8 de setembro de 2009

Evolução e psicologia

Resumo da conferência de Rodrigo Saraiva no Congresso Internacional sobre o Impacto de Darwin

Darwin, Evolution and Psychology: past, present and future


I will examine the impact of Darwinism in the behavioural sciences and chiefly in psychology. I will consider ethology, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. After briefly examining the rationale in these fields I will separate three main themes: the study of evolution of behaviour and mind, the identification of selective pressures for changes, and the study of function. I will show that evolutionary psychology’s main shortcoming is that it relies only in loose hypothesis about past function.
I will then claim that a true Darwinian psychology must be informed of ethological processes and true comparative method, of archaeologicall research (archaeology is the only clue to behaviour of hominins) and of paleoanthropological findings. Also, as most modern behaviour is culturally determined, it is necessary to understand how culture and biology interact.
I will base the approach in Uexküll’s concept of the function cycle: the connection of an organism to its environments is achieved through a complex organisation of perceptive processes that identify features of relevance in the environment; these perceptive processes release behaviour that is programmed inside (either innately or by learning). This overall program of environment – perception – organismic programs – response varies widely across species, and I will briefly show how mammals (including apes) differ from humans. In so doing I will present several concepts (some new, others well known) that need evolutionary explanation. Among them, memory, attention, motivation, virtual models, algorithms that connect entities (things, agents – praxianaphoric, eidoloanaphoric and politikoanaphoric mental templates) and language. I will give examples of research that pertains of the evolution of these processes (the research on a connection grammar, on belief in afterlife and on the sentient Ego).
I will further defend that modern human behaviour cannot be explained by an individual- or even group-centred analysis, but that culture must be understood as a new organism, which defines its function cycles not necessarily in accordance with the individuals motivations but with the culture’s fitness.
I end by trying to relate the consequences of a true evolutionary psychology to the psychological individual and to self-understanding.

General references:

Buss, D, 2007: Evolutionary Psychology, 3rd Ed, Allyn & Bacon
Collidge, FL and Wynn, Th., 2009: The rise of Homo sapiens: the evolution of modern thinking. Wiley-Blackwell
Deacon, T., 1997: The Symbolic Species; the co-evolution of language and the human brain. Norton/Penguin
Pinker, S., 2007: The Stuff of Thought: language as a window to human nature. Allen Lane/ Penguin
Sá-Nogueira Saraiva, R. de, 2003: Mundos animais, Universos humanos. Gulbenkian.