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Western University
Psychology 3229A/B
Scott Mac Dougall- Shackleton

Chapter 1: Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology The Origins of Evolutionary Psychology • The fundamental assumption of evolutionary psychology is that the human mind is the product of evolution just like any other bodily organ, and that we can gain a better understanding of the mind by examining evolutionary pressures that shaped it • Evolutionary psychology is the application of evolutionary theory to the study of human behavior and makes the claim that our minds evolved to solve specific problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors in the period of EEA • Proximate mechanisms are causes that relate to goals, knowledge, disposition or life history of the individual • Ultimate question ask what the advantages are in terms of reproduction AHistory of Evolutionary Thinking • Evolution Before Darwin • Thales tried to explain the origins of life in terms of natural as opposed to supernatural terms • He proposed that life ‘evolved’out of simpler elements with the most basic element being water • Empedocles suggested that in the beginning the world was full of bodily organs which occasionally came together and joined up, driven by the impelling force of Love • The results of most of these unions were ‘monstrosities’and died out • Aristotle proposed that each species occupied a particular space in a hierarchical structures known as The Great Chain of Being • Moving from one rung to another was not permitted, which meant that there was a natural order of things • Aristotle’s view was not merely descriptive but was also prescriptive so any change to the established hierarchy would lead to chaos • Lamarck proposed a couple laws, the first law suggested that changes in the environment could lead to changes in an animals’s behavior which, in turn, might lead to an organ being used more or less • The second law was that such changes are heritable • Most evolutionary biologists agree that inheritance of acquired characteristics is incorrect • Darwin and Natural Selection • Natural selection depends on two components: heritable variation and differential reproductive success • Mendel and the Birth of Genetics • If sex merely blended traits, after a sufficiently large number of generations everyone would end up being the same, reducing variation • From Evolution to Evolutionary Psychology • Darwin saw the human mind as being explainable by the same fundamental laws as other bodily organs • Materialism is an approach that is concordant with the perspective of modern cognitive psychology that sees the mind as being ultimately reducible to the activity of the brain Chapter 1: Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology • This materialism is important because if the mind is just the activity of the brain, then the brain, being a physical organ, is subject to the pressures of natural selection • Materialism is best contrasted with dualism, the proposal that there are two fundamental substances: physical matter and an immaterial substance which constitutes the mind or soul • This view, attributed to Descartes. Because in dualist philosophy mind and brain are made of different substances, mental processes remain unaffected by evolution which affects only the physical • EarlyAttempts at an Evolutionary Psychology • Francis Galton • Galton proposed that character and intelligence were inherited traits and developed some of the first intelligence tests to explore these issues • The argument that traits that were important in hunter-gatherer communities might be sub-optimal in contemporary society is a familiar one in modern evolutionary psychology • More controversial was his attempt to apply his scientific findings to help the greater good of society • He suggested that one way that society might be improved would be to engage in a little selective breeding, an enterprise that he called eugenics • Eugenics • Plato proposed procreation should be controlled by the government with the aim of breeding a better society • Eugenics was developed as a method of trying to dictate who breeds with whom and, in some extreme cases, who doesn't breed at all • Two forms of eugenics, often called positive and negative • Positive eugenics operates by encouraging people with high fitness to mate together and produce many offspring • Negative eugenics, on the other hand, attempts to curtail or prohibit reproduction among those who are considered unfit • The largest and most systematic program of eugenics occurred in Nazi GermanyEugenics societies are still with us today in the role of genetic engineering • William James and the Concept of Instinct • William James had a keen interest in the nature of consciousness and outlined instincts as driving forces of human behavior • He added that human behavior might be characterized by more instincts than other animals rather than fewer • The concept of instinct was dropped because it was considered too imprecise a term to be scientifically meaningful • Furthermore, many so-called instinctive behaviours are capable of being modified by experience, in which case it is difficult to see where an instinct finishes and learning begins Chapter 1: Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology • Afinal reason the concept of instinct fell out of favor is that a new approach to the social sciences denied their existence and saw cultures rather than biology as being the principal determiner of human behavior • The Rise of Culture as a Casual Force in Human Behaviour • Tooby and Cosmides have called the traditional non-evolutionary social science approach the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) • The SSSM makes the following assumptions about human behaviour and culture • Humans are born as blank slates • Human behaviour is infinitely malleable • Culture is an autonomous force and exists independently of people • Human behavior is determined by a process of learning, socialization or indoctrination • Learning processes are general in that they can be applied to a variety of phenomena • Cultural Relativity • Franz Boas argued that many difference between people were due to difference in their culture and if one wished to understand people pone must understand their culture • Many social scientists developed an almost pathological fear of biological explanations of human behaviour • There are various reasons for this • One is that once a scientific paradigm is established it is difficult for researchers to consider alternative explanations that lie outside the
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