•Evolutionary theory is especially useful for thinking about adaptive problems that occur
regularly and have the potential to affect whether one survives and reproduces, such
as mechanisms for eating, sex, language and communication, emotions, and
aggression. People who lie, cheat, or steal drain group resources and thereby possibly
decrease survival and reproduction for other group members.
•Such built in mechanisms of evolutionary theory assist in solving recurring problems
that faced our ancestors over the course of human evolution.
Modern Minds in Stone Age Skulls:
•According to evolutionary theory, we must seek to understand the challenges that
faced our early ancestors to understand much of our current behavior, whether
adaptive or maladaptive.
•Humans began evolving about 5 million years ago, but modern humans (Homo
sapiens) can be traced back only about 100,000 years to the Pleistocene era. The fact
that the human brain adapted to accommodate the needs of Pleistocene hunter-
gatherers means we should be looking at what life was like then, and look to
understand how the brain works within the context of the environmental pressures that
the brains of Pleistocene-era humans faced.
•Many of our current behaviors of course do not reﬂect our evolutionary heritage.
Reading books, driving cars, using computer, talking on the telephones, and watching
television are behaviors that only very recently became part of human experience.
Rather than being adaptations, such behaviors can be considered by-products of
adaptive solutions to earlier adaptive problems.
Culture Provides Adaptive Solutions:
•For humans, the most demanding adaptive challenges involve dealing with other
humans. These challenges include selecting mates, cooperating in hunting and
gathering, forming alliances, competing for scarce resources, and even warring with
neighboring groups. Unlike many animal species, humans are not able to care for
themselves at birth; they require substantial effort and resources from caregivers, who
themselves are reliable on other group members for survival.
•The complexity of living in groups gives rise to culture5. The assumption being that the
various aspects of culture are transmitted from one generation to the next through
learning. For instance, our musical and food preferences, our ways of expressing
emotion, our tolerance of body odors and so on are inﬂuenced and affected by the
culture in which we are raised.
•In contrast to biological evolution in humans which has taken place over several
million years, cultural evolution has occurred over a much shorter period, with the
most dramatic changes coming from the last few thousand years.
•The ﬂows of people, commodities, and ﬁnancial instruments, often referred to as
globalization, have increased in velocity and scale in the past century in ways that
were unimaginable nearly 500 years ago.
5 The beliefs, values, rules, and customs that exist within a group of people who share a common
language and environment and that are transmitted though learning from one generation to the next.