The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

It’s Lit: Campfire Relaxation as a Preadaptation for Television Viewing


Anthropology, The University of Alabama

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Evolutionary mismatch theory suggests that preadaptation for rare needs in antiquity become problems in the modern world when they are no longer rare. We hypothesize that fire increased the prosocialness of ancestral humans by extending the wakeful day and creating physiological calming responses through sound, smell, and visuals. With the rise of technology, ubiquitous flickering screens have taken the place of flames. Because of the evolutionary sensory predispositions that humans have to fire, there is a similar physiological response to television screens. In a previous study, we found significant relaxation effect for fire with sound. Our sample of 98 undergraduate students were administered a similar randomized crossover experimental design. Conditions included a static picture of a flame as the control, and videos of fire with sound, fire without sound, and anthropological videos as the experimental variables. We measured blood pressure before and after each fifteen minute condition controlling for room temperature, fire exposure, anxiety, absorption, and other factors. Using multiple linear regressions, we found that there are significant differences of systolic and diastolic blood pressure that reflect a relaxed physiological response. Significant changes in blood pressure were seen during variables of video of fire with sound and TV conditions. The most prominent factors that affect these changes include socialness, previous fire and screen exposure, gender, relationship, absorption, state anxiety, prosociality, and socioeconomic status. The implication of these findings is that the current pandemic of cyber-dependence may be linked to our sensory preadaptations.