Chapter 15 - Culture
- -SSSM (Standard social science model) Psychologists and Evolutionary Psychologists agree that humans worldwide share a
- -Both also agree that human behaviour is variable.
- -Where they differ is how to reconcile these two facts.
- -Why are there behavioural differences if humans share a similar psychology?
- -SSSM psychologists attribute the diversity of human behaviour to cultural and environmental influences.
- -Evolutionary psychologists se these explanations as incomplete at best and circular at worst.
Durkheim‟s Unfortunate Legacy
- -Emile Durkheim has strongly influenced the social sciences.
- -Unfortunately he founded the study of society a doubtful idea.
- -Durkheim: Thought society and the social forces that shape it were separate and independent from the forces that operate in
- -For example, society had no basis in biology. Famous quote „Only social facts can explain social facts‟ Thus, societal facts
explain societal facts.
- -Making Evolutionary history irrelevant to social behaviour.
- -Durkheim‟s peculiar stance: Many nonhuman animals are intensely social, they show consistent differences in their social
arrangements, just as they differ in important adaptations.
- -Selection is likely to have shaped social behaviour!
- -Durkheim claimed that society is immune to biological forces, such as natural selection, contradicts what we know about
evolution of animal social behaviour.
- -Contrary to Durkheim, animals societies seem to be strongly influenced by biological forces such as natural selection.
- -If social facts explain social facts, where does the first social fact come from? It must have come from evolved tendencies!
Durkheim‟s Views Contradict the Unity of Science
- -Science is unified, therefore, no finding in chemistry (cold fusion) can contradict the basic principles of physics. If that were so
then one would be wrong.
- -Explanations must be part of the overarching fabric and are not allowed to claim exemption.
- -Thus, because evolution produced organisms, their traits, including social traits, must have an evolutionary basis.
- -Logically, all the sciences are united and must appeal to a consistent set of causes and principles.
Culture is Not a Satisfactory Explanation for Behavioural Differences
- -SSSM heavily influenced by Durkheim, why do people behave a certain way? “It can be attributed to their culture” is a typical
- -Social facts (behaviour) are being explained by other social facts (culture). The problem that arises here is that the thinking is
- -Culture, is defined as “The set of beliefs, behaviours and life-ways that characterize a group.”
- -That is why saying “They behave that way because of their culture” is invalid.
- -There is a legitimate emphasis on diversity; it is true, not everyone behaves in the same way. But, the notion of culture merely
describes the differences, it does not explain them.
- -Experience can also explain behavioural differences however, it is not satisfying enough unless combined with evolutionary
- -Experiences do not just happen, they happen directly to the individual, then the person responds to this experience.
- -The point is that we respond in a particular based on the response that we have been endowed with, a design for responding in
- -For example, we do not lighten our skin in response to solar radiation, we darken it. We do not decrease our tendency for
violence when we observe it, we increase it.
- -Experience is an incomplete explanation unless it explains why the experience has the particular effect.
Facultative Adaptations and Diversity
- -Some people are more prone to violence then others; this individual difference is based on individual experience.
- -Humans share a common, evolved psychological nature.
- -What human nature consists of is a large set of facultative mechanisms that were crafted by selection.
- -The effects of experience are not explanations; they need to be explained ultimately in terms of their evolutionary basis.
- -What this means is that even though humans may share a common psychological trait, it does not mean we behave in the same
way, facultative traits can have diversity even if the trait is the same.
- -Violence breeds violence because it causes “imitation”, however, when witnessing accidental injury, it does not, to understand
why this is we must discuss adaptive basis, the function of imitation.
Matrilineal Inheritance - -In the case of matrilineal societies, these cultures assume different responsibilities for children, men invest resources in their
sister‟s children and not their wife‟s. SSSM psychologists “explain” this as a cultural difference however this is just how their
society functions. (10% of societies).
- -However, there are no societies where a man invests in his brother‟s children, or women take primary responsibility for their
sister‟s children, if this is “just their culture” why are logical possibilities not found?
- -Adults should evolve the tendency to expend resources on the young whom they are most genetically similar, such as a man
expending resources on his sister. This is a tendency which we expect natural selection to favour.
- -Genes for investing indiscriminately would squander resources on individuals who bear competing alleles
- -Can observed patterns of parental behaviour be explained by patterns of genetic relatedness? It turns out they can.
Explaining Matrilineal Inheritance
- -In diploid species like Homo sapiens, women are always more closely related to their own children than they are to any other
member of the descendant generation. A woman‟s child will bear 50 percent of her genes, but her nieces and nephews will bear
- -Thus, women behaving rationally will invest in their own children.
- -Women are unambiguously related to the children they bear, but a man is not certainly related, because the child may not be his.
Regardless of the degree of promiscuity a man‟s sister‟s child will always carry some of his genes.
- -In the worst case, they are half siblings, she will bear (50% X 25% = 12.5 percent of his genes in his nieces and nephews.
Testing the Explanation
- -Not merely the product of arbitrary cultural differences.
- -In the case of paternal investment the key feature of the environment is “paternity probability”
- -Evolutionary psychology suggest that investing in his sisters‟ children is a facultative response to low paternity probability.
- -John Hartung (1985) observing both patrilineal and matrilineal societies found that men put their investment where they
believed their genes most likely to be. It is an adaptive response to a particular circumstance, low paternity probability.
Was Durkheim Right?
- -People are designed to invest in the most genetically similar children, Durkheim was right to claim one social factor could
influence other social factors, but was wrong to claim that these factors were not based on biology.
Reconciling Evolutionary Psychology and SSSM Perspectives
- -The social environment is exceedingly important to human beings. Just as humans have facultative responses to aspects of the
nonliving environment such as climate, we have many important facultative responses to our social environment.
- -This is why one social fact can affect another, the contribution of evolutionary psychology is to make sense of those influences,
and that is precisely what its explanation of matrilineal inheritance does.
Media Effects of Attractiveness Judgments
- -Kenrick and Gutierres (1980) showed male participants pictures of attractive women or abstract art. Those shown the attractive
women rated an average looking female lower for desirability and attractiveness than those shown abstract art.
- -Such findings are called Contrast effects. Because it is believed that the contrast between especially attractive stimuli and
average ones causes the averages ones to be more harshly judged.
- -Contrast effects suggest that our attractiveness judgments are relative, not absolute.
- -This study was replicated with married couples, males however, only responded by loving their partner less and finding them
- -However, for men and women, contrast effect parallel their choice mate criteria, meaning if the image is conforms more closely
to the image, they will experience more of a contrast effect.
Explaining Contrast Effects
- -Men and women have evolved to prefer certain traits such as physical attractiveness or social dominance because mating with
individuals who had those traits lead to high reproductive success.
- -Like most important adaptations, the ability to perceive these desirable traits should be more or less universal.
- -Doug Jones and David Buss have demonstrated this universality. There are reliable sex differences in mating preferences (Buss,
1989) and people of different ethnic