Biological Basis of Social Behavior
• According to this view we are born prewired or predisposed to behave socially. This
proposition is old and stems from evolutionary theory.
o Religious propositions also – how we are determined by God.
o This is an old proposition (biological)
o That our brain is a social brain
• Evolutionary theory 1
o Natural selection: organism are well equipped to cope with environmental
challenges to survival
We have physical apparatus to ensure survival
o Genetic endowment: biological structure we receive for this purpose
Ensure we have bio structure to develop what we need in order to survive
in our environments
o Different species have different genetic make-ups.
o The most fit species to meet environmental challenges are the ones that will
GREAT FOR HUMANS – we are living longer than ever before
When we look at animal species – some species such as racoons survive
extremely well, while others don’t
o The most adaptive characteristics within species will prevail this strengthening
own species in the long run through reproduction of the fittest
If it the case, in order to find mate you have to be strong; those are the
ones that will reproduce, and those who can’t secure a female won’t be
able to reproduce, so the genetic pool with be geared towards having
bigger stronger males
Most adaptive characteristics: change over time (can be higher
o EXTENSION OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY TO SICAL BEHAVIOIR o An attempt to organize the facts about the adaptive significance of social
behavior in animals, and by extension, in human beings (focus is on behavior ->
Not only physical characteristics, can include cognitive traits, other
psycho traits and their adaptive significance
o The systemic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior,
including sexual and parental behavior, in all kinds of organisms, including
We are predisposed to these behaviours, for example: moms have hard
time leaving babies behind as they can be harmed otherwise. This is a
These bio predispositions, are just as important as physical
characteristics inherited through genetic transmission
This is genetic based motivation
o Behaviour is dominated by a genetically based urge to produce the max
offspring’s, either directly or by favoring one’s next of kin
Directly – by sex
Indirect – example: you were travelling with your niece, and something
happened, all kids were at risk, you would save niece, then friends
children, then same race/culture, then rest.
It is very controversial theory.
• Has become like the new bible
• And has a lot of authority
• Key problem: not evidence and support, problem is the
implications resulting from human behaviour!
o For example survival of fittest: bullying is okay (as stronger
are better), and justifies Nazi wars, etc.
o Raises ethical concerns, problem is not with validity of
• 3 aspects must be emphasized
o 1. Evolution concepts apply as much to behaviour as to structural characteristics Structure not only important, but BHEVAIOUR. If we cant behave, we
can’t fit in. If you have Aspergers syndrome, communication and
interpersonal skills are affected even though intelligence is good. Hard
time keeping a job, hard time relating to people and making relationships,
and less likely to have families and children. You are going to ‘’fail’’ the
o 2. The adaption of a species is always to a particular environment (ecological
The setting and context is important in which the child is developing (in
Adaption has to be to an environment.
Humans cannot survive in other environments as well. Power outage,
people ran away to hotels, friend’s home, etc.
A rigid distinction between what is innate and what is acquired is
meaningless in this account.
• Nature vs. Nurture.
• Wrong to make distinction between the two.
• For example, we are biologically able to speak, but we will only
speak when exposed to it when young.
• How are organisms predisposed for social behaviour?
o Fixed action patterns – simple stereotyped actions that are activated by certain
quite specific stimuli.
o These are prewired (part of child’s genetic endowment)
Usually functional early at life
• Have to be! – otherwise child won’t survive
• Also other species (fish can swim as soon as they are born), other
lage animal walk very quickly
• Humans take long to develop – but once we develop we go very
o Different from reflexes! Because they can be modified by environment
Example: hammer on knee can be temporarily habituated. Gradually over time, reaction to stimuli changes, more adaptive as we
o Each species has its own fixed patterns that are necessary for sur