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Why Was 'Pokémon GO' So Popular? Researchers Attribute It To People Unleashing Their Inner Hunters

The question of nature vs. nurture persists when it comes to analyzing evolutionary behavioral tendencies such as the primal instinct of hunting, according to a new study.

The question of whether humans and their ancestors hunting their prey is a consequence of a learned behavior or innate survival mechanisms was brought to the attention of the animal behavior expert Vladimir Dinets.

Hunting is one of the first activities of ancient humans, who started to proliferate as early as 40,000 years ago. This didn't only play a huge role in the species becoming the most widely spread among mammals, but it also contributed to the evolutionary success of Homo sapiens.

The question of whether this tendency is a result of learned behavior and being social products has been the subject of previous scientific studies. The developmental importance of exercising the primal hunter has also been documented scientifically, along with its paramount importance in history.

However, the hunting instinct is considered to be self-explanatory from an evolutionary perspective, and — although documented — it never constituted the primary scientific focus of behaviorists. Assumptions about the importance of hunting in extant hominids and their survival were often made when conducting complex researches, but Dinets' case study centering on himself has brought a larger focus on the matter than previously noted.

While the scientific method through which the case study was conducted lacks the scientific rigor that would allow its extrapolation to the entire human species, the research assistant professor of psychology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville started from the premise that the entire hype created around Pokémon GO is, in fact, proof of human primal hunter's instincts.

"The recent explosive popularity of the Pokemon GO game, which allows players to hunt for virtual animals across a real terrain, shows how addictive such proxies can be and how many people can enjoy hunting-like behavior despite being city dwellers completely isolated from natural environments," he said.

The conclusion of his case study is that our predator instincts have somewhat survived, but they have also adapted. Instead of hunting animals below us in the food chain, modern humans have only found more intelligent and cognitively driven means to express their instincts than ancestors.

Dinets explained that conducting studies on oneself has been an important pillar in the scientific research throughout history, his own example of doctor in zoology may also be biased and lack representativeness when it comes to extrapolating his findings.

The scientist used himself as a subject of the analysis, explaining that throughout his entire development from early childhood to adulthood, he has been fascinated with the analysis and observation of animals around him. His research suggests that he used, without realizing, patterns known to the tribal hunters worldwide in his pursuit of observing animals, thus explaining the genetic, innate hunting tendency that survived the human evolutionary course.

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