I believe one of the reasons melonheads are extremely adaptive is because whatever “attention” is, melon-backs (MMs, MTs, MCs, etc.) have a lot more of it. This is taken from the pedestrian observation that they have a lot of general-purpose willpower that can be applied to adapt to and solve problems in all sorts of weird situations. In contrast, neanderthals and sapiens appear to be extremely adapted to specific ecological niches. It’s not just that melony melonmen use their mental energy more efficiently (that is, general intelligence), they appear to have more of it to spend as well. In particular, I expect they have much more of the “perceptual glue” type of attention.
Attention is one of those words that has a general meaning outside of psychological and perceptual science, but in these areas it has specific meanings. Attention often seems to work as a spotlight, highlighting certain aspects of visual input and not others. In other ways, attention seems to serve as perceptual glue, pulling together different aspects of a stimulus into perceptual objects…
Imagine that I show you an image with many distracters and a single target, such as finding a green horizontal line as quickly as possible among many green vertical lines. This is a fairly easy task because of the horizontal line’s novel orientation. If I were to ask you to find a green horizontal line again but this time there were red horizontal lines along with the green vertical line distracters, that would be harder. Attention researches call this a conjunction search.
Most people have the sense that they have to look at all of the distracters and dismiss them one at a time until they happen on the target. That is not the case, but you do have to allocate some attention to each target. As you do, you seem to be able to combine the information about these different features. Attention is what enables you to combine the different features of a stimulus. You can scan for color or orientation, but to scan for both at once requires attention.
Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception
(Course guidebook, lecture 14)
I think the reason for the high observed levels of willpower comes down to being better at these conjunction searches in chaotic situations with many distractors having many of these qualities. And that’s because willpower is the opposite of decision fatigue: the more willpower you have, the more of it you have to spend to reach a state of decision fatigue.
Here’s my theory: The reason for this may be due to an attitude of “beginning with the end in mind” at a very deep level. It’s like when you imagine the color red in the abstract and red objects in your environment “pop out” at you. If you are able to imagine the exact object you’re looking for ahead of time, the pop out effect ought to be strengthened, which would make you much more efficient in a conjunction search.
Now, here’s the most tenuous part of this theory…I think decisions are like visual conjunction searches for the best possible future you can imagine, according to your abstract values. In order to make a decision, you’re imagining the potential outcomes and literally comparing them to your “vision” of an ideal outcome. But instead of looking for values like color, orientation, and shape, you’d be comparing possible outcomes in terms of your dominance, prestige, righteousness, dopamine, or whatever your values are.
If this is true, then a person with a clearer abstract vision of what they value is going to be much more efficient in these imaginary futures conjunction searches, and therefore suffer less decision fatigue per decision, and thus have more willpower. This may be due to a preference for dorsal stream-style, visually guided action planning perception over ventral stream-style conscious perception, which would be predicted by Aeoli’s bowl cut as applied to enlarged parietal lobes. Effectively, melonheads could be described as having more willpower due to prioritizing objects in the environment within hierarchies of functional meaning and value, because they are predisposed to treat most things in the environment as functional rather than objective and self-existent.