Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers

What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers (2011) by Chris Rose details how the values mapping system developed by Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing (CDSM), enables us to look beneath the fog of argument and opinion, and cut through the confusion of behaviours being undertaken for different reasons, to lay bare the ‘social DNA’ which lies beneath and drives much of our individual behaviour, relationships, politics and social dynamics.

These three worlds are hidden from us because they are not physical but psychological: yet what divides them are our most deeply held beliefs about what is ‘really important’. For Settlers, the deep forces draw people to seek out safety, security, identity and belonging is for new ideas, the quest for connections waiting to be made, and living a life based on ethics.

The graphic below provides a glimpse of how each type ticks:

One example Rose gives that is close to my heart as a pioneer is solar panels, which are now ubiquitous but which were fringe in my youth:

In the 1980s and 1990s in a country like the UK, solar panels were peculiar, fringe technology. Just about the only people putting solar on their roofs were committed environmentalists motivated by a desire to take personal action against the threat of climate change. As we will see later, these activists were almost all Pioneers. A belief that to make the world a better place you have to be a better person, a willingness to engage in actions that others might think odd, a readiness to innovate and embrace change, and a sense that you can change the world by what you do yourself are all characteristics of the Pioneers much more (for example ten or one hundred times more) than they are of Settlers or Prospectors.

Where do our value maps come from, evolutionarily speaking?

Settlers : as the name suggests are evolutionary farmer types, driven by securing their produce and property, a lot of routine work (tradition), delayed gratification (discipline) and loyalty towards their in-group. Obedience, duty and rules feature high as farming (especially irrigation farming) was a highly cooperative effort that required a hierarchical leadership structure.

Prospectors: are evolutionary herder types. They are more novelty-seeking, dominance seeking and risk-taking than farmer types due to a nomadic life-style and as a faster life history strategy (life expectancy among pastoralists is lower than among agriculturalists). Pastoralists often raided each other and fought for group dominance.

Pioneers: are evolutionary forager types, not motivated by material goods or status (egalitarian), they are motivated by ideas and it is them who are typically innovators, be it technologically or socially.

The majority of people are typically more motivated by practical utility and status, than potential use (ideas for future use). (People who never adopt are pioneers again because they can be neither motivated by status nor the need to conform).

The majority of people in history who lived (and sometimes died) for their ideas on the other hand were pioneers.

Is there any proof that pioneers are evolutionary forager types? Hunter-gatherers are famous for their egalitarianism, that includes an universalist stance, i.e. caring also for people who are not part of your immediate in-group. In the graphic below it can be seen that pioneers care most about egalitarianism and prospectors least.

The split in our value maps happened around 10.000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and pastoralism.

The merging of these three tribes in Europe, for example, happened with the invasion of Anatolian farmers and steppe pastoralists.

The findings of Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing were basically already published in the ancient Ayurvedic texts, describing psychological disposition as well as bodily constitution (adaptations to foraging, herding and farming):

For more information about the evolution of the three tribes check out my book:

Originally published at on November 7, 2021.