Evolution of Behavior
Human behavior study has developed to become the assessment of the human beings’ past in order to comprehend the future. According to evolutionary psychologists, past adaptations of human ancestors are related to human behavior (Downes 2010). These adaptations helped our ancestors in reproducing and surviving. For the behavior patterns that have been observed in the contemporary world to be understood, evolution needs to be appreciated via which the ancestors passed. To evolutionary psychologists, the brain is a computer that natural selection designs to extract vital information from human’s surrounding (Downes 2010). The brain is an evolved computer which determines the behavior of a person as a way of reacting to the extracted information. As such, to understand human behavior better, cognitive programs which generate behavior should be articulated (Downes 2010).
Adaptations are involved in the brain’s cognitive devices. The activities, survival and reproductive efforts of the ancestors were promoted by these adaptations. Programs for special purposes were developed by the brain via natural selection and in response to certain environmental conditions (Downes 2010). The selection of these programs occurred due to their ability to enhance the capacity of the organisms to survive as well as to yield offspring. Body organs are used by evolutionary psychologists as the psychological mechanisms’ analogy that produces behavior. There is no general-purpose organ of the body. Instead, the body has organs. Every organ performs a certain purpose. Similarly, behavior provides specific advantage to an organism helping it to reproduce and to survive.
Today, there is a behavior that has been observed and its explanation baffles the approach of evolutionary psychologists. Kolbert (2012) explores the variation in the behavior of the Matsigenka tribe’s children in Peru as well as the behavior of Los Angeles’ children in a book entitled Spoiled Rotten: Why do Kids Rule the Roost? She provides anecdotes to the behavior patterns that have been observed. The Matsigenka children are responsible and they make attempts to be useful. The author provides the example of a girl aged 6 years called Yanira. This girl goes on a trip with an anthropologist, Carolina alongside other members of the tribe to get palm leaves that are used in thatching. The observation of Carolina is that though this girl does not play a specific role, she is useful to the group because she cleans sleeping mats, fishing and even stacking palm leaves. She gathers crustaceans, cleans and boils them after which she serves them to other group members (Kolbert 2012). Yanira does not ask for anything from the members since she is self-sufficient.
The behavior of Yanira can be explained by evolutionary psychologists. Her tribe, which resides in the jungle, struggles to exist. As such, children adapt to specific behavioral characteristics while growing and these allow them maximum survival chances in the harsh jungle life. Children who fail to learn self-sufficiency quickly have limited survival chances because the jungle is unforgiving. Yanira exhibits maturity despite being a child. She has developed this maturity due to the demands of the environment that she is accustomed to. Peru jungle’s children have to learn wild survival tactics quickly or they will die. According to evolutionary psychologists, behavior can be explained better in the way through which humans adapt in order to solve specific problems that were faced by the ancestors at some point (Downes 2010).
The behavior of Yanira is a complete contrast of the behavior of Los Angeles’ children. Angelinos depict a unique lack of competence and initiative in performing even simple tasks (Kolbert 2012). Apart from being incapable of tying their own shoelaces, these kids also decline to act as per the instructions of their parents. The feeling of Kolbert (2012) is that American children may represent most indulged kids in history globally with few exceptions. The American children exhibit a behavior that does not provide them with any advantage in their life when it comes to reproduction and survival. This behavior can be a development’s regression. Without chaperons, young people cannot be responsible for themselves. These children cannot cook and they will starve when left alone in a place without food outlets.
Despite being useful in behavior explanation, evolutionary psychology makes some assumptions whose testing is difficult. For instance, if a person can establish how natural selection shaped the brain, then they can understand its functioning (Gottlieb 2012). Nevertheless, scientific studies have shown that knowing an organ’s evolution is not necessary in deducing the way it functions. For instance, biologists do not resort to organ’s evolution in order to deduce the way it functions. To understand the growth of our ancestors’ minds, we just need a notion of their mental equipment. This exercise risks being misinterpreted. Just like Gottlieb (2012) observes, one can have a plausible explanation regarding the way a specific behavior assisted hunter-gatherers in their reproduction and survival. However, this might have been established for various reasons and earlier.
Particular characteristics and behaviors observed in natural settings may lack satisfactory explanations. For instance, human infants have flexible skull bones at birth. These give elastic properties to the head. One can argue that flexible skull bones are an adaptation of the baby which enables it to navigate the narrow canal during birth. Nevertheless, even a chick has similar characteristics despite the fact that it hatches from an egg. As such, such an explanation is incredible. The same argument can be extended to human behavior. This makes identifying a specific reason for a certain behavior accurately difficult. For instance, a wide assumption is that step-children are likely to be abused by a step-parent physically and emotionally. However, a biological parent can also abuse a child of his/her own. An evolutionary reason as to why parents may abuse their own children might not exist.
There is a romanticized look of the past with an aim of establishing the appropriate behavior or lifestyle for the current “cavemen lifestyle” (Goldstein 2010). According to some cavemen lifestyle’s adherents, this can be interpreted to mean consuming large amounts of meat while fasting between the meals in order to estimate the lean periods that were faced by the ancestors between hunts (Goldstein 2010). The comprehension of the lifestyle of cave dwellers is not global. There are different notions that people have in regards to what comprises the routine of the life of cave dwellers on daily basis. There are modern cavemen who take raw meat since their belief is that it represents the diet of the original cavemen.
Caveman lifestyle has a positive aspect because it encourages people to engage in strenuous physical activities. This makes modern cavemen fit. They have fitness regimes that are designed specifically to mirror the caveman’s exercises. The intense activities of the cavemen enabled them to adapt a healthier lifestyle as compared to the lifestyle of the people in modern America. Cavemen have a Caveman (Paleo) diet (Zelman 2012). The claim of those who follow this diet is that there is a genetic programming for people to eat the way cavemen did prior the agricultural revolution (Zelman 2012). This diet comprises of lean meat that is reared genetically, organ meat, fruits, wild fish, nuts and vegetables. This diet discourages sugar, salt and synthetic foods.
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Downes, S. (2010). Evolutionary psychology. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Zalta, E. N. (ed) (Fall Ed). Retrieved on 12 January 2012 from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/evolutionary-psychology/
Goldstein, J. (2010). The new age caveman and the city. The New York Times. Retrieved on 15 January 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/10caveman.htm
Gottlieb, A. (2012, September 17). It ain’t necessarily so [Review of the book How much do evolutionary stories reveal about the mind?]. The New York Times.
Kolbert, E. (2012, July 2). Spoiled rotten [Review of the book Why do kids rule the roost]. The New York Times.
Zelman, K. (2012). Caveman diet.WebMD. Retrieved on 12 January 2012 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/diet-review-the-caveman-paleo-diet?