Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)


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When angry, domain-specific concepts such as social agency, fault, responsibility and punishment will be assigned to elements in the situation. When hungry, the food-nonfood distinction will seem salient. When endangered, safety-categorization frames will appear. The world will be carved up into categories based partly on what emotional state an individual is in.

Perceptual mechanisms : Perceptual systems may enter emotion-specific modes of operation. When fearful, acuity of hearing may increase. Specialized perceptual inference systems may be mobilized as well: If you've heard rustling in the bushes at night, human and predator figure-detection may be particularly boosted, and not simply visual acuity in general. In fact, non-threat interpretations may be depressed, and the same set of shadows will "look threatening"-that is, given a specific threatening interpretation such as "a man with a knife"-or not, depending on emotion-state.

Memory : The ability to call up particularly appropriate kinds of information out of long term memory ought to be influenced. A woman who has just found strong evidence that her husband has been unfaithful may find herself flooded by a torrent of memories about small details that seemed meaningless at the time but that now fit into an interpretation of covert activity. We also expect that what is stored about present experience will also be differentially regulated. Important or shocking events, for example, may be stored in great detail as has been claimed about "flashbulb memories", for example , but other more moderate emotion-specific effects may occur as well.

Attention : The entire structure of attention, from perceptual systems to the contents of high level reasoning processes, should be regulated by emotional state. Positive emotions may broaden attentional focus Fredrickson, Physiology : Each organ system, tissue, or process is a potential candidate for emotion-specific regulation, and "arousal" is insufficiently specific to capture the detailed coordination involved.


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Each emotion program should send out a different pattern of instructions to the face and limb muscles, the autonomic system, etc. Changes in circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal functioning are well-known and documented, as are changes in endocrinological function.


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  • We expect thresholds regulating the contraction of various muscle groups to change with certain emotion states, reflecting the probability that they will need to be employed. Similarly, immune allocation and targeting may vary with disgust, with the potential for injury, or with the demands of extreme physical exertion. Communication and emotional expressions : Emotion programs are expected to mobilize many emotion-specific effects on the subcomponents of the human psychological architecture relevant to communication.

    Most notably, many emotion programs produce characteristic species-typical displays that broadcast to others the emotion state of the individual Ekman, Ekman and his colleagues have established in a careful series of landmark studies that many emotional expressions are human universals, both generated and recognized reliably by humans everywhere they have been tested Ekman, Indeed, many emotional expressions appear to be designed to be informative, and these have been so reliably informative that humans co-evolved automated interpreters of facial displays of emotion that decode these public displays into knowledge of others' mental states.

    It is surely true that people sometimes "lie" with their faces. But programs for inferring emotion states from facial displays would not have evolved unless doing so created a net advantage for the inferer, suggesting that these inferences were warranted more often than not. Two things are communicated by an authentic emotional expression: 1 that the associated emotion program has been activated in an individual, providing observers with information about the state of that individual's mental programs and physiology e. Both are highly informative, and emotional expressions provide a continuous commentary on the underlying meaning of things to companions.

    This provokes the question: Why did selection build facial, vocal and postural expressions at all? More puzzlingly, why are they often experienced as automatic and involuntary? From an evolutionary perspective, sometimes it is beneficial to provide information to others, and other times it is injurious, so most evolved communication systems involve close regulation of whether to transmit information or not. Usually this leads to a system, like language, in which the decision to communicate something or not can be made by the individual in detailed response to the immediate circumstances.

    The apparent selective disadvantages of honestly and automatically broadcasting one's emotional state have led Fridlund , for example, to argue that expressions must be voluntary and intentional communications largely unconnected to emotion state. Undoubtedly they sometimes are. But even when people deliberately lie, microexpressions of face and voice often leak out Ekman, , suggesting that certain emotion programs do in fact create involuntarily emitted signals that reliably broadcast the person's emotion state.

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    Natural selection has shaped emotion programs to signal their activation, or not, on an emotion by emotion basis. Summing for each emotion program considered by itself jealousy, loneliness, disgust, predatoriness, parental love, sexual attraction, gratitude, fear , there was a net benefit or cost to having others know that mental state, averaged across individuals over evolutionary time. For those recurrent situations in which, on average, it was beneficial to share one's emotion state and hence assessment of the situation with those one was with, species-typical facial and other expressions of emotion were constructed by selection.

    For example, fear was plausibly beneficial to signal, because it signaled the presence of a danger that might also menace one's kin and cooperators, and also informed others in a way that might recruit assistance. Nevertheless, averaged over evolutionary time, it was functional for the organism to signal the activation of only some emotion states. The conditions favoring signaling an emotion are hard to meet, so only some emotions out of the total species-typical set are associated with distinctive, species-typical facial expressions. There should be a larger set of emotions that have no automatic display.

    Jealousy, guilt, or boredom are all genuine emotions lacking distinctive signals. This changes the question from: Why are emotions automatically signaled? When selection is neutral, the signs of an emotion should only be the byproducts of whatever is necessary to run the emotion program, without any selection to make the cues informative. When selection disfavors others knowing the organism's internal state, selection should suppress and obscure external cues identifying internal states.

    Samenvatting

    Precisely because they publicly signal themselves, our attention goes disproportionately to the subset of emotions that do come equipped with emotional expressions. We think it likely that this had an impact on the history of emotion research. In general but with some notable exceptions , the closer the cooperative relationship and shared fitness interests, the more beneficial it is to share information; the more distant and adversarial the relationship, the more harmful it is.

    For this reason, we expect that circuits have evolved that regulate global emotional expressiveness depending on whether one is apparently alone, with people one shares interests with, or with social antagonists such as enemies or higher ranking individuals where leakage of damaging information should be suppressed. This global regulation may be largely automatic and nonconscious, and may involve open parameters set culturally and developmentally.

    Other things being equal, individuals will be shyer and less spontaneous with strangers creating problems in public speaking , and more expressive with intimates. Similarly, it may be that male-female differences in emotional expressiveness arise from an evolutionary history in which males were on average more often in the presence of potential adversaries. Of course, it is beneficial to the transmitter to share certain types of information with adversaries, such as anger, triumph, or surrender, but many other types fear of adversaries, pain, anxiety about weaknesses ought to be suppressed.

    The first component can be handled by automating the broadcast of the identity of those emotions that, on average, reliably produced a benefit when shared: Approval or disapproval assist in communicating to social interactants one's values; fear communicated the nature of a common danger; disgust communicated avoidance and spoilage; anger, a conflict of values with a willingness to enforce one's values with a sanction.

    The second, context-specific component requires computational circuitry to calculate the consequences of releasing a piece of information into the social world - a very complex set of computations. The benefit gained by inhibiting release of an expression on a case by case basis must be large enough to offset the cost of such computations for selection to favor the evolution of such regulatory circuits. The overall result of these selection pressures would be that some emotions would evolve to be automatically broadcast, others would not evolve a signal, and a third category would evolve circuits that regulate the broadcast to some extent, just as it is in language.

    Nevertheless, the automatic, involuntary expression of many emotions is a key feature of the biology and social life of our species, and their presence provides powerful evidence that ancestral humans spent a large portion of their time with close cooperators, as opposed to antagonists and competitors. Indeed, species ought to vary in the magnitude of automatic emotion signaling, and in which emotions are signaled, based on the social ecology of the species.

    Evolutionary psychology

    Highly cooperative social species, such as canids, are expected to and appear to have a rich repertoire of emotion signals, while more solitary species, such as felids, should have fewer emotion signals. Behavior : All psychological mechanisms are involved in the generation and regulation of behavior, so obviously behavior will be regulated by emotion state.

    More specifically, however, mechanisms proximately involved in the generation of actions as opposed to processes like face recognition that are only distally regulatory should be very sensitive to emotion state. Not only may highly stereotyped behaviors of certain kinds be released as during sexual arousal or rage, or as with species-typical facial expressions and body language , but more complex action-generation mechanisms should be regulated as well.

    Specific acts and courses of action will be more available as responses in some states than in others, and more likely to be implemented. Emotion mode should govern the construction of organized behavioral sequences that solve adaptive problems. Biologists, psychologists, and economists who adopt an evolutionary perspective have recognized that many forms of social interactions can be modeled using game theory Maynard Smith If the EEA imposes certain evolutionarily repeated games, then the "strategies" the evolved cognitive programs that govern behavior in those contexts should evolve in the direction of choices that lead to the best expected fitness payoffs.

    Evolution and Human Behavior

    The strategy activated in the individual should match the game e. Corresponding emotion programs guide the individual into the appropriate interactive strategy for the social "game" being played, given the state of play. Surprisingly, for some games, rigid obligatory adherence to a prior strategy throughout the game is better than the ability to revise and change strategies "voluntarily" in the light of events.

    If an individual contemplating a course of action detrimental to you knew you would take revenge, regardless of the magnitude of the punishment to you that they might unleash, then they are less likely to take such harmful action. This may translate into emotion programs in which the desire to attempt certain actions should be overwhelming, to the point where the actions are experienced as compulsory.

    In the grip of such programs, competing programs, including the normal integration of prudential concerns and social consequences, are muted or terminated. In modern state societies, where there are police who are paid to punish and otherwise enforce agreements, it is easy to underestimate the importance that deterrence based on the actions of oneself and one's coalition had in the Pleistocene. Hirshleifer and Frank are evolutionary economists who have pursued this logic the furthest, arguing that many social behaviors are the result of such "commitment problems".

    Specialized inference : Research in evolutionary psychology has shown "thinking" and reasoning is not a unitary category, but is carried out by a variety of specialized mechanisms. We are presently conducting research to see whether, as predicted, fear influences precautionary reasoning, competitive loss regulates bluff detection, and so on.

    Reflexes : Muscular coordination, tendency to blink, threshold for vomiting, shaking, and many other reflexes are expected to be regulated by emotion programs to reflect the demands of the evolved situation. Learning : Emotion mode is expected to regulate learning mechanisms. What someone learns from stimuli will be greatly altered by emotion mode, because of attentional allocation, motivation, situation-specific inferential algorithms, and a host of other factors.

    Emotion mode will cause the present context to be divided up into situation-specific functionally appropriate categories so that the same stimuli and the same environment may be interpreted in radically different ways, depending on emotion state. For example, which stimuli are considered similar should be different in different emotion states, distorting the shape of the individual's psychological "similarity space" Shepard Happiness is expected to signal the energetic opportunity for play, and allow other exploratory agendas to be expressed Frederickson, Affective coloration of events and stimuli as a form of learning : A behavioral sequence is composed of many acts.

    Each of these acts can be thought of as an intermediate "factor" in the production of a behavioral sequence to use economic terminology. Determining which courses of action are worthwhile and which are not is a major informational problem. The payoff of each "factor of production"-of each act in the sequence-must be computed before an agent could determine whether the whole sequence was worthwhile.

    Every time there is a change in the world e. Evaluating entire chains as units is not sufficient, because each item in a chain staying behind from the hunt, making a tool, borrowing materials from a friend, etc. Therefore, effort, fitness token-payoffs rewards , opportunity costs, risks, and many other components of evaluation need to be assigned continually to classes of acts. For this reason, there should be mechanisms that assign hedonic and other motivationally informative values to acts e.

    Our stream of actions and daily experiences will be affectively "colored" by the assignment of these hedonic values. If our psychological mechanisms were not using present outcomes to assign a common internal currency of hedonic weights to classes of acts, there would be no function to suffering, joy, and so on. Emotion mode obviously impacts the assignment of hedonic values to acts. Energy level, effort allocation, and mood : Overall metabolic budget will be regulated by emotion programs, as will specific allocations to various processes and facilitation or inhibition of specific activities.

    Thus, fear will make it more difficult to attack an antagonist, whereas anger will make it easier. The confidence with which a situation has been identified i. Confusion itself an emotional state should inhibit the expenditure of energy on costly behavioral responses and should motivate more information gathering and information analysis. Nesse has suggested that the function of mood is to reflect the propitiousness of the present environment for action, a hypothesis with many merits.

    By "understanding", we mean the correspondence between the structure of the environment, the structure of the algorithms, and the weightings and other information they use as parameters. The phenomenon that should regulate this aspect of mood is a perceived discrepancy between expected and actual payoff.

    The suspension of behavioral activity accompanied by very intense cognitive activity in depressed people looks like an effort to reconstruct models of the world so that future action can lead to payoffs, in part through stripping away previous valuations that led to unwelcome outcomes. Depression should be precipitated by 1 a heavy investment in a behavioral enterprise that was expected to lead to large payoffs that either failed to materialize or were not large enough to justify the investment; or 2 insufficient investment in maintaining a highly valued person or condition that was subsequently lost possibly as a consequence ; or 3 gradual recognition by situation-detectors that one's long-term pattern of effort and time expenditure has not led to a sufficient level of evolutionarily meaningful reward, when implicitly compared to alternative life paths the condition of Dickens' Scrooge.

    Discrepancies between expected and actual payoff can occur in the other direction as well: Joy or precipitated surges of happiness are an emotion program that evolved to respond to the condition of an unexpectedly good outcome. They function to recalibrate previous value states which had led to underinvestment in or underexpectation for the successful activities or choices.

    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology) Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior (Evolutionary Psychology)

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