Evolutionary Psychology

From: ben (bmgp195@soton.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Nov 17 1997 - 14:57:43 GMT

   As was mentioned at the beginning of the seminar, William
James was quoted as suggesting that humans have more
instincts than (other) animals. It can be said that one such
instinct that humans have is the instinct to ask questions
with an aim to learn and expand our knowledge of the world
around us. We therefore ask alot of questions about ourselves
and our fellow human beings and how we work, (particularly if
we do py311), but our aims often exceed our capabilities and
we can merely speculate and work from what we know already to
form some conclusion that makes the most sense. In the case
of understanding the range of instincts that we have, we are
unable to form any real knowledge of how we do things,
because of the nature of our behaviours and the underlying
complicated processes that control them. Thus, in reality, we
actually know nothing about what we do, which can be somewhat
disconserting, especially if we spend much time musing over
the ins and outs of human nature!
The opinions of social and evolutionary psychologists clash
in terms of how we learn certain behaviours and whether we
have a number of instinctive behavioural patterns "built in"
when we are born. The ideal of the social psychologist
suggests that everything we learn is derived from what
information we take in from our surroundings. On the other
hand, evolutionary psychologists believe that natural
selection is the key to how our behaviour is shaped, through
adaptation to environmental differences and the specialising
of brain circuitry to certain demands, the complexity of
which we cannot fully understand. It therefore looks at the
shaping of instincts and behaviours on a much longer time
scale. However, it can only give a general overview of human
behaviour, without looking at the reasoning behind individual
differences, as is often the case with this area of
Which ever way we look at the nature of human behaviour
depends on the degree to which we place importance (or
interest) on the individual discrepancies and the nature of
the person as a single example. The reason I say this is
perhaps because some of the generalisations about human
nature that have been talked about and explained have
bothered me, but nonetheless very interesting. Perhaps it is
just the way I am looking at it or choosing to understand the
concepts involved! I think it is the fact that they are
generalisations and do not consider individual exceptions to
the "rule". Why? What can I do? Maybe I should look at it
from a less personal point of view?

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