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Chapter 16


Course Code
John Bassili

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Cultural Evolution: Lifestyle Choices and Consequences
Cultural evolution the adaptive change of a culture to recurrent
environmental pressures.
Cultural evolution is driven mainly by psychological forces. Cultural evolution
is a product of human intellect and physical capacity, both of which have strong
genetic components.
Cultural evolution has been the primary agent involved in shaping lifestyle,
the aggregate behaviour of a person, or the way a person leads his or her life.
Today, there is no predominant lifestyle; cultural evolution has afforded us
the luxury of choosing among many alternatives. Most of us in Western cultures
no longer worry only about how to stay alive; we now worry about how to spend
our spare time, or about how to have more of it.
Cultural evolution has resulted in a much higher standard of living than that
of our prehistoric or even our relatively modern ancestors. However, cultural
evolution has also produced threats to our health and safety, like people can be
hit by cars.
The law of effect undoubtedly plays a powerful role in cultural evolution one
that appears to be analogous to the role of natural selection in biological
evolution. The law of effect states that behaviours that produce favourable
consequences tend to be repeated, and those that produce unfavourable
consequences tend not to be repeated. Cultural practices and customs that
result in reinforcement tend to be maintained, if not elaborated.
Many unhealthy behaviours have reinforcing consequences in the short run
and damaging consequences in the long run. Many unhealthy behaviours are
maintained because they tend to be available on a version of revolving credit
instead of buy now, pay later, it takes the form of “enjoy now, suffer later.

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Stress and Health
Stress a pattern of physiological, behavioural, emotional, and cognitive
responses to real or imagined stimuli that are perceived as blocking a goal or
endangering or otherwise threatening our well-being.
Stressors stimuli that are perceived as endangering ones well-being.
Stress is a product of natural selection. It is a behavioural adaptation that
helped our ancestor flight or flee from wild animals and enemies.
The Biological Basis of Stress
Our physical response to stressors is governed by the autonomic nervous
system, which is controlled by the hypothalamus.
Stress is a biological response that is experienced as an emotion, although the
form it takes varies depending on the nature of the stressor.
When an individual senses a stressor, the hypothalamus sends signals to the
autonomic nervous system and to the pituitary gland, both of which respond by
stimulating body organs to change their normal activities:
1.Hear rate increases, blood pressure rises, blood vessels constrict, blood
sugar levels rise, and blood flow is directed away from extremities and
toward major organs.
2.Breathing becomes deeper and faster and air passages dilate, which
permits more air to enter the lungs.
3.Digestion stops and perspiration increases.
4.The adrenal glands secrete adrenaline (epinephrine), which stimulates
the heart and other organs.
There are 2 cases in which such responses can be maladaptive:

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1.Stress can produce anxiety, which may impair ones ability to perform
2.The effects of prolonged and severe stress.
Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome:
Hans Selye found that chronic exposure to severe stressors produces a
sequence of 3 physiological stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
General adaptation syndrome (GAS) the model proposed by Selye to
describe the bodys adaptation to chronic exposure to severe stressors. The body
passes through an orderly sequence of 3 physiological stages: alarm, resistance,
and exhaustion.
The response in the alarm reaction involve arousal of the autonomic nervous
system and occur when the organism is first confronted with a stressor.
With continued exposure to the stressor, the organism enters the stage of
resistance, during which its autonomic nervous system returns to normal
With continued exposure of the stressor, the organism enters the stage of
exhaustion. During this stage, the organism loses its ability to adapt, and
resistance plummets to below-normal levels, leaving the organism susceptible to
illness and even death.
Walter Cannon coined the phrase fight-or-flight response the
physiological reactions that help ready us to fight or to flee a dangerous
When the threatening situations are continuous rather than episodic, they
produce a more or less continuous stress response. This continued state of
arousal can lead to CHD (coronary heart disease) and other physical problems.
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