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Outline the processes of evolution and explain how theory of mind is an adaptation resulting from the selective forces that have operated during evolution

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Outline the processes of evolution and explain how theory of mind is an adaptation resulting from the selective forces that have operated during evolution. Evolutionary psychologists endeavour to understand how animal and human behaviour evolved and the adaptive functions that these behaviours would have had over time. They reflect on ultimate explanations and look for the reasons why such phenomena exist and how this helps to ensure that our genes (the structures containing DNA sequences) are passed to future generations through the process of sexual reproduction. Evolutionary psychology is concerned with identifying which behaviours and psychological traits are adaptive and the function which the latter fulfil. Evolutionary psychologists do not, therefore, look for causal explanations regarding behaviour, but are concerned instead with functional explanations. By researching evolved characteristics and abilities they try to uncover within the processes of evolution how the human mind works, and ultimately how societies function. They conclude that our current physiology and psychology still demonstrate a decisive interplay between adaptations and environments on an evolutionary timescale (Clegg, 2007 pp. ...read more.


Humans, being highly social creatures, require psychological mechanisms that enable them to successfully interact within the social environment. For example, being able to guess what another person is thinking in order to predict how they might behave, or understanding others' behaviour so as to be responsive to their feelings, or even being capable of deceit are all highly useful abilities for social interaction. In an evolutionary context, these social skills and empathy with others would have greatly improved an individual's survival chances and/or reproductive success, ultimately increasing the chances of his genes passing onto the next generation. Such traits would have been a positive asset to the species as a whole. As psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen explained 'by being able to predict one another's behaviour, two individuals can work together more effectively thereby improving survival chances' (As cited in Clegg 2007, p. 133). Our ancestors who possessed such characteristics would have had a great advantage over those who did not. Thus in accordance with Darwin's theory these abilities, over time, would have been selected for. ...read more.


Much of the research suggests that it may have evolved because it effected human interaction within social environments which would have benefited humans and their offspring. Those who displayed a strong theory of mind are likely to have improved their chances of survival by increasing their social status, or they may have used deception, or plan ahead to their advantage in order to gain more resources. They may have been able to negotiate dangerous situations by predicting others' behaviour, or those with a highly developed theory of mind may have had more success regarding sexual reproduction. We can say then that theory of mind is an intrinsic element of our humanness, with evidence suggesting that its adaptive function is a result of the selective forces of evolution. It is all about enhancing social relationships; a perspective that is supported by a number of researchers (Baron-Cohen, 1999; Byrne and Whiten, 1997; Dunbar, 2003) (As cited in Clegg 2007, p. 138). Theory of mind as a psychological mechanism has been a highly influential factor to the developmental progress of the human race, and unequivocally instrumental to the success of the species. (1064 words) 1 ...read more.

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