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Action and Culture 1 Rules
Humans follow rules. They understand them as abstract prescriptions existing independently of any particular individual. This is species specific. For it rests on the fact that only cultural animals act on the basis of abstract meanings.
Evolution gave us free will, so we can benefit from culture.
2 The behaviorproducing system must be receptive to meaning for the latter is the vehicle by which culture influences behavior and allows people to benefit from culture.
It is aimed at producing good emotions and avoiding bad ones. 3 Behavior pursues emotions
Emotions carry messages from the motivation system to the cognitive system so they can pass preferences to the behavior system. This happens with both natural and cultural motivations.
If culture can teach people to feel good/bad, it then can influence their behavior. 4 Actions and the Duplex Mind
The duplex mind influences the link between thought and action. The conscious system usually embraces nonviolence while the automatic system can act on the violent inputs one encounters. One may face incompatible options ….
Can show how to act in a different way from the way one would usually act/react. Behavior
Often guided by automatic processes. Yet the conscious system influences behavior as well. Thus behavior is influenced by both the automatic and the conscious system.
6 The conscious system may not decide which finger to use to ring a bell. But it formulates the grand plan, e.g. to make a call.
The conscious mind developed first as a way to override the automatic responses. 7 Reward and Punishment
Form most animals the reward/punishment must occur immediately after the behavior for learning to occur (even a five second delay makes learning less efficient and with a ten second delay rats don’t learn). The expanded time processing of people stretches this out so they can learn from delay rewards and punishments. Yet speed and certainty of punishment are far more efficient than severity of punishment.
8 Punishment promotes faster learning (e.g.: experiment with students show that punishment promotes faster learning than rewarding).
The conscious mind learns mainly by trial and error.
The ability to figure things out is an advantage of the conscious system and thus of the duplex mind itself.
9 One also learn vicariously, i.e. without having to see mistakes/success of others. Gossiping plays a role here. Eating
Among human it is an action that can create social bounds. In some cultures norms stipulate that men don’t hurt people they share their food with. 10 Social learning
Learning by trial and error wouldn’t be sufficient and fully effective (e.g. imagine one learning to drive by trial and error).
Social learning by imitation can help. Observational learning is important among cultural animals. It relies on some form of identification (empathy) between the watcher and the watched.
11 Social transmission in behavior is common. Groups of chimps inhabiting the same habitat exhibit variants in social behavior (e.g. in grooming). Yet cumulative cultural evolution is rare in nature. Only humans seem to have it. E.g.: complex artifacts are not invented by a individuals at a given time; they evolve over many generations.
12 Imitation. It leads to cumulative evolution of behavior that no single individual could invent by herself. Children, unlike apes, imitate faithfully. The latter don’t pay close attention to details.
Cumulative cultural evolution is rare and possibly absent in nonhumans species.
13 Our closed relatives, the chimpanzees, rely on different modes of social learning than humans.
Copying vs. learning
Copiers don’t pay the cost of learning. As such copying doesn’t have any benefit on survival or reproduction. Copiers may acquire the wrong behavior for their environment. 14 Information scroungers vs. information producers
Information producers bear a cost to learn. When scroungers are rare and producers common, almost all scroungers will imitate a producer. Most scroungers will obtain the same benefits of good information as producers but will not bear the cost of production. However, when scroungers are common they likely imitate one another. 15 If the environment changes any scroungers that imitate scroungers will get caught out with bad information, while producers will adapt. The system equilibrates when the cost of production by producers just equals the cost of being wrong to scroungers when environments change. 16 Culture is adaptive when it makes individual learning more effective. Social/cultural learning improves the average fitness of a population only if it increases the fitness of individual learning who produce information, not just those who imitate. Increasing the frequency of imitators must make information production cheaper or more accurate.
17 Imitation allows cumulative improvement. Imitators can acquire their parent’s behavior after it has been improved by learning. Hence imitators can start their search closer to the best prevailing design than purely individual learning. They when transmit the improvement to future generations …
18 Selection favors a heavy reliance on imitation whenever individual learning is error prone or costly, and environments are neither too variable nor too stable. In such cases natural selection can favor individuals who pay almost no attention to their own experience and are “bound to customs”. 19 When in doubt about what to do stop trying and copy your mother: “When in Rome do as Romans do”. I.e. imitating the most common behavior is better than imitating at random since it is less likely to acquire inappropriate behavior. If this conformist tendency is genetically or culturally heritable, it will be favored by natural selection.
20 Imitate the successful. Determining who succeed is much easier tan determining how to succeed. This way one has a chance to acquire the behavior causing success even if one has no clue about which particular features cause success. Prestige bias, though, can lead to an unstable, runaway process like the one who gives rise to exaggerate characters (e.g. peacock tail).
21 Psychological experiments suggest that we’re prone to imitate the successful.
E.g.: people tend to imitate prestigious people even in domains not obviously related to their success; (cf. advertising). E.g.: poor and less educated people imitate people of high local status, not socially distant elites whose life situation is far from potential adopters.
22 How the capacities for culture possibly evolve?
Data: Chimps are overwhelmingly dependent on collected food, while human foragers get almost all their calories from extracted or hunted resources.
Humans live in a wider range of environments than other primates, because culture allows the relatively rapid accumulation of better strategies for the exploitation of local environment.
23 Socio/cultural learning may be an adaptation to Pleistocene (i.e. around 110 thousand years ago until 12 thousand years ago) climate fluctuations.
Cumulative cultural adaptation is most advantageous when there are big differences between environments in time/space and when variation arises slowly enough to make transmission and accumulation by social learning useful. 24 If environments change too rapidly, selection will favor individual learning but no transmission (why learn something useless to cope with my environment?). On the other hand, if environments change too slowly then ordinary organic evolution can track the fluctuations more faithfully and at less cost than a system of social learning.
A good howpossibly answer is that social learning is an adaptation to increased climate variation during the last half of the Pleistocene. This helps increased behavior adaptability. 25 The Pleistocene climate deteriorations is correlated with increase in brain size in many mammalian lineages beside our own. All other thing being equal selection would favor small brains for brains are costly (human brain: 16% of basal metabolism, average mammal 3%).
Other brain costs: difficulties at birth; long learning period; greater vulnerability to head trauma, … If brains got bigger it must have been for some good purposes.
26 If complex culture is a highly advantageous means of adapting to Pleistocene, why it is so rare?
Only fairy sizable populations can sustain complex, culturally evolved artifacts and behaviors.
E.g.: the complexity of tool kit began to deteriorate when Tasmania got disconnected to the mainland. Yet the Tasmania population was not tiny. When Europeans arrived it numbered at around 4 thousands). Surprisingly large population is required or the sustainability of tools consisting of many hundreds complex items. (cf.: division of linguistic labor).
27 Many preadaptations must have been in place for culture to develop and evolve. Like winning the lottery …
Upright posture and hands did not by themselves set of a rush to complex culture (the brain of first hominid, 4 millions years ago, is not bigger than ape’s one.
The tools tradition was not transmitted by imitation, but rather maintained by other learning mechanisms similar to the one of present apes.
28 Home erectus (1 million to 100,000 yeas ago) have larger brain and bodies than the bipedal apes. Their difference between the size of males and female was more or less like the difference among contemporary humans.
The skills of manufacturing their tools must have been culturally transmitted in the same way that stone tools traditions are transmitted among living foragers.
29 Human language.
Crucial but paleontologists have no idea when it evolved. The anatomy of vocal tracts suggests that even Neanderthals may have had very limited speech. Some argue that complex behaviors can be acquired by mimicry in the absence of language. People may have been mute until contemporary recent times.
30 Social Causality
The presence of meaning is essential to social causality. E.g.: we wouldn’t vote and cause distant future events without meaning. 31 Goals
Most behavior is goaldirected. Goals depends on meaning insofar as one envisages future events. A chimp can perform the same behavior as us (e.g. wash dishes) but it doesn’t really washes the dishes: it’s goal is not to get the dishes clean; it merely imitate the experimenter.
32 Goals pursuit depends on being able to think about a future state.
Evolution takes something that animals can do on a small scale and gives humans the ability to do it on a grand scale.
We can do so because we’re aided by language and the other tools of culture. 33 Goal Pursuit
It involves a shift between two different mental states:
(i) deliberative stage (the person reflects on whether to pursue a particular goal); (ii) implemental state (the person attempts implementing the goal in narrowing her attention to the goal).
34 The transition from deliberative to implemental has a ifthen structure (e.g.: if I can do x, then I’ll do y).
Consciousness and Behavior
The gap between conscious and behavior (which happens all the time) is bridged by the fact that consciousness may not have to initiate behavior. It merely intervenes to change its course.
Only cultural animals can change behavior based on ideas (this rests on meaning).
35 Free Will
Evolution is slow, while cultural changes are fast. Hence, instead of programming us for how to respond to every situation, nature had to give us the freedom to program and reprogram ourselves. Nature has to give us free will.
36 Yet free will is rejected by many people as “bad science”. The rejection of free will comes partly from cultivating a restrictive definition.
I.e. as the choice one can make independently of any external factor. 37 But, nature gave us what would be beneficial and adaptive. And what free the animal from the slavery to stimulus and responses would be a capacity to use meaningful thoughts and reasoning to act in a beneficial way. Rationality and freedom are linked (Searle). 38 Nature designed us to override the automatic responses we inherited from the animal. This is crucial for living in culture. 39 Determinism
Df. everything that happens is the result of some cause(s) that preceded in time.
Many cognitive scientists believe that the laws of physical causality are sufficient to explain all behavior.
This can be an extreme position holding that even social causality is an illusion.
40 The scientific enterprise rests on the view that causal principles exist to be found (people are product of their environment: thus changes in the environment make a change in the individuals).
But actual finding in psychology are probabilistic, not deterministic.
The majority of psychology research findings merely signify slight changes in the odd of any particular response.
41 Criticism of free will
To define freedom independently of any identifiable influence is an absurd, impossible requirement.
Morality is a social notion and exist socially, not physically. Thus a decision made on moral judgments cannot be reduced to purely physical causation. The brain must process the moral judgments, but the latter don’t reduce to molecule firing.
42 If Kant is right in holding that causality is one of the basic, innate, category of human understanding, then human minds (and psychological scientists) can only understand events as being caused.
Thus theorists cannot explain how free will can work.
We cannot construe a theory without invoking causality. This, though, doesn’t mean that freedom doesn’t exist. It merely means that our explanation of the world doesn’t match the world precisely.
43 Free will and the real world
Outside psychology people believe in free will. The whole legal system rests on it (no free will = no responsibility).
Addicts prove the existence of free will: an addict knows that there is an important difference between the driven by external factors and in relation to one own unrestraint craving. There is thus a difference between two kind of actions: one of them is more free than the other.
Moral: free will is a useful and empirically testable idea.
44 Occasionally the conscious mind can override some responses and change the programming of the automatic system.
This partial freeing may be one of the important functions of consciousness. This is highly adaptive and would increase the range of flexibility of human behavior. 45 Impulses & Restraints
The brain has two systems for two different task: (i) the behavior activation system and (ii) the behavior inhibition system. (e.g. alcohol seems to operate on the second).
Experiments on rats’ brain also prove they have the two systems. Thus nature separated activation from inhibition long before humans emerged.
46 If impulses (starting) and restraints (stopping) depends on different systems, then in principle factors can affect the one without affecting the other.
In many cases, though, the two systems are competing. E.g.: alcohol inhibits the inhibitors but does not activate new impulses. It merely weakens the restraints so the desires already present in the psyche have a better chance to turn into action; vino veritas.
47 Culture and impulses/restraints
Culture generally is more successful at shaping behavior by means of restrain than impulses. To make people do something culture must build on preexisting natural motivations. E.g.: culture cannot prevent someone to have sexual desires toward someone different from her partner, but it can prevent one to act. Culture shapes the inner restraints.
E.g.: emotions; culture teaches people to conceal/restrain their emotions.
48 The main cultural interventions are toward morality. Most of the moral rules tells us what NOT to do, they don’t tell us what to do. Nature vs. culture: Nature favors GO while culture promotes STOP. 49 Selfcontrol
The restraint of impulses is part of the largest project of selfcontrol.
This is crucial to cultural animals. Humans can restrain themselves much more extensively than other animals.
Selfcontrol can alter inner states/ responses/ motivations. It can override responses already in progress. Not many animal can do it.
50 One of the most important form of selfcontrol (which evolved because it was so adaptive and beneficial) is the ability to delay gratification, i.e. the ability to renounce shortterm gains in order to pursue longterm benefits. This goes with our capacity to transcend the immediate present.
Yet the human ability to pursue delayed gratification is relatively recent in evolutionary perspective and thus somewhat fragile.
51 Selfcontrol ranks along intelligence among the best allpurpose psychological capacities. Failure of selfcontrol is centrally involved in most personal and social problems.
E.g. substances abuse, alcoholism, …. 52 Three main ingredients in self control (a break down in one can cause selfcontrol to fail):
1. standards: rules, goals, ideals, …guideline for proper action.
2. monitoring: watching yourself and keeping track of how your behavior matches up with your goals and standards (like a room thermostat).
3. willpower : it operates like a muscle. It can be strengthen by exercise (building character, selfdiscipline).
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- Fall '07