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DESIRES & CULTURE 1 Culture evolves Darwin’s model
An essential feature is population thinking. Species are populations of individuals that carry a pool of genetic acquired information trough time.
Cultural transmission doesn’t often involve high fidelity replication (unlike genes replication).
2 Unbiased transmission vs. Biased transmission
Unbiased cultural transmission is passed down from parents to children (no choice). Biased cultural transmission occurs when people preferentially adopt some cultural variants rather than others. It results from the (possibly unconscious) comparison of alternative variants (utilitarian considerations enter the scene).
3 Cultural variants compete. They first compete for the cognitive resources of the learner, both during the process of social learning and afterward, when the learner must make some effort to maintain the variant in memory (learning is expensive …). The second form of competition of cultural variants is for control of behavior.
People learn a lot from observation and imitation of other people behavior. Hence if a cultural variant doesn’t affect behavior, learning becomes difficult if not impossible.
4 Natural selection of cultural variations It can impose genetically maladaptive traits to spread.
E.g. religious beliefs are usually transmitted from parents to children. If these believes consists in high fertility and low mortality they affect the descendents’ genes insofar as people holding these believes are likely to survive …
5 Biased transmission vs. natural selection. Natural selection depends on what’s going on in the brains of imitators.
In most form of natural selection the fitness of different genes depends on their effect on survival and reproduction, independent of human desire, choice, and preference. 6 Universal Darwinists
(E.g.: evolutionary biologists as Dawkins, philosophers as Dennett, …) believe that genelike replicators are necessary for adaptive evolution. Cultural variants (memes) works along this model, i.e. memes are faithful genelike replicators.
Others (e.g. Dan Sperber) believe that cultural variants are not particulars and are not faithful replicated.
7 Genes are replicators
They faithfully reproduce, Beliefs and skills do not seem to be faithful replicators
Beliefs qua cultural variants trigger some behavior one observes and imitates. This process is unlikely to favor the transmission of identical ideas from one brain to the other. 8 Antiparticularism? Many believe that adopting Darwin’s model to cultural evolution entails assuming that cultural variants are small, independent bits. Hence the Darwinian model should be rejected. This criticism, though, miss the mark, for we’re not compelling to break down cultural variants into atomic bits.
We can consider cultural variants to be complexes such as speaking Spanish or Chinese, or being Catholics or Muslims, etc.
9 How culture shapes our desires Violence Most of the time humans are not violent even if there are countless situations to incite violence. Why?
Among cultural animals pain and pleasure don’t play such a crucial role as within non cultural species.
10 Emotions have largely replaced pain/pleasure Happiness
It depends on changes from a current situation. It is best maximized by having a series of gradual improvements and escalating successes (e.g. lotto winner). 11 Social comparison
It is another standard people use to assess their life. It contributes determining how happy people are. Relative wealth produces happiness while an increase in everyone’s wealth doesn’t. 12 Shifting of standards of happiness
They depend on people motivational plasticity which is rooted in keeping up with one’s neighbors. This depends on culture.
Most animals try to avoid pain and feel pleasure. Humans as well, but this has been transformed into the search of happiness.
13 Happiness depends on Meaning
Only cultural animals can have it. It rests on consciousness.
For happiness rests on consciousness experiences rather than momentary sensations. 14 SelfPreservation
It is the ultimate motive but it competes against others motivations Need to be part/belong to the group
It explain why people can sacrifice themselves E.g. people sunbathe even if they’re conscious of skin cancer, …
15 From curiosity to understanding
Only cultural animals go from curiosity to understanding. Only humans have the tendency to seek and acquire information (it depends on language/meaning). 16 Desire for control
It is the motor of curiosity and the gaining of information.
Other species have it, but in humans it is mainly focused in the social sphere (interpersonal power, influence over others, try to predict each other, …). 17 Control over the physical world vs. social control
Culture offers immense opportunities to gain control over the physical and the social world and thus to be better of.
Mindreading is needed to gain social control.
The urge for control probably didn’t develop to be cultural, but culture nourishes it. 18 Drive to have an impact on the environment
It is present in babies and animals. It may be the first motive behind the desire of control. An universal need.
It may be innate: seeking control seems to be extremely adaptive. As such it may have been favored by evolution insofar as it is useful for survival and reproduction.
19 In biology
Various forms of control are crucial for death and survival of many organisms.
Many leisure activities resolve around control (e.g. video games: the game loses interest once one masters it). This indicates that the pleasure of gaining control is a driving motive and that it is independent of circumstances. 20 Primary Control
The changing of the environment to suit the self. Secondary Control
The changing of the self to fit the environment. 21 Interpretive Control
People tolerate things better if they feel they understand them. E.g.: mysterious pains are more distressing than known ones. Identification of oneself with an authoritative power. (E.g.: ruler, god, supernatural power, …). Although one concedes that oneself cannot control the environment, one derives comfort and satisfaction from linking oneself with someone who has control power.
22 Control and Culture
Secondary forms of control are suited for cultural animals.
In the social world secondary control is probably to be primary, i.e. the main drive.
It is much simple and effective to change oneself to fit with the others than changing the others to fit with oneself. 23 Having Control
It gives rise to a better and healthier life. E.g. in nurse homes people with responsibilities (and thus control over their environment) are much better of than people in homes where staff take care of everything (people without control are more likely to dye than the ones with control). 24 False Beliefs and Control
People (e.g. women with breast cancer) believing they can escape the illness are better of than whose who don’t believe it.
E.g.: Panic button A group of workers are subjected to unpleasant noises. Some of them are told that they can press a button but only if the noise get unbearable. They never pressed the button. Yet they show much less stress than the people who haven’t been told they could press the button. 25 Control
What is harmful is not the bad event itself, but the threat that it could continue and get worst. The panic button didn’t reduce the amount of noise, but it removed the threat.
People tolerate things better if they believe they can exert control over the event if it become necessary. 26 Thriving for Control People response to a lack of control is the cultivation of a superstitious belief of control. If real control is unavailable people prefer to imagine that they have control E.g.: superstitious and magical beliefs, prayers, …. 27 Forms of Control: 1. Money. Economics is devoted to its study.
As a matter of fact money improves, pace the popular dictum, one’s chance for both love and happiness. Studies show that healthier people are happier than poor ones. 28 Men with money find it easier to attract the love of women than poor men. Women are more willing to escape a loveless marriage if the don’t depend financially from their husband. Money is a cultural medium of control. 29 Forms of Control: 2. Power
Political science is devoted to its study.
The desire to have an impact on other people’s lives. It can be for good or bad reason. People with money may wish to give it to some poor because they have an impact on the latter’s lives. 30 Benefits of power
(i) To get what one wants (it can help resolve some obstacles in one’s favor). (ii) Most of what people want involves other people (thus power enhances the chances that others do what one wants).
31 Sex and belonging are innate human desire
Power increases both. (e.g. Kissinger: “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”).
Power reduces the risk of being abandoned.
Power may not be a mean to an end, but it shapes many other activities. 32 Forms of Control: 3. Possession and Territory
E.g. dogs mark their territory with urine, while humans with legal documents. The aim is to maintain control over a specific area.
Possession is also inherent to our species. E.g. religious practice and communism praising to renounce possession didn’t attract many people.
33 People overvalue that they possess E.g.: second hand shopping. Possession requires an owner. One must be aware of owning an object. Among animals possession is probably the appearing step toward selfhood.
34 The drives to own territory and items may be rooted in the motives for dealing with the physical environment. But it become more refined and developed in social beings and subsequently in cultural ones. 35 Belongingness
Groups can share resources, scare predators, etc. Competition for resources would favor a need for belongingness. Belongingness is likely to promote reproduction and caring for the children. The latter are likely to survive if they have more than one caregiver. 36 Belongingness is a need
To be distinguished from a want (like e.g. sex).
People can go without sex without suffering. People in isolation suffers. Social isolation affects one’s immune system. 37 People direct survival is affected by havingor not having social bonds E.g.: US mortality rates are higher among singles, divorcees, widows, …) Belongingness is important for mental health
E.g.: mental illness is tree times higher among divorced than married people; rejected children have higher rates of psychopathology.
38 Happiness and Belongingness
People with social bonds are happier (not surprising given how belongingness affect both the physical and mental life of individuals). No particular relationship (e.g. friendship, family, marriage, …) matters. But if one is alone the chances of being happy are statistically lover.
39 The Need to belonging is crucial
It is more important and decisive than satisfying any other needs. Belongingness plays a causal role.
It doesn’t merely affect one’s mental or physical state. Rejected people show a variety of destructive consequences; selfdefeating behaviors, reduction of intelligent thoughts, antisocial behavior, less pro
social behavior, …. 40 Social Circles
There seem to be a size (around 6) of desired social circles. E.g.: among college students who come into contact with many people the majority of their social interaction is between 4 to 6 people.
People organize their social life among small groups. 41 Gender Differences in belongingness
Women are more focused on onetoone relationships, while men orient toward larger social groups. This is manifested in e.g. aggressive patterns. Domestic violence is equal among men and women even if men are generally more aggressive; Men are more helpful toward strangers, while women within the family; playground children males are more keen toward a newcomer, girls play with the same child longer; … 42 The need to belonging goes beyond the oneto
This may help explaining the step which moves humans from social to cultural animals. 43 ...
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- Fall '07
- Philosophy, cultural variants