How Cats Control Human Culture

I’ll admit I may have overstretched myself slightly with this sensationalist title. What it should say is, “How the Toxoplasma Gondii Brain Parasite May Influence Human Culture“; but that’s not nearly as fun.

Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled brain parasite spread by cats. Our feline companions are its preferred home and […] like most parasites, T.gondii has a complex life cycle designed to get it into its final host. If it finds itself in another animal, it travels to the brain and changes the host’s behaviour to maximise its chances of ending up in a cat. For rodents, this means being eaten and infected individuals are less fearful of cats and more active, making them easier prey.

[Human] carriers tend to show long-term personality changes that are small but statistically significant. Women tend to be more intelligent, affectionate, social and more likely to stick to rules. Men on the other hand tend to be less intelligent, but are more loyal, frugal and mild-tempered. The one trait that carriers of both genders share is a higher level of neuroticism – they are more prone to guilt, self-doubt and insecurity.

The article goes on to note that it would be imprudent to suggest that T.gondii is the major driver of human culture, and points out that we shouldn’t confuse correlation with causation. However, when infection rates can be as high as 67% (as in Brazil), it’s worth paying attention to.

via Mind Hacks