Psychological Aposematism: An Evolutionary Analysis of Suicide

Biological Theory 15 (4):226-238 (2020)
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Abstract

The evolutionary advantage of psychological phenomena can be gleaned by comparing them with physical traits that have proven adaptive in other organisms. The present article provides a novel evolutionary explanation of suicide in humans by comparing it with aposematism in insects. Aposematic insects are brightly colored, making them conspicuous to predators. However, such insects are equipped with toxins that cause a noxious reaction when eaten. Thus, the death of a few insects conditions predators to avoid other insects of similar coloration. Analogously, human suicides may increase the credibility of future suicide threats and attempts from others, conveying an evolutionary advantage to the phenotypic expression of suicidal behavior in low-fitness contexts.

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