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Teaching Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss. “In the distant future... psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement.

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Presentation on theme: "Teaching Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss. “In the distant future... psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement."— Presentation transcript:

1 Teaching Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss

2 “In the distant future... psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.” --Charles Darwin, 1859

3 Teaching Tool #1 Convey to students a sense of “deep time”

4 Origins of Modern Humans Homo Erectus –Migrated from Africa to Asia (1.8 MYA)

5 Increases in brain size during evolution ardipithecus brain size: 300 ccs Australopithe- cus brain size: ccs homo habilis brain size: ccs homo erectus brain size: ccs Neandertal brain size: ccs modern human brain size: 1350 ccs

6 Milestones in the Origins of Modern Humans

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8 Teaching Tool #2 Teach students that there are multiple levels of causation and explanation.

9 Turtles

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11 Teaching Tool #3 Explain the three theories of the origins of complex adaptive mechanisms

12 1. Creationism

13 2. Seeding theory

14 3. Evolution by natural selection

15 Teaching Tool #4 Explain the logic of evolution by natural selection

16 Evolution Before Darwin Change over time in organic structures: evolution Characteristics seemed to have a purpose (porcupines, turtles, skunks)

17 Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection The explanatory challenge: 1. why change takes place 2. how new species emerge 3. what the functions are of parts

18 The answer--natural selection: Variation, inheritance, differential reproduction

19 The key to natural selection: Differential reproductive success because of heritable variants; everyone has ancestors, but not everyone leaves descendants

20 Natural selection provided 3 key answers Explained change over time: descent with modification Explained the apparent purposive quality of component parts: adaptive function United all species into one grand tree of descent: including humans

21 Darwin Was Deeply Troubled by Facts that Could not Be Explained by Natural Selection

22 Teaching Tool #5 Hence, need to explain the tremendous importance of the theory of sexual selection

23 Sexual Selection

24 Intersexual Selection: Preferential Mate Choice

25 Sexual Selection Components Intrasexual Competition

26 Teaching Tool #6 Explain the core tenets of evolutionary psychology

27 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 1. All behavior is a function of psychological mechanisms + input to those mechanisms

28 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 2. All psychological mechanisms, at some basic level, originate from evolutionary processes

29 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 3. Natural and sexual selection are the most important evolutionary processes responsible for creating psychological mechanisms

30 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 4. Evolved psychological mechanisms can be described as information processing devices. Inputs Decision Rules Outputs

31 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 5. Evolved psychological mechanisms are instantiated in the brain.

32 Core Tenets of Evolutionary Psychology 6. Evolved psychological mechanisms are functional: Designed to solve statistically recurrent adaptive problems

33 Teaching Tool #7 Teach the critical distinction between ultimate and proximate causation

34 Proximate and Ultimate Causation Proximate causation: Immediate causal forces—development, input, mechanism Ultimate causation: Why? [example: Why are men taller than women, on average?]

35 The “Long Bones” Explanation

36 Teaching Tool #8 Explain that humans were not “designed” to understand the causal processes that created their own psychology

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38 What Was the Human Mind Designed to Comprehend?

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40 Teaching Tool #9 Use examples from the human body

41 Teaching Tool #10 Use animal examples

42 All Species have a Nature

43 Sexual Conflict Dampwood termites: Antennating males

44 Animals Mating and Fighting

45 Teaching Tool #11 Use examples that relate to what’s important in the lives of students*: –Mating –Cooperation –Aggression –Common clinical problems: depression, eating disorders, etc. –Social conflict *Coincidentally, these are precisely the topics that evolutionary theory suggests tremendously important.

46 Topics Students Care About

47 Teaching Tool #12 Use thought experiments

48 Illustrative Thought Experiment: Mission Impossible What would you do if you were a gene? Your Mission: to increase your replicative success

49 Inclusive Fitness Revolution What would you do if you were a gene? –Ensure the survival of your “vehicle” (body) –Making copies of yourself: influence your “vehicle” to reproduce (find fertile mates, etc.) –Aid in the survival and reproduction of other “vehicles” that contain copies of you (help genetic relatives)

50 Thought Experiment List all of the qualities women want in a long-term mate. List all of the qualities men want in a long- term mate.

51 Thought Experiment List all the things that men you know have done to irritate, anger, annoy, or upset women.

52 Teaching Tool #13 Deal with controversial topics head on: Issue “surgeon general’s warnings”

53 Surgeon General’s Warning #1: There are Dark Sides to Human Nature

54 Warning # 2: Sexual Conflict is Prevalent Opposite- Sex Friendships Same-Sex Friendships Mateships Hierarchical Relationships Coalitions Parent- Offspring Relationships Step- Relationships Sexual Conflict

55 Warning #3: Evolved Sex Differences Exist Men and Women Differ in Domains Where they Have Recurrently Faced Different Adaptive Problems Over Human Evolutionary History

56 Recurrently Different Adaptive Problems of the Sexes –Internal female fertilization –Obligatory parental investment –Metabolic demands of breast feeding –Genetic cuckoldry –Potential for misdirected parental investment –Cryptic ovulation –Cyclic ovulation

57 Likelihood of Agreeing to Have Sex With Someone You Find Attractive as a Function of Time Known

58 Teaching Tool #14 Emphasize that well constructed evolutionary psychological hypotheses are testable and hence falsifiable. Strongly Supported: Sex differences in mate preferences for cues to resources and cues to fertility Apparently Falsified: “Loser male” design feature of rape hypothesis

59 Teaching Tool #15 Lighten up: show a sense of humor E.g., One cartoonist’s rendition of male and females brains

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62 Teaching Tool #16 Explain heuristic value of evolutionary psychology: Guides researchers to important domains such as... –Mating –Kinship –Aggression –Cooperation –Social conflict –Status hierarchies –Morality

63 Teaching Tool #17 Consilience

64 Evolutionary Psychology is Consilient 1. Organizes known facts parsimoniously 2. Provides guidance to important domains 3. Leads to new predictions 4. Unifies psychology with the life sciences

65 Teaching Tool #18 Show humility and honesty: What we know is minute compared to what we do not know

66 Final Teaching Tool #19: Excitement, Awe, Appreciation It is a rare and special privilege to be living in the exciting time of what I believe is the most important scientific revolution in the history of psychology

67 Thank you!


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