Are the Dutch Bonobos?

Chris Smit’s article, Nothing to Hide, mentions Geert Hofstede’s dimensions and how – on his dimension Feminine-Masculine – Dutch society scores high on the Feminine side.

This does not mean that, in the Netherlands, testosterone levels are lower than in other parts of the world. What it does mean is that people attach importance to caring for the weak, quality of life, modesty, cooperation and consensus-seeking.

In this context it is interesting to read the outcome of a research project that was carried out recently at Duke University, indicating that, possibly, modern human beings emerged at the same time as a lowering of testosterone levels, when living in groups required a different attitude, one of cooperation, learning from each other, sociability and less aggression.

The study goes on to compare two ape species and their societies: chimpanzees experience a strong rise of testosterone during puberty, whereas bonobos don’t. Consequently, chimpanzees are more likely to be aggressive, whereas bonobos are more mellow.

Does this make the Dutch the bonobos among the human race? According to one of the first interviewees ever for the Point of View articles, a primatologist, who used to work for the Dutch primate park Apenheul, I am not the first person to ask this question.

Stephanie Dijkstra
2014 Winter

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