Evolutionary psychologists believe in natural selection
Evolutionary psychology is a way of thinking about human behavior and it contains the consequences of evolution.
Proponents of this psychological approach claim that if our ancestors faced problems, they would have developed ways to solve these problems. Through the process of natural selection, those who adopted the solutions gained benefits, such as better health or a longer lifespan, so that they could produce more offspring.
Evolutionary psychologists seek to explain human emotions, thoughts, and behavior through the lens of natural selection, based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, just as evolutionary biologists do when trying to explain an organism’s physical characteristics.
The most successful solutions applied by our hunter-gatherers have evolved into basic instincts. We should no longer think consciously of certain behaviors, since they come naturally. This behavior is tempered by input from our culture, family, and individual factors, but the underlying behavior is instinctive.
For an evolutionary psychologist, the science of psychology is a branch of biology. There are five basic principles of evolutionary psychology:
- Your brain is a physical system that commands you to act in a way that is appropriate to your environment.
- Natural selection designs the neural circuitry in your brain, which helps you to solve problems in an appropriate way.
- You are mostly unaware of the processes of the neural cycle and rely on consciousness to guide you, which can be misleading. Meaning, you are consciously aware of the conclusions due to complex neural circuits, but not the process.
- Neural circuits are specialized to solve various adaptive problems. For example, the cycle involved in vision is not the same as for vomiting.
- Your skull is modern, but your mind is still in the stone age when we were all hunters and gatherers.
Evolutionary Psychology Explains Simple Topics
At its most basic level, evolutionary psychology explains relatively simple topics. A common example is language acquisition.
All people, assuming you have a normal physical structure, can learn a language. At some point in history, the early man developed language skills beyond whimsy and pointing. The ability to communicate complex thoughts was important for survival, and so language acquisition abilities developed. Which language or languages you learn depends on the language spoken in the home and environment, which indicates the importance of cultural input.
Explanation of specific phobias
More complex evolutionary psychology theories attempt to explain more complex behaviors. For example, many research studies show that you are more likely to fear snakes and spiders than other predators such as lions and tigers.
From an evolutionary point of view, this may be due to the fact that snakes and spiders are harder to see. It made sense for our ancestors to watch carefully for poisonous creatures before sticking their hands in wooden sticks or overgrown brush.
In time, that warning became an instinctive human response.
Examples: Jill is afraid of spiders since she was a toddler. After determining that she had never been bitten or seen by anyone, her therapist explained that according to evolutionary psychology, Jill’s fear could be an instinctive response.