Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Origin of preference

The results of most studies about origin of preference tend to bias towards biological origin. This doesn't necessarily mean that people behind the studies are not neutral. Most of the successfully identified origin are biological because good research design on identifying biological origin may yield conclusive evidences, where as identification of non-biological origin requires complicated disentanglement of confounding factors. The difficulty is worse when the non-biological origin is too abstract or not well defined such as "free will", culture or even seemingly simple things such as personality, comfortability, etc.

It is worth to mention of an approach to identify the origin of preference, which is using evolutionary psychology framework. It basically states that natural selection makes surviving humans have a certain kind of preference. For such case, it's arguable that origin of that particular preference is biological since evolution mostly change biological trait. On the other hand, from evolution perspective, the reason that a particular biological trait is more likely to survive, is how fit the trait with environment. In short, there is a component of nurtural origin too.

btw, evolution approach is usable to analyze complex preferences (such as why some people tolerate more uncertainty or what kind of condition induced toleration of uncertainty) when we don't know the cause-effect relationship of origin of preference.

At the end, it doesn't really make sense to make distinction between natural (biological) origin of preference and nurtural (non-biological) origin of preference is not that important since they influence each other. Exhanging level of abstraction (from quark to neural network to physical movement) is as best a mental exercise. Nevertheless, it's satisfy my need to see the world in black and white, buahahaha :-).

The following are specific preferences whose origin is quite well defined:
1. Food preferences are very biological. Although the exact biological mechanism of food preferences may not be fully known, but there is no doubt that hormone is very influential in shaping food preferences and food regulation.
2. Drugs (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and the so called drugs like cannabis and LSD, cocaine and amphetamines, morphine and heroine, and benzodiazepines [valium]) preferences are surprisingly a balanced mix of biological and non-biological origin..
3. Sexual preferences are biological. But sexual fetishes are both biological and non-biological.
4. Mating preferences, mostly derived using evolutionary psychology, is mostly biological. This biological cause is inferred from the consistency of mating preferences across cultures, even in isolated societies.

For complex or high level preferences such as preference in ideology, see the witty but not exactly comprehensive version of origin of preference.

Leave a comment of what you would like me to expand further.

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