Evolutionary Psychology

From: emma jane fletcher (ejf195@soton.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Nov 19 1997 - 17:25:52 GMT

The way we learn, reason, think, feel: indeed, everything that drives
our behaviour and mental processes, is a product of specialized neural
information processing circuits.

Neural processes remain hidden from an individual's consciousness. Only
the PRODUCT of rule governed calculations are experienced by the
individual. Our experiences reveal little about the processes under
pinning behaviour. When one tries to provide a causal explanation of
HOW experiences are achieved, introspective based deductions seem to
fail. In fact, individuals are unable to provide an adequate
explanation for HOW they do, or know, anything. Ultimately, all
experiences have to be the product of unconscious neural processes. As
such, an individual may be said to be "instinct blind". i.e. Blind to
specialized neural circuitry, which is common to every member of a
species and which is the product of that species evolutionary

Specialized neural circuits were 'selected' because they solved
adaptive problems in the EEA, thereby promoting the survival of our
ancestors. It is almost paradoxical that proximal behaviour may be seen
to be ultimately 'controlled' by the existence of innate neural
circuits which were shaped in the EEA. i.e. It would appear that
proximal behaviour, in itself, is ultimately shaped by distal causes.
e.g. The ability to discern sweet tasting food, and indeed the desire
to eat sugary substances, would appear to be a product of patterns of
neural circuitry laid down and selected for in the EEA.

Neural circuits must be domain specific i.e. they must be innately
programmed to respond to SPECIFIC forms of information from the
environment. Neural circuits which function independently of context
would be of limited use since they could only provide very general
information about how to respond. A single context independent
algorithm (i.e. neural circuitry which guaranteed only a generalized
solution to a given problem) would surely be unable to provide SPECIFIC
information about how to respond to any stimulus. e.g. It would seem
unlikely that neural circuitry could provide specific information about
both mate choice AND food choice.

As such, the brain may be viewed as being sets of specialized neural
circuitry which are gradually, and cumulatively, acquired in the EEA.
The spatial relationships between these neural information processing
devises was such that it enabled "adaptive regulation" of behaviour,
and physiology, across variations in environmental conditions.

[Evidence for the existence of specialized neural circuitry can perhaps
be drawn from disorders such as prosogagnosia (the inability to
recognize faces despite the ability to label facial expressions
correctly). Here, ' facial expression recognition circuits ' may be
accessed in the ABSENCE of the activation of face recognition circuits,
which provide specific information about the identity of an individual
from their facial structure].

In evolved systems "form follows function". That is to say that the
physiological structure of an organism, or part of an organism (such as
the neural circuits of the brain), exists in its particular format
because it was successful at solving a given adaptive problem in the

However, neural circuits may be used for functions other than the
function for which the mechanism was selected. e.g. Language
acquisition circuits promote the proximal skill of writing. Such
circuits were not selected because they caused writing ( a fairly
recent human behaviour) but because they enabled language acquisition,
which increased the likelihood of an individual's survival in the EEA:
(a distal cause).

Conversely, information processing circuits may be so specific that
even a slight abstraction or manipulation of the information which they
process may lead to an invalid response to the stimulus. e.g. See
e.mail on "Reasoning and the Wason selection Task", to follow.

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