It is unreasonable to assume that our pre-scientific emotion vocabulary embodies all and only those distinctions required for a scientific psychology of emotion. The psychoevolutionary approach to emotion yields an alternative classification of certain emotion phenomena. The new categories are based on a set of evolved adaptive responses, or affect-programs, which are found in all cultures. The triggering of these responses involves a modular system of stimulus appraisal, whose evoluations may conflict with those of higher-level cognitive processes. Whilst the structure (...) of the adaptive responses is innate, the contents of the system which triggers them are largely learnt. The circuits subserving the adaptive responses are probably located in the limbic system. This theory of emotion is directly applicable only to a small sub-domain of the traditional realm of emotion. It can be used, however, to explain the grouping of various other phenomena under the heading of emotion, and to explain various characteristic failings of the pre-scientific conception of emotion. (shrink)
Developmental systems theory (DST) is a general theoretical perspective on development, heredity and evolution. It is intended to facilitate the study of interactions between the many factors that influence development without reviving `dichotomous' debates over nature or nurture, gene or environment, biology or culture. Several recent papers have addressed the relationship between DST and the thriving new discipline of evolutionary developmental biology (EDB). The contributions to this literature by evolutionary developmental biologists contain three important misunderstandings of DST.
In behavioral ecology some authors regard the innateness concept as irretrievably confused whilst others take it to refer to adaptations. In cognitive psychology, however, whether traits are 'innate' is regarded as a significant question and is often the subject of heated debate. Several philosophers have tried to define innateness with the intention of making sense of its use in cognitive psychology. In contrast, I argue that the concept is irretrievably confused. The vernacular innateness concept represents a key aspect of 'folkbiology', (...) namely, the explanatory strategy that psychologists and cognitive anthropologists have labeled 'folk essentialism'. Folk essentialism is inimical to Darwinism, and both Darwin and the founders of the modern synthesis struggled to overcome this way of thinking about living systems. Because the vernacular concept of innateness is part of folkbiology, attempts to define it more adequately are unlikely to succeed, making it preferable to introduce new, neutral terms for the various, related notions that are needed to understand cognitive development. (shrink)
According to the distinguished philosopher Richard Wollheim, an emotion is an extended mental episode that originates when events in the world frustrate or satisfy a pre-existing desire. This leads the subject to form an attitude to the world which colours their future experience, leading them to attend to one aspect of things rather than another, and to view the things they attend to in one light rather than another. The idea that emotions arise from the satisfaction or frustration of desires—the (...) ‘match-mismatch’ view of emotion aetiology—has had several earlier incarnations in the psychology of emotion. Early versions of this proposal were associated with the attempt to replace the typology of emotion found in ordinary language with a simpler theory of drives and to define new emotion types in terms of general properties such as the frustration of a drive. The match-mismatch view survived the demise of that revisionist project and is found today in theories that accept a folk-psychological-style taxonomy of emotion types based on the meaning ascribed by the subject to the stimulus situation. For example, the match-mismatch view forms part of the subtle and complex model of emotion episodes developed over many years by Nico Frijda. According to Frijda, information about the ‘situational antecedents’ of an emotion—the stimulus in its context, including the ongoing goals of the organism—is evaluated for its relevance to the multiple concerns of the organism. Evaluation of match-mismatch—the degree of compatibility between the situation and the subject's goals—forms part of this process. (shrink)
We assess the arguments for recognising functionally integrated multispecies consortia as genuine biological individuals, including cases of so-called ‘holobionts’. We provide two examples in which the same core biochemical processes that sustain life are distributed across a consortium of individuals of different species. Although the same chemistry features in both examples, proponents of the holobiont as unit of evolution would recognize one of the two cases as a multispecies individual whilst they would consider the other as a compelling case of (...) ecological dependence between separate individuals. Some widely used arguments in support of the ‘holobiont’ concept apply equally to both cases, suggesting that those arguments have misidentified what is at stake when seeking to identify a new level of biological individuality. One important aspect of biological individuality is evolutionary individuality. In line with other work on the evolution of individuality, we show that our cases can be distinguished by focusing on the fitness alignment between the partners of the consortia. We conclude that much of the evidence currently presented for the ubiquity and importance of multi-species individuals is simply not to the point, at least unless the issue of biological individuality is firmly divorced from the question of evolutionary individuality. (shrink)
Integrating the study of human diversity into the human evolutionary sciences requires substantial revision of traditional conceptions of a shared human nature. This process may be made more difficult by entrenched, 'folkbiological' modes of thought. Earlier work by the authors suggests that biologically naive subjects hold an implicit theory according to which some traits are expressions of an animal's inner nature while others are imposed by its environment. In this paper, we report further studies that extend and refine our account (...) of this aspect of folkbiology. We examine biologically naive subjects' judgments about whether traits of an animal are 'innate', 'in its DNA' or 'part of its nature'. Subjects do not understand these three descriptions to be equivalent. Both innate and in its DNA have the connotation that the trait is species-typical. This poses an obstacle to the assimilation of the biology of polymorphic and plastic traits by biologically naive audiences. Researchers themselves may not be immune to the continuing pull of folkbiological modes of thought. (shrink)
Philosophers and historians of biology have argued that genes are conceptualized differently in different fields of biology and that these differences influence both the conduct of research and the interpretation of research by audiences outside the field in which the research was conducted. In this paper we report the results of a questionnaire study of how genes are conceptualized by biological scientists at the University of Sydney, Australia. The results provide tentative support for some hypotheses about conceptual differences between different (...) fields of biological research. (shrink)
The 'developmental systems' perspective in biology is intended to replace the idea of a genetic program. This new perspective is strongly convergent with recent work in psychology on situated/embodied cognition and on the role of external 'scaffolding' in cognitive development. Cognitive processes, including those which can be explained in evolutionary terms, are not 'inherited' or produced in accordance with an inherited program. Instead, they are constructed in each generation through the interaction of a range of developmental resources. The attractors which (...) emerge during development and explain robust and/or widespread outcomes are themselves constructed during the process. At no stage is there an explanatory stopping point where some resources control or program the rest of the developmental cascade. 'Human nature' is a description of how things generally turn out, not an explanation of why they turn out that way. Finally, we suggest that what is distinctive about human development is its degree of reliance on external scaffolding. (shrink)