Evolutionary Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Motivation, Emotion Pages: 106 (37846 words) Published: October 14, 2011
Evolutionary Psychology
This paper addresses a fundamental limitation in most attempts to apply the findings of evolutionary psychology to the human condition. Most attempts focus on how our biological past constrains and limits our behavioural options (including our cognitive abilities). They generally fail to look at whether these constraints can be overcome in our future evolution. To date, evolutionary psychology has not satisfactorily addressed a key question: are we beings forever constrained by our biological past, or can we acquire new psychological software that will enable us to become self-evolving organisms - beings that are able to adapt in whatever ways are necessary for future evolutionary success, largely unfettered by our biological and social past? This paper is directed squarely at addressing this issue. The answer to this issue is highly relevant to the nature/nurture debate. This debate will eventually dissolve to the extent that humans are capable of acquiring psychological skills that enable them to modify and overcome their genetic and cultural predispositions. To the extent that individuals acquire and apply these skills, neither nature nor nurture will control their behaviour and cognition.

In my view, a comprehensive approach to psychological evolution will not be restricted to examining only our biological past. It cannot ignore the fact that we are evolutionary work-in-progress. It must also look at our present and future psychological evolution. Only when it does so will evolutionary psychology fully qualify as scientific by being predictive in the widest sense.

John Stewart

ABSTRACT: Humans are able to construct mental representations and models of possible interactions with their environment. They can use these mental models to identify actions that will enable them to achieve their adaptive goals. But humans do not use this capacity to identify and implement the actions that would contribute most to the evolutionary success of humanity. In general, humans do not find motivation or satisfaction in doing so, no matter how effective the actions might be in evolutionary terms. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a significant limitation in the psychological adaptability of humans. This paper sets out to identify the new psychological capacity that would be needed to overcome this limitation and how the new capacity might be acquired. 1. INTRODUCTION

Is the psychological evolution of humanity at an endpoint? Or are there limitations and deficiencies in our psychological capacities that could drive further evolution? Are there, for example, new forms of psychological software that humans could acquire to improve our ability to adapt to whatever challenges face us in the future? One way we can begin to answer this question is to ask whether there are blind spots in our current psychological capacities. Are our existing abilities to discover and implement useful adaptive behaviours seriously limited? Are we unable to explore areas of the space of adaptive possibilities? If we discover that there are limitations in our current psychological capacities, we can then ask whether these can be overcome by changes to our psychological software. Can our psychological adaptability be improved by, for example, the acquisition of new psychological skills and capacities? Can these be developed through learning and appropriate experiences? If we find that there are limitations, and if these can only be overcome by changes to our psychological software, we can then ask whether humans are likely to make these changes. Will we do what is required to develop the software? Will we be motivated to make whatever effort is necessary to evolve our psychology? Or are humans caught in an evolutionary predicament—are we unable to make these psychological improvements because of the limitations in our psychological adaptability? We begin in section 2 by identifying significant...
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