimes hard to admit. We want to believe we’re self-actualized beings that care deeply about doing meaningful work, feeling intellectually stimulated and thinking independently. Although these are all true, I think that in public discourse (at least what I see) we still underestimate the role that social signaling plays in our behavior.

That’s it. Now back to work…