Hard Wired Behaviours and Unconscious Biases

December 18, 2017

The industrial revolution around 250 years ago saw a significant change to our living conditions but the hard wired behaviours and biases remain. We went from a mainly agrarian society to an urban / city factory based environment.  This is not a long time in the context of human evolution. As such we still have many genetic or hard wired behaviours and biases that whilst useful on the savannah are not necessarily adaptive for the modern workplace.

As an aside, sometime between 195000 and 125000 years ago, humans may have nearly gone extinct. A glacial period had set in that probably left much of the earth icy and barren for 70000 years. The population of our hominin ancestors plummeted to possibly only a few hundred in number, and most experts agree that everyone alive today is descended from this group. Exactly how they, or early humans for that matter, managed to stay alive during recurring glacial periods is less clear. But as terrestrial resources dried up, foraging for marine life in reliable shellfish beds surrounding Africa most likely became essential for survival.

Back to point of this post. The time it has taken us to move from hunter-gatherers to modern office workers is incredibly short in the context of human evolution.  Genetic or hard-wired behaviours that were necessary in the pre-industrial world are not always useful or adaptive for modern world; but we still have them and these behaviours are ever-present.

Understanding this idea and having knowledge of what these behaviours are can help you better understand and manage the modern workplace. For example, humans are a face reading social, hierarchical species that are sensitive about social status.