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The output can be physiological activity, information to other psychological mechanisms, or manifest behaviors. The output is directed toward the solution to a specific adaptive problem pp.

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For example, consider how a specific module for inducing fear of snakes would fit the above criteria. First, such an adaptation would clearly solve a specific problem of survival: avoiding dangerous animals.

Evolution: Why Sex ? (PBS Documentary)

Second, a module for detecting dangerous animals may indeed take in only a limited type of information—it may induce the individual to pay special attention to serpentine forms and to motivate fear only in response a specific type of phenomena: perception of snakes. The third and fourth criteria are also met, in that the input—sensory processing of a snake or something snakelike—provides the individual with the information to produce a response appropriate to that particular input based on the adaptive problem that mechanism evolved to solve, which in turn activates a particular decision rule: fear and increased attention to the stimuli.

The outcome of detecting a snake meets the final criteria, as the evolved mechanism for fear of snakes induces the individual to take action to evade the danger, a physiological response evolved to prevent bodily harm. The apparent incongruity that arises from this fact is that modern hazards pose a more serious threat to many of us than do snakes. The solution to this dilemma is that snakes were a part of our ancestral environment for a long enough time to exert sufficient selection pressures to produce such a fear module, whereas relatively novel aspects of our environment, such as cars, have not had sufficient time or selective impact to drive natural selection to build a module for fearing and avoiding them.

This solution is clarified by describing a second key concept of evolutionary psychology, the environment of evolutionary adaptedness. Environment of evolutionary adaptedness.

The importance of identifying the relevant features of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness for humans cannot be overstated. To generate testable hypotheses about the mental tools we should expect humans to have, we must know something about p. However, environment of evolutionary adaptedness does not refer to one specific habitat or time period. For any given adaption, there was a particular set of selection pressures to which that adaptation arose as a solution.

The conditions that gave rise to one adaptation will differ from those that gave rise to another, and thus the environment of evolutionary adaptedness of each adaptation will differ. For instance, an organism with both a shell and an acute sense of smell would likely have evolved these adaptations under different circumstances and for different reasons. Its ancestors may have evolved a keen sense of smell to locate food but evolved a shell to protect them from predators.

Mental modules arose in the same way. A mental module for preferring specific foods would evolve under different circumstances and solve a different adaptive problem than a mental module for detecting whether someone is cheating in a social context. Several evolutionary psychologists e.

Despite the slow pace of natural selection, however, we should not jump to the conclusion that the environment of evolutionary adaptedness for most human adaptations differs dramatically from the contemporary environment Hagen, Although some features of our modern environments differ from features of our ancestral environments, most of the adaptations we possess are likely to be operating as they were designed to operate.

How Love Evolved from Sex and Gave Birth to Intelligence and Human Nature | SpringerLink

If they did not, and were our environments to have changed dramatically and rapidly from our ancestors, Hagen points out that we would probably be headed toward extinction:. The human species is clearly not going extinct; hence the common belief that [evolutionary psychology] claims humans currently live in an entirely novel environment is incorrect. Most aspects of the modern environment closely resemble [aspects of our ancestral environments].

Hearts, lungs, eyes, language, pain, locomotion, memory, the immune system, pregnancy, and the psychologies underlying mating, parenting, friendship, and status all work as advertised — excellent evidence that the modern environment does not radically diverge from [our ancestral environments].

However, it does appear that until a few thousand years ago, our ancestors lived similarly to modern-day hunter-gatherer tribes. Modern life in developed countries may be similar to the environments of our ancestors in many fundamental ways, but we cannot ignore the differences that exist. Modern technology, for example, now provides many humans with environmental input that did not exist for the majority of our history as a species.

Because the information-processing mechanisms of the brain function by responding to environmental input, it is important to consider contemporary environments and the novel ways in which they may interact with evolved psychological mechanisms. The concepts of evolved psychological mechanism and environment of evolutionary adaptedness, although fundamental to evolutionary psychology, represent only a portion of the major tenets related to this approach to human behavior.

The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans

But rather than simply continue to describe what evolutionary psychology is , we believe it is useful to round out our description of evolutionary psychology by describing what it is not , particularly by highlighting and correcting some of the major misconceptions associated with an evolutionary psychological approach to human behavior. Despite phenomenal growth in evolutionary psychology, this perspective has continued to be plagued p.

An audience new to an evolutionary approach to psychology might be put off by many of these common misunderstandings, and a brief overview will serve to put such misunderstandings aside. Misconception 1: Evolutionary psychology is panadaptationist. One charge leveled against evolutionary psychologists is that they regard every aspect of behavior as an adaptation, and they have failed to acknowledge the importance of other sources of genetic change Gould, This claim is false.

Evolutionary psychologists have made a point of explicitly noting that evolution does not only lead to the production of adaptations, but it also results in the accumulation of by-products and noise Kurzban, , provides a copious list of evolutionary psychologists stating as such.

An Evolutionary Perspective on Mate Choice and Relationship Initiation

But what makes this claim so obviously mistaken is that there are so many examples of evolutionary psychologists explicitly proposing and testing by-product hypotheses. Symons hypothesized over 30 years ago that the human female orgasm is a by-product of an adaptation namely, male orgasm. Other examples include Thornhill and Palmer hypothesizing that rape is a by-product of the male sex drive, Pinker hypothesizing that music is a by-product of language and that art is a by-product of habitat selection, and Dawkins hypothesizing that religion is a by-product of evolved mechanisms that arose to solve adaptive problems unrelated to a religious predilection.

Not only do evolutionary psychologists acknowledge the presence of by-products, their published works are saturated with references to them see Buss, Misconception 2: Evolutionary psychology is unscientific.

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Another pair of criticisms frequently aimed at evolutionary psychology is that it consists of little more than ad hoc storytelling, and that it is based on untestable, unfalsifiable speculation over unknown details of our evolutionary past. There are several problems with these criticisms. First, Sell and colleagues note that the charge of generating ad hoc hypotheses is inconsistent with how evolutionary psychologists have actually conducted research. Rather than attempt to find suitable explanations for previously acknowledged facts, evolutionary psychologists have tended to generate hypotheses for the purpose of discovering new facts.

Rather than conjure an explanation for an already recognized fact of human psychology, this research discovered the existence of a previously unknown sex difference in human psychology. We may not know much about the specific details of the evolutionary history of humans, but the notion that we know too little to generate hypotheses is not defensible in light of the rather modest assumptions evolutionary psychologists actually make to generate and test hypotheses. Hagen notes that the physical and chemical laws that govern the universe were the same, and the ecological and geographical features of the world were the same insofar as the landscape was dotted with trees, caves, hills, lakes, and populated with similar types of plants, animals, and pathogens.

Likewise, important sociological phenomena were similar insofar as there were men and women who lived in family groups that consisted of parents, siblings, offspring, and people of varying ages and relatedness. The bottom line is that evolutionary psychology is no less capable of generating testable hypotheses than any other scientific approach, and contrary to the claims of critics, we, in fact, know a great deal about the relevant aspects of our evolutionary past.

Misconception 3: Evolutionary psychology implies determinism. Genetic determinism is the view that all behavior is determined by our genes, and that free will or the environment plays little if any role Buss, Evolutionary psychology implies no such thing. The misunderstanding Coyne displays is a simple but important one. Evolutionary psychologists do not claim that behavior is hardwired. Rather, they contend that natural selection has shaped numerous information-processing mechanisms that interact with input e. Hagen notes that even if the structure of these mechanisms were genetically determined, this would not imply that behavior is genetically determined.

Evolutionary psychology takes an interactionist approach, which requires that two criteria be met to produce a particular behavioral output: 1 a module for processing particular kinds of input, and 2 appropriate environmental stimuli to activate that module Buss, Indeed, not only does evolutionary psychology not imply genetic determinism, but its most prominent proponents also have repeatedly and explicitly rejected genetic determinism, insisting that by ignoring the necessary interaction between genes and the environment, genetic determinism is not only false but also nonsensical Kurzban, With these misconceptions of evolutionary psychology set aside, we can turn our attention to putting an evolutionary approach into practice and examining sexual conflict, with a special focus on humans.

The modern application of evolutionary principles to the study of human psychology and behavior has paved the way for new avenues of research not present just 20 years ago. One of these research avenues is sexual conflict. Sexual conflict occurs when the evolutionary interests of males and females diverge Parker, ; Trivers, A review of the literature examining lifetime infidelity and paternal discrepancy rates indicates that humans are not a monogamous species.

Intralocus sexual conflict occurs between traits common to males and females of which there is opposing selection. Interlocus sexual conflict occurs when a trait is encoded by different genes in males and females, producing conflict in the outcome of male—female interactions. This form of conflict, which is the primary focus of evolutionary psychologists, encompasses much of what we think of when we think of sexual conflict in nonhuman species, such as sexual cannibalism, grasping and antigrasping organs, and love darts see Koene, this volume.

Humans, of course, do not practice sexual cannibalism, we do not have grasping organs on our abdomens, and we do not produce love darts. Later in this chapter, we review evidence for sexual conflict as reflected in the design of psychological mechanisms, but before doing so, we discuss the source of sexual conflict in humans.


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Sexual conflict in humans stems from an asymmetry in reproductive biology. Fertilization and gestation occur within females, and this form of sexual reproduction has two consequences that are relevant to sexual conflict in humans: asymmetric parental investment and paternity uncertainty. Sexual conflict associated with parental investment. Different mating strategies e.

Fast, indiscriminant mating could cost a woman substantial time, energy, and resources if conception occurs, whereas reproduction can be much less costly for a man e. Parental investment theory Trivers, , which states that the sex that makes the larger minimum obligatory parental investment will be the more sexually discriminating sex, whereas the sex that makes the smaller minimum obligatory parental investment will compete more intensely for access to the higher investing sex, predicts and accounts for much of the sexual conflict in humans.

For example, parental investment theory predicts that sexual conflict will occur when men and women pursue their optimal mating strategy i. Without the burden of a large obligatory investment, men relative to women would benefit more from short-term, low-investment strategies, and when compared with men, women would benefit more, on average, from long-term, high-investment strategies. These conflicting strategies account for myriad phenomena, but here we briefly discuss just two: sexual coercion and cognitive biases.

Sexual conflict associated with asymmetric minimum obligatory parental investment explains why, historically and cross-culturally, men are the perpetrators and why women are the victims of sexual coercion and rape. It is not yet known whether rape in humans is produced by an adaptation that was directly selected for or as a by-product of other psychological mechanisms e.

Sexual conflict associated with parental investment also may account for a number of cognitive biases in men and women.