Seven Key Misconceptions about Evolutionary Psychology

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Seven Key Misconceptions about Evolutionary Psychology Empty Seven Key Misconceptions about Evolutionary Psychology

Post by phildidge on Tue Aug 20, 2019 4:34 pm

Evolutionary approaches to psychology hold the promise of revolutionizing the field and unifying it with the biological sciences. But among both academics and the general public, a few key misconceptions impede its application to psychology and behavior. This essay tackles the most pervasive of these.

Misconception 1: Evolution and Learning Are Conflicting Explanations for Behavior
People often assume that if something is learned, it’s not evolved, and vice versa. This is a misleading way of conceptualizing the issue, for three key reasons.

First, many evolutionary hypotheses are about learning. For example, the claim that humans have an evolved fear of snakes and spiders does not mean that people are born with this fear. Instead, it means that humans are endowed with an evolved learning mechanism that acquires a fear of snakes more easily and readily than other fears. Classic studies in psychology show that monkeys can acquire a fear of snakes through observational learning, and they tend to acquire it more quickly than a similar fear of other objects, such as rabbits or flowers. It is also harder for monkeys to unlearn a fear of snakes than it is to unlearn other fears. As with monkeys, the hypothesis that humans have an evolved fear of snakes does not mean that we are born with this fear. Instead, it means that we learn this fear via an evolved learning mechanism that is biologically prepared to acquire some fears more easily than others.

Second, learning is made possible by evolved mechanisms instantiated in the brain. We are able to learn because we are equipped with neurocognitive mechanisms that enable learning to occur—and these neurocognitive mechanisms were built by evolution. Consider the fact that both children and puppies can learn, but if you try to teach them the same thing—French, say, or game theory—they end up learning different things. Why? Because the dog’s evolved learning mechanisms are different from those of the child. What organisms learn, and how they learn it, depends on the nature of the evolved learning mechanisms housed in their brains.

An analogy with perception helps to illustrate the point. Organisms perceive by virtue of perceptual mechanisms in their brains and sense organs. To understand how these perceptual mechanisms work and what kind of output they yield, we must look to the causal process that built them: evolution. This is an uncontroversial idea when it comes to perception, but it is less widely appreciated that the same reasoning applies to learning. Organisms learn, and learning is crucial for behavior—but learning is made possible by brain-based learning mechanisms whose provenance lies in evolution. Learning and evolution are not conflicting explanations; they are natural explanatory partners.

Third, construing evolution and learning as automatically in conflict is a mistake because they are not even located at the same level of analysis: learning is a proximate explanation, whereas evolution is an ultimate one. (The proximate level of analysis explains how something works, whereas the ultimate level explains why it works that way, or why the system was built that way in the first place). To say that something is a product of evolution does not imply anything about how the behavior comes about during an organism’s lifespan: it may involve some learning, no learning, or a great deal of learning. The two kinds of explanations are thus compatible. (It is possible for specific evolutionary hypotheses to conflict with specific learning hypotheses, as when a particular evolutionary hypothesis yields proximate predictions that conflict with those made by a particular learning hypothesis. The point, however, is that it is not necessary for the two to conflict, and there are plenty of examples in which evolution and learning are perfectly compatible. The mistake is to think that the two explanations are automatically in conflict simply because one involves learning and the other involves evolution.)


https://areomagazine.com/2019/08/20/seven-key-misconceptions-about-evolutionary-psychology/


Excellent read and more to read on the link

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Post by gelico on Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:05 pm



all very interesting and a little bit confusing to my brain if i'm honest

i remember my brother saying babies are born with 2 fears only

the fear of sudden loud noises and the fear of falling



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Seven Key Misconceptions about Evolutionary Psychology Empty Re: Seven Key Misconceptions about Evolutionary Psychology

Post by Ben Reilly on Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:17 pm

Evolutionary psychology is fascinating, but it's easy to get carried away and make claims that can't really be supported.

To me, the most interesting thing about the (generally well-supported) theory is that it could point to reasons for why things go wrong in some people.

For a few examples, anxiety and pedophilia. Evolutionary psychologists have proposed that these are cases of natural tendencies -- a worry for one's safety, and the biological desire to find a young partner to increase the chances of healthy offspring -- gone too far.

One thing seen in evolution is that nature can occasionally reward a certain trait until that trait suddenly dooms the entire species, and some scientists even think that's happened to humans, with intelligence outstripping the ability of nature to keep our population from exploding and devouring all the resources the planet has to offer.

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Post by Victorismyhero on Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:45 pm

pffft...psychology pretending to be a science again Rolling Eyes

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Post by Ben Reilly on Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:12 pm

Victorismyhero wrote:pffft...psychology pretending to be a science again Rolling Eyes

Well, evolutionary psychology doesn't really lend itself to therapy, counseling, that sort of thing.

It's more about exploring the possible evolutionary advantages that psychological phenomena might have given people.

The classic example involves the human tendency to pay more attention to negative news than to positive news.

The thinking goes, when humans were evolving on the African savanna, getting freaked out over a minor danger couldn't hurt you, and could possibly save your life.

Never getting freaked out meant you were never prepared to fight or flee danger, so you probably didn't live long.

So people tend to either get freaked out the appropriate amount, or to go overboard. Most of the people who never worried about news of a threat got eaten by lions or stabbed up by a raiding tribe.

Another good example of what EP studies involves finding patterns within a random signal.

The tribesman who heard the grass rustling (a random signal) and ran, thinking he was about to be eaten by a lion, wasn't punished by nature. Literally any other response carried a greater risk of death, so that tendency to find threatening patterns even when they aren't real persisted.

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