You might have already suspected it, but people who hug a lot are less evolved than those who don’t. Being overly familiar with other people is a sign of bad manners.
I suggested as much in my Monday post. Link here.
Happily for us, Dr. Val Curtis has researched the evolutionary purpose of good manners. She has affirmed that humans who function well in community work together without getting too close.
They do it by practicing good manners.
One reason is hygiene. I suggested that the Japanese prefer bowing to hugging or even to shaking hands because they know that too much touching transmits too many germs.
Those who hug too much or touch strangers too much expose themselves to more bacteria, and thus more illness. In evolutionary terms, those who instinctively keep their distance are more likely to live longer and healthier lives, thus to pass on their genes.
The Daily Mail has the story:
Manners really do maketh man – it could be that they are one of the keys to being human.
Scientists have suggested that good manners not only distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom, they help keep humans free of disease and underpin the co-operation that helps the world go round.
Dr Val Curtis, an expert on disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Manners should be up there with fire and language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.
‘Far from being an old-fashioned set of rules about which fork to use, manners are so important that they should be up there with fire and the invention of language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.'
She argues that the first, and most ancient function of manners, is to allow bacteria and virus-ridden humans socialise without falling ill.
The report continues:
Writing in New Scientist, she [Curtis] added: ‘Although I’d like to hang around in case you have information or goods to exchange, it might be more sensible if I ran way because, to me, you are a walking bag of microbes.
'With every exhalation you might emit millions of influenza viruses and your handshake might transfer salmonella bacteria.
‘When we fail in these civilities, the disgust shown provokes shame and teaches us not to repeat the offence.
‘More intimate contact could give me hepatitis, syphilis or worse.
‘You too, of course, make the same subconscious calculation.
'So how can we get close enough to share the benefits but avoid sharing our microbes? This is the job of manners.'
Good manners stop us from standing so close to someone that we spray them with saliva as we speak.
Dr. Curtis is certainly correct to point out that when people invade personal space they provoke disgust and a wish to distance oneself. By Darwinian theory the emotion is adaptive and self-protective.
I do know that some thinkers—they shall remain unnamed—believe that disgust is socially constructed. They want us all to get over our disgust at disgusting behavior. Some people do manage to numb their feelings of disgust. They are, as the saying goes, less evolved. They are more likely to be shunned.
The Daily Mail quoted:
Dr Curtis said: ‘If I fail in my manners, you may reject and ostracise me and refuse further collaboration, denying me access to the benefits of life as a member of an intensely social species. We play out a mannerly dance every day, getting close but not too close.
I would also underscore the point that, as the Daily Mail puts it, “polite people [are] seen as team players.
Good manners facilitate cooperative enterprise. People who are too familiar with fellow team members are showing themselves to be uncooperative.
Practicing good manners also shows an ability to follow a single set of rules. You cannot work together effectively with others if you are not following the same rules.
If you ask what makes for a good team player or how you can tell the difference between someone who is going to work well with others and someone who will not or how you can show yourself to be a good team player, now you know: be polite, practice good manners and maintain a safe distance between you and your colleagues.