Of cavemen and speaking in public…

“In fact, public speaking anxiety may be primal and quintessentially human, not limited to those of us born with a high-reactive nervous system. One theory, based on the writings of the sociobiologist E. O. Wilson, holds that when our ancestors lived on the savannah, being watched intently meant only one thing: a wild animal was stalking us. And when we think we’re about to be eaten, do we stand tall and hold forth confidently? No. We run.

In other words, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution urge us to get the hell off the stage, where we can mistake the gaze of the spectators for the glint in a predator’s eye. Yet the audience expects not only that we’ll stay put, but that we’ll act relaxed and assured. This conflict between biology and protocol is one reason that speechmaking can be so fraught. It’s also why exhortations to imagine the audience in the nude don’t help nervous speakers; naked lions are just as dangerous as elegantly dressed ones.”

from Quiet by Susan Cain

We humans view timelines in the hundreds or thousands, not in the tens of thousands or millions.

Yes, times change. Circumstances change. Competitions change.

But people do not change. Their fundamental natures do not change. In many ways, and deep inside, we think the same way we did tens of thousands of years ago, when we used to live in caves.

The ‘caveman principle‘ is a real thing (google it). Even our brains, save the pre-frontal cortex, are largely the same. And so we do not think or act very differently, we only manage to cover it up and manage our primal feelings better.

The fear of public speaking also stems from the caveman mentality. The thousands of years of non-predator fear has not yet become ingrained in us – we still don’t like being watched. We get uncomfortable, and the amygdala or ‘primitive brain’ kicks in. This is what gives us that uncanny feeling when for instance, we are in public and someone stares at us – the periphery of vision that we ‘do not see’ still sends us signals, and that’s how we come to know.

Nature, oh what a wonder it is!