The authors of Mismatch, Ronald Giphart and Mark van Vugt, look at how our Stone Age brain deceives us every day, and how we can test the level of conflict between our primitive brain and our modern environment.
Our brain and body are perfectly adapted to the environment of prehistory, the period between two and a half million to ten thousand years ago, when humans roamed the Savannah in small hunter-gatherer groups. All kinds of traces from this time are still evident in our body and behaviour.
‘Mismatch’ occurs when our brain and body have not adapted well to our modern environment. This has consequences for our behaviour and for the choices we make in our life with regard to nutrition, education, sexual behaviour, politics and work. And this in turn can affect our chances of survival, prosperity and successful procreation. Mismatch can have adverse consequences for our well-being and physical and mental state.
We can safely assume that not every person is affected by mismatch to the same degree. This can be related to where on the planet you live or as a result of the choices you make. But the better someone’s life is matched, the greater the chance they will be happy and healthy. Conversely, the more severely someone’s life is mismatched, the greater the risks for health and well-being.
The following test allows you to see how well your lifestyle and habits match the life to which your body and brain have been optimally adapted. We have come up with some questions, each with two reply options. The left options indicate a match, the right mismatch. So, the more items you tick in the right-hand column, the greater the mismatch. Please note that this is tongue-in-cheek and not a science-based test.
Yet it may be interesting to see to what extent mismatch may affect your life. We differentiate various areas of mismatch, including youth, nutrition, housing, relationships, work, politics, religion and nature. Add up all the items you have ticked in the right-hand column. A high score in any one particular area does not mean you need to leg it to the doctor, psychologist or dietician. See it as a cue, or food for thought.
|Were you born in hospital?||No||Yes|
|Were you breastfed?||Yes||No|
|Did you live in a city or in the country as a youngster?||Country||City|
|Are your parents divorced?||No||Yes|
|Do you have two or more elder brothers and/or sisters?||No||Yes|
|Did you play outside a lot as a child?||Yes||No|
|Did you regularly go camping with your parents?||Yes||No|
|Do you live near a green area (park, forest)?||Yes||No|
|Do you live in a flat?||No||Yes|
|Do you have many plants at home?||Yes||No|
|Do you buy mainly fresh products?||Yes||No|
|Do you have a fireplace at home?||Yes||No|
|Does being in one place for any length of time make you feel restless?||Yes||No|
|Are you in an exclusive relationship?||Yes||No|
|Did you (or your partner) take the pill when you met?||No||Yes|
|Do you have children?||Yes||No|
|Do you have more than two children?||No||Yes|
|Do you watch pornography?||No||Yes|
|Is your partner older than you?|
|– For men||No||Yes|
|– For women||Yes||No|
|Do you like barbecues?||Yes||No|
|Have you ever hunted?||Yes||No|
|Have you ever fished?||Yes||No|
|Do you eat meat with every meal?||No||Yes|
|Do you eat a lot fruits and nuts?||Yes||No|
|Are you able to resist a bag of crisps easily?||Yes||No|
|If you have to choose between beer and wine, what do you choose?||Wine||Beer|
|Do you take a lot of exercise?||Yes||No|
|Do you drink a lot of alcohol?||No||Yes|
|Do you smoke?||No||Yes|
|Do you consider yourself overweight?||No||Yes|
|Do you use a sunbed?||No||Yes|
|Do you travel to work by car?||No||Yes|
|Is your work stressful?||No||Yes|
|Are you self-employed?||Yes||No|
|Do you gossip much at work?||Yes||No|
|Are you sensitive to authority?||No||Yes|
|Do you enjoy meetings?||No||Yes|
|Does money make you happy?||No||Yes|
Politics and Religion
|Are you superstitious?||Yes||No|
|Do you (in the main) vote left or right?||Left||Right|
|Does politics need a strong leader?||Yes||No|
|Are you a monarchist?||No||Yes|
|Do you belong to a church?||No||Yes|
|Do you enjoy watching nature documentaries?||Yes||No|
|Are you a member of an environmental organisation?||Yes||No|
|Do you recycle at home?||Yes||No|
|Do you drive an electric car?||Yes||No|
|Are there days you do not use social media?||Yes||No|
|Do you have friends you only know through Facebook or Twitter?||No||Yes|
|Did you meet your partner online?||No||Yes|
|Do you often take selfies?||No||Yes|
|Does the news keep you awake at night?||No||Yes|
First and foremost and for the sake of completeness: this test has not been scientifically validated and is purely meant for light-hearted insight. Tick your answers, and add up 0 points for each answer in the left-hand column and 1 point for each answer in the right-hand column. Work out your total score.
You have little mismatch in your life. Going back to ancestral times would be no problem for you. But watch out that you do not miss out on too many technical and social trends.
You are reasonably stable. Modern time presents few problems for you, but nor are you entirely impervious to mismatch.
Things are going moderately well. You adapt to the demands of modern time, but this carries a great risk. Mismatch is lying in wait.
You are clearly in the danger zone and have an increased risk of mismatch. Be careful that because of all the technological and cultural developments, you do not lose your way.
More than 41
Mismatch has you in its clutches and the modern era is clearly taking you for a ride. Take care that you do not jeopardise your happiness and well-being.
Our brains evolved to solve the survival problems of our Stone Age ancestors, so when faced with modern day situations that are less extreme, they often encounter a mismatch. Our primitive brains put us on the wrong foot by responding to stimuli that - in prehistoric times - would have prompted behaviour that was beneficial. If you've ever felt an anxious fight or flight response to a presenting at a board meeting, equivalent to facing imminent death by sabre-toothed tiger, then you have experienced a mismatch.
Mismatch is about the clash between our biology and our culture. It is about the dramatic contrast between the first few million years of human history - when humans lived as hunters and gatherers in small-scale societies - and the past twelve thousand years following the agricultural revolution which have led us to comfortable lives in a very different social structure. Has this rapid transition been good for us? How do we, using our primitive minds, try to survive in a modern information society that radically changes every ten years or so?
Ronald Giphart and Mark van Vugt show that humans have changed their environment so drastically that the chances for mismatch have significantly increased, and these conflicts can have profound consequences.
Reviewed through mismatch glasses, social, societal, and technological trends can be better understood, ranging from the popularity of Facebook and internet porn, to the desire for cosmetic surgery, to our attitudes towards refugees.
Mismatches can also affect our physical and psychological well-being, in terms of our attitudes to happiness, physical exercise, choosing good leaders, or finding ways to feel better at home or work.
Finally, Mismatch gives us an insight into politics and policy which could enable governments, institutions and businesses to create an environment better suited to human nature, its potential and its constraints.
This book is about converting mismatches into matches. The better your life is matched to how your mind operates, the greater your chances of leading a happy, healthy and productive life.