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Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 Evolution and Abnormal Psychology Running Order Individual differences Evolutionary Psychiatry Anxiety & Phobia Anorexia.

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Presentation on theme: "Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 Evolution and Abnormal Psychology Running Order Individual differences Evolutionary Psychiatry Anxiety & Phobia Anorexia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 Evolution and Abnormal Psychology Running Order Individual differences Evolutionary Psychiatry Anxiety & Phobia Anorexia Nervosa Autism Psychopathy & Sociopathy Recap Reward You should be better able to classify psychiatric conditions and their ultimate origins. Aim To introduce you to an evolutionary framework for analysing common psychiatric conditions.

2 Types of Mental Disorder based on an evolutionary analysis Distributed abnormalities – the result of abnormal expression of adaptive states e.g. anxiety. Mismatch abnormalities – the result of a ‘normal’ mind in an abnormal environment e.g. anorexia nervosa. Phylogenetic abnormalities – the result of genetic or epigenetic problems e.g. autism. Frequency dependent abnormalities – the result of frequency selection or social conditions eliciting marginal strategies e.g. psychopathy and sociopathy. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

3 Anxiety (fears and phobias): a (suite of) distributed abnormalities? def:- anxiety; a vague, unpleasant emotional state characterised by apprehension, dread, and unfocused distress. The basic idea is that anxiety & phobic disorders are extreme versions of adaptive responses. Anxiety is to be distinguished from fear:- this, as a form of anxiety, is identifiably attached to a person, place or circumstance. phobia:- the etymology is the Greek term for fear; current usage adds the caveat that a phobia is persistent and irrational. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

4 General anxiety has evolved to deal with the general uncertainty of the environment. It can be viewed as - A form of worry: this could be real, imagined or habitual (developmental). A form of vigilance: this could be calibrated in accordance with desired outcomes. Specific anxieties have evolved to give selective protection against specific dangers (snakes – spiders – heights - darkness – blood – strangers - social scrutiny – separation - leaving the home range – open spaces – closed spaces – social rejection). Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology Anxiety (fears and phobias): a (suite of) distributed abnormalities?

5 Most phobias are exaggerations of the basic anxiety underlying each & have biological markers. Increased heart beat - increases blood flow to muscles & lactic acid rinsing. Increased respiration - increases oxygen content in blood. Muscle contraction - a warm-up in preparation for energetic movement. Increased catabolism - the endocrine system speeds up the break down of complex molecules resulting in increase blood sugar. Psychological fixation on avoidance - thinking is wholly focused on escape. Direction of escape - home and kin. Anxiety (fears and phobias): a (suite of) distributed abnormalities? Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

6 Anxieties are designed to facilitate escape from life-threatening danger, phobias are the result of... An excess of the anxiety provoking stimuli – this can lead to the anxiety being permanently ‘on’ and attached to a salient example of the stimuli. The misfiring of the underlying psychological mechanism. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology Anxiety (fears and phobias): a (suite of) distributed abnormalities?

7 The idea is that weight manipulation is a reliable way of turning off menstruation and is used when the reproductive future looks uncertain. Insufficient fat reserves at the onset of pregnancy seriously reduce the chances of a positive outcome for mother and child. Insufficient fat reserves may be taken to have been a frequent occurrence under ancestral conditions. Insufficient fat reserves has evolved into an optional strategy for females. This strategy is deployed when the reproductive future looks uncertain – it acts as a form of contraception. Anorexia Nervosa: a mismatch abnormality? The uncertain future hypothesis Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

8 This leads to one main multifaceted prediction: Any perceived rupture to ancestrally normal/ideal social conditions required for a successful outcome to pregnancy and rearing to puberty could trigger desire for weight loss. These include... Low self esteem disrupting the ability to confidently calculate mate value. Inability to confidently estimate male intentions – could be triggered by sexual abuse. Actual or perceived inadequacy of social relations with same sex peers. Anxiety/pessimism about the stability of the social environment. Evolutionary Psychology Week 9 - Abnormal Psychology Anorexia Nervosa: a mismatch abnormality? The uncertain future hypothesis

9 The basic idea is that young females adjust their weight to undercut a local norm & this norm has steadily decreased over the twentieth century pushing females into anorexia/bulimia. Nubility correlates with body shape e.g. size and distribution of fat deposits. Size and distribution of fat deposits correlates with number of offspring. Nubility is the single most important attractor of males. Females will seek to retain/enhance body shape as an indicator of nubility against a local norm. This leads to four predictions... Anorexia Nervosa: a mismatch abnormality? The female intra-sexual competition hypothesis Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

10 Those who suffer eating disorders should be most concerned/obsessed with body shape (especially the mid- rift). Eating disorders should be most prevalent in societies where nubile body shapes are retained by virtue of low birth rates. Eating disorders should be most prevalent in societies where nubile body shapes presented as ideal during development. Because nubility is a sex-typed female predictor of RV, eating disorders should be most prevalent amongst females – the most lopsided sex ration known to psychiatry at 9.5: 1. Anorexia Nervosa: a mismatch abnormality? The female intra-sexual competition hypothesis Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

11 Autism and the ‘Theory Theory’: a phylogenetic abnormality? The basic idea is that the autistic cannot form normal social relations because he/she doesn’t understand that others have mental states. Mental states (a.k.a. ‘intentional states’) have the property of being about something – they have content attached to content is an attitude toward it – it is liked/desired. e.g. one can have a mental state whereupon one understands/cognises that it is raining and hold an attitude about the fact. To have a ‘propositional attitude’, one must add a third property to mental states - that they are held by a specifiable other(s). e.g. Joshmo understands that it is raining and is unhappy about the fact. Such ascriptions of mental states are both how we understand and predict the behaviour of others. e.g. Joshmo’s act of running to a shop doorway is explicable in terms of his understanding that it is raining and his unhappiness about the fact. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

12 Autism and the ‘Theory Theory’: a phylogenetic abnormality? Those who suffer from autism do not form theories of other minds via sequences of intentional states. Baron-Cohen calls this ‘mind blindness’. atavistic The reason we might class autism as a ‘phylogenetic’ disorder is because the condition is atavistic. N.B. The condition that we call ‘autism’ was given its name by Leo Kanner in Since then and until recently it occurred c.once in every 2500 births, and is c.4 times as common in males than females. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

13 Psychopathy and Sociopathy Sociopathy has come to be an alternative term to psychopathy because; Constraint regarding the use of the terms ‘psychopathy’ and ‘psychopath’ had been lost. It reflects the ‘social turn’ in psychiatry prompted by the anti- psychiatry movement in the 60’s. NB It is being eclipsed by the term ‘anti-social personality’. However, a more recent distinction is being forged between... Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

14 Psychopathy/Sociopathy Psychopaths primary psychopathy The idea is that individuals carrying a key genotypic similarity coding for a personality that behaves similarly in different environments. ‘Mind illness’ Sociopaths secondary psychopathy The idea is that individuals of different genotypes respond similarly to key environmental stimuli in the course of development. ‘Social illness’ Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

15 Psychopathy/Sociopathy: a frequency dependent abnormality? Psychopaths: ‘In-group’ behavioural similarities include... Apparent absence of socially specific emotions: e.g. remorse, shame, guilt, sympathy, empathy. Apparent absence of fear and/or non-responsiveness to fear as a conditioning tool. Profound egocentrism - the manifestation being unreliable &/or irresponsible &/or impulsive social behaviour. Normal IQ and normal theory of mind. Difficulty/inability to form lasting, equitable social bonds and relationships. Capacity to think clearly about situations without the clutter of considerations about the effect and affect on others – this may heighten the ability to manipulate others. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

16 Psychopathy/Sociopathy: a frequency dependent abnormality? If it has a genetic basis, the proportion of primary psychopaths should not vary as a proportion of the population or in response to (relative to gene pool change) cultural change/SES background. Baseline frequency appears to be constant over time and place. Equally likely to come from all socio-economic backgrounds. Behaviours are robust against rehabilitation. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology

17 Psychopathy/Sociopathy: frequency dependent abnormality? Sociopathy Risks factors include disruptive family life including father absence; inconsistent feedback; poor pro-social behavioural models; poverty e.g. low income, large family size, poor housing. Predictions Proportion of secondary psychopaths does & will vary. The strategy is sensitive to frequency dependent nature of success for cheating. Frequent but not emotionless cheating – they are susceptible to the stabilising effect of an affectionate/equitable bond. Cheating tied to age, hormone levels, and competitive status. Evolutionary Psychology Week 10 - Evolution and Abnormal Psychology


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