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Evolutionary Psychology

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Maria Kyriacou Describe how evolutionary psychology has contributed to our understanding of social behaviour. Comment on the possible limitations of these explanations of social behaviour. This essay addresses how evolutionary psychology has contributed to our understanding of social behaviour and attempts to unravel the limitations of these explanations. Evolutionary psychologists are concerned with the behaviour generated in the brain and elsewhere, as to why and how we have developed our distinctive human abilities, separating us from our primate ancestors. Evolutionary psychologists show that humans are similar to animals and that the inherited structure of our mind is the key product of evolutionary process. The theory suggests that environmental conditions have evolved through the biological phenomenon of natural selection and adaptation, as it helps to identify our cognitive abilities and social capacities that have been effective for survival. Are social and cognitive abilities interrelated? Humphrey (1976) suggested our social behaviour is based upon human intelligence that individuals taught each other. ...read more.


Their experiment is based on sociological reason in which participants were required to work out the bases of a hiker's behaviour. This experiment demonstrates that one has the ability to detect cheating within a social contract situation. Thus the idea of their experiment is to show the evolutionary development of our learning and actions of our ancestors were vital to the process of survival. They conclude that their results support the "idea that evolved... human mind contains functionally specialized context dependent cognitive adaptations or evolved to solve problems so that our ancestors were better able to survive. The second section of our debate is to explain our social behaviour and the limitations it may impose, thus attempting to unravel the cognitive areas and functions within our modular minds that underline our social behaviour. Psychologists have theorized evolutionary explanations for a variety of social behaviour that can contribute to our understanding of our behaviour is the functions of altruism and reciprocity. ...read more.


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 psychology. The importance of social and cognitive sophistication in analysing social relationships would again show how evolutionary psychology and related perspectives could explain practices of using deception and manipulation in social behaviour. ...read more.

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