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Old 28th January 2009, 10:49 PM   #1
learner
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Blushing

I just caught the end of a report on radio 5 (UK) claiming that humans being are the only animals that blush, and that the reason for blushing being unknown is a serious hole in the theory of evolution. The guest professor ( didn't catch his name) seemed to exclude blushing as a human to human(s) facial signal on the basis that we can blush when alone and that people born blind also blush.

Neither reason seems to me to exclude it as a signal. similarly to male nipples having no pressure to be selected out, blushing when alone, may also, simply have no pressure to be selected out.
As for blind people blushing being a supposed problem, well I just don't get that, They do all the other facial signals as far as I am aware. Why not blush.

Any thoughts? seems like no problems to me.
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Last edited by learner; 28th January 2009 at 10:52 PM.
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:01 PM   #2
RandFan
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From Evolution: The next 200 years New Scientist.

Quote:
Frans de Waal

Why do humans blush? We're the only primate that does so in response to embarrassing situations (shame), or when caught in a lie (guilt), and one wonders why we needed such an obvious signal to communicate these self-conscious feelings. Blushing interferes with the unscrupulous manipulation of others. Were early humans subjected to selection pressures to keep them honest? What was its survival value?
I guess de Waal thinks it is an issue. But you are right, not everything has to have a survival value.
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:04 PM   #3
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Why does blushing have to have a "survival value"? Couldn't it just be an aberration that didn't adversely affect survival, so it never got weeded out?
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:20 PM   #4
learner
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Originally Posted by RandFan View Post
From Evolution: The next 200 years New Scientist.

I guess de Waal thinks it is an issue. But you are right, not everything has to have a survival value.
Thanks RandFan. I think that was the professor that I heard.
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:24 PM   #5
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Sorry, detail I got wrong. He said that we are the only primate to blush, not only animal as I posted.
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:53 PM   #6
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How many primates have large areas of bare skin on their face? If they have no bare skin then blushing would be worthless. Also I think you blush all over the body, not just the face.
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Old 29th January 2009, 02:00 AM   #7
a_unique_person
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Originally Posted by SkeptiChick View Post
Why does blushing have to have a "survival value"? Couldn't it just be an aberration that didn't adversely affect survival, so it never got weeded out?
The blushing survival value would be that we are social animals who depend on each other for survival, (or did back in the olden times). Keeping us honest with each other would be an important part in developing trust and empathy. Back then it was literally a battle for survival, and everyone person was important to the groups survival.

A counter example would be a sociopath who does not display their true feelings. You would not know if you could trust them or not. This would have developed at a time when language was very primitive, I'm guessing.

ETA. I guessing blushing wouldn't be visible on black skin, and humans developed in Africa.
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Old 29th January 2009, 02:13 AM   #8
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Could it not be a form of sexual selection? Our form of the peacock's tail? It must be handy to know if someone is attracted to you.
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Old 29th January 2009, 02:22 AM   #9
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I heard a different theory, some time ago (I'll see if I can go find a reference later).

That claimed that in socially embarrassing situations, there is a natural urge to flee. One gets a jolt of adrenalin and an increase in blood flow to the brain. But social pressure inhibits the flee response. The brain is now oversupplied with blood, but the heart is still providing it. Conveniently, there's a quick shunt to the route it to the face. (My assumption here is that evolved for cooling purposes). The visible by-product of a blush then acquired the social meaning that it has.
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Old 29th January 2009, 03:12 AM   #10
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OM FSM! This one could derail the whole evolution thing.
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Old 29th January 2009, 03:28 AM   #11
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It isn't that there are no reasonable hypotheses. I had no trouble finding this one among the myriad of nonsense that with no explanation for how blushing evolved, every evolutionary biologist in the world should give up evolution theory now.

Theories of Blushing
Quote:
Ray Crozier is a psychology professor at University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. He's concluded that blushing evolved as a means of enforcing the social codes to which we humans must adhere for our societies to function in a friendly manner. By blushing when we're embarrassed, we are showing others that we recognize we've just misstepped socially, and that we're paying the price for it. Others who see us blushing after an awkward situation understand from experience the unpleasant feelings we're undergoing at that moment, and blushing may serve as a nonverbal, physical apology for our mistake.

Crozier tells the BBC that embarrassment displays emotional intelligence. "A prerequisite for embarrassment is to be able to feel how others feel -- you have to be empathetic, intelligent to the social situation" [source: BBC].

This empathy and social intelligence appears to develop in humans at an early age, around the time we enter school and we begin to engage in social situations with others . By studying the development of this social intelligence, psychologists have found that blushing from embarrassment develops alongside our consciousness of others. This lends further support to the notion that blushing has a purely social basis.
And it's BS that, "no one has a clue about blushing", as is claimed in every one of the "this really puts evolution theory in question" nonsensical articles.

The Blushing Brain
Quote:
The team of neuroscientists led by Elizabeth Finger and James Blair found activations coherent with these remarkably specific predictions. Second-person narratives of neutral, morally unacceptable and socially inappropriate behaviors were presented to the subjects; for each condition, the behavior could be witnessed or not. While the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex was involved in the perception of morally unacceptable behavior regardless of the presence or absence of audience, it was activated by inappropriate behavior if and only if it had witnesses.

Other areas are activated by moral and, to a lesser extent, social transgressions vs. neutral behaviors, and some of these are known to be involved in Theory of Mind tasks. What is puzzling is that many of these ToM areas do not react to the presence or absence of an audience, which is puzzling since processing others' mental states are supposedly what ToM is about. ToM-associated activations do not overlap at all with audience-related activations.
It's an interesting topic. Why so many idiots feel the need to attach the 'this puts evolution theory in doubt' nonsense to 'every as yet not figured out evolutionary step' is bizarre.
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