You can take the Human out of the stone age but not the stone age out of the human. Part 8


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Inverse | Human Evolution | You can take the Human out of the stone age but not the stone age out of the human. Part 8 | Design Partnership Australia

Evolutionary Hardwiring

At the core of it, all humans are actually far more similar than they would like to know. In truth, no one is entirely unique. We may express ourselves in ways that are perceived as unique, and we may look very different externally, but internally by and large we are all quite similar and motivated by similar triggers and social conditioning

Evolutionary psychology holds that although human beings today inhabit a thoroughly modern world of space exploration and virtual realities, they do so with the ingrained mentality of Stone Age hunter-gatherers. Homo sapiens emerged on the Savannah Plain some 200,000 years ago, yet according to evolutionary psychology, people today still seek those same traits that made survival possible then” (3)

With agriculture emerging approximately 10,000 years ago, it suddenly allowed people to accumulate wealth and live in larger numbers and in greater concentrations and freed many from hand-to-mouth subsistence. This agricultural period spawned a relatively quick transformation into modern civilisation and a big impact of advanced technology and communications on our social behaviour. Evolutionary Phycologists argue however that there has been no consistent new environmental pressure on people that required further evolution. No eruptions of volcanoes or glaciers have so changed the weather or the food supply that people’s brain circuitry has been forced to evolve. Thus, evolutionary psychologists argue that although the world has changed, human beings have not.

In Short...

"You can take the person out of the Stone Age, not the Stone Age out of the person" Nigel Nicholson

As far as our habitat goes consider that for 99% of human evolution and history, we have lived intimately involved with the natural ebb and flow of nature. This means not only its dangers but also its proportion, natural light, its textures, tonalities, colours and smells. Our built environment has only been around for 1% of our evolutionary development and thus those principles of nature are embedded or coded within us all in all sorts of interesting ways. This then begins to answer why certain volumes, proportions of space, and light has such a profound impact on us, often without us realizing what caused it.

Alan Lightman in his book ‘The accidental Universe: The world you thought you knew’ claims that nature’s impact is far more profound than we may have understood before. One only needs to think about the petals of a flower, the wings of a butterfly, or even the symmetry in our outer body appearances to begin to understand the impact nature has on how we think visually. Symmetrical objects and images fit neatly into the patterns that our brains recognize as familiar.

“The Architecture of our brains was born from the same trial and error, the same energy principles, the same pure mathematics that happens in flowers, jellyfish and Higgs particles”. Alan Lightman

This is echoed by Johan Wageman an experimental psychologist from Belgium who specializes in visual perception and how our brains constantly organize the incoming flow of information. He holds that symmetry is one of those major principles driving the self-organization of the brain.

On the other hand, though, we easily bore from symmetry overload. Johan Wageman found that although our brains favour the order of symmetry, they are not necessarily more beautiful and this is where the Japanese concept of Fukinsei i.e. the concept of creating balance in the composition or “counterweight” of dissimilar objects comes into play. This has an equal bearing on art and its arrangement on a wall as it has on the way we lay out spaces and the furniture within it. There is an “optimal level of stimulation” says Wagemans “Not too complex, not too simple, not too chaotic and not too orderly”

So it is with all of this in mind that we have created a bit of a playbook of items to consider and specific behaviours to be aware of within the context of the social space of Hospitality Design

We have identified 8 primary social behavioural considerations, 8 primary or preferred layout considerations and 8 factors that impact what food restaurant guests would order.

We will cover those 3 topics over the course of our next 3 articles... The 8 critical human behaviour considerations for the design of a successful restaurant venue.


Article Acknowledgements:

1. Wilson E. The Meaning of Human Existence

2. Lightman A. The accidental Universe. The world you thought you knew

3. Nicholson N. How Hardwired is Human Behavior. Harvard Bussiness Review

4. Roos D. Why do we get so much pleasure from symmetry. June 2021

5. Wageman J. Detection of Visual Symmetries. October 1994


Author: Callie Van Der Merwe Editor: Roberto Zambri

About the Author: Callie is an Architect turned Interior Designer turned

Human Behaviour Designer. He is also the founder of


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