- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 7 hours and 34 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Original recording
- Publisher: Recorded Books
- Audible.com Release Date: September 13, 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00435HBGO
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Modern Scholar: Evolutionary Psychology I: The Science of Human Nature Audiobook – Original recording
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The critical issue presented is to what extent is behavior learned and to what extent is behavior inherited? We are taught to believe the former, but anyone with children knows the extent to which behavior and personality can be inborn. Evolutionary psychologists stress the extent to which behavior is inherited, though McNeil points out that American, as opposed to European, pscyhologists tend to stress the importance of learned behaviors.
One important subtlety that favors "nature" over "nurture" is the notion that we are "hardwired" with the ready capacity to learn and be "imprinted" with certain behaviors. This is particularly the case with language -- which is absorbed at a very early age.
McNeil spends a lot of time on sex roles. This is a sensitive subject given the misuse of crude approaches to gender traditionally used to put women in a subordinate role -- i.e., that justify excluding women from certain professions. However, the science does indicate important innate differences. Men like to criticize women for being too "choosey" about mates, but the evolutionary implications are clear that promiscuity is a losing evolutionary strategy. Females of many species are quite choosey about mates for good reason: it helps ensure survival. Certain traits are attractive because they indicate health (good genes) and control over resources that will ensure successful rearing and survival of the child. The instinctive role of men is to preen -- attempt to show the traits that will attract women. The instinctive role of women is to choose the mate. To some extent she is guided by the dead hand of history. That is, we behave in a certain way because back in prehistoric times, that's what helped ensure survival. But related to the doctrine of natural selection is sexual selection -- certain mates are preferred by contemporary conditions.
The research confirms another truism -- women compete with each other for the same kind of guy. McNeil quotes George Bernard Shaw's aphorism that having part of a successful male is better that having all of an unsuccessful one. In McNeil's view, humans are naturally polygamous in the sense of having more than one mate over a lifetime. And, more subtlely, the "natural" state is for multiple females to mate with a select few males.
McNeil also focuses on the important issue of altruism -- to what extent is it innate as opposed to learned? He reviews the literature and demonstrates that reciprocal altruism can be innate. The enlightened self interest of cooperative behaviors over the course of repeated interactions can lead to greater survival rate. The susceptibilty to learning that behavior may be inherited.
An excellent series of lectures. I'm listening to Part II now, which focuses on the behavior of social groups.
If you ever wondered why people behave the way they do, I believe that this field can shed more light on that topic than anything else you can study.