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Science of Human Nature and Art of Sustainable Happiness: Arrive 2 B U

Science of Human Nature and Art of Sustainable Happiness: Arrive 2 B U

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Science of Human Nature and Art of Sustainable Happiness: Arrive 2 B U

Lunghezza:
476 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Oct 4, 2019
ISBN:
9781684709625
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Ultimately, people want to be happy. For most of us, we seek happiness outside of ourselves. We hope that our pursuit of a higher-paying job, a nicer house, a new mate, a faster speedboat, etc. will bring happiness. These external desires might satisfy our appetite in the short-term, but when the shiny newness inevitably wears off, we find ourselves feeling emotionally bankrupt, and often in overwhelming debt.

We all want to know the secret to happiness, even though very few of us actually have the motivation and dedication to work for it. Recognizing and changing patterns of behavior that don’t serve us, adopting positivity practices, living mindfully and flourishing often require a substantial life overhaul, not just a makeover. Here’s the secret—there is no secret to happiness. Much research has been done and countless books, classes, conferences, and programs come out every year, each with a “new” take on this age-old enigma.
Pubblicato:
Oct 4, 2019
ISBN:
9781684709625
Formato:
Libro

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Science of Human Nature and Art of Sustainable Happiness - Emma-Shivani Brown Ph.D.

Ph.D.

Copyright © 2019 Emma-Shivani Brown, Ph.D.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

This book is a work of non-fiction. Unless otherwise noted, the author and the publisher make no explicit guarantees as to the accuracy of the information contained in this book and in some cases, names of people and places have been altered to protect their privacy.

ISBN: 978-1-6847-0961-8 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-6847-0963-2 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-6847-0962-5 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2019913558

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Getty Images are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Getty Images.

Lulu Publishing Services rev. date: 10/17/2019

This book is dedicated to my frenemies: -

To hopelessness out of which emerged fierce and undefeatable hope

To excruciating pain of whose fiery pit was born the sweet pleasure and soothing joy and relief

To desolate loneliness that showed the path of union, togetherness and connection

To unstoppable tears that washed me clean and showed the beauty of smile and laughter

To stormy rage that paved the path to peace and forgiveness.

To vagabond lust that that cradled passion, love and affection

To cognitive dissonance that led to limens and deep contemplations

To the adventures in consciousness that crashed the shores of reality

To the hate that loved without regrets

To the glorious pride that refused to forgive and yet embraced

To all the adversities, failures and obstacles that birthed me as a victor, a success. a Titanium and a Teflon

This book is dedicated to;

To everyone who dared, romanced, dated, and went to bed with the Indomitable Human Spirit,

To all those who wrestled with life’s challenges on a daily basis, showed resilience and have faced obstacles and failures with sustained grit, and all those who hustled

To all those who refused to give up in the face of lack, racism, discrimination, criticism, condemnation and used failure and every negative as a stepping stone

And I gratefully dedicate this book to Divine in all its manifestations, to all my teachers, to all my parents, to all my children and to all my well-wishers and to all my enemies who helped me

Arrive to be Me!

ARRIVE 2 B U: A GUIDE FOR LIVING THE GOOD LIFE

ULTIMATELY, PEOPLE WANT TO BE happy. For most of us, we seek happiness outside of ourselves. We hope that our pursuit of a higher-paying job, a nicer house, a new mate, a faster speedboat, etc. will bring happiness. These external desires might satisfy our appetite in the short-term, but when the shiny newness inevitably wears off, we find ourselves feeling emotionally bankrupt, and often in overwhelming debt.

We all want to know the secret to happiness, even though very few of us actually have the motivation and dedication to work for it. Recognizing and changing patterns of behavior that don’t serve us, adopting positivity practices, living mindfully and flourishing often require a substantial life overhaul, not just a makeover. Here’s the secret—there is no secret to happiness. Much research has been done and countless books, classes, conferences, and programs come out every year, each with a new take on this age-old enigma. Many of them have merit and proven success, but there is no one-size-fits-all formula. What works for one individual may not be effective nor realistic for another.

Arrive 2 B U explores some core truths and trusted strategies for creating happiness and well-being that is sustainable. Exploring the new frontier of positive psychology—the science of well-being—from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology, which studies human psychology through the lens of modern evolutionary theory, can help individuals and communities move through personal and collective issues, healing psychological and historical wounds while cultivating strengths and resilience.

Seekers of personal growth and development should test out the many options available to discover what works best for them in cultivating well-being. Some of the most effective avenues to happiness come through methodologies of positive psychology, which include fostering resilience to cope with distress; reframing experiences; creating meaning and purpose; adopting a gratitude practice; and building a bank of positive emotions, such as empathy and compassion, to draw upon in difficult times.

This book aims to show readers why the positive-psychology approach to living life well is worth trying. A brief look at the history and principles of evolutionary psychology will show how it seeks to better understand what people do and the reasons they do it—why humans behave in the patterns contextualized by society or by traits passed down within individual families. This is important because the evolution of social behaviors within communities and other social groups continue to adapt human beings to their surroundings and social practices.

Evolution teaches that the brain has drastically evolved over time, morphing from a basic organ designed solely for survival to a complex, complicated system that experiences emotions, thoughts, feelings, and learning. Cognitive science, or the study of the brain, is a fairly new discipline that only officially began in 1948. In the basics of cognitive science, the argument of nature versus nurture examines which has greater power in producing individual differences. Both nature and nurture play major roles in brain development as inherited genes create traits such as gender, intelligence, and degenerative disorders, while the environment develops them.

Both genetics and environment are responsible for an individual’s personality traits, but while self-esteem and the need for acceptance is an intrinsic part of human evolution, emotions are far more complex. They are interconnected systems of thoughts, feelings, motives, and bodily reactions that work together to accomplish three basic tasks: announce important events, provoke behaviors and actions that help individuals deal with an event, and produce physical and mental changes in the body that are necessary for response to the announcement of the event.

Yet, some common aspects of human behavior—such as emotion, love, dreaming, memory, self-esteem, and stress—continue to be psychological mysteries on some level. A mystery for centuries, happiness is primarily dependent upon attitude and life approach, not by the circumstances that life brings. Other puzzles of human behavior include self-control, forgetfulness, subliminal messages, feelings of superiority, psychic abilities, prejudice, blushing, laughter, kissing, and creating art.

There is indeed more certainty about the brain’s influence on the health of the body and how to engage the brain in solving issues with cravings, hormones, focus and energy, sleep, stress, memory, negative thoughts, and happiness. Looking further into how the mind works to create happiness through flourishing, growth, and development of the human mind, this book also explores meaning and why some people seem to have a purpose in life and others do not. It teaches how to assimilate the real meaning of life’s events into useable material to create happiness and fulfillment. It defines the divided self, explains how happiness can be achieved through changing the mind, reciprocity, combatting hypocrisy, living a virtuous life, love and attachment, growing from adversity, and pursuing the meaning of life.

Interestingly, psychologists look at most pursuits in life as by-products of the quest for happiness. Consistently happy people have heartier immune systems, cope better with stress, and are more likely to live longer. Other studies have shown that individuals who choose happiness ultimately become more successful, have better long-term relationships, higher salaries over the course of their lives, show better leadership traits, and are more flexible in dealing with life’s inconsistencies. Essentially, a successful life does not produce happiness, but happiness produces a successful life.

One way to promote happiness is through positivity. Positivity feels good, it changes how the mind works, it can transform the future, and put a stop to detrimental effects on the body. Positive emotions allow individuals to learn new skills, enhance current strengths, and overcome weaknesses. In the pursuit of happiness, individuals should work to increase positivity. This can be achieved by being heartfelt, grateful and finding the silver lining; dreaming and planning for the future yet savoring the present moment; and flourishing as a lifestyle. How would you increase positivity in your life if you’re already a positive person? Sometimes negativity needs to be subtracted in order to meet the ideal. These changes start by resisting negative thinking, which is actually a form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). This type of therapy teaches active reactions against triggers in life and how to avoid rumination by participating in a healthy distraction.

However, psychology is not just about fixing what is wrong. Positive psychology is about encouraging and growing what is good, repairing damage, and promoting strengths. It analyzes the capability of people to do the right thing in their lives by turning away from the normal focus on mental illness, social problems, and addictions to focus on the emotions and adaptive behaviors essential for living the good life. When building strengths and nurturing positivity, there is little need to focus on the negative issues because, quite simply, they are not a problem. Emotional responses can be trained to act positively, even in situations where the emotional outcome would normally be negative.

People can also flourish and thrive by investing time and effort into participating in leisure activities, being in the flow, practicing mindfulness, and achieving peak performance. Intimate love relationships and good health and wellness can help create life satisfaction. Reciprocally, life satisfaction can improve health as a holistic state of physical, mental, and social well-being. Satisfaction in life comes with being able to control health, emotions, and personal situations in a way that is personally valuable to each individual. Mindfulness is one way to sharpen this control and personal awareness, thus increasing an individual’s ability to face the physical, mental, and spiritual challenges of daily life. It supplies the inner resources to deal with these challenges in ways that retain balance by encouraging immediate reflection and focus on the real priorities of life.

Because we are constantly bombarded by the enticements of the world, distractions are frequent, and temptations to participate in trends and toxic activities are pervasive, plus the pressure of work and a fast-paced lifestyle make it very easy for our bodies to succumb to stress-induced illnesses and disorders. For many people, this leads to compulsive and addictive behaviors or multitasking, which is the exact opposite of being mindful. Mindfulness allows individuals to make powerful decisions based on thoughtfulness and truth, rather than emotions and feelings. Vitality is improved when we bring this clarity to every situation.

The positive psychology movement has resulted in a rising tide of individuals who are transforming their lives by being positively mindful in working to accomplish their goals while maintaining healthy coping skills and nurturing their own well-being. Through practicing mindfulness, committing to gratitude and forgiveness, engaging positivity and optimism, consuming a healthy diet, exercising, cultivating meaningful connections and relationships, and employing resilience and healthy coping, individuals can consciously create the best version of themselves for optimal happiness and well-being.

INTRODUCTION

HAVING A DEEP INTEREST IN why humans do what we do, as well as why we think and feel as we do, has inspired me to study this new frontier of positive psychology by exploring it through the lens of evolutionary psychology. My purpose in this endeavor is to inform my practice of working with clients who seek guidance and support as they navigate their lives in this increasingly busy and complicated modern world. I help them move through their personal issues, healing psychological wounds while cultivating their strengths and resilience.

Ultimately, people want to be happy. Unfortunately, many people think they can find happiness by seeking it outside of themselves, either through acquiring material possessions or changing the circumstances of their lives. Too many people believe that money is the ticket to happiness and they overlook the fact that they already possess the source of what they crave. Some of my work involves helping them see this truth.

Through my research and experiences working with clients, I’ve found that there are many paths to the same end. These paths are as numerous and unique as the individuals who are walking them. With so much information about how to be happy—not to mention the myriad misconceptions—it takes dedication and an optimistic attitude to discover and distill the core truths and trusted strategies for realizing well-being and maintaining it throughout life.

In my educational pursuits of these matters, I have sought out the scientific work of credible researchers and the tried-and-true methods of experienced clinicians, so that I can provide my clients with evidence-based concepts and practices they can apply in their lives to reach their goals. What I have found in my research and education has provided a solid spine of knowledge for which to build upon in my practice of helping people live happy and healthy lives.

Peering first through the lens of evolutionary psychology, which naturally led me to study the functions of the brain as they relate to cognition, emotion and behavior in the arena of neuropsychology, guided me to focus on the field of positive psychology, which is essentially the science of well-being. This research has shown me that traditional psychology’s emphasis on the negatives of mental health and its inclination to take a solely fix-it approach through the methods and philosophies of Western medicine, is not an ideal intervention for human beings in the modern environment. Positive psychology strives to balance our efforts to holistically heal dis-ease with the intention to encourage growth and development of an individual’s strengths and goals.

This integrative treatment strategy for healing psychological wounding uses a person’s strengths and resources, both internal and external, to grow beyond their problems, creating positivity and happiness for themselves. Individuals who wish to embark on a journey of personal growth and development have a plethora of choices regarding methods and practices that cultivate well-being. Some of the most successful avenues to happiness include fostering resilience to cope while in distress; the ability to positively reframe experiences; creating meaning and purpose in life; adopting a gratitude practice; and building a bank of positive emotions, such as empathy and compassion, to draw upon in times of stress or difficulty.

My hope is that my readers will be able to relate to the material outlined in these chapters and find something that works for them—something they can use to create and sustain their own happiness.

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EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY:

THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN NATURE

A Conceptual History

THE FIRST EXPOSURE TO EVOLUTIONARY psychology should be inquiry into its history. Professor Allen MacNeill from Cornell University introduces his students to the subject of evolutionary psychology by explaining what it is, where it came from, why it is relevant today, and why it is relevant within the context of a larger discussion about humanity as a species. MacNeill explains that the science of evolutionary psychology is the study of us, of human beings, and that helps us to understand what and why people do things. MacNeill’s definition: Evolutionary psychology is the scientific study of human behavior from an evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary psychology is a new approach to an old idea, a theoretical exploration into areas of psychology that deal with human functionality, especially mental and psychological tendencies and patterns in human behavior. These patterns can be found in perception, memory, language, and other adaptations humanity has made, according to the principles of natural selection. MacNeill explains evolutionary psychology’s beginnings through the writings and studies of Charles Darwin on the rules of natural selection. According to MacNeill, Darwin’s basis for natural selection is what makes evolutionary psychology possible and gives researchers the ability to question the tendencies of human behavior in ways science has yet to explore.

Two primary aspects of evolutionary psychology are external behavior and internal motivation of the behavior and choices people make regularly. Because evolutionary psychology is about what people do and why they do it, researchers in the field must be practiced and professional observers. In the past, many researchers concentrated their studies exclusively on either internal or external factors of human behavior. Evolutionary psychology seeks to study them both and compare the findings to create one hypothesis.

The practice of observation in evolutionary psychology is a key component to its study. The concept that humans are social creatures and therefore pick up many mental and behavioral processes from the communities in which they live has been developed by researchers through repetitive observations within controlled studies (Buss 2015). This type of experimental, observational tactic, used predominantly by American researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology, didn’t last long, especially when the work of none other than Sigmund Freud was applied (Buss 2015). Freud had many shocking ideas about concepts of psychoanalysis, especially when it came to family dynamics, and this applied generally to his ideas and theories on human behavior in a larger context. Freud’s main principles were founded on the belief that things like hunger, fear, and, above all, sexual urges, drove all human behaviors. However, these ideas leveled human behavior to that of animals, which contradicted rationality and was something that evolutionary psychology developed and referred to as the theory of the mind, derived from a type of psychology known as cognitive psychology (Anderson 1990). Theory of the mind links certain human behaviors to social contexts, something that cannot be equated to animal behavior.

MacNeill offers four areas where evolutionary psychology and the study of behavior are useful and prolific, especially based on the idea of social or community triggers for certain behaviors. The first is linguistics and Chomsky’s theory of natural language, implying that language has a universal basis and that a human’s understanding and ability to learn a language comes naturally. The second is neurobiology, which takes a closer look at motor functions for animals and humans, comparing their functionality and development and the patterns of behavior associated with both, and assessing the reasons behind why they occur. The third is animal behavior and why different species display different and varying patterns of behavior, rather than one set pattern. The fourth is the science of computers and how information develops through programs and integrated outputs and inputs.

From these four areas of study within evolutionary psychology, two branches of scientific method emerged as the means to observe and research patterned behaviors in people and animals. These two branches are cognitive psychology and traditional evolutionary psychology; both agree on observation as the key method of research and that there is an active, internal, mental state of the human mind.

Investigating the Unmentionable

Cognitive psychology and evolutionary psychology are very closely related, as they both seek to define social behaviors of people living in communities through observing their tendencies and behavioral choices in controlled groups. Cognitive psychology is defined as the scientific study of mental functionality, which includes memory, learning, reasoning, language, and perception, as well as decision making (Feinberg et al. 2012). These traits differ from those of evolutionary psychology only slightly, in that cognitive psychology is the study of these things based on the premise that the brain is responsible for their functionality so they can be understood like components of a computing system (Feinberg et al. 2012).

Social behavior becomes the defining difference between the two types of behavioral psychologies. Traditional evolutionary psychology is interested in observing people and their behavioral patterns, especially in a community context. MacNeil explained that evolutionary psychology found that certain individuals had developed the skill of understanding the true intentions of others while simultaneously concealing their own. This is the greatest achievement of behavior by people living in communities, one that serves as both self-defense and a means of security. It has been used often in television and film, as well as plays and great speeches throughout history, as a way of explaining the phenomenon as a culture of humanity.

Another key pattern of behavior is the social learning of what it means to be polite and to have polite conversation, which can become disrupted by cultural boundaries or an individual’s lack of sociability or social cues (Kniffin and Wilson 2005). Part of becoming a definitively successful adult is learning what is and is not appropriate and polite and being able to tactfully employ that discretion in public and private settings.

Conversely, gossip is contrary to politeness because it typically concerns topics that would be considered impolite to bring up in larger social settings. These topics might include sex, religion, politics, or acts of violence—anything that is not guaranteed to render a positive response from everyone in the social group. Robert Dunbar, author of the book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, compares the social aspects of gossip to those of social grooming, an act in which many primates are inclined to participate. It’s natural for people to want to be in on the gossip because it signals an importance and a sort of trustworthiness, a type of acceptance to the social group. Gossip and social grooming also play important roles in how people and primates establish and maintain dominance among their community members. The person who controls the gossip can control who is accepted and who is shunned (Kniffin and Wilson 2005). It also enables people to cross over from childhood to adulthood, according to MacNeill, as a type of coming-of-age event that allows adults to communicate in a way that strengthens their relationships. Establishing an us-versus-them mentality using gossip or agreeing on the decisions others should or should not make allows for a type of social relationship-building only gossip provides (Kniffin and Wilson 2005).

Since the study of evolutionary psychology is not about perceptions of what human behavior should be but observations of what it is, researchers should not make judgments or create explanations or rationalizations about what might have caused the observed behavior. The focus is one of description rather than perception (MacNeill 2011). However, observations of behavior are also telling of a larger group of people and can explain, inherently, the behavioral tendencies of humanity as a whole.

Natural Selection and Adaptation

Evolutionary psychology, at its core, comes from the theories and premises of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, as represented in his book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859. His theory still stands today as the most modern and popular theory accepted by most practicing scientists, as of 2017. Darwin’s theory of evolution comes in two parts: first, that living species have changed gradually, adapting from their original (or ancestral) forms into varying forms divergent from those determined by fossil records; and second, that the gradual change is known as natural selection, which explains why the adaptations occurred. The adaptations of animals, according to natural selection, are any changes an animal makes to its physical appearance or internal functions that serve a purpose in its struggle for survival from climate and predators alike. It is important for researchers to understand the ideas behind natural selection if they are to understand and study evolutionary psychology (MacNeill 2011).

Four concepts that can be used to help understand Darwin’s theory of natural selection are (1) variety, (2) heredity, (3) fecundity, and (4) demography. There needs to be a certain amount of variety in results and behaviors in the individuals who make up a community in order for the study to be fair and accurate. MacNeill describes variety as the difference between functions of organisms. Accurate research requires that each individual cannot be identical or close to identical to another, in terms of behavioral tendencies and patterns. Otherwise, the ability to compare them in terms of psychology becomes difficult, if not impossible (Thompson 1987).

Heredity builds from variety and determines that children inherit certain behaviors from their parents, making behavioral patterns learned and inherent (Cosmides 1989). Although this aspect of learned behavior is not discussed in Darwin’s book on natural selection, many scientists claim that children display learned behaviors, which is evident in studies conducted for social work, child psychology, and, now, evolutionary psychology. Heredity is important because it can explain where certain behaviors come from, why and how they compare to other behaviors, and how these certain behaviors become passed on, or not passed on.

Fecundity refers to the reproduction of animals, as many animals reproduce and make more children of the species than can survive, making reproduction—both in animals and people—a part of natural selection. Even though people tend to reproduce at different rates and for different reasons, the process still applies to the theory of natural selection (Thompson 1987). Fecundity has less to do with behavior and more to do with how many of the species are surviving to carry on those established behaviors and why it matters.

Demography builds off this idea of fecundity in that the survival of some species in the natural selection process has to do with culture and, building off heredity, with the inherited behavior of children and parents. Demography also takes into account that sometimes the act of survival—who lives and who dies—can be purely accidental in the continuation of a species and their behaviors (MacNeill 2011).

These four concepts of natural selection—variety, heredity, fecundity, and demography—all play a role in defining the survival and continuation of behaviors both in animals and people. Each one builds upon the other and help answer the question of what the differences are in learned behavior and how it affects natural selection. Evolutionary psychology does not define natural selection as something that causes evolutionary adaptions, but it defines natural selection in the same way Darwin did, as a part of the process of reproduction for the survival of the species (Cosmides 1989). Adaptions in evolution are sometimes not adaptions at all but simply characteristics that remain constant; differentiating between an adaption and a characteristic can become difficult.

MacNeill describes adaptions and characteristics as part of three categories in the process of natural selection: (1) adaptions, (2) side effects, and (3) accidents. These three categories help determine what is an adaption in evolution and what are constants in species as they develop. MacNeill uses breast-feeding in humans as an example of an adaption for survival—if learned, the child survives, and if not learned, the child does not survive. This adaption is not only inherently human behavior but is a part of the process of natural selection in many animal species, an innate behavioral pattern (Cosmides 1989). A side effect is what happens when a behavior is similar to an adaptive behavior but is not actually adaptive; according to MacNeill, this can be something like thumb-sucking, which in humans can be a side effect of breast-feeding. Accidental behaviors come from patterns that occur at random and for random reasons in individuals, although they come from shared experiences, such as breast-feeding, and adaptions everyone experiences as children.

Evolved Psychological Mechanisms

Whether behavior is adaptive, a side effect, or an accident, all behavior is inherently significant when discussing the effects of natural selection on humanity as a species. Adaptive behaviors come from a combination of learned and innate patterns, such as breast-feeding, which is an innate, adaptive behavior meant to help the child survive and become a functioning member of the species and society. Society, in part, is often a key component in helping teach more behavioral patterns as people develop and can have a major effect on an individual’s survival as a social being (MacNeill 2011). It’s easier to adapt to and learn some behaviors than others, and what determines the difficulty of these learned behaviors is how much they affect reproduction.

Evolutionary psychology has been defined as a type of human ethology. Ethology studies the evolutionary implications of behaviors versus instincts in animals, according to their natural habitat (Betzig 1989). Generally, ethology is the study of behavior patterns across various species, including humans, instead of focusing on the behavioral tendencies of just one species; ethology seeks to equate practices of many species’ behaviors (Betzig 1989). Evolutionary psychology researchers interpret their study of humanity as a sort of human ethology that considers people to be similar to primates, wolves, and other social animals.

Ethology researchers need to be careful when conducting their observations and drawing conclusions that they do not call upon any premise that deals with nature versus nurture, as this argument leads to unnecessary arguments and assumptions. Nature versus nurture implies that either pure innate behavior or purely learned behavior (or some combination of learned and innate behavior) dominates traits and instincts in animals and people. An ethology researcher should not focus on whether behavior patterns are predominately innate or learned; the researcher should be concerned with understanding how these behaviors came to be and remained a part of the species’ functionality (Betzig 1989). Various types of behaviors can develop during an animal’s lifetime, and ethology researchers observe these occurrences and record them in order to determine evolutionary behavior patterns. Ethology believes that behavioral patterns, otherwise referred to as fixed action patterns, are behaviors that result from innate psychological tendencies (MacNeill 2011).

Fixed action patterns are varying sequences of actions that animals perform daily in their routine behavior. These sequences cannot be changed, and animals will typically perform these behaviors from start to finish, whether or not the original goal has changed or becomes unnecessary. A fixed action pattern is set off by a stimulus, something that triggers the animal’s responsive behavior pattern. Stimuli are often external and require a response in behavior from the animal (Le Foll and Goldberg 2005). One famous example of the effect of stimuli on fixed action patterns is Pavlov’s dogs, trained to recognize that the ringing of a bell meant dinnertime. Soon, simply the ringing the bell would cause the dogs to salivate, whether or not food was offered (Le Foll and Goldberg 2005). Fixed action patterns are specific to species, meaning that certain patterns belong to certain types of animals. That being said, similar species can exhibit similar fixed action patterns and can be traced back through the animal’s evolutionary history as a pattern existing with its early ancestors and so on, leading researchers to believe that these behaviors are a part of natural selection and the evolutionary process of survival (MacNeill 2011).

Animals that live for a longer time become more likely to experience significant changes in their behavior, their environments, and their methods of adaption to these new climates, both external and internal. When this occurs, natural selection explains how the animals fixed action patterns change through learning in order to survive.

Deconstructing the Blank Slate

While animals can be broken down into organisms with built-in, innate, fixed-action patterns, people are more complex in the way they display responsive behavior with regard to survival. Evolutionary psychology separates people into two categories, based on the idea of behavioral response: (1) innatists and (2) social constructivists. According to MacNeill, innatists believe that human behaviors are completely inherent, and there is little that any external learning can do to change that innate response. On the other hand, social constructivists believe that many of the most important human behaviors are learned from experiences, and therefore, they are continuous in their adaption to the world around them, constantly changing and evolving. These two takes on behavior, according to human action patterns, are separated from that of animals because animals typically operate from instinct, whereas people operate using reason as well as instinct (Brophy 2006). The opposing views of the innatists and the social constructivists recall the nature-versus-nurture debate, essentially arguing that human behavior is either fixed or evolving, inherent or learned, internal or external. It’s important to recognize that people’s behaviors can be a combination of both innate and learned; more likely, people are born with an internal intention to survive and simultaneously learn new and better ways to survive as they grow.

As previously stated, ethology researchers need to be cautious of falling into the nature-versus-nurture debate. Instead, they should use a theory of behavior patterns based on the premise that many important behaviors are derived from both internal and external forces. According to MacNeill, many people are troubled by the idea that behavior is both internal and learned, and therefore it’s hard to reconcile in theory as a scientific truth. MacNeill demonstrates this concept through the research and writings of sociologist Herbert Spencert.

Spencer believed that evolution was a progressive, continuous process—it begins with chaotic particles that slowly become a more complicated, living organism that grows a functioning internal system for survival. According to Spencer, evolution is the development of atoms to cells, cells into animals, and from humans to human societies.

The term behaviorism is associated with a theory that states human and animal behavior can be explained by controlled conditioning—devoid of thoughts or emotions—and that by this definition, simply altering patterns of behavior can treat psychological disorders of the mind (Richerson and Boyd 2002).

Some social sciences, such as anthropology and social psychology, profess that there is no such thing as an inherent human nature, according to MacNeill. If there is no inherent human nature, then a human being is essentially a blank slate, waiting to be filled with knowledge and behavioral codes on how to survive in the world and in society. Without a predisposition to a certain behavior, a human being has the opportunity to become anything in terms of behavior. However, if people are born with an innate sense of survival, then, as a species, people are more connected than originally believed, and behavior is something not only learned but also a part of people as a species. This idea is best expressed through the example of language and linguistics and the innate sense of communication with which most humans are born.

MacNeill notes that Noam Chomsky and Eric Lenneberg argued that language is an innate learning process, something that most people are born predisposed to understand and acquire in the early stages of infancy. Language is learned during key growth periods in every child’s development, and if it cannot be learned during these key growth times, then it likely will not be learned as an adult. Language is more easily learned during childhood, especially if it is simply spoken rather than formally taught. The ability to speak a language, once learned, is never forgotten and develops and expands as the child grows into adulthood. The ability to speak and understand language is lost, however, when the parts of the brain conditioned for such understanding are damaged, wherein a person can lose his or her overall ability to communicate.

Therefore, the inherent ability for people to learn and understand and never forget language—an essential tool for survival among the human species—is one argument against social constructivists’ belief in a purely learned, external pattern of behaviors. Spencer’s beliefs in evolutionary progressiveness suggest that people can create patterns of behavior from an innate system, and they argue against the idea that there is no such thing as a human nature. To call the human species a blank slate is not only inaccurate but also misleading.

Food, Clothing, Shelter, and Health

How does an innate human nature play into the role of natural selection in evolutionary psychology? MacNeill explores the driving behaviors in humans in terms of basic necessities for survival, such as food, shelter, clothing, and health. The idea of survival of the fittest does not fully explain the role of behavior in natural selection.

The phrase survival of the fittest originated from Darwin’s theory of evolution and was used to describe natural selection as a process that is driven by sexual and reproductive success; more accurately, Darwin expressed it as a survival of the form that will leave the largest amount of itself throughout generations (Bouchard 2011). The original phrase was actually introduced by Spencer, who, after reading Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species, included it in his own book and used it to make connections between biological and behavioral theories (Bouchard 2011). Survival of the fittest does not insinuate that the strongest or most mentally capable will, themselves, survive in a physical sense but that those with the most success at reproducing their lineage will survive throughout the years by their generations of descendants. According to survival of the fittest, reproduction is just as important as behavior, and evolutionary psychology, therefore, dictates that any living organism that does not reproduce is an invisible species, according to the rules of natural selection (MacNeill 2011).

Reproduction is a vital component to any living species because without reproduction, there is no continuation of life and no means to sustain it. Reproduction has evolved with the human species; it has become less and less about preservation and more about individual choice and control. Many factors in the human species contribute to the halting of reproduction, such as various means of birth control and other contraceptives and abortion. Reproduction in animals is an innate response and behavior, according to their instincts, to perpetuate their species—a drive that, while still existing within human nature, meets many more obstacles to completion. Human beings are the only species that can engage in the reproductive process without intent to reproduce.

However, when reproduction does occur, the male and female endure many steps and processes to ensure the success of the pregnancy. For example, the development of the fetus in the womb is when the success or failure of the individual may be determined. A woman who

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