1. For this question, I was instructed to take the “Yes” side of the argument. I would have to say that evolution is a good explanation for Psychological Concepts. By definition, Evolutionary Psychology is an approach to psychology that tries to explain traits, both mental and psychological, as adaptations. These traits could be perception, memory, etc. Evolutionary Psychology looks at humans as the result of natural selection. It is this vies that allows Evolutionary psychology to not adhere to the views that govern the natural world. This means, overall, that the human brain, and everything that influences the brain and its functions, are formed and influenced by natural selection, or “survival of the fittest”. Natural selection, or survival of the fittest, is when creatures compete for things such as shelter or food and the fittest wins. When looking at it, Evolutionary Psychology is the best way to put things into perspective such as human behaviors, actions, and overall nature. In our text this week, Glen Geher proposed that all human behavior was a direct result of, not only natural selection, but also the human desire to reproduce. I would have to agree with this theory. The overall belief for the yes side of the argument comes from the fact that our bodies, as well as our brains, are shaped, overall, by the natural selection process and that the people of the past were more likely to live and survive if they had certain neurological qualities. These certain neurological qualities, if more advanced than other human’s qualities, are what caused those people to survive and reproduce. If you think about that for just a minute, it all makes sense. Humans that have a more advanced brain, or greater brain capacities, will be the ones to survive and reproduce. By their survival rate being greater and their ability to reproduce being greater, then they pass that advanced brain on to their offspring. This means that with each generation, the brain becomes more advanced and have greater capacities. Before reading our text, and before critically thinking the question at hand, my first opinion on the question was “no”. When I first read it, I wondered how I was going to create and argument for “yes”, instead of what I believed. I now side with the “yes” argument. Evolution is a great explanation for psychological concepts. Evolution explains a lot in the field of psychology and how the human brain develops.
2. This week’s forum question is “Is Evolution a Good Explanation for Psychological Concepts?” Yes, I believe it is a good explanation as it explains and helps us to understand human behavior as it relates to evolution. When trying to answer this question, one must first understand what evolution is. Evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and it relies on the process of natural selection. So then, we must ask, “What is Natural Selection?” Natural Selection is the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. When we think of natural selection, it is often interpreted to mean “survival of the fittest”. This phrase has absolutely nothing to do with physical fitness or being energetic, however it refers to those animals and species which are the most suited to their environment or in other words, those more capable of surviving. For example, just 10,000 years ago, lions were considered to be the most populated species in the world, just under humans. Lions are one of the most dominant species, thus making them more likely to survive, which according to Geher, being more likely to survive inevitably increases the likelihood of reproduction. Some critics like to compare evolutionary psychology to eugenics when there is absolutely no comparison of the sort. Eugenics is the science whereby one tries to improve the human race by controlled conception in an effort to increase inheritance of a desired trait or characteristic. For instance, purposely pairing two blonde haired, blue-eyed individuals to produce only blonde haired, blue-eyed offspring. We can go even further and correlate this type of thinking with the breeding of animals, in particular dogs. Animal breeders mate specific animals with the intention of ensuring desirable genetic traits for future generations to come. This is not natural selection and it surely does not compare to evolutionary psychology, which simply just expounds on human behavior and psychological processes. Geher said it best when he stated, “Evolutionary psychology is an extraordinarily coherent framework for understanding virtually all of human psychology.”
3. No it is not. At first glance it would appear the evolutionary theory as presented as a psychological concept is valid. On further examination, when it is broken down into its subtle distinctions of multiple modules and deterministic nature that an earnest discussion can begin. Evolutionary psychology or EP, is a theoretical framework which explains human psychological processes such as thoughts and emotions as governed by our genetic blueprint and nervous system. These processes are viewed as evolved adaptations as a product of natural selection in the furtherance of survival and reproduction. EP does not dispute the necessity and inclusion of environmental influence but rather postulates that environmental triggers jump start if you will, pre-developed modules already in place. This psychological concept views the nervous system as comprised of multimodal connections; highly specialized distinct modules processing information in singular specific domains (Buller & Hardcastle, 2000). It is believed by followers of EP that issues faced by our early ancestors such as food gathering, shelter, safety and mating were so diverse in nature that no one brain domain could process it all. Multiple modules were needed to resolve the issue with resulting adaptive strategies created (Buller & Hardcastle, 2000). The process is analogous to a telephone switchboard with multiple lines; the brain evolved with specialized pathways capable of acknowledging and replying with preset responses. The concept of brain plasticity negates much of what EP posits. Within this process, the brain is constantly rewiring and modifying its connections. There are not separate and specific modules but a complex system consistent only in its inconsistency. With every new environmental trigger come new revisions of response. Studies have shown that tasks associated with specific brain areas of young adults are executed by completely different areas of aged adult brains (Buller & Hardcastle, 2000). Another concept that invalidates EP’s deterministic nature is cross modal connections within the brain. Studies have found somatosensory and visual areas of the cortex communicate with each other. There is more brain activity in the section linked to vision processing when both tactile sensory and visual areas are stimulated than if just the visual stimulus is shown alone (Buller & Hardcastle, 2000). Approximately half of our genetic code is associated with brain processes and development. If we are genetically prewired for cortical development we would expect a correlation between higher level cognitive functioning and number of genomes. This is not the case however: human genetic representation is similar to the common mouse (Buller & Hardcastle, 2000). In conclusion, there is no preset genetic programming in place. Our brains do not house multiple cognitive modules evolved through natural selection. The nervous system operates under fluid intelligence- continually connecting thoughts and ideas in new ways. Our cognitive abilities are learned through a complex and ever changing interaction with environmental forces which undergo constant review and modification.