Book on Evolutionary Psychology
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09-03-2012, 07:24 PM
Book on Evolutionary Psychology
I’ve mentioned in numerous threads that the religious view of morality—i.e., “you can’t be moral without god”—is incorrect because it doesn’t take into account examples of morality in the animal kingdom. Since humans are an evolved form of African ape, it only stands to reason that we too would have had a system of morals long before the advent of religion. I recently started to read a book on the subject by Robert Wright called The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are – The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (1994). Even though it is almost 20 years old, I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the book so far.

The first couple of chapters explain the sexual behavior of animals and how it pertains to human society. For instance, the author mentions the reason that, in regards to sex, women tend to be more coy and men tend to be more straightforward. This is because males of the species have very little investment. They invest the brief amount of energy into the sex and the material of the sperm, and then they go off to find more females to spread their seed to. Females of the species, on the other hand, are forced to have a large amount of investment. They invest the energy for the sex, the material of the eggs, the time and energy for feeding the child in the womb, birth, and possibly even raising the child. This means that it is in her best interest to be choosy about which males she mates with. The wrong choice will give her weak children who will die easily, while the right choice will give her strong children who will thrive and pass on genes to the next generation. This explains why women tend to pick men that have a lot of wealth and power, meaning they would be able to provide lots of investment (no pun intended). The author mentioned one study that analyzed 37 cultures and found a common trait was that women preferred wealthy men.

The third chapter discusses the reasons for human monogamous relationships, love, and child care. While Chimpanzees, our closest cousins, practice polygamy, human social structure evolved to favor monogamy. This is because the young of species with high Male Parental Investment (MPI) stand a greater chance of survival. The babies of apes are born strong enough to hold onto a mother’s underside while she travels along the ground or in the trees with her arms unimpeded. Human babies, on the other hand, are born weak and helpless. The added benefit of the dad and mom insure that such weak and slow developing babies like humans will survive to pass on their genes. This also explains the concept of what the author called “swooning love.” Couples that have a deep connection are more likely to stay together and produce healthy children that will also pass on their genes. This most likely is a chemical-driven process in the brain. This also explains why parents love their children so much. This love insures the child’s protection and survival. The need to spread genes also explains why men are prone to cheat on their wives.

I’m only 70 pages into almost 500. I’m sure it will continue to explain many more facets of human behavior.

The problem with reading a book this old is that studies over the last 20 years have surely caused some of the points that he raises to be revised or even invalidated. And since I only have a passing interest in the field of evolutionary psychology, it is impossible to know exactly which points have been refuted or further supported. Despite this, I HIGHLY recommend the book!
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09-03-2012, 07:42 PM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
Sounds really interesting!

I wonder if the cheating bit is off. I know several women who have cheated as well as men, from my personal experience it's probably pretty equal. I would hypothesize that this is because perhaps (on a psychological evolutionary basis) the women feels the 'new' mate could provide better/have better genes.
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10-03-2012, 06:16 AM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
(09-03-2012 07:42 PM)LadyJane Wrote:  Sounds really interesting!

I wonder if the cheating bit is off. I know several women who have cheated as well as men, from my personal experience it's probably pretty equal. I would hypothesize that this is because perhaps (on a psychological evolutionary basis) the women feels the 'new' mate could provide better/have better genes.

This is exactly what the author says regarding women.
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16-03-2012, 05:41 AM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
Here's a link that goes with the topic: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academ...lutionary/

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16-03-2012, 10:22 AM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
(16-03-2012 05:41 AM)houseofcantor Wrote:  Here's a link that goes with the topic: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academ...lutionary/

Thanks for the link. I'm going to contact them to see if they know of any more current general public books on the subject.
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19-03-2012, 05:37 AM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
The head of the department was kind enough to write me back. She said for popular science books on the subject, anything by Robin Dunbar is a good starting point. For more academic reading, she suggested Human Evolutionary Psychology (2002) and Evolution and Human Behaviour (2008).
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25-03-2012, 04:33 PM
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
(19-03-2012 05:37 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  The head of the department was kind enough to write me back. She said for popular science books on the subject, anything by Robin Dunbar is a good starting point. For more academic reading, she suggested Human Evolutionary Psychology (2002) and Evolution and Human Behaviour (2008).
My copy of Human Evolutionary Psychology (2002) arrived in the mail the other day. The book has just about any topic that one could think of:

1) The Evolutionary Approach to Human Behaviour
2) Basics of Evolutionary Theory
3) Cooperating Among Kin
4) Reciprocity and Sharing
5) Mate Choice and Sexual Selection
6) Life-History Constraints and Reproductive Decisions
7) Parental Investment strategies
8) Marriage and Inheritance
9) The Individual in Society
10) Cognition and the Modular Brain
11) Social Cognition and its Development
12) Language
13) Cultural Evolution

Each of these chapters have many subdivisions. For example, the divisions in the chapter for language are:

a. The evolution of language
-- How many people can you talk to?
-- When did speech evolve?
--The evolution of languages

b. The social functions of language
-- An instinct for gossip?

c. Language and meaning

d. Cognitive underpinnings
-- Motherese
-- Laughter and social bonding

e. Chapter summary

f. Further reading

What little I have read so far is very interesting. The chapter on Cultural evolution has a subdivision called "The evolution of fantasy." It briefly explains the evolutionary advantage that storytelling has on the brain. It also mentions how origin stories--like from the Bible--serve the social purpose of binding communities together. I look forward to reading the rest of it when I get the time.
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01-04-2012, 09:49 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2012 07:48 AM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: Book on Evolutionary Psychology
I'm reading Peacemaking Among Primates (1989) at the same time that I read the above book. I'm doing this because I feel like it will give me a better insight into the origins of human behavior. The book has on interesting passage:

Quote:Reconciliation is crucial: Immediately after a fight the two adversaries tend to stay away from each other, but after a time one approaches the other and tries to make friendly contact. The length of the process varies; whereas monkeys generally make up within minutes, humans can take days, years, even generations to do the same. Thus I followed with fascination reports on the meeting in a prison cell between Pope John Paul II and Mehmet Ali Agca, during which the pontiff tenderly held the hand of his would-be assassin and forgivingly talked to him ("I spoke to him as a brother, whom I have pardoned, and who has my complete trust"). Most commentators saw this as a demonstration of Christian forgiveness, but I recognized deeper roots, comparing the scene to reunions in the primate groups that I have studied" (p. 2).
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