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The Alpha Male Switch

Via the Grauniad (so take with a flat of salt):

Scientists discover brain’s neural switch for becoming an alpha male

Timid mice turn bold after their ‘alpha’ circuit is stimulated as results show ‘winner effect’ lingers on and mechanism may be similar in humans

Brash, brawny and keen to impose their will on anyone who enters their sphere of existence: the alpha male in action is unmistakable.

Now scientists claim to have pinpointed the biological root of domineering behaviour. New research has located a brain circuit that, when activated in mice, transformed timid individuals into bold alpha mice that almost always prevailed in aggressive social encounters.

Determinism getting you down? AYO HOL UP FOR DAT SCIENCE SEQUEL

In some cases, the social ranking of the subordinate mice soared after the scientists’ intervention, hinting that it might be possible to acquire “alphaness” simply by adopting the appropriate mental attitude. Or as Donald Trump might put it: “My whole life is about winning. I almost never lose.”

#InnerGameIsReal

The brain region, called the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), was already known to light up during social interactions involving decisions about whether to be assertive or submissive with others. But brain imaging alone could not determine whether the circuit was ultimately controlling how people behave.

The latest findings answer the question, showing that when the circuit was artificially switched on, low-ranking mice were immediately emboldened. “It’s not aggressiveness per se,” Hu said. “It increases their perseverance, motivational drive, grit.”

This is a rebuke to all those dummies who falsely equate “alphaness” with aggression. Studiously refusing the temptation to be a wilting betaboy flower watching the world of women go by is not the same as unloading ten clips of aggro douchebaggery on unsuspecting innocents.

With brain stimulation, low ranking mice won 90% of the time against animals they would normally have lost to.

Lesson for beta males: YOU HAVE IT IN YOU. Romantic failure is not a fate you must quietly await.

“When we took mice that used to lose in the tube test they could win within just several seconds of stimulation,” said Hu.

Someone will invent an Insta-Alpha pill that will give betas a temporary boost of sufficient fortitude to ask women out, and it will radically change the sexual market like nothing else has, not even porn.

Intriguingly, the experience of winning appeared to leave an imprint on the mice, making them more assertive, even when their brains’ were no longer being artificially controlled. They were found to be more combative in a second scenario in which they competed to occupy the warm corner in a cage with an ice-cold floor.

“We observed that not all the mice returned to their original rank,” said Hu. “Some mice [did], but some of them had this newly dominant position.”

The scientists described this as the “winner effect”, hinting that there may be a grain of truth in the self-help mantra “fake it ‘til you make it”.

Spare a moment for me preen? CH, 2008:

Fake it till you make it means faking that internal confidence as well as the external behavior. This is not as hard as it sounds. Every time you feel self-doubt and talk yourself into inaction, yell “Stop!” out loud, and your brain will reboot. You then consciously reframe your thought processes to put the burden of approval seeking on those around you. With good inner game you can say just about any ridiculous routine and the girl will be intrigued.

The most important change in thinking you can make:

You are not there to win over women, they are there to win over you.

Keep saying this over and over until you begin to believe it. You are re-wiring yourself. Don’t worry about the truth or falsity of it. That’s irrelevant.

Of mice and men.

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