October 4, 2012

What Is A Baboon?

RedOrbit recently reported about the social personalities of female baboons. In the article, researchers classified baboon personality groups as nice, aloof, and loner. What they found was that baboons classified as loner female personalities had higher stress levels, weaker social bonds, and the least stable social partners, and all of this did correlate to lower offspring survival and shorter lifespan. This made me think about humans. Of course, humans are different than baboons because of our abilities to reason and communicate. But humans act like baboons sometimes, too.

The results of the study simply connote that nice baboons lived longer lives where they had more chances to pass on their genes. So what does that mean for nice humans? No one likes to be around negative people, nor do people feel comfortable around those who are aloof. Being aloof does not a mean human make, but being aloof does make connections harder. If someone is constantly standoffish, then how can he create the bonds necessary for having fulfilling relationships?

Many reasons exist as to why people are aloof. Sometimes the individual is simply socially awkward and can’t participate in social communities. Sometimes, the person simply does not want to participate in social communities. Still other times, the aloof personality may also be an introvert, one whose shyness prevents too much social interaction. All of these instances, and the others that lead people to being aloof, complicate social bonds, but they do not prevent them. In humans, being aloof does not necessarily equate to mean.

On the other hand, negative personalities certainly do become mean. The negativity breeds other emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety, and these turn off others. The mean and negative humans infect others until eventually they repel relationships. For a while, the negative person might superficially connect with another, but eventually the other will feel the anger and distance himself. In humans, the personalities that would reflect the loner female baboons are more detrimental because of their tendency to infect others. In the baboons, the loner females were unfriendly and aggressive and changed partners often because of their weak social bonds. In humans, mean people can create a pack mentality with other mean people, and like a virus, meanness and negativity spread.

Like the baboons, social relationships are incredibly important in humans. We love to be around others, connected to them. We even created virtual spaces for social interaction and connection. Our social bonds must mean something to us, so I wonder what studies show about nice, aloof, and loner humans? What are the abilities of each classification of human personalities? Do nice humans form longer-lasting bonds? Do aloof humans connect but only with a few individuals? And do loner humans find themselves in conflicts of unfriendly aggression?

Of course, baboons are not humans. As studies have shown, humans are more complicated, but does that mean we can’t have similar issues? If baboons are social creatures, which science shows they are, then are they really all that different from humans? Okay, humans can speak and reason and all that differentiates humanity from animals, but we find ourselves in similar quandaries as some animals. Like baboons, nice humans create lasting bonds while mean humans flit from one temporary bond to another. Maybe humans can learn something from the baboons. It’s worth a thought…at least.

Image Credit: Rachel Rita Richter / Shutterstock

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

Send Rayshell an email