I. Traditional and evolutionary psycholo

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Information about I. Traditional and evolutionary psycholo

Published on December 11, 2008

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I. TRADITIONAL AND EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY : I. TRADITIONAL AND EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY TP and EP : TP and EP How does Evolutionary Psychology differ from traditional psychology? What is Evolutionary Psychology all about? Levels of explanation in EP vs. traditional psychology TP and EP : TP and EP How does Evolutionary Psychology differ from traditional psychology? The role of metatheory in science : The role of metatheory in science Metatheory = a set of backgroud assumptions accepted by all or most scientists working on a particular field laws of Newton in physics laws of evolution in biology Metatheory provides guidelines for constructing and testing new theories and hypotheses Theories on field of study must be consistent with the metatheory: all specific theories must be in accordance with the metatheory The background assumptions provided by the metatheory are seldom questioned, especially if they manage to explain anomalous findings Sometimes researchers are not even aware that they possess certain background assumptions or that these assumptions affect their work Current metatheory in psychology : Current metatheory in psychology The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) The Blank Slate (tabula rasa) Purest form: Infants everywhere are born the same and have the same developmental potential Infants have virgin minds with no natural, innate, inborn tendencies or inclinations Any inclinations adults express result from unique life experiences Blank Slate... : Blank Slate... Adults differ profoundly in their behavioral and mental organization Human’s everywhere show striking within group similarities and between group differences  Any differences between people arise from differences in experience (culture, social environment), not from differences in underlying biology  The cultural and social environment shapes our psychological mechanisms, makes us who we are Roots of the Blank Slate : Roots of the Blank Slate The idea of a Blank Slate is centuries old (enlightenment philosophy) Usually attributed to John Locke's (1632-1704) political philosophy: foundation for liberal democracy, equality despite one's status at birth,  weapon against church, monarchs and slavery The Blank Slate was particularly appealing during past century: The world could be more free, more equal and more just place with the shift from biology to culture Slavery & Immigration Women's rights Child development, education and upbringing World Wars and the Holocaust Behaviorism Social equality Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM THE BLANK SLATE A blank virgin mind is a general purpose computer that can respond to any type of input and thus learn from experience How can something truly blank respond to anything? Virgin minds have no rules for responding If a system has no rules for responding, there is no systematic response, and thus, no learning  General purpose learning mechanism has no specific rules for responding to specific input, thus it cannot account for learning  Moreover, recurring patterns of response seem to be part of species' nature, i. e. babies react to similar stimulus in similar ways Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM Example: Language learning Auditory exposure to language triggers specific ”programs” in infants that allow them to develop mastery of language Innate response patterns to language are an integral part of human nature, missing in other species Isolation or other linguistic deprivation prevents the learning process  feral children Specific type of input triggers specific innate response patterns that allow learning to take place EP: Numerous specific learning mechanisms, no general purpose computer Current metatheory in psychology : Current metatheory in psychology The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) 2. General-purpose learning mechanisms If everything is learned by experience, the brain has to be capable of learning to begin with We are born with ”General purpose learning mechanism” = GPLM can handle many different kinds of input and produce many different kinds of output There is only one or few general learning mechanisms that account for diverse effects of experience  Mind is a general-purpose computer Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM 2. EP: GENERAL PURPOSE LEARNING MECHANISMS CANNOT EXPLAIN ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS Definition of learning: a set of processes that allow experience to modify behavior Real world consists of many different and specific types of problems Specific problems require specific programs or processes that can deal with specific type of input and produce specific type of output General purpose learning mechanisms cannot deal with various specific types of input, and thus cannot solve specific problems  There are no general-purpose problems, thus there is no general purpose learning mechanism Current metatheory in psychology : Current metatheory in psychology The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) 3. Irrelevance of Biology Biological constraints on human behavior are minor and unimportant We have only few basic biological drives (hunger, thirst, sex and sleep) Biology sets broad boundaries for development, which is guided by experience  Experience plays the leading role, biology is a side kick Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM 3. NATURE AND NURTURE -DICHOTOMY Nature vs. nurture, biology vs. innateness, genes vs. environment Are we mainly shaped by what happens to us during our lifetime (learning from experience)? Or was there something innate shaping us before we were even born? How much genes contribute to traits and how much the environment? Are we the product of nature or nurture? Genetic fallacy : Genetic fallacy 3. NATURE AND NURTURE –DICHOTOMY is based on the misunderstanding that evolved (genetically determined) traits are fixed and inflexible learned traits are unfixed and flexible Genetically based traits are often highly responsive to the environmental conditions Invalidates the gene-environment, nature and nurture –dichotomy! Are we the product of nature or nurture? is a question missing its point Genotype and phenotype : Genotype and phenotype Genotype  All the genes you carry, never changing, unobservable (cannot be seen by external observer) Phenotype  All the characteristics and traits you possess, as perceived by external observer physical: e.g., eye and hair color, height, weight, etc. psychological: personality, reaction styles, behavior How genotype affects phenotype? Obligate and facultative traits : Obligate and facultative traits Evolution shaped genes for both obligate and facultative traits Obligate trait is a characteristic that does not change in response to environment Gene is always expressed in predetermined way (e.g. eye color) Facultative trait is a physical characteristic or behavioral trait that is highly responsive to the environment Gene's expression depends on environmental factors (e.g. UV exposure  melanin production, synthesis of vitamin D) Genes that respond to changing environment by adjusting the phenotype are more fitness-enhancing than less responsive genes  selected for during evolution Obligate and facultative traits : Obligate and facultative traits If the ability to adjust to environmental changes is so useful and fitness-enhancing, why are not all traits facultative? Whether selection favors obligate or facultative traits depends on the pattern of environmental variation Sometimes obligate adaptations that resist environmental interference offer the best solution in a wide range of environments Selection tends to favor facultative traits when: Environmental conditions vary within the lifetime of the individual (organism must survive in different environments, e.g. varying UV –levels during winter/summer) The fittest alternative varies from one environment to next (e.g. level of melanin production depends on the season) Most behavioral traits evolved as facultative, because they could offer rapid flexibility in changing environments Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM 3. Nature and Nurture -dichotomy Causes of behavior cannot be divided between nature and nurture Biological and environmental facts are not mutually exclusive explanations Nature and nurture work together in the development of traits Interaction between genes and environment cannot and should not be distinguished RIGHT QUESTION: Why genes and environment interact in a particular way? Why does the environment have some particular effect? Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM 4. SSSM CREATES A GORGE BETWEEN NATURAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES SSSM divorces psychology from natural sciences, especially biology, even though biology makes possible everything we are and do Behavior is studied in isolation in psychology and in biology, although living things as biological objects conform to the rules of evolution and natural selection  the behavior of all living things must be explained by terms of evolution Why is evolution so central in explaining the behavior of animals, but not in explaining human behavior? Problems with SSSM : Problems with SSSM 4. SSSM CREATES A GORGE BETWEEN NATURAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES All science should be a linked, single, coherent endeavor There is no scientifically defensible reason to divide between natural and social sciences Disregarding biological explanations may easily result in weaknesses in psychological explanations Psychological explanation cannot be in contradiction with biological explanations Slide 21: What is Evolutionary Psychology all about? Evolutionary psychology: An emerging metatheory? : Evolutionary psychology: An emerging metatheory? SIMPLE IDEA: Explaining human psychology and behavior as a result of natural selection, i. e. an evolved adaptation Logical and appealing to common sense: only few deny the role of evolution in the designs of species Still, evolutionary psychology is a widely debated and critisized field of science and considered highly controversial What's the fuss about? Reasons for the controversy : Reasons for the controversy Main reasons for debate: What is evolutionary psychology? Are the main background assumptions of EP acceptable? Are evolutionary hypotheses empirically testable and can we rely on results? Evolutionary Psychology vs. evolutionary psychology : Evolutionary Psychology vs. evolutionary psychology 1) What is evolutionary psychology? Evolutionary Psychology Scientific paradigm specific set of theoretical and methodological commitments, basic background assumptions, that guide theory formation and empirical research evolutionary psychology Field of inquiry the evolutionary study of mind and behavior any evolutionary perspective on human behavior and psychology significant differences in fundamental theoretical and methodological commitments that do not comply to commitments of EP (e.g. human behavioral ecology) Evolutionary Psychology : Evolutionary Psychology This course is about Evolutionary Psychology! Evolutionary Psychology is a multidiciplinary research program that studies the psychological mechanisms underlying behavior as adaptations to the evolutionary environment of human species Evolutionary biology, especially evolutionary theory and laws of natural selection, form the core of Evolutionary Psychology Human behavior and psychological mechanisms underlying behavior cannot be understood without taking into account the environment in which these mechanisms evolved in the first place Evolutionary Psychology : Evolutionary Psychology The central research problem: How psychological mechanisms that underlie behavior have evolved under natural selection and how selection has shaped these mechanisms Evolutionary Psychology aims to explain the adaptive evolution of the proximate mechanisms that control behavior, not provide an adaptive explanation for behavior The aims: To identify and specify adaptive problems in EEA To specify the proximate psychological mechanisms that have evolved to solve those adpative problems To empirically test the whether such mechanisms exist and how the systems function To create a unifying, overarching theory of the design of human psychology Slide 27: Levels of explanation in EP vs. traditional psychology Levels of explanation : Levels of explanation Traditional psychology is concerned with mechanism What does the system do? How does the system work?  Proximate explanations are searched in SSSM Evolutionary Psychology is also concerned with function Why does the system exist? Why does the system have the form it does?  Ultimate explanations for proximate mechanisms are searched in EP Traditional vs. Evolutionary Psychology : Traditional vs. Evolutionary Psychology LEVELS OF EXPLANATION Proximate explanations Developmental: genes, gene-enviroment interaction, age, sex-related variation Physiological: neuronal, hormonal, biochemical, and biomechanical mechanisms Ultimate explanations Historical: evolutionary origins, precursors Selective: adaptive value of the trait Traditional vs. Evolutionary Psychology : Traditional vs. Evolutionary Psychology BUT these explanations do not compete with each other! IF one is right, the other is not necessarily wrong! Explanations compliment each other, providing different kind of information about the same phenomena EP aims at providing ultimate explanations for why certain proximate mechanisms are operative

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