Chapter 16 Evolution and Human Behavior

Chapter 16 Evolution and Human Behavior - Chapter 16:...

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Chapter 16: Evolution and Human Behavior Why Evolution is Relevant to Human Behavior - The application of evolutionary principles to understanding human behavior is controversial o The theory of evolution is at the core of our understanding of the natural world Not many people object to evolutionary analyses of physiological traits, such as lactose tolerance, but they may debate the merits of particular explanations for those traits But, many social scientists have been very critical of attempts to apply evolutionary theory to contemporary human behavior because they think evolutionary analyses imply that behavior is genetically determined Genetic determinism of behavior in humans seems inconsistent with the fact that so much of our behavior is acquired through learning, and that so much of our behavior and beliefs is strongly influenced by our culture and environment o Evolutionary explanations do not imply genetic determinism - All phenotypic traits, including behavioral traits, reflect the interactions between genes and the environment o Many people have the mistaken view that genetic transmission and learning are mutually exclusive o However, genes are not like blueprints that specify phenotype Every trait results from the interaction of a genetic program with the o The expression of behavioral traits is usually more sensitive to environmental conditions than is the expression of morphological and physiological traits Traits that develop uniformly in a wide range of environments, such as finger number are said to be canalized Others that vary in response to environmental cues, such as subsistence strategies are said to be plastic - Natural selection can shape developmental processes so that organisms develop difference adaptive behaviors in different environments o Some believe that natural selection cannot create adaptations unless behavioral differences between individuals are caused by genetic differences But, if this were true, then adaptive explanations of human behavior must be invalid because there is no doubt that most of the variation in behavioral traits, such as foraging strategies, marriage practices, and values, is not due to genetic differences but is instead the product of learning and culture o This belief is false because natural selection shapes learning mechanisms so that organisms adjust their behavior to local conditions in an adaptive way Think male soapberry bugs and mate guarding o The evolutionary approaches do not imply that differences in behavior among humans are the product of genetic differences between individuals Understanding How We Think - Evolutionary analyses provide important insights about how our brains are designed - Even the most flexible strategies are based on special-purpose psychological
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o Psychologists once thought that people and other animals had a few general- purpose learning mechanisms that allowed them to modify any aspect of their phenotypes adaptively But, a considerable body of empirical evidence indicates that animals are
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This note was uploaded on 04/21/2009 for the course ANTH 200Lg taught by Professor Yamashita during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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Chapter 16 Evolution and Human Behavior - Chapter 16:...

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