Urban existence does humankind no favours
LATE last month, hot new data revealed that thoroughly modern people were crafting sophisticated stone tools in Africa nearly 300,000 years ago. Since then the lifestyle of Homo sapiens , though not the physiology of the species, changed big time. My African doppelganger would undoubtedly be horrified if she stepped into my urban shoes. A lot of fast breathing, pulse racing and getme-outta-heres would likely ensue.
That’s precisely the evolutionary angle psychologist John Marsden exploits in his series Exposed, an engaging look at how modern urbanites unconsciously respond to the dictates of brains and bodies designed for life on the savanna.
Tonight’s episode, Persuaders , is a case in point. Marsden investigates a psychological pressure unimagined by our lucky precursors: the 15,000 or so advertisements designed to manipulate behaviour urban dwellers endure every single day. Marsden also looks at how music in shops urges us to spend up, at the way images can control our minds without our knowledge, and even at how that age-old persuading technique, hypnotism, enables some folk to get their teeth filled without anaesthetic.
If the presenter’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he presented the earlier series Body Hits , also for BBC.
As an expert in addictive behaviour at Glasgow University’s Institute of Psychiatry, Marsden was perfect for Body Hits . His take on booze, drugs and their ilk was, yes, addictive. So is his presenting style. He’s comfortable with the camera, yet never pretentious, cutesy or self-indulgent.
After this episode I suspect you’ll agree that Marsden and co have expanded their sights successfully
Exploring the big smoke: John Marsden in and will be, well, persuaded to tune in next week for their investigation of city life.
By assigning couples a complicated task, Marsden illustrates how quickly they change their country ways.
They learn to filter out details, think quickly but less accurately, struggle to maintain control over what they do and when they do it, and build a bubble of anonymity around themselves.
Marsden shows us how the human brain detects signals of vulnerability, and its opposite, simply from the way people walk.
Anyone who believes the morning commute is merely annoying will be disabused of that fantasy when Marsden dons brain and heart rate monitors, then joins a police squad tackling a simulated yet terrifyingly realistic riot.
No points for guessing that gridlock and mayhem produce identical stress loads. Well, that’s the good news about next week’s instalment. The bad news is, it’s the last one. Having missed the first two, I’m suffering enormous stress.
Excuse me while I bash out a few obsidian spear points.