Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This video takes on the question of are people naturally violent? If so, why and if not then who are the most angry and is it a cultural thing? It is put together by Harald Eia and it is a foreign video but they do talk to American psychologists about Americans in certain parts. They discuss the "Asshole experiment" and the fact that men do cause the most violent crimes including murder in most countries.

The Blank Slate

This video is of Steven Pinker talking about the idea of being born with a blank state and no information being in your brain prior to coming into the world. He explains why this can not and is not true. He concludes that children are shaped not by their parents over the long run, but in their genes, culture, and for the most part by chance.

Stone Age Minds

This video is very interesting and involves two prominent evolutionary psychologists, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, talking about many aspects of the field. They cover a little bit about their history in the field, history about the actual field, the paradigm of evolutionary psychology, and some implications for our society. One thing that I found the most interesting is when they begin to talk about the human mind and the self made matrix we all have that we call reality. They explain that of course there is an outside world but everything we perceive and experience basically is self made because it's just the brain interpreting new information.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inclusive Fitness and Altruism

The theory defines the inclusive fitness of an organism as the sum of its classical fitness (how many of its own offspring it produces and supports) and the number of equivalents of its own offspring it can add to the population by supporting others. From the gene's point of view, evolutionary success ultimately depends on leaving behind the maximum number of copies of itself in the population. Until 1964, it was generally believed that genes only achieved this by causing the individual to leave the maximum number of viable offspring. However, in 1964 W. D. Hamilton proved mathematically that, because close relatives of an organism share some identical genes, a gene can also increase its evolutionary success by promoting the reproduction and survival of these related or otherwise similar individuals.

The concept serves to explain how natural selection can perpetuate altruism. If there is an '"altruism gene"' (or complex of genes) that influences an organism's behavior to be helpful and protective of relatives and their offspring, this behavior also increases the proportion of the altruism gene in the population, because relatives are likely to share genes with the altruist due to common descent. Altruists may also have some way to recognize altruistic behavior in unrelated individuals and be inclined to support them.

Some might express concern that parental investment (parental care) is said to contribute to inclusive fitness. The distinctions between the kind of beneficiaries nurtured (collateral versus descendant relatives) and the kind of fitnesses used (inclusive versus personal) in our parsing of nature are orthogonal concepts.

Works Cited

Campbell, N., Reece, J., et al. 2002. Biology. 6th ed. San Francisco, California. pp. 1145–1148

Hamilton, W. D. 1964 The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour I and II, J. Theor. Biol. v7, pp 1–16, and 17-55

Controversy and Evolution Vs. The Church

Darwin's concept that species become accustomed to various environments without any help from a heavenly being is still acknowledged by most scientists, though it has been expanded upon. One of the most widespread reasons people are so anxious to establish Darwin as incorrect is because they have converted his theories to mean that humans developed from apes. This was not however, his statement. Evolutionism in fact declares that existing apes and humans advanced from a common ancestor, but that ancestor was in a number of ways, fairly dissimilar from existing apes. This clarification was not enough to satisfy people’s vigorous claim of disrespect and blaspheme, but it does present an opportunity of recognition for them to calm down, if they desire to do so. In spite of everything, scientific theories can either be acknowledged or discarded just founded on the reason of whether people like the effects of the consequences. Theories live or die based on their capability or lack of ability to precisely forecast explanations and create helpful substantiations.
            Those who favor Darwin, claim that Current analysts frequently misinterpret the meaning of the name of Darwin's book. They consider “origin of species” to stand for the origin of life. Then, they claim that Darwin was 'unsuccessful' to explain the origin of life correctly. But those who advocate ideas of Darwin believe that this was not Darwin's stance. Darwin had argued that species, which is the different kinds of organisms, we observe has not come from manifold exceptional formation and creation actions. Instead that species were the adapted offspring of earlier forms. Darwin also explained that the beginning of new species was brought about by descent with change not natural creations according to ecological conditions or divine involvement.
             The reaction to the Origin of species was severe and immediate. Some biologists disagreed with the Darwin and claimed that he could not verify his theory. A large number of people disapproved of Darwin’s concept of variation, giving reason that he could make clear neither the origin of variations nor how they were passed to following generations. This specific scientific doubt was not replied until the beginning of current genetics in the early 20th century. In fact, many scientists continued to express doubts for first half of the 20th century about the truth of the Darwin’s theory. The most aggression towards Darwin’s ideas, nevertheless, was not from the scientists but from religious opponents in England. The thinking that living things had evolved by natural processes denied the special creation of humankind and seemed to place humanity on a plane with the animals; both of these ideas were serious contradictions to orthodox theological opinion.
             The book “Origin of Species” produced significant public enthusiasm. Scientists, politicians, and important people of all class read and talked about the book, some protecting and some rejecting the Darwin's ideas. The most noticeable of them all involved in the controversies was T.H. Huxley, known as “Darwin's bulldog,” who defended the theory of evolution with articulate and sometimes violent words on public occasions as well as in numerous writings. Evolution by natural selection was indeed a favorite topic in society conversation during the 1860s and beyond. But grave scientific controversies also came up, first in Britain and then in the United States. A renowned naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, who had hit upon the idea of natural selection independently, had sent a short document to Darwin from the Malay Archipelago. On July 1, 1858, one year before the publication of the Origin, a paper jointly written by Wallace and Darwin was presented, in the absence of both, to the Linnean Society in London. In this paper Darwin had developed the theory in considerably more detail, provided far more evidence for it, and was primarily responsible for its acceptance. Wallace's views differed from Darwin's in several ways, most importantly in that Wallace did not think natural selection was sufficient to account for the origin of man, which in his view required unswerving divine interference.
             Charles Darwin's theory had also made a remarkable effect on the world as a whole. It has provoked debate; while at the same time generated a new variety of scientific thinking. Darwin was able to obtain extensive support for his idea mostly based on evidence and the way it was presented. The Origin of Species was also a breakthrough that used his own work and the ideas of others even if they were not directly linked to evolution, to cover the way for the completion of his theory (Bowler). In “The Origin of Species” Darwin wrote “young with a certain favorable adaptation will pass it on to the next generation and survive or adapt even more using the first adaptation”. This means that humans were created in the same way. In Darwin's time, this was unacceptable and prevented some from supporting his idea. Some challenged his theory because they opposed the association of animals and man. In addition, some did not believe that Darwin's justification of his theory and some evidence supporting it was scientifically enough.
             The supreme reaction causing controversy regarding the Darwinian theory involves Darwinism's clashing views with Creationism. Creationism is the broad range of beliefs involving God's intervention, which also explains the origin to the universe, life, and the different kinds of plants and animals on earth. This was the reason that the church in England opposed the theory, because it clashed with the religious ideas. Darwin’s evidence however did not concur with Creationism. This also resulted in a great uproar with the Christian church in his time. During the early part of the last century the theory of evolution was gaining a greater presence in schools, but evangelic Christians continue to be skeptical of the theory, even in this era.  

Works Cited

Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species   

Evolution Fundamentals and Natural Selection

Ever since 1859 when Charles Darwin published the book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” evolution has been surrounded by controversy. In the book, Darwin explained the evolution of life as a process of natural selection. Life, he wrote, is a competitive struggle to survive, often in the face of limited resources. Living things must compete for food and space. They must evade the ravages of predators and disease while dealing with unpredictable shifts in their environment, such as changes in climate. Darwin believed that, within a known population in a specified environment, certain individuals have characteristics that make them more probable to continue to exist and reproduce. These individuals will pass on these vital characteristics on to their offspring. The number of organisms with these qualities increases as each generation passes on the advantageous combination of traits. On the other hand individuals lacking the beneficial traits gradually decrease in number. Darwin’s point of view was that natural selection commands the equilibrium in a population toward those with the combination of traits, or adaptation, best suited to their environment.
            Darwin's colossal achievement is not limited only to the early scientific works and his developmental works. His dedicated observation, thoughts, inquisitiveness and vigor permitted him to make prominent perceptive contributions to environmental science and other different disciplines. Darwin was impressed by the inter connection of different species, climate and environment. He stressed that the life in any area was the outcome of an amazing history of struggle or war or "great battle for life". He proposed new solutions to how organisms spread across the globe. These thoughts ultimately led to the controversial theory of evolution.
             In "The Origin of Species" Charles Darwin had presented the theory that natural selection was the method that facilitates the course of evolution. Darwin's theory of natural selection did assist to influence most people that life survives in its present shape as a consequence of evolution, rather than a casual series of strange phenomena. Darwin's theories fundamentally achieved some important accomplishments: The first was that all organisms share changes from a common ancestor, which maintained the theory of evolution more or less convincingly and decisively. The second was that scientists are no more forced to question whether evolution is fact or fiction. Evolution is considered to be a scientific fact. Darwin initiated the theory of species changing and adapting gradually in due course, and deduced that the adaptive change frequently occurred via the mechanism of natural selection. The thoughts included the terms "Natural Selection" and/or "Survival of the Fittest”, either independently or as a group, which was a convincing scientific justification for evolution. Darwin’s explanations also showed that a lot of characteristically dissimilar organisms of plants and animals were interrelated through common ancestry. He portrayed Natural Selection as the "Preservation of favorable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those, which are injurious, or the Survival of the Fittest." (Charles Darwin)
             An added part of Darwin's theory includes the variation in the physical and habitual qualities of every species. This is the region in which the Survival of the Fittest theory most frequently plays the foremost role. Darwin emphasized that for a species to cope with the always varying environments and conditions it is conditional that it must not only adjust, but must also be able to pass on those modified characteristics to its children. Evolutionary psychology is the study of how these concepts relate to us humans and how our social behavior developed through natural selection.

Works Cited,

Bowler, Peter J. Charles Darwin The Man and His Influence, New York, NY: Blackwell Publishers Oxford, 1990.

Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species

Study on Attractiveness

I conveniently found this little article today that shows in part how the subconscious picks up signals in everyday life that make sense evolutionarily. It outlines a study done on the rated attractiveness of certain people based on their eyes--with interesting results.

Sorry about the source of the article, it shouldn't make it less reputable, however.
Here's the original study.

Adaptations For Society

Similarly to how individual adaptations helped the individual, societal adaptations have helped society as a whole. One such adaptation, and the most important, is the creation of language. Although many animals communicate with each other through sounds and body movements, human do it in a much more complex way. The way humans use language allow us to express complex emotions, thoughts and ideas to others in a simple way, words. Some researchers believe that language is actually a mix of many adaptations, while other believe it was one large adaptation, either it resulted in something that helped society grow.
Mating and parenting are two more adaptations that have helped society grow. Without mating there would be no offspring, and without parenting it would be difficult to have a society. Mating helps the society grow and parenting keeps it together (at first). Parenting allows parents to teach there offspring what they know and how to survive, it also creates connection between parent and child the bonds them, and numerous bonds create one larger community, and as bonds begin to expand (friends, larger families, etc...) the community itself gets bigger. Just like how some animals travel in packs/flocks/schools humans usually live in communities. Pretty straight forward.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obligate vs. Facultative Adaptations

David Buss, a leader in evolutionary psychology research, lists six properties of evolved psychological mechanisms in his textbook, Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind:
  1. An evolved psychological mechanism exists in the form that it does because it solved a specific problem of survival or reproduction recurrently over evolutionary history

  2. An evolved psychological mechanism is designed to take in only a narrow slice of information.

  3. The input of an evolved psychological mechanism tells an organism the particular adaptive problem it is facing.

  4. The input of an evolved psychological mechanism is transformed through decision rules into output.

  5. The output of an evolved psychological mechanism can be physiological activity, information to other psychological mechanisms, or manifest behavior.

  6. The output of evolved psychological mechanism is directed toward the solution to a specific adaptive problem.
Within these mechanisms are two different types of adaptations: obligate and facultative. Obligate adaptations are the same no matter the specific environment, but facultative adaptations are sensitive depending on the environmental variation. For example, the fact that sugar tastes sweet and the pain of scraping your knee would not change if they were experienced in a different environment. However, if when very young a person was often lied to or had promises broken by a parent, they may eventually have trust issues because of it. Their sense of trust as an adult depends on whether their parents or guardians were reliable. Evolutionary psychologists hold that facultative adaptations work like "if-then" statements.

Cultural Universals

Cultural Universals are traits and institutions that occur in all cultures worldwide. These characteristics, though shared, differ from indigenous people to people. Evolutionary psychologists view these universal behaviors to be evolutionary adaptations. Anthropologist Donald Brown wrote Human Universals, in which he underlines several main types of these traits: language and cognition; society; myth, ritual, and aesthetics; and technology.

Language and Cognition
The universal uses of language are extensive. Whether one is speaking Swahili, Japanese, or Russian, a common thread connects all people through language. Interestingly enough, though we all hail from different geological regions, our use of language is much the same. All language is translatable, contains color terms and antonyms and synonyms, and figurative speech. Every culture even has a formal versus informal language and taboo words. On the cognitive side, Brown found that all cultures use units of time and planning.

Society in this case refers to intimate times inside the home or out in a public forum. In dealings with family, personal names are used and there is a common feeling of kinship between relatives. Also common are peer groups that aren't based on family. All cultures follow some sort of law or rules, and establish private property. Other prevalent themes are marriage and gender roles. Also found to be universal is trade.

Myth, Ritual, and Aesthetics
As a culture ages and becomes more intelligent, there is bound to be mythology and beliefs about the nature of life. Brown found that all cultures are united through magical thinking, and the practice of using magic to acquire love or fortune. Along with these beliefs are thoughts on death and rituals after the death of someone. We are also alike in that all cultures have music and dance, though it varies greatly. We share the use of poetry and proverbs specific to our people. Even things that seem inherent to each culture are shared, like body adornments and hairstyles.

It was probably not long after man's creation that he began to utilize tools to make life easier. The use of technology is also cross-cultural. We all use shelter, weapons, containers, and tend to cook our food using the acquired skill of controlling fire.

Human Universals. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991.

Evolved Psychological Mechanisms

Evolved Psychological Mechanisms (EPMs) occur over time as a result of specific adaptive obstacles that a species must overcome. For example, toddlers have an inborn propensity towards learning a language, while for adults it can be much harder. The ability is there, though, because it is necessary for children to learn the native language to survive. Other EPMs include jealousy (which helps in keeping a mate) and phobias toward dangerous animals like snakes or spiders. Not all traits of organisms are adaptations: some characteristics are simply byproducts of adaptations like the ability to read and write, or random occurrences such as variations of voice pitch within the same sex.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Individual Adaptations

Research has show that Evolutionary Psychology has effected the human species as a whole, as well as each individual. For each individual evolution created consciousness, sensation/perception and motivation (including emotions).

Consciousness is usually the voluntary behavior of an individual, although many conscious actions have unconscious processes. One behavior of consciousness is self-awareness, such as seeing your reflection and knowing who it is. Other behaviors include knowing one's limitations, learning certain skills, and self-deception (useful during social situations).
Sensation and perception seemed to have evolved to provide guidance through numerous environments. Each of our senses help of maneuver through the world day by day. Sight is used to see the distance between things, and see what in front of us (obviously). Hearing helps determine things that can't be seen or that need attention (ex: a loud sound behind you) and for part of communicating with others. Taste and Smell determine chemicals and chemical changes in the environment that also help us know where to go (avoiding bad smells, eating things that taste good). The last sense, Touch, is numerous smaller senses that fit into the same category, and are used for close-contact environmental changes. Touch is used to decipher a broad list of sensations, from temperature change to pain.

Behaviors made possible through motivation. If humans had no motivation, then we would not have adapted any behaviors, most likely would not exist. Affective parts of motivation (positive and negative) are more commonly know as emotions. Humans have an extensive list of emotions that go beyond the five basics emotions of fear, sadness, happiness, anger, and disgust. These extra emotions (Spite, Shame, Pride, etc...) are allow humans to be such social creature and gain social standing as an individual. (Ex: pride motivates people to raise their social status.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Human Evolution to Survive

This is a video that explains how Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection is applied to humans. He goes on to say that human ancestors have passed down genes that have somehow aided in human survival. Different from every other case, humans were passed down the gene of prominent intelligence. This trait has kept homo sapiens the dominant species on earth since human consciousness began. This video covers topics ranging from natural selection to reproduction, all in relation to evolutionary psychology.

Theories in Evolutionary Psychology

This link provides many interesting facts about evolutionary psychology. For instance, the experts who wrote the article believe that the brain is essentially a computer that is used by the body to process information the environment sends it. Also, a theory that is mentioned is that the cognitive models the people of our time know of were adaptations from our ancestors.
This article gives an excellent overview evolutionary psychology in that it gives current theories and uses logic to back them up. In addition to the theories, they discuss the differences between biology and evolutionary psychology.

Adaptation in responce to the environment

Since the time when humans first lived on the earth, they have been forced to adapt to their environment. For example, during the winter months, instead of freezing to death, humans would keep together inside of sheltered locations for warmth. As time continued, humans eventually learned to create clothing and warmer shelters. It was during the winter months that the discovery of fire was most helpful. After enough time passed, fire was harnessed to keep humans alive during the cold winters.
The environment also provided a living style for the humans that lived on earth not only back then, but now as well. Today, the environments all over the world dictate all types of living styles. In Russia, warmer cloths are required while in towns all over the equator, the indigenous people can be seen in nearly no clothing.
To further understand the effects of environment on survival, modern hunter gatherer societies are being studied.

Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage. 1995.