Why We Are All Primates

The Psychology of Celebrity – But as an observer of human nature, perhaps the most fascinating part of hanging around will is simply observing how people respond to celebrity.

If you read enough evolutionary psychology, you will inevitably come across a preoccupation with the fact that primates organize themselves along status hierarchies and these status hierarchies determine much of their social behavior.

A lot of evolutionary psychologists make a big deal out of interpreting the silly and bullshitty things humans do to each other in these terms, like, “Oh, of course your wife left you for the billionaire, he’s higher on the status hierarchy than you. Duh.”

But obviously, human behavior is way more complicated than this. You can’t reduce human relationships to mere status. After a number of years reading convoluted theories about status and “alpha males” and hypergamy and whatever else, I came to the conclusion that these theories were overrated.

But hanging around Will changed my mind a little bit. Watching him walk through a hotel lobby and seeing people lose their collective shit makes it impossible to ignore the fact that we’re primates. This is what we’re wired to do.

If you love people-watching and ever find yourself around a really famous person, my recommendation: don’t watch the famous person, watch people’s reactions to the famous person. It’s ten times more interesting.

To see the reactions on people’s faces, the ear-to-ear smiles and irrational shrieks of excitement, the way grown men stammer and giggle like school girls, how some people spontaneously burst into tears. And then, a moment later, they all become embarrassed as they realize that their reaction was completely involuntary.

Even if you are able to outwardly keep your cool around a celebrity, your nervous system is heightened around them—you are more aware, more self-conscious, more discerning. Little movements strike you as significant, side comments as hilarious. Celebrities are like blackholes of attention and supernovas of joy, they completely alter the space/time of whatever room they walk into.

There’s a weird high you get from being around them, too. It’s similar to the high after a rollercoaster ride or a great first date or some really good cocaine. You feel more important for no other reason than you are around them, in the same room as them. And trust me, I recognize how fucking stupid it is to feel this way, yet I can’t lie. You do feel it.

I spent weeks with Will before my nervous system and brain stopped having these sorts of reactions. And even then, it still occasionally hits me. I’m like, “Wait, why am I laughing so hard—his joke wasn’t even that funny.”

Then I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m a fucking primate.”