The people around me erupted in cheer.
I felt some cold beer splash on my new white shoes. A part of me winced, imagining the Clorox wipes I’d have to buy later to give my kicks a proper wipe-down.
Yep, I was at a ball-game.
At that moment, I was standing behind center field at Seattle Mariners Stadium—also known as Safeco field.
My buddies and I were in the party pit; a small area where social college kids and people trying to escape their terrible seats can stand and take in the game.
At some point, we wandered back to our real seats to sit and watch the competition.
After a couple of innings, my mind started to wander into nerd territory.
I started to think about what the scenario would look like from an alien’s point of view. In my mind’s eye, I zoomed out of the stadium and onto a cloud some 5,000 feet up.
Here were all these bipedal creatures with decent-sized brains, small eyes, and bellies of all shapes and sizes gathered together in a gigantic bowl. While some of them were watching the game, about half were walking around foraging for food.
Whenever one of the small-bellied creatures on the field caught a small sphere, or knocked one silly with a wooden stick, the rest of the creatures in the bowl screamed and yelled… then promptly went back to foraging for food or drinking a fizzy drink that made them loud and (often) burpy.
All throughout my childhood, I did these kinds of thought experiments. When you look at things like sports from a “rational” or “objective” point of view they seem absolutely ridiculous.
But at some point in college I realized how ridiculous this “objective” point of view is.
Why is hitting a ball with a stick something to be looked down upon? Why is catching a fast-moving sphere something to laugh at?
Is sitting down and reading strange characters on a page (reading) or rubbing streaks of color on a piece of paper (painting) more useful or elevated?
I realized that by doing these thought experiments I was engaging in a form of warfare. I was putting down people that were skillful at something I was not (I was also putting down people that liked these people).
The technical name for this in evolutionary psychology is “derogation”.
Its non-technical name is “sh*t talking”.
It’s a common strategy used by people of all sexes in all cultures.
You see, all of us are engaged in a grand competition (even if we don’t know it). We all want to be popular. We all want to be admired and loved by those around us. And we all want that attractive person that we saw a moment ago to like us back.
To signal our worth to those around us, we do things that show our strengths. Some of us who are well coordinated and have healthy, muscular bodies slam basketballs in hoops. Some of us who are less blessed in the height and physique department choose instead to write songs or exercise our logical lobes to produce mathematical formulae that conjure up robots and rockets.
From a conscious point of view, we don’t really look at things this way. We play basketball because it’s fun… and if we’re good we keep playing it because it gets us attention, praise, and because it just feels darn good to do something we’re good at.
But, under the hood, there’s an elaborate dance of neural activity and genetic prodding pushing us to do what makes us most useful (and look amazing) to those around us.
All of it is impressive. All of it is beautiful. But we each employ different strategies based upon the gifts that we were given in the lottery of life.
So while I might giggle at the 250 pound mound of muscle hitting a 95 mile per hour ball… he just might be doing the same thing right back at me.
It’s the dance of life. The dance of derogation.
But all of this is getting a bit too heady… I should probably just go grab a beer and see if the Giants have a game on the TV tonight.
PS: Did you know that the personality trait of “Agreeableness” predicts how prone you are to derogate others?
That’s one of the traits I cover in my personalized “Habit Blueprint” report.
If you’d like to learn more about your personality, and how you can use it to get what you want, make sure to get your copy of the report today.