Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection

August 12th, 2008 by jose

I found interesting this paper by Kanazawa (2004). It proposes that  ‘both crime and genius stem from men’s evolved psychological mechanism which compels them to be highly competitive in early adulthood but ‘‘turns off’’ when they get married and have children.’ He thinks testosterone may be one reason for productivity.2726009453_2823458a1b_m

This part is particularly moving:

Perhaps the tragic life of the French mathematician Evariste Galois (1811–1832) best illustrates my argument (Singh, 1997, pp. 210–228). Despite the fact that he died at age 20, Galois made a large number of significant contributions to mathematics. (His work was integral to Andrew Wiles’ celebrated proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1994.) Galois was involved in an affair, and the woman’s fiance challenged him to a duel. The night before the duel, Galois stayed up all night and wrote down all of his mathematical ideas on paper. (It is due to these notes, written on the last night of his life, that many of Galois’ ideas survived to the posterity.) From  other comments written on the paper, next to a series of mathematical notations, however, it is clear that Galois spent the night, intensely thinking about the woman over whom he was to have a duel the next morning. Something compelled this young man of 20 to produce so many brilliant mathematical ideas in one night and then go to a duel the next morning, ready to kill or be killed over a woman. It is my contention that the same psychological mechanism was responsible for both.

So _IF_ Kanazawa is right, other than staying single and surrounded by desirable partners, what can one do? Well, maybe sports are a good way to pump some testosterone in. It makes sense: many people I know, myself included, feel more productive after exercising. More so if it involves any kind of controlled risk or competitive activities.

Another good thing for testosterone levels: dancing (with a partner).

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5 Responses to “Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection”

  1. darioNo Gravatar Says:

    Point taken ;) So what about women?

  2. JohannNo Gravatar Says:

    I would sort of disagree with Kanazawa’s conclusion: Galois’ productivity may also stem just from his knowing that his life could very well end the next day, and that anything he wants to leave to this world he should better write up before the morning.
    Given this, I am not willing to put my life in danger just to be more productive, so we need to find other ways… ;-)

  3. Geoff CainNo Gravatar Says:

    The entire paragraph reveals why chess players of any age make great lovers.

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