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Chapter 1

Chapter 1.docx

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PSYC 3100
David Stanley

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Evolutionary Psychology Sense & Nonsense: Chapter 1 • Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection • Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour frequently incite controversy • Evolutionary theory is one of the most fertile, wide-ranging and inspiring of all scientific ideas Taking the Middle Ground • Wilson’s book provoked an uproar and launched what is now known as the “sociobiology debate” that raged throughout the 1970s and 1980s • Maynard smith (one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists) retained an intermediate position, supporting science over politics and being angry at much of the unjust criticism directed at Wilson. • We must take the middle ground between the positions of advocates of evolutionary approaches to the study of human behaviour and their critics • 1989 the founding meeting of the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society • Any scientific field needs to evaluate its own assumptions and research methods to progress • 5 approaches to the study of human behaviour • These 5 approaches are 1. Human sociobiology 2. Human behavioural ecology 3. Evolutionary psychology 4. Cultural evolution 5. Gene-culture co-evolution AGuide for the Bewildered • Social scientist critics accuse evolutionists of ignoring cultural explanations of human behaviour, yet advocates of the “meme” perspective provide an evolutionary explanation that is exclusively cultural Asking Evolutionary Questions Evolutionary Psychology • The Nobel Prize winning ethologist Niko Tinbergen first suggested that there are 4 principle types of questions that can be asked about a behaviour pattern • 1) proximate mechanisms (immediate causes of underlying behaviour) • 2) development of the behaviour during the lifetime of an individual • 3) The survival value or function of the behaviour pattern and what advantage it gave our ancestors in the struggle to survive and reproduce • 4) the evolutionary history of the behaviour and why a particular species is characterized by one trait rather than another • The value of making comparisons across species • Knowledge of how other animals behave can be of value in interpreting human behaviour • Concealed ovulation in human females—male will be more certain of paternity, and the female will thus get more help to care for the offspring; force a male to guard a female, and prevent him from seeking other partners. Other hypotheses; the group selectionist argument is that if males were no longer competing over access to fertile females, decreased tension within the group would encourage social cohesion and cooperation. • However, concealed ovulation is probably not a derived trait in human beings • It is not “concealed ovulation” among our ancestors but “advertised ovulation” in other species that evolved (female chimps and baboons—bright red swelling around genitalia) Human culture, learning, and genetic determinism • For most social scientists human behaviour is largely learned from other people • For social scientists, culture is most commonly regarded as a cohesive set of ideas, beliefs, and knowledge that exists in a completely different realm to biology. • They believe culture is the primary influence on human behaviour • Evolutionary minded researchers think about culture more broadly as the product of an evolutionary process • Some regard human culture as shaped by genetic biases and predispositions and stress that there is more uniformity to human behaviour and society than is given credence by traditional social scientists Evolutionary Psychology • Others think of culture as the outcome of an interplay between our unusually flexible developmental systems and particular aspects of the ecological and social environment that typically results in adaptive human behaviour • Some conceive culture as an evolutionary process in its own right, with human minds adopting variant ideas in a manner similar to how genes are selected in biological evolution • Finally, some biologists and anthropologists see, like a majority of social scientists, culture as socially transmitted information that passes between individuals but focuses on the interaction between genetic and cultural processes • Alternative evolutionary approaches express different conception of the relationships between genes, development, learning, and culture • Some regard developmental processes as tightly constrained by our genetic make-up • Others regard development as more flexible and learning as only loosely guided by our genes • An important point to make: using evolutionary theory is not the same as taking a genetic determinism viewpoint • Genetic determinism is the belief that our genes contain blueprints for our behaviour that will always be followed and that constitute our destiny • The nature vs. nurture debate has come to the conclusion that both nature (generally associated with genes) and nurture (typically representing environmental factors, learning, and culture) are both important—this dichotomy has been rejected as a false dichotomy • Both are like the raw ingredients in a cake mix, with development analogous to baking • Partitioning an individual’s behaviour into nature and nurture components is nonsensical —there are a multitude of interacting processes that play a role in behavioural development Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour In chapter 2 we’ll see: • Darwin accumulated evidence to show that the gap of mental ability between humans and other animals were not as g
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