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Chapter 2

Psychology 46-256 Chapter 2: Notes on Evolution, Genetics, and Experience

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University of Windsor

Chapter 2: Evolution, Genetics, and Experience  Zeitgeist  the general intellectual climate of our culture The Biology of Behaviour  Physiological or Psychological? o A 17th-century conflict between science and the Roman Church o resolved by French philosopher René Descartes o Gave one part of the universe to science and the other part to church; the universe is composed of two elements: Physical matter, which behaves according to the laws of nature and is  therefore a suitable object for scientific investigation  The human mind (soul, self, or spirit), which lacks physical substance, controls human behaviour, obeys no natural laws and is thus appropriate view of Church o Cartesian dualism  the universe is composed of two elements: physical matter and the human mind  Inherited or Learned? o Nature vs. nurture o Ethology  the study of animal behaviour in the wild o Instinctive behaviours  behaviours that occur in all like members of a species, even when there seems to be no opportunity for them to learn  Two evidence against physiological vs. Psychological thinking Most complex psychological changes can be produced by damage to parts of the brain  "The man who fell out of bed"  asomatognosia  a deficiency in the awareness of parts of one's own body  **Changes in self-awareness are very complex, but clearly result in brain damage (asomatognosia typically involves damage to right parietal lobe) Some nonhuman species (ex. primate) possess abilities that were once assumed to be purely psychological and thus purely human  Gallup's research on self awareness in chimpanzees  **Even nonhumans (assumed to have no mind) are capable of considerable psychological complexity, self-awareness  Evidence against Nature vs. Nurture Thinking o Factors other than genetics and learning were shown to influence behavioural development (ex. fetal environment, nutrition, stress, and sensory stimulation) o Convincing evidence that behaviour always develops under the combination of both nature and nurture, not one or the other Neurons become active long before they are fully developed Subsequence course of their development depends greatly on their activity Experience continuously modifies genetic expression Human Evolution  Darwin's evolution theory o Evidence:  Evolution of fossil records through progressively more recent geological layers  Striking structural similarities among living (ex. a human's hand, a bird's wing); suggested that they evolved from common ancestors  Major changes in domestic plants and animals by programs of selective breeding o Most convincing evidence  direct observations of rapid evolution in progress o Argued that evolution occurs through natural selection (heritable traits that are associated with high rates of survival and reproduction are most likely ones to be passed on to future generations o Natural selection leads to evolution of species that are better adapted to surviving and reproducing o Fitness  the ability of an organism to survive and contribute its genes to the next generation Evolution and Behaviour  Other than the ability to find food, avoid predation, or defend one's young, Social Dominance and Courtship Display play roles in evolution  Social Dominance o Males of many species establish a stable hierarchy of social dominance through combative encounters with other males o Ex. physical damage, posturing and threatening until the other backs down o Important in evolution  Dominant males breed more than non-dominant males; thus more effective in passing on their characteristics to future generations  In some species, dominant females are more likely to produce more and more healthy offspring  Courtship Display o Male approaches the female and signals his interest o Species  a group of organisms that is reproductively isolated from other organisms o The members of a species can produce fertile offspring only by mating with members of the same species o Thus, Few members of the species might develop different courtship display o **Only the suitable exchange of displays between a courting couple will lead to reproduction Course of Human Evolution  Evolution of Vertebrates o Complex multicellular water-dwelling organisms first appeared on earth about 600 million years ago o 150 million years later, the first chordates evolved (animals with dorsal nerve cords  large nerves that run along the centre of the back) o Spinal bones (called vertebrae) to protect their dorsal nerve cords evolved about 25 million years later chordates who had them are called vertebrates o First vertebrates were primitive bony fishes  Evolution of Amphibians o First bony fishes started life in water about 410 millions years ago o Fishes that could survive on land for brief periods of time had two advantages: escape to nearby fresh water, and take advantage of terrestrial food sources o Life on land was so great that natural selection transformed the fins and gills to legs and lungs, so the first amphibians evolved about 400 million years ago o Ex. frogs, toads must live in water in the early lives; only adult amphibians can survive on land  Evolution of Reptiles o Reptiles (ex. lizards, snakes, and turtles) evolved from a branch of amphibians about 300 million years ago o First to lay shell-covered eggs and to be covered by dry scales o Does not have to spend the first stage of its life in watery environment of a pond or lake; instead, in watery environment of a shell-covered egg  Evolution of Mammals o A new class of vertebrates evolved from a line of small reptiles about 180 millions years ago, during the height of the age of dinosaurs o Females of this new class fed their young with special glands called mammary glands (so members of this class were named mammals) o Mammals stopped laying eggs; and instead, females nurtured their young in watery environment of their own bodies until the young were mature enough to be born  Provided long-term security and environmental stability for development to unfold o Chimpanzees  closest relatives of humans (almost 99% of genes are identical)  Evolution of Humankind o First Homo species are thought to have evolved from one species of Australopithecus (southern ape) about 2 million years ago o One distinctive feature: large size of their brain cavity; larger than Australopithecus, but still smaller than modern humans  Coexisted in Africa with various species of Australopithecus for about 0.5 million years, until the Australopithecines died out o Early Homo species were gradually replaced by modern humans (Homo sapiens) about 200,00 years ago o Modern humans began to migrate out of Africa around 50,000 years ago o Three human attributes: large brain, upright posture, and free hands with an opposable thumb Thinking about Human Evolution Evolution does not proceed in a single line Humans have little reason to claim evolutionary supremacy (the last surviving species of a family that has existed for only short evolutionary time) Evol
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