Posts tagged Evolutionary Psychology

emotion and personality: take 5

Scared child
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I started the emotion and personality series with a focus on the eight stage model and how that informs us about both personality and emotions. I ended up changing tracks and pursuing Millon’s evolutionary stages and polarities and extending it to the ABCD of four broad psychological domains. Avid readers will notice that both my eight stage model and the Millon’s stages/polarities are based on evolutionary considerations and thus there should be neat synthesis involving the two. this post is an attempt to do so under the framework of the four basic domains of psychology : the ABCD model of psychology.

To recap: all psychology basically can be broken into study of :

  1. Affects or emotions
  2. Behaviors or  social factors
  3. Dynamics or drives and motivations and
  4. Cognition or learning, memory etc.

There have been paradigms in psychology like affective psychology, behaviorism, psychodynamcis and cognitive psychology that have focused on one domain more than the other. One can even extrapolate the diffrent approaches and discplines that are releavnt to each domain as below:

  1. Affect/emotions: Evolutionary explanations as most emotions are evolved mechanisms. Biological context is relevant. Genes drive this.
  2. Behaviors/social functioning: Social/situational explanations dependent on interactions with other people/cultural effects. Cultural context is more relevant. Environment drives this.
  3. Dynamics/ drives/motivations: Developmental explanations of how life course and needs/drives interact. Ecological context is instrumental. Environment chooses genes here and only certain phenotypes expressed.
  4. Cognition: economic/information-processing explanations that explain decisions, perceptions etc. Constructed and created context is important here. Niches are build and genes choose environment.

The Affect and Dynamics can be clubbed together as Evo-devo explanations and refer to subjective phenomenon;  while the Behavior and Cognition can be clubbed together as Socio-Economic explanations and refer to objective observable phenomenons. But anyway this is digressing a bit from the main topic.

Getting back to topic at hand, the four domains correspond to the four evolutionary stages of millon and each stage has two polarities and thus map to eight stage model as follows:

  1. Affect maps to problem of Existence and the polarity of pain and  pleasure mapped respectively to say the  ‘FEAR’ and ‘SEEKING’ system of Pankseep. These (the panksepp emotions systems)  I have previously shown how they are mapped to the eights stage model.
  2. Behavior maps to the problem of Adaptation and the polarity of Active and Passive mapped respectively to the ‘RAGE’ and ‘PANIC’ systems of panksepp.
  3. Dynamics/Drive maps to the problem of Replication and the Polarities of Self and Other mapped respectively to ‘LUST’ and ‘CARE’ of Panksepp.
  4. Cognition maps to the problem of abstraction and the polarities of Broad/creative versus narrow/rigid and maps respectively to ‘PLAY’ and ‘SELF’ systems of Panksepp.

Seen form this angle, the eight stages are just the eight polarities manifesting one after the other in the developmental course.

Extending Millon’s evolutionary considerations,it behooves to remember that another way to look at his problems is to view the change sin phylogeny, ontogeny , function (ultimate) and causation (proximate) of any trait.

Phylogeny is dependent on historical environment and leads to the trait having its ultimate thematic value. This I argue is the problem of existence (of trait/individual) and manifests as the domain of Affect.

But a trait with a fixed value would be of no use. Around the ultimate thematic value there will be ultimate variation that charts the possible functional map of what that feature is supposed to do. The abstracted ancestral environment (EEA) is teh context in which function evolves. This is the problem of abstraction and manifests as domain of cognition,.

Apart form the ultimate thematic value, one needs to tune that value to the immediate ecological and developmental context.  Ontogeny is dependent on such an ecological context and is a proximate thematic mechanism that leads to a particular stable thematic value of a trait. This is also the problem of Replication (r-K)  and manifest as Dynamics.

However, even a fixed proximate thematic value of trait will be useless as situations keep changing. Causation is responding to immediate environment in appropriate and adaptive manner. This is the problem of adaptation and manifests as domain of behavior.

I can relate the above to Aristotle’s four causes, but will leave that for another day; time now to wrap up the personality part. Emotions we have seen can be easily subsumed under the ABCD domains of psychology. As Pankspess model has been related to cloninger personality traits, I’ll leave the case rested that personality can also be adequately explained using the ABCD construct.

Before signing off, I’ll hastily note that to me, these ABCD domains map to underlying neurotransmitter systems:

Affect (pain/pleasure/’FEAR’/'SEEKING”) is associated with Noradrenaline system (NE). the role of ?NE in FEAR is clear, but for SEEKING DA also seems to play a role.

Behavior(active/passive/’RAGE’/'PANIC’)  is associated with Serotonin system (SE). The relationship of Serotonin with aggression and separation distress as well as behavioral manifestations like eating/sleeping cycle are well known. Known abnormalities in SE also cause OCD/Panic attack etc. Known abnormalities lead to fatigue, lethargy etc.

Dynamics (self/other/LUST/CARE)  is associated with Dopamine (DA). Known abnormalities in DA cause motivational obscurity like paranoia/psychosis.

Cognition (creative/rigid/’PLAY’”/SELF) is asscoited with Acetylcholine (ACh) and known abnormalities in ACh here lead to Alzheimer etc.

That shall be all for now.

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Altruism as a result of sexual selection

First published in Fun, Nov 1872. Original cap...
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There is a new article in BPS, that has found some evidence for the fact that altruism may have evolved by the process of sexual selection.

There are many mechanisms that underlie exactly how and why sexual selection takes place- one is the ‘handicap’ /’costly honest signal‘ theory according to which a trait that is actually disadvantageous or a handicap for the host evolves to signal exactly that fact- that despite this handicap I am able to function well and must therefore be of better genetic quality; the most common example being the evolution of peacocks tail which is a handicap and makes the male peacock carrying a big tail more vulnerable for predation, but also is attractive to females and preferred by them.  Another theory is that of ‘runaway selection’ i.e . a trait may evolve in a direction due to some genetic drift and the preference for it may also evolve in tandem such that there is  a slight leaning or preference towards that trait. Now, in a competition, those, typically males, who have that trait will be selected by the females and their progeny will have an advantage as they are more likely to display that trait and be favored by subsequent generations; thus an arbitrary trait may get fixed by this runaway selection where all members of the species want to be part of the new fashion/club in town. I know I am drawing very loose analogy, but just to give an idea. Nakedness or loss of hairs in humans is predicted to have followed this pattern.

Of course sexual selection also differs on whether it is largely intrasexual, driven by competition (selection pressure) between males for eg  having big antlers to defeat and subjugate another male; or is driven by mate preferences and has intersexual selection dynamics- like the peacocks tail.

What the authors of this paper hypothesized was that sexual selection is behind the evolution of altruism or selfless concern with non-kin and that this being the case and this sexual selection dynamics being driven by inetrsexual dynamics, there are bound to be genetic underpinnings to both the trait altruism as measured in males/females and the mate preferences for altruistic trait in both females as well as males. The reason they didn’t anticipate any differences in male sand females was that parental investment, as per them, is roughly equal in case of humans and so both males and females exert equally strong sexual selection pressure son each others traits and ‘choose’ their mates equally.

However, in this study they looked only at females and their genetic basis for altruistic traits as well as mate preference for altruism. The altruistic traits and mate preferential weer measured using self-report instruments.  the genetic components underlying these were estimated using classical twin studies paradigm where correlation between mono-zygotic twins and di-zygotic twins are compared to estimate the genetic contribution. They also calculated the phenotypic correlation between mate preference for altruism and altruistic trait in individuals and tried to calculate how much of this correlation again was genetic in nature or in other words was a result of  mating between those who had the trait and those who preferred the trait. . They hypothesized that in the ancestral environmental this type of mating for trait altruism would have taken place and thus these would be genetically correlated.

This is exactly what they found; they found that both altruistic personality and mate preference for altruism had genetic components and that they both co-varied and that covariance again had genetic component.  the pare itself is full text open access and is written very well, so go ahead and read it yourself. this is an important paper that has come timely when the whole kin-selection paradigm for evolution of eusociallity is being challenged by E o Wilson and team and provides a fresh and alternative perspective of why altruism may have evolved.

Here is a tit-bit from the discussion:

We believe that the sexual selection hypothesis for the evolution of human altruistic traits should now be considered alongside other more established theory (Bshary & Bergmu¨ller, 2008; Lehmann & Keller, 2006), particularly as there is the possibility that multiple mechanisms might underlie a complex behaviour such as altruism. Empirical testing of contrasting theories might even be possible. For example, reciprocal altruism (Trivers, 1971) does not strictly predict the genetic correlation between MPAT and ‘altruistic personality’ found here as ongoing reciprocation towards others would not necessarily result in such a selective process. Indirect reciprocity (Leimar & Hammerstein, 2001) concerns reputation directed towards all other group members while the sexual selection hypothesis focuses solely on altruistic displays that can be evaluated by potential mates (Phillips et al., 2008). A study that examined ‘costly signalling’ of altruistic behaviour through personal donation to a children’s charity found a significant effect on male behaviour when witnessed by a female observer while no such effect was found when male participants were observed by same sex others (Iredale et al., 2008), a finding that could be seen to be at odds with indirect reciprocity. Additional studies could further elucidate the effects of altruistic reputation when directed towards same sex others as opposed to potential mates, thus testing the relative claims of indirect reciprocity against the sexual selection hypothesis.

Tim Phillips1, Eamonn Ferguson2, & Fruhling Rijsdijk (2010). A link between altruism and sexual selection: Genetic influence on altruistic behaviour and mate preference towards it British Journal of Psychology DOI: 10.1348/000712610X493494

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Maslow’s motivational hierarchy revisited

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Resized, renamed,...
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I’ve written previously about Maslow’s motivational hierarchy and how that relates to the eight stage evo-devo model. Most people are familiar with the 5 motivational basic needs/motives theory of Maslow, but are not aware that he had later revised it to include eight basic needs/ motives.

A recent paper by Krenrick et al also discusses the more popular 5 motivational scheme of Maslow and revamps the model by dropping self-actualization at the top and making room for 3 reproduction related motives -mate attraction, mate retention and parenting.  Regular readers will note that this is inline with the eight stages discussed during life-history theory based perspectives on this blog.

This new paper, which is available in full on authors website, is an important contribution and gets many things right, though I believe that safety need should trump physiological needs and that we need an eighth motive/need which would be related to finding meaning/purpose/transcendence .

Anyway, lets first see what a motivational system is:

Throughout this article, we have used the terms needs, motives, and goals somewhat loosely. Our view of motivational systems follows that of evolutionary theorists such as Plutchik (1980) and Scott (1980), with connections to the views of the original evolutionary psychologists such as William James (1890) and McDougall (1908) and to Carver and Scheier’s (1998) cybernetic view. On that view, any motivational system includes (a) a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities, (b) inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources, (c) cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses, and (d) a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs (i.e., to achieve adaptive goals).

To elaborate, and link with the ABCD model of psychology, desire/motivation forms a big sub-domain of psychology,m but motivation.desire can itself be broken into 1)Affective components (a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities) 2) Behavioral components ( a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs) 3) Cognitive components (cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses) and 4) Desire / motivation proper ( inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources).

The motivational system itself can be analyzed at different levels of analysis-Proximate reasons for a behavior and ultimate reasons for a behavior. The different levels of analysis include  evolutionary (ultimate), developmental, situational (proximate) and phenomenological.  These concern with the biological context, the ecological context , the cultural context and the personological context respective;y in which a (human) being functions.

Kenrcik et al consider the evolutionary ,  developmental and proximate mechanisms and level of analysis and use that to refine the Maslow’s ladder and that makes sense and is more or less inline with the eight stage model.

They also refer to Deci and Ryan and their intrinsic motives and I like to think of deci and Ryan motives as well as addition to that by Daniel pink as follows: 1) autonomy (from genes) 2)  mastery (over environment) 3) Belongingness (to culture) and 4) Purpose ( of self) – these intrinsic drives again related to biology, environment, culture and phenomenology.  Only the last level of analysis need make a reference to consciousness; all prior levels are/may be non-conscious.  I believe the lack of phenomenological level of analysis is limiting and perhaps the reason they miss the eight and highest motive.

The authors, apart from adding new motives of mate attraction. mate retention and parenting, also stress the point that these are overlapping/ can be activated simultaneously and do not necessarily follow developmental stages.

The original article itself is accompanied by commentaries and Kenrick himself maintains a blog and has written a  couple of blog posts related to this, so there are no excuses for not reading up more on this.

Douglas T. Kenrick,, Vladas Griskevicius,, Steven L. Neuberg, & Mark Schaller (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs
Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations Perspectives on Psychological science DOI: 10.1177/1745691610369469

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Emotions and personailty : take 3

Human race suffers from "narcissistic Per...
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I have written two previous posts regarding the relationship between emotions and personality. This is the third part focusing on the relationship between emotions and personality. Regular readers will note my evolutionary leanings and this post too is inspired in part from evolutionary ideas.

First let us review the ideas of Millon as regards to the evolutionary factors that shape personality and personality disorders.

Four domains or spheres in which evolutionary principles are demonstrated have been labeled by Millon as Existence, Adaptation, Replication, and Abstraction. The first relates the serendipitous transformation of random or less organized states into those possessing distinct structures of greater organization; the second refers to homeostatic processes employed to sustain survival in open ecosystems; the third pertains to reproductive styles that maximize the diversification and selection of ecologically effective attributes; and the fourth concerns the emergence of competencies that foster anticipatory planning and reasoned decision-making. Polarities from the first three phases have been used by Millon to construct a theoretically-derived classification system of personality disorders.

Let us simplify the above a bit:
Existence is simply the survival of an individual organism and all the factors that come to play there. For evolution to work, there has to be stable organisms. Ultimately genes are selected, but proximally individuals , which are the vehicles of genes, are selected. The first important function that an organism faces is to maintain and enhance the integrity of its body.
Adaptation is the next problem the creature faces once it has a stable constitution- how its define its relationship with the environment. One can take a passive approach and be dependent on a particular given environment niche; or one can take an active role and mold the environment as per ones needs. In any case an adaptation to ones environment (give/ chosen.actively constructed) is essential for ensuring that one lives a long life, especially a life long enough to reach the reproductive stage. Plants and animals are two prototypical examples of two diametrically opposed adaptation strategy- passive vs active.
Replication is the next task the organism faces. Its not enough just to live- one needs to pass on ones copies – in either original or modified forms- for posterity. The capacity for replication is an important aspect of the evolutionary theory and how evolution works over an extended time. thus the organism needs to reproduce- either clones or children of oneself that can live post the death of the organism and thus enable his genes to live on. One can choose to be self propagating or other -nurturing while ensuring reproductive success. Males and female genders are prototypical examples here.
Abstraction is the next challenge- this time in use of symbolic representation, their manipulations, transmissions etc to achieve lasting effects on potentially unborn and unrelated kins via generativity and memetic transmissions. This is how I see it , not as Millon see its, but this domain is not relevant for either personality or emotions for now.

Lets us see how Millon delineates the polarities inherent in these domain as a human goes about his business of life.

Existence: The Pleasure-Pain Polarity.
The first phase, existence, concerns the maintenance of integrative phenomena, whether nuclear particle, virus, or human being, against the background of entropic decompensation. Evolutionary mechanisms derived from this stage regard life-enhancement and life-preservation. The former are concerned with orienting individuals toward enhancing survival and improvement in the quality of life; the latter with orienting individuals away from actions or environments that decrease the quality of life, or jeopardize existence itself. These may be called existential aims. At the human level of functioning such aims form, phenomenologically or metaphorically , a pleasure-pain polarity.

Adaptation: The Active-Passive Polarity
To exist is but an initial survival phase. Once an integrative structure exists, it must maintain its existence through exchanges of energy and information with its environment. The second evolutionary stage relates to what is termed Modes of Adaptation; it is also framed as a two-part polarity, a passive orientation, that is a tendency to accommodate to one’s ecological niche, versus an active orientation, that is a tendency to modify or intervene in one’s surrounds. These modes of adaptation differ from the first phase of evolution, in that they relate to how that which exists is able to endure or continue to survive in its environment.

Replication: The Self-Other Polarity.
Although organisms may be well-adapted to their environments, the existence of all life-forms is time-limited. To circumvent this limitation, organisms have developed Replication Strategies, that is, ways in which to leave progeny. These strategies reflect what biologists have referred to as r- or self-propagating strategy, at one polar extreme, and K- or other-nurturing strategy, at the other extreme. Psychologically, the former strategy is disposed toward actions which maximize self-reproduction;; here, organisms are egotistic, insensitive, inconsiderate, and socially uncaring; while the latter strategy is disposed toward protecting and sustaining kin or progeny; this leads to actions which are socially affiliative, intimate, caring, and solicitous.

As per Millon an unbalanced leaning towards one or more polarities or a reversal of polarities leads to unhealthy personality styles and personality disorders. How-ever, I’ll lave the discussion of personality disorders for another day.

For now, I’ll like to focus on emotions instead and a popular dimensional theory of emotion developed by Mehrabian amongst others. this the PAD theory that posits that there are three underlying dimensions that characterize all emotions- a Pleasure dimension, an Arousal dimension and a dominance dimension.

As emotions have evolved to solve the same kind of evolutionary problems as personality – though emotions solve the problem in a ‘state’ manner in the ‘here and now’ – it would be self-evident that emotions should also be related to the three domains as outlined above by Millon.

The correspondence can be easily seen. The Pleasure dimension of emotions documents whether the affective valence- whether the affect is subjectively felt as positive and pleasurable or negative and distressing. One can easily see how this is related to the pleasure-pain polarity of Millon.
The Arousal dimension of emotions describes whether the emotion involves feelings of being energetic and ready to act ; or are associated with feelings of relaxation and lessened arousal and passivity. This can be easily seen to correspond to the active-passive polarity of Millon.
The Dominance dimension of emotions describes whether one feels in control and in power over the situation or one feels overwhelmed and subjugated by it. It is related to the powerfulness or dominance felt by the person experiencing the emotion. One can reasonably associate this with the replication self-propagating and other-nurturing polarity. Some states and traits make us more self -focused while others make us more caring towards others.

Now the above PAD model has been found to be valid using factor analytical solutions. In an analysis of positive emotions by M Argyle et al, they found that the structure of positive emotions was best explained by a four dimensional structure.

The grouping data obtained in part 1 were submitted to multidimensional scaling (MDS) and returned a four-dimensional solution. Canonical correlations between the four MDS dimensions and the 13 emotion scales revealed that dimension 1 is best explained by ‘absorption’, dimension 2 by ‘potency’, dimension 3 by ‘altruistic’ and dimension 4 by ‘spiritual’. These correlations were then married to an interpretation of the situations falling high and low on each of the four dimensions, with the following results. Dimension 1 distinguishes internal or private situations from social situations, dimension 2, achievement from leisure situations, dimension 3, social demands from self-indulgence, and dimension 4, serious from trivial situations.

One can easily see that dimension 2 is related to arousal and active-emissivity polarity while dimension 3 is related to the self-propagating/ other-nurturing polarity. Dimension 1 may just be the dimension for valence while dimension 4 may be related to abstraction. In my subsequent posts , I’ll touch upon why I think abstraction domain may also be relevant to emotions and personality.

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