Evolutionary Psychology Essay

The human brain is very unique. The concept of evolutionary psychology explains that human behavior is largely influenced by their evolutionary ancestors through six theories and methods. Evolutionary psychology proposes that a lot of human behavior can be explained by the change of the physical and social environments through time. It argues that “much of human behavior is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. ” (Evolutionary Psychology) The goals of evolutionary psychology is to understand the design of the human mind through human ancestors.

Charles Darwin provided the framework of Evolutionary psychology. He proposed the “comparative method” which has become one of the most important methods in psychology and more specifically evolutionary psychology. If scientists can look at human behavior through an evolutionary standpoint, then they could see what Darwin proposed. A trait is contributed to a species’ survival (reproductive success). Therefore, if a species survives, then that trait (behavior) that allowed them to survive will continue onto their offsprings.

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However, if the trait (behavior) did not allow them to survive, then that trait (behavior) would die off along with that set of species, or the offspring would change so they can survive. By knowing how this concept works, scientists can possibly understand why humans behave the they do today. This is the basis of evolutionary psychology. Scientists must keep this concept in mind while looking deeper into evolutionary psychology through six different theories and methods. (Evolutionary Psychology) “The brain is a computer designed by natural selection to extract information from the environment. (Downes) The environment plays a tremendous role in the way the human brain functions. Depending of the surroundings, the mind can change to adapt and behave the best for that certain environment. “Individual human behavior is generated by this evolved computer in response to information it extracts from the environment. Understanding behavior requires articulating the cognitive programs that generate the behavior. ” (Downes) Inputs and outputs from the environment causes humans to behave in a certain way.

To understand this behavior, scientists must grasp what causes that certain behavior (why humans act in a certain way in certain situations). “The cognitive programs of the human brain are adaptations. They exist because they produced behavior in our ancestors that enabled them to survive and reproduce. ” (Downes) It is a set of machines that natural selection designed to solve the problems that our ancestors had to face. As the environment changed, our ancestors were forced to change and if they could not, they would die off. Those who survived, were able to pass down their behavior to their offspring.

That behavior remained dominant until the environment changed again and the species behavior was forced to change again. “The cognitive programs of the human brain may not be adaptive now; they were adaptive in ancestral environments. ” (Downes) Because the ancestral environment was changing rapidly the were forced to change and adapt more rapidly as opposed to now. Today, the environment has not changed drastically and so the modern human is not forced to change their behavior extremely. “Natural selection ensures that the brain is composed of many different special purpose programs and not a domain general architecture. (Downes) This method presents the “massive modularity thesis” (Downes) The “massive modularity thesis” suggests that the modules in our mind are a way to measure the mental processing of the human mind that has evolved because of pressures from selection.

A lot of what the modern human behaves like is because of the adaptations that occurred in earlier human evolvement (when natural selection was shaping the modern human species). “Describing the evolved computational architecture of our brains ‘allows a systematic understanding of cultural and social phenomena. ” (Downes) The brain allows humans to understand what behavior (how the humans should act in different situations) is necessary to survive and reproduce. Many researchers have studied evolutionary psychology like Laurie Santos, Antonios Vakirtzis, and Lei Chang. Laurie Santos looks at the roots of human irrationality by analyzing the way that the primate relatives make decisions. According to Santos, the errors that humans make are very specific. They are predictable, they are made again and again and they are immune to evidence; even if humans get negative feedback they will still make that same mistake again.

There are two possibilities for humans to make mistakes. The first is that the environment is designed badly (the environment influences human’s behavior and decisions) and the second is that the human mind is designed badly. These errors may occur because humans may be built to make mistakes. In order to tell the difference between possibility one and possibility two Santos (along with some of her students) conduct an experiment called “monkeynomics” to show that these monkey relatives make the same choices that humans make.

Santos looked at the monkeys economic decisions to see if they would be the same as humans. They later discovered that the monkeys make the same decisions as humans. The monkeys played it safe when gaining grapes (money) and took a risk when loosing grapes (money) as do humans. This experiment shows that modern human behavior is largely influenced by their ancestors, but humans have also evolved from their ancestors to adapt to the new environment. (Santos)

Antonios Vakirtzis discussed that human mate choice, (the ways in which men choose women) incorporate information about a man’s past or present romantic partners and that turns into their own assessment about themselves. Experimental studies showed that men that were shown facial images were more likely to chooses the faces that were more “attractive” faces (like model females) as opposed to “unattractive” faces. “This phenomenon has a straightforward evolutionary explanation: the fact that female mate value is more dependent on physical attractiveness compared to male mate value. (Vakirtzis) Also, because of mating for “attractiveness,” the men who mate with “attractive” women are more likely to be more wanted for mating purposes. (Vakirtzis) This theory proves that humans ancestors play an enormous part in how modern humans think and act. the human’s ancestors chose a mate based on some type of physical quality, whether it be facial expression or even larger body parts. Lei Chang proposed that because women’s faces and bodies say different things for the reproductive value, men may look at different body parts for their long-term versus their short- term mating motivations.

A test was conducted to prove this hypothesis. This test consisted of three experiments on 135 men and 132 women participants. When men looked at the short-term rather than long-term mating motivations, their attention was captured by one thing, was then shifted to another thing, and then distracted by the women’s hip area rather than the face of the “attractive women. ” This test was then conducted on females and was discovered that the results were not the same. These results support the evolutionary view that, similar to the attentional selectivity found in other domains of life, male perceptual attention has evolved to selectively capture and hold reproductive information about the opposite sex as a function of short-term versus long-term mating goals. ” (Chang) Therefore, the human’s brain (mind) is largely influenced by what has happened to the human’s ancestors in the past and the environment that caused a change in behavior by the ancestors. The way the ancestors thought may be the same way modern human’s think.