Evolutionary psychology can be explained as an approach in theoretical psychology which attempts to explain the important psychological and mental traits which include memory, language and perception, as adaptations and results brought about by natural selection. It argues that the human brain is made up of many functional mechanisms which are referred to as psychological adaptations which are resulted by the natural selection that took place as man evolved over time.
Evolutionary psychology is deep rooted in the fields of cognitive psychology, other fields of psychology and evolutionary biology. It is also broad in drawing from behavioral ecology and several other disciplines of biology. Examples of this evolutionary psychology include the modules of human language acquisition, mechanisms of incest avoidance, and mechanisms of detecting cheating in others, intelligence in the human brain and to some extent mating preferences in regard to sex- specific preferences. Several psychologists have argued that most of evolutionary psychology theoretical knowledge is owed to sociobiology and ethology. This means that from the perspective of sociobiology, it has been realized that the human behavior is not directly as a result of natural selection but a product of psychological evolutionary activities that took place over time and managed to be selected by the brain activities. (Gaulin, 2004 )
Psychology on the general perspective can be viewed and studied from a broad perspective due to the complexity of the human brain and the mindset used in thinking. It can be divided in sub-categories where the groupings are made more specific in regard to understanding human psychology. There are five main disciplines in psychology in which this article attempts to look in to, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. The five major disciplines include abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology andpersonality psychology.
Abnormal psychology can be defined as the field in psychology that is concerned with understanding the nature, causes and various ways of controlling and treating mental disorders. The problems surrounding the field of abnormal psychology surround is each and every day of our lives where very many reports of drug addiction, eating disorders and other forms of psychological difficulty are seen in our environment. Other topics that make headlines in news are tragic where we see fathers who have murdered their family and then committed suicide due to problems such as depression or other complications that are post-partum. It has not yet been universally concluded on the meaning of abnormality, where many theories have been created on the topic. Most of the theories are interrelated and have a certain truth in them where the most common description is the difficulty that an individual undergoes in the following areas; suffering, where if people suffer psychologically, they show indications of abnormalities and the degree of their abnormality is determined by the extent of their suffering. Abnormal psychology mainly covers depression related suffering, moods, manic “highs” or even anxiety. Maladaptive behavior can also be regarded as an abnormality where it interferes with our well-being and our ability to enjoy our environments with regard to work and relationships. Deviancy is also an abnormality where most of statistically rare behavior can be regarded as abnormal and others like genius cannot be put in the same category. The statistically rare behavior like mental retardation can be considered an abnormality. This means that we should make valued judgments when categorizing statistically rare behavior as abnormal. Other forms of abnormality include social discomfort, violations of the standards set by the society, social discomfort, irrational and unpredictable behaviors.
Evolutionary psychology has attempted to look into the history of abnormal behavior where many theories have been derived. Others which are religious biased and others which are mythical like the Demonology, Gods and Magic theory where abnormalities were attributed by the ancient civilizations to demon and god possession or other theories that surround the idea. Others include biological discoveries that were made in regard to natural selection where the evolution of the human race in regard to survival developed some challenges with respect to some indicators being passed down. Such aspects include organic factors that affected the brain of some people during the ancient time like the syphilis of the brain that caused brain deterioration and finally death. Some effects could be passed on to the new born of the affected persons. Another description could be the one of brain pathology as a causal factor. The scientists during the early part of the eighteenth century had developed theories of physical ailments as a result of the pathology of an organ, this theory was later used to research on the mental disorders where the findings were positive and several attributes were discovered in regard to organ pathology that has been passed down over the centuries as man evolved and these factors have been a cause of mental illnesses that have affected several members of the society and the process will continue with time as the conditions are passed down. (Kearney, 2011)
Another field in psychology is the personality psychology where many evolutionary psychologists have majored in this topic to explain personality from the angle of natural selection and evolutionary psychology as a whole. Personality psychology is mainly related with the individual differences characterized by the human being. The question that has been left unanswered for a long period of time is how the field of evolutionary psychology can successfully explain personality with respect to the psychological understanding. Several fronts have been generated in tackling the problem, which include, restructuring some of the individual traits as a form of strategic personal differences, giving a no arbitrary form, with evolutionary-based formulation of environments as distributions and profiles that explain adaptive problems and finally, identifying which strategies are superior to the others in terms of differing environments that are problem-defined. (Buss, 2011)
Several theories have been adapted in regard to the explanation of natural selection as a cause of personality and individual differences some of the theories include the Life-History theory that argues, each individual has their own finite time and energy budgets, where the amount of effort allocated to solving one adaptive problem excludes the effort involved in solving another problem. This energy is allocated according to bodily growth and maintenance. He other theory is the Costly Signaling theory which bases its argument on competition with one another in sending signals to others about their quality as a distinct contribution in our lives. This theory can be looked into deeply from the perspective of social psychology. The evolutionary selection has focused on the balancing selection as an explanation to individual difference. Balancing selection occurs when genetic variation is maintained by selection, such that different levels on a trait dimension are favored, or are adaptive, in different environmental conditions to the same degree. Although all heritable variation ultimately originates from mutations, the different fitness optima ofheritable variants over time and space can maintain the heritable variation. Although there are several forms of balancingselection, the two most relevant forms for personality are environmentalheterogeneity in fitness optima and frequencydependentselection.
The other branch of psychology is the cognitive psychology where this field deals with the study of mental processes. Some of the fields covered by this discipline include how people think, learn, how they remember or moreover how they perceive information from the environment. Other larger fields associated with cognitive philosophy include neuroscience and philosophy. The contributions made by evolutionary psychology in cognitive psychology is major and has led to a huge milestone in the enlightenment of the human race. Part of this was due to the necessity gap of knowing the evolution of the cognition process in the human brain over the entire natural selection process that has happened for thousands of years. The human brain has evolved greatly in terms of the cognition processes and it has learnt to adapt to the environment for survival purposes.it has undergone a complex development process that has seen it improve greatly with regard to perception, memory capacity, the learning capability and the intelligence quotient. The harshness of the environment enabled the brain to adapt over the years and as natural selection took place, the unfit seized to exist and the adaptive type went on to pass on the evolved traits to the generations that followed which resulted to the complexity that the human brain has reached. The expansion of the brain came by as a result of the harshness and need to adapt where the challenges posed led to the forced expansion and advancements in capabilities. Evolutionary psychology assumes that an evolved psychological mechanism is a module that processes information that was selected during the history of an evolving species because it produced behavior in a reliable manner that helped in solving particular adaptive problems. The evolved psychological mechanisms have been understood in terms of their respective inputs, the procedure they follow and finally the output they produce. (Lewis, 2008 )
The other branch of psychology is the social psychology that deals with the study of human behavior in relation to interaction with others and how their thinking and feelings are affected by the presence of others. In regard to evolutionary psychology. In his 1872, work Darwin tried to understand the emotion of the human being and the important role played by sexual selection in the behavior of humans and in the so called higher ranking in the hierarchy of beings which orders beings in order of their superiority from God to man and finally to plants. Evolutionary psychology has undergone dramatic change and has realized radical progress in relation to social psychology. In conclusion to the many researches done by psychologists it was found that human social behavior has been tremendously been affected by social cognitive phenomena and the environment that the human senses perceives during the growth and development process. Man is a social being naturally and the way the human being relates with others is largely dependent on the environment in which they are in while growing up and the attitudes of the people surrounding them. The social behavior of human beings in relation to evolutionary psychology and natural selection can be looked from the perspective of the society where over the past centuries man has grouped themselves into societies which influence each other in terms of behavior resulting them to act in a similar manner, or a manner that nearly resembles each other. The relationship between people of the same society and with others of different cultures is different and can be explained by the cultural groups and diversity in the human population. The evolution of human social behavior has seen different cultures adapt different social norms and the members are automatically influenced by the activities and the brain develops a bias to the social activities. (Baumeister, 2010)
The other field of psychology is the clinical psychology that studies the assessment and treatment of mental illnesses and psychiatric problems. It is closely related to the abnormal psychology but mainly deals with the treatment and assessment. Evolutionary clinical psychology gives a definition of psychological disorder in the case of a failed evolved mechanism that was designed to function. It gives enlightenment on various fields of our everyday afflictions that are considered as abnormalities. It provides a platform that relates the mismatches relating to the modern and ancestral environments which could create psychological disorders and the adaptive differences that could have arisen from the two different environments as a result of evolution of the modern environments to suit to conditions dictated by the environment. Hybrid testing among many other examinations, has also been used as a tool of research to find out whether it is a source of mental illnesses. (Badcock, 2000)
Badcock, C. R. (2000). Evolutionary psychology : a critical introduction . Cambridge, UK: polity press .
Baumeister, R. F. (2010). Advanced socual psychology . New york : Oxford university press.
Buss, D. M. (2011). The evolution of personality and individual differences . New York : Oxford University press .
Gaulin, S. J. (2004 ). Evolutionary psychology . Upper Saddle River, N.J : Pearson .
Kearney, C. A. (2011). Abnormal psychology and life : a dimensional approach . Belmont, CA : Wadsworth Pub Co.
Lewis, A. (2008 ). The Cambridge handbook of psychology and economic behavior . cambridge : cambridge univeristy press .