Two Types Of Primates

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not.

Robert Benchley, Vanity Fair, February 1920

Two types of the best first impression

Sometimes, when trying to make the best first impression, we forget to consider the individuality of the person we are trying to impress. This is a mistake: we all look for what we don’t have, and cannot be impressed by something we have in abundance.

Mae West (1892-1980), promotional photo for 'She Done Him Wrong', 1933
Mae West (1892-1980), promotional photo for 'She Done Him Wrong', 1933
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Mae West Lips sofa, Edward James (sofa), Salvador Dalí (painting of Mae West the design is based on), 1938, now in Victoria and Albert museum, London
Mae West Lips sofa, Edward James (sofa), Salvador Dalí (painting of Mae West the design is based on), 1938, now in Victoria and Albert museum, London
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Thus, there is more than ‘one type’ the best first impression. If not one, then maybe there two types? This might sound a bit simplistic, but it is a great improvement on “all men/women/Asians/blondes prefer” fallacies. The easiest way to explain it is by an example. Mae West, one of the first stars of Hollywood, has described her two types in an interview as follows:

There’s a lot of difference in the way you’ve got to treat men. It’s a game, and you’ve got to know the rules…

If a man is conceited, if he thinks every woman is ready to fall for him, I’m mean to him… I never even glance in his direction…

But if a man is very shy and self-conscious and timid, you’ve got to act different. When a man like that is around me, I always make a fuss over him. If he’s got some defect, for instance, or something he’s self-conscious about, I always make it a point to flatter him about that very thing.

Remarkably, many animals have somewhat similar “types” differentiation: some are yearning to conquer or be conquered, whereas others prefer to be treated nicely. The difference, as we will see later, is that the animals’ type is mostly pre-determined, whereas for humans it is more complicated.

Table Of Contents

Two types of primates

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Characteristics Tournament
Species
Pair-bonding
Species
♂/♀ Skull Ratio
Male Aggression ↑↑↑
Male Reproduction
Rate Variability
↑↑↑
Male Parental
Behaviour
↑↑↑
Preferences
of Females
Big and powerful Parental skills
Shorter Lifespan
for Males
↑↑ =
Twinning 1%
Abandonment of Children
By Females
Typical Behaviour

The difference (or similarity) between male and female skull sizes can give a lot of insight into gender relationships of a primate species. Typically,

  • primates with a large differential are the tournament species,
  • primates with very similar skull sizes are the pair-bonding species.

We can draw several relationship-related predictions based on the comparison of the skull sizes – they are in the table next to this paragraph.

These observations come from one of Professor Robert Sapolsky‘s Stanford lectures on evolutionary biology:

Three types of lizards

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Common side-blotched lizard, native to dry regions of the Western United States and northern Mexico, is notable for having a unique form of polymorphism wherein each of the three different male morphs utilizes a different strategy in acquiring mates.

  • Orange-throated males are “ultra-dominant” (tournament type). They are the largest and most aggressive morph, defending relatively large territories and keeping harems of females with which they mate. They are adept at stealing mates from blue-throated individuals, but are vulnerable to cuckoldry by the yellow-throated female mimics. Orange-throated males also have significantly reduced yearly survival rates compared to the other two morphs.
  • Blue-throated males are “dominant” (pair-bonding type). They are intermediate in size and guard smaller territories containing only a single female. As they only have one mate to defend, they are better at catching yellow-throated sneakers, but are also susceptible to having their mates stolen by the larger, more aggressive orange-throated males. They co-operate with other blue-throated lizards to defend against the intruders; some even give their lives for their mates.
  • Yellow-throated males are “sneakers”: they rely on their mimicry of females’ appearance and behaviour to sneak matings with unattended females. If there are few blue-throated males in the neighbourhood, a yellow-throated male can transform itself into a blue-throated male.

All three species exist in a dynamic equilibrium that is often likened to the game of rock–paper–scissors:


The narration is somewhat misleading: it is very possible to explain the ‘altruism’ of blue-throated lizards within the Darwinian evolutionary framework, see Kin selection… Sometimes you can see a very clear analogy in humans.

Rory Stewart (right): 'Fundamental issue here is that there's a competition of machismo'. <br>British Conservative party leadership debate, June 2019
Rory Stewart (right): 'Fundamental issue here is that there's a competition of machismo'.
British Conservative party leadership debate, June 2019
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What about humans?

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What Do Hard-To-Get’s Want?

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According to Professor Sapolsky, humans are very much in between. However, many of us lean towards one or another type. I came across two sources that allow juxtaposing (in the rough first approximation) the two types when applied to hard-to-get individuals.

Tournament type (with pictures)

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Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone with the Wind', 1936 novel, 1939 film
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone with the Wind', 1936 novel, 1939 film
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George Lazenby as James Bond in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', 1969
George Lazenby as James Bond in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', 1969
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Marlo Manners (Mae West), scene from 'Sextette', 1977
Marlo Manners (Mae West), scene from 'Sextette', 1977
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Hugh Hefner with two bunnies at the Playboy Mansion, 2003
Hugh Hefner with two bunnies at the Playboy Mansion, 2003
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Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa (2009-18) with his three wives, 2009
Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa (2009-18) with his three wives, 2009
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David Hasselhoff, ABC's 'Dancing With The Stars' TV show, 2010
David Hasselhoff, ABC's 'Dancing With The Stars' TV show, 2010
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Nicki Minaj Victoria Secret Fashion Show Performance, 2011
Nicki Minaj Victoria Secret Fashion Show Performance, 2011
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Madonna performs 'Living for Love' at the Grammys, 2015
Madonna performs 'Living for Love' at the Grammys, 2015
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Photo of a 'palm' by @danbilzerian at instagram.com, 2019
Photo of a 'palm' by @danbilzerian at instagram.com, 2019
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Vladimir Putin and Russian gymnasts, 2019, Moscow, Russia
Vladimir Putin and Russian gymnasts,
2019, Moscow, Russia
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Based on Faye Flam‘s The Score, a fail-proof method of picking up a very attractive woman in a nightclub requires, among other actions,

  • ignoring her,
  • flirting with her friends,
  • being mildly rude if she addresses you.

It might seem odd that such behaviour could be viewed as attractive. However, the explanation is easy. The logic behind it is as follows: “If he does not care about someone as high-ranking as me, he ought to be very popular, strong and powerful indeed!”

The other possibility is that it is a behavioural difference that makes the “ignoring” men stand out. This is probably Scarlett O'Hara was pursuing Ashley Wilkes, the only man in her social circle who was immune to her charms.

Mae West was using a similar approach to attract very confident men: “… If a man is conceited, if he’s like these movie actors who’ve had such a big fuss made over over them and think every woman is ready to fall for them,

  • I’m mean to them.
  • I pretend not to know they’re in the same room with me.
  • I never even glance in their direction.
  • I know ’em one day and the next day I don’t recognize ’em.

… He was a very important man and everyone was after him. I went to his office one day with another girl, who wanted him to put an act on for her. While she was talking her head off to him, I sat down in a chair, turned it around so my back was to him and – went to sleep. I hadn’t said a word to him – just ‘howjado’ when I first came in. When the other girl was ready to go, she had to wake me up and I just strolled out slow, like this, and drawled. ‘Er, goo-by.’ I’d just got back to my hotel when he telephoned me and asked me out to dinner. The end of that story is that he put an act on for me and he didn’t put the act on for the other girl.”

This roughly corresponds to the “big and powerful” tournament type discussed in Apes section, to orange-throated lizards, to the James Bond universe and to Brad Pitt’s character in Seven Years in Tibet (1997 film) (see below).

If you are interested to learn more about the night clubs women pick-up techniques, Faye Flam recommends The Game: Undercover in the secret society of pickup artists and The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed.

Pair-bonding type (with pictures)

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On the other hand, based on “We all look for what we don’t have” principle, most successful females (those who have their tournaments and winning them) ought to belong to the pair-bonding type.

Portia (Lynn Collins) and Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), scene from 'The Merchant of Venice', 1596-9 play, 2004 film
Portia (Lynn Collins) and Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), scene from 'The Merchant of Venice', 1596-9 play, 2004 film
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Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton and Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in 'Gone with the Wind', 1936 novel, 1939 film
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton and Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in 'Gone with the Wind', 1936 novel, 1939 film
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Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), scene from 'Bonnie and Clyde', 1967
Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), scene from 'Bonnie and Clyde', 1967
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Marty Mcfly (Michael J. Fox) and Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells), scene from 'Back to the Future', 1985
Marty Mcfly (Michael J. Fox) and Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells), scene from 'Back to the Future', 1985
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Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) and Yvaine (Claire Danes), scene from 'Stardust', 1997 novel, 2007 film
Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) and Yvaine (Claire Danes), scene from 'Stardust', 1997 novel, 2007 film
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Michelle and Barack Obama as his first Presidential inauguration, 2009
Michelle and Barack Obama as his first Presidential inauguration, 2009
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Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), promotional photo for 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', 2016
Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), promotional photo for 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', 2016
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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas attend the Met Gala, 2017, New York City
Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas attend the Met Gala,
2017, New York City
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This BBC article gives an insight into what skills and qualities that have added value for these women:

  • stimulating conversations,
  • attentive charm,
  • humour,
  • matching (as opposed to being dominated by) success and financial security.

This roughly corresponds to the “parental skills” pair-bonding type discussed in Apes section, to blue-throated lizards, to the Wes Andersen universe and to the luckier friend of Brad Pitt’s character in Seven Years in Tibet (1997 film) (see below).

Unlike the tournament type women, the rudeness, displays of attention to other women, being pushed around and peacock-style communication (as opposed to talking about the others and asking questions) style would be eliminating. Given the under-supply of men of this type, there could be some compromise of career and financial requirements. Obviously, the night clubs and other venues with high levels of background noise are not suitable to carry out such assessment.

Which type is better?

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Presumably, from the objective point of view, all types must be equally good. Otherwise, one would have been eliminated in the course of evolution! The tournament type might appear more desirable, at least based on cinematic stereotypes. However, this is a high-pressure high-differential category. Being of a pair-bonding type(s) is less eventful, but more age-proof and leaves time for other pursuits.

Promotional poster for 'Live and Let Die', the 8th Bond movie
Promotional poster for 'Live and Let Die', the 8th Bond movie
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We could try and gauge the popularity of the types using the movies. Let’s assume that the tournament type corresponds to classical James Bond‘s universe, and the pair-bonding type corresponds to Wes Anderson‘s universe. Quite unexpectedly, Wes Anderson’s universe is slightly ahead in all measures: the ratings, the popularity (both number of votes and box office revenues) and the number of Oscars (Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has got 4, and all James Bond movies have 3 Oscars in total).

Is the type pre-determined?

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From a subjective point of view, the appeal of these types is often very unequal. Oftentimes, three different forces influence our view on the subject. If their suggestions are conflicting, it is easy to get confused.

Environment

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Firstly, our environment (family, friends, media, art etc.) often tries to convince us to align the preferences.

The most important influence is, of course, the family: the parents, and the older generation, also the siblings, cousins etc. As Carl Jung has put it in
“The Development of Personality”, page 43,

What usually has the strongest psychic effect on the child is the life which the parents (and ancestors too) have not lived… That part of their lives which might have been lived had not certain somewhat threadbare excuses prevented the parents from doing so.

And, of course, the culture in general can have a very strong influence, too:

'You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life while we admire the man who abandons his ego.'

Genes

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Highly social and monogamous prairie voles (consolation display)
Highly social and monogamous prairie voles (consolation display)
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Secondly, it is possible that the preference between the “quantity” and the “quality” is very much influenced by the number of vasopressin and oxytocin receptors in our brain, as opposed to being up to our free will – this is the contribution of genes. This has not been confirmed on humans though, only on voles: notoriously promiscuous male meadow voles and partner-for-life male prairie voles. The scientists were adding vasopressin and oxytocin receptors to male meadow voles and blocking vasopressin and oxytocin receptors of male prairie voles. The result was the complete voles’ behaviour switch: meadow voles became faithful and parental while the meadow voles became promiscuous… See this, this and this research papers for the detailed explanations.

We could conclude that the pursuit of happiness requires aligning your preferences with your hormones.

Life Experience

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Thirdly, our life experience can affect our preferences. A famous example is an heiress Kate Rothschild, who started by marrying her peer Ben Goldsmith. Then, in her quest for being “normal”, started to date musicians, then moved on to date a very respectable entrepreneur.

Physical Appearance

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However, unlike animals, humans’ physical appearance does not define the type. As some researchers have demonstrated, there might be a correlation. However, there are other studies that demonstrate the exact opposite! Indeed, we could recall the Napoleon complex. It is a derogatory term, and there is no cause-effect link, but is also backed up with some respectable scientific studies. It would be interesting to make sense of these contradictory results. In the meantime, it seems preferable to assume that there is no cause-effect link.

Roger Moore seems to disprove the link between the physical size and the penchant for physical dominance. He is best known for his portrayal of James Bond in seven feature films from 1973 to 1985. He definitely looks like a quintessential alpha male. However, in real life, Sir Roger Moore was not using his physical strength in the way he was in his on-screen action scenes. As his personal friend Michael Caine recalls: “I remember one day I said him: ‘You’re gonna watch the Muhammad Ali fight’, and he grew quite violent. Funnily enough, about boxing, he said ‘I hate boxing! I hate anything to do with physical violence!’ It was the only time I have ever seen him being violent. Telling me how violent he wasn’t”:

'I hate boxing! I hate anything to do with physical violence!' - Roger Moore

Likewise, Brad Pitt is known to be very parental.

Determine one’s type using a few indirect questions

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As with most sociological studies, asking a direct question could yield the wrong answer. Same goes for the questions about the importance of money, career and the number of partners, likes or followers. However, here are a few indirect questions that can yield a more reliable response.

  1. How often do your favourite movies change? Do you still like those that you saw when you were a teenager or do they change every few years or so?
  2. Do you prefer the more recent James Bond movies or the older ones? If you had to choose, which ones you would like to a part of?
  3. Do you prefer Wes Anderson’s movies or James Bond movies? If you had to choose, which ones you would like to a part of?
  4. Do you prefer the “red bus tours”/”must-do Instagram experiences” in as may travel destinations as possible, or you prefer to return to your favourite places?
  5. If you get to choose, do you like to try out new restaurants/clubs, or do you prefer to return to the familiar ones?
  6. Do you enjoy watching boxing, corrida etc., or not really?
  7. When watching sports, do you feel negative about the opponents of the team you are supporting, and about the other team’s supporters, or not really?
  8. If you have been watching the last few episodes of the Game of Thrones, do you think Daenerys Targaryen was right to burn down the King’s Landing, or not really?
  9. Do you have friends (not family/ethnic group if minority members) who can act against their self-interest, without expecting any direct reward, to help you out, or not really?
  10. Have you ever helped someone who is your not family (or ethnic group if minority) member when was going against your self-interest, without expecting any direct reward, or not really?

The “former” answers to questions 1., 2., 3., 6., 7. and 8. and the “latter” answers to questions 4., 5., 9. and 10. indicate the preference for tournament type. The “latter” answers to questions 1., 2., 3., 6., 7. and 8., and the “former” answers to questions 4., 5., 9. and 10. indicate the preference for tournament type. This is very indicative of course, but, hopefully, the idea is clear.

Is it that simple?

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The subdivision into two categories or three is, of course, very simplistic. But certainly helps to see that there is more than one way to succeed! Once it is presented, it is hard to resist presenting some intermediate cases and exceptions. We all certainly know many exceptions (misfits?) in the human domain. Let us take a look at Florentino Ariza, a character of Love in the Time of Cholera created by Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, when he explains his success with women to his friend:

Ricardo Lighthouse: Why are you so successful with women?
Florentino Ariza: Um… because they see in me someone… guilty. In need of love. Someone who will not harm them. Hmmph. My heart has more rooms than a whore house, Ricardo.
Ricardo Lighthouse: What number are you on now?
Florentino Ariza: Prepare yourself for a shock. I’m on number 622.
Ricardo Lighthouse: Impossible.
Florentino Ariza: I speak the truth – 622.

Yet he is definitely not a tournament type… Humans are decidedly very confusing. Let’s move on to the world of animals.

The chimpanzee males and females have the skulls of almost the same size, yet chimpanzee males have a strong social ranking system, and the fathers don’t help with nursing their children. See Jane Goodall’s Institute “ALL ABOUT CHIMPANZEE DADS” for more on that. However, unlike the gorillas, chimpanzees females are allowed to mate with lower-ranking males, which makes male reproduction success less skewed. In addition, uncertainty about the paternity saves infant chimps from the risk of infanticide, thus allowing them to live in community:

Also, the tournament species don’t necessarily engage in tournaments per se, their competition can take a form of a beauty contest when they are being inspected by a female. This is the case with the birds of paradise for example:

Last but not least, there are species where single mums bring up more than one child. One example is cheetahs, where females of reproductive age are always solitary and have litters of three to six cubs. The other example is armadillos, who always have identical quadruplets, despite being a solitary animal:

Additional information

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If you want to know more about Mae West, this video is a good place to start:

'Well, when I am good, I am very good, but when I am bad, I am better!' - Mae West

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