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Chapter #16 – Lifestyle, Stress, and Health
Cultural Evolution: Lifestyle Choices and Consequences
Cultural evolution – The adaptive change of a culture to recurrent environmental pressures.
- Is driven mainly by psychological forces
- A product of human intellect and physical capacity (both have strong genetic components)
- Primary agent involved in shaping lifestyle
-Lifestyle – the aggregate behaviour of a person, or the way a person leads his or her life
oway in which we interact with others, the kinds of work we pursue, the hobbies and personal
interests we enjoy, the habits we develop, and the decision to marry and raise a family or remain
single are characteristics of our lifestyles.
- unlike our ancestors, who learned more about creating more means of transportation, growing and
storing food, and building homes from durable materials, we do not have predominant lifestyles today
(we have many alternatives)
owe don’t have to hunt for food if we don’t want to, we can buy it at grocery stores
- cultural evolution has given us a much higher standard of living
- however, it has also produced threats to our health and safety
owe have to worry about getting hit by cars and trucks
oor worry about getting poisoned by chemicals in cleaning agents
- **in general, our ancestors had a much simpler life and we have a more luxurious life, however, it is the
advanced technology, innovations, and luxury that also kills us
- a healthy lifestyle can be viewed as one that ensures an individual’s physical and psychological well-
oincludes nutritious diet, regular exercise, no use of tobacco, moderate use of alcohol, and
practice of safe sex
- unhealthy behaviour:
o work against the process of natural selection
ohave obvious negative biological implications
obehaviour can be acquired and maintained by both biological and psychological factors
-Law of Effect – Thorndike’s idea that the consequences of a behaviour determine whether it is likely to
be repeated
oThis plays a powerful role in cultural evolution
oIts states that behaviours that produce favourable consequences tend to be repeated and those
that produce unfavourable consequences tend not to be repeated
- unfortunately, many unhealthy behaviours have reinforcing consequences in the short run and
damaging consequences in the long run
- it takes the form “enjoy now, suffer later” (ex/ using credit card, teens smoking – social acceptance,
looks cool)

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Stress and Health
Stressa pattern of psychology, behavioural, and cognitive responses to stimuli (real or imagined) that are
perceived as endangering one’s well being. These stimuli are generally aversive and are called stressors
- stress is a product of natural selection
- a behavioural adaptation that helped our ancestors fight or flee from wild animals and enemies
- likewise, stress often helps us confront or escape threatening situations
Stressors – stimuli that are perceived as endangering one’s well being
- stressors come in many forms
- not always bad (stress for athletic performance can improve behaviour in a positive way)
- if extended for a long period of time, it can have negative effects on both a person’s psychological
health and a person’s physical health
The Biological Basis of Stress
- physical response to stressors is governed by the autonomic nervous system
- controlled by the hypothalamus
- stress is a response that is experienced as an emotion (it takes various forms depending on the nature of
the stressor)
- when person senses stressor:
ohypothalamus sends signals to the autonomic nervous system and to the pituitary glands
oboth of which responds by stimulating body organs to change their normal activities
heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, etc
breathing becomes deeper and faster
digestion stops and perspiration increases
adrenal glands secrete adrenaline which stimulates the heart and other organs
- 2 cases in which such responses can be maladaptive:
o1) stress can produce anxiety (impair one’s ability to perform a task)
o2) involves the effects of prolonged and severe stress
-Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome
oEffects of dealing with prolonged and severe stressors on body stems from work of Hans Selye
oChronic exposure to sever stressors produces a sequence of 3 physiological stages:
involve arousal of the autonomic nervous system and occur when the organism
is first confronted with a stressor
resistence to stressor temporarily drops below normal, organism may experience
continued exposure to stressors, organism enters into next stage
autonomic nervous system returns to normal state
Resistance increases and eventually plateaus at above-normal levels
Adapts to environmental stressors
Continued exposure leads to the next stage
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