Posts Tagged ‘evolutionary psychology’

Programmed to believe

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Would you refuse to put on the jacket of a serial killer? Would you attribute inexplicable phenomena to some superior force? Redes analyses the origin of our beliefs on the supernatural. Eduardo Punset interviews Bruce Hood, Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol and author of the book ‘SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable‘, whose studies seek to clarify, at the hand of neuroscience, why we are so credulous.

Our killer instinct

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Are the majority of murders that occur between humans the work of psychopaths? Do we all have a killer instinct within us? Are we constantly more violent or are our societies moving towards a progressive pacification? There are currently various experts who are researching the origins and composition of homicidal impulses in humans.

One of them, David Buss, Evolutionary Psychologist at the University of Texas and author of ‘The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill‘, coincided with Eduard Punset at the festival at “La Ciudad de las Ideas” in Puebla, Mexico. Together they talked about the latest findings and hypotheses concerning the homicidal responses of our species.

Monogamy is not natural

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Between 25 y el 50 % of western men admit to having been unfaithful to their partner at least once. And women? Are there two typos of monogamy: one social and another sexual? Eduardo Punset joined the married couple Judith Eve Lipton, Psychiatrist at the Swedish Medical Center in Washington, and David Barash, Psychologist at the University of Washington, to discover in depth the interests of each sex in their life together.

To find out more:

* ‘The Myth of Monogamy‘, book by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton.
* ‘Polygamy Left its Mark on the Human Genome‘, news article published in New Scientist.
* ‘Monogamy Is Unnatural‘, article by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton in the magazine The Stranger.
* ‘Your Cheating Heart‘, interview in the New York Times.

So who’s in charge here?

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Without followers there are no leaders. And without leaders societies would have collapsed with insurmountable conflicts. How do we nowadays choose who will lead us? How did we used to do it?

In two and a half million years, we have not improved our way of choosing leaders. They are necessary, as are the followers, to take a society forwards without it disintegrating through conflicts. Eduardo Punset discusses the evolutionary criteria in the selection of a good leader with the Social Psychologist Mark van Vugt, Researcher at the University of Kent.

To find out more:

* ‘Follow me: The origins of leadership‘, articles (for subscribers) written by Mark van Vugt in the New Scientist. (On van Vugt ‘s website you can download the article in PDF format.)

The battle of the sexes

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Once it got going, 800 million years ago, the differentiation between the sexes marked the evolution of two tendencies, two ways of facing the world. Today, we are still trying to establish up to what point this division has influenced the fundamentals of our social conduct.

At the London School of Economics, Helena Cronin, specialist in Darwinism and human evolution and author of the book ‘The Ant and the Peacock’, has studied in depth the differences in the behaviour and capabilities of men and women. Whilst writing a book drawing on her latest conclusions, Punset wanted to talk with her about the keys that Darwinism gives us to understanding a good part of our reactions, desires and ways of living.

As well as including Cronin’s ideas, we have also consulted Arcadi Navarro, Evolutionary Biologist at the Pompeu Fabra University, who explains to us what genetic sexual differences are, although he believes that genetic determination is not definitive owing to interaction with the environment. María Jayme, Doctor in Differential Psychology of Sexes and Gender at the University of Barcelona, talks to us about experiments that demonstrate how, at 18 months of age, innate differences manifest themselves between boys and girls.

Innate morality exists

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Where do our moral principles come from? From religion? From philosophy? From judicial institutions? Regardless of their culture, all human beings sense that it is wrong to hurt others and that it is right to offer them help.

Marc Hauser, Psychobiologist at Harvard University and author of the book ‘Moral Minds‘ explains to Eduard Punset that the principal sources of our moral judgement do not come from the church or other institutions. Emotions such as vengeance, compassion and love are forms of behaviour that have helped humans survive in communities for many thousands of years. Morality is even a tool that is biologically inherited to consolidate a society. From a multidisciplinary perspective, which includes neurobiology, psychology, anthropology and linguistics, Hauser defends the existence of a set of universal moral principles that govern our decisions and judgements when it comes to distinguishing between good and bad.

A children’s game with a set of simple rules, developed by Quim de Marimon, Psychologist and Director of Praxistudy, demonstrates the fundamental moral principles that Hauser studies. Óscar Vilaroya, Neuroscientist at the UAB, explains how the game developed by Marimon reflects behavioural conduct seen in all humans.

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