The scientists proposed that by thinking of our ancestors, we are reminded of their successes; how they overcame illnesses, wars and poverty.
"When we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities. In other words, because we are the successors of our ancestors and thus their genetic heritage, we tend to attribute successful problem-solving of our ancestors to our own problem-solving abilities."The psychological study did indeed reveal that thinking about ancestors increased intellectual performance, but I think there may be an even deeper story. More from the heart, less from the head.
All humanity struggles with the eternal questions of where we come from and where we're going. I think our endless curiosity about our ancestors stems from our need to understand our past so we can anticipate our future. After all, our personal life stories are always about both our reconstructed past and our imagined future. As we're spinning our personal narrative, we're constantly gauging our experiences and choices against those that came before us, at least the people we're best acquainted with, namely our parents and grandparents. The more information we have about their experiences and choices, the better we can make our own.
Also, that feeling of "connectedness" that comes from researching our ancestors buoys us up and makes us feel less alone. Recounting our personal and our family's past is a big part of social interaction. It's estimated that during spontaneous conversation among families, the topic turns to events and people from the past five to seven times an hour!
By reminiscing about ancestors and our shared history, we're constantly strengthening bonds with family members—both past and present.
Link: The Ancestor Effect, European Journal of Social Psychology
photo credit: John Carleton via photopin cc