Evolutionary psychology: what it is, and main authors and theories

It is clear that we are not the same at birth, at five, at fifteen, at thirty or eighty. And it is that from the moment we are conceived until our death, we are in a continuous process of change: throughout our life, we will evolve and develop as individuals, and we gradually acquire different capacities and capacities according to our organism, it matures both biologically and from experience and learning.

It is a developmental process which does not stop until the moment of death, and which has been studied by different disciplines. One of them is evolutionary psychology, Which we will talk about in this article.

    Evolutionary psychology: basic definition

    It is considered an evolutionary psychology the branch of psychology whose object of study is the development of the human being throughout his life cycle. It is a discipline born out of the interest of understanding the multiple changes that manifest the mind and behavior of a continuously developing being from birth to grave.

    Although the studies of evolutionary psychology have traditionally focused mainly on the development of the child, it is very important to note that this discipline covers the entire cycle of life: adolescence, maturity and old age are also studied. Sought after and very relevant despite having received a lower level of attention (being perhaps the least studied adult stage of all in this regard).

    This discipline emphasizes the processes of change that the subject goes through throughout his life, taking into account the presence of distinctive and individual elements that make us unique but similar in terms of the development process in question. Also keep in mind that in this development we will find both biological and environmental factors. The socio-cultural environment, the degree of biological maturation and the interaction of the organism with the world are valued.

    The physical, socio-emotional, communicative and cognitive development are some of the main elements that of this branch of psychology are analyzed and whose evolution is valued, having models or paradigms of different theories and focusing more or less on concrete aspects. Evolutionary psychology allows us to assess the perspective and knowledge of each subject based on how the world views someone with a certain level of development. The utility of this is wide, because by understanding these factors, we can adjust the education, jobs or services offered to different sectors of the population taking into account their needs.

    The beginnings of this branch of psychology

    If one of its most representative authors is Jean Piaget, this discipline has many precursors to consider. The first scientific records of development milestones date from the 17th century, with the appearance of the first diaries or biographies of babies in which sensory, motor, cognitive and language behaviors have been observed (Tiedemann). Darwin would also make observations on changing children’s behavior, making his own baby biography and recording his son’s progress.

    The first real scientific study of the development of the child is that of Preyer, who came to develop rules of scientific observation to record the behavior of children and animals and published in 1882 “The soul of the child”.

    The institutionalization of education as something obligatory in childhood has led to a deepening to a large extent in the psyche and developmental processes. At this stage, Binet will develop the first intelligence test dedicated to the child population. Also, Authors such as Montessori emerged who would contribute to the development of alternative education systems beyond the employee so far. Stanley Hall is also an essential precursor figure, having an introduction into evolutionary psychology the study of the adolescent subject.

    Likewise, currents such as psychoanalysis would emerge which would begin to give importance to the experiences and development of children as an explanation of adult behavior. Freud himself would elaborate a series of phases of psychosexual development that would consider different changes related to his theory, as well as would emphasize in the field of infantile development Anna Freud and Melanie Klein like main exponents of this current.

    Some of the theories and models proposed from this stream

    Evolutionary psychology has generated, throughout its history, a large number of theories and models. Winnicott, Spitz, Wallon, Anna Freud, Mahler, Watson, Bandura, Casi, Fischer, Newgarten … all are names of authors and authors relevant in the evolution of this discipline. Some of the more well-known and classic, however, are as follows.

    Freud’s contribution

    While Freud’s conception of child development is not particularly popular today and is not generally among the most widely accepted explanatory models, it is true that Freud’s contribution is one of the most popular models. oldest and best known in psychology for which there is evidence. Freud considered that the personality was structured by three instances, the This or instinctive part, the Superego or critical part, censorship and morals and the I or element which integrates the information of both and forms the rational and conscious way of acting. founded – is the principle of reality. The baby wouldn’t have Me at birthTo be pure this, and to form the first according to the subject, it is to evolve and to differentiate oneself from the environment.

    Among many other contributions, the tracking of a developmental sequence in the form of phases is also noteworthy, in which it is possible to undergo regressions or blockages which prevent the subject from advancing correctly in his development and generating fixations. . We are talking about phases in which Freud connects sexual development, calling the stages of psychosexual development and receiving a name based on the main objective of seeking gratification and conflict resolution in the poles of satisfaction-frustration, authoritative conflict- rebellious and oedipal.

    The phases in question are oral (first year of life), anal (between one and three years), phallic (three to six years), latency (in which sexuality is repressed), and goes from 6 a.m. to puberty) and genital (from adolescence).

      Melanie Klein and child development

      Another psychodynamic author of great importance in the study of child development was Melanie Klein, who he believed that human beings are motivated to establish relationships with others.

      This author, who will develop the study of the child from symbolic play and the theory of object relations, considered that the ego existed from birth and that the human being went through two fundamental stages during the first year of life: paranoid schizophrenia position (in which the subject does not differentiate people as a whole but divides into good and bad parts as if they were differentiated elements) and depressive position (in which there is recognition of objects and people as a whole, apparently responsible for understanding that what was once considered a good object and a bad are part of the same object).

        Eriksson’s stages and crises

        Perhaps one of the most important psychoanalytic contributions, in that it encompasses not only childhood but the entire cycle of life, is that of Eriksson. This author, disciple of Anna Freud, considered that society and culture have played a much more relevant role in the formation of personality throughout life. He identified a series of stages based on the existence of a crisis (since the human being has to face the search for the satisfaction of his own needs and environmental demands) during psychosocial development.

        In the first year of life, the baby has to deal with the basic confidence crisis against mistrust, to learn or not to trust others and the world. The second phase is that of Autonomy vs Shame, between the first and the third year of life, in which the child must try seek their independence and autonomy in basic skills.

        Then, the subject will have to face the crisis of Initiative vs. Guilt, seeking the balance between having his own initiative and accepting the responsibility of not imposing himself on others. The fourth stage (6-12 years) is that of work against inferiority, in which skills are acquired social. Then, between twelve and twenty years old, the subject would reach the crisis of identity against the confusion of roles (in which one seeks his own identity).

        In her forties, the crisis of intimacy versus isolation would emerge as the stage in which she seeks to generate strong bonds of love and commitment with friends and couples. The seventh crisis or stage occurs between the ages of forty and sixty-five, being that of generativity vs. stagnation in which it seeks to be productive in order to provide well-being for future generations. Finally, during old age, we would reach the phase of integrity vs despair, as a time to look back and value life as something meaningful or disappointing.

          Piaget’s cognitive-evolutionary theory

          Perhaps the best known and most accepted model of evolutionary psychology is that of Jean Piaget, whom some authors consider to be the true father of the discipline. This author’s theory attempts to explain how human cognition evolves and adapts throughout development.

          The developing subject it generates different mental structures and patterns which allow him to explain the world from his own action on the (being the subject’s action and interaction with the environment necessary for development). The minor acts on the basis of two main functions: organization (understood as the tendency to progressively develop more complex mental structures) and adaptation (which in turn can arise as the assimilation of new information as something of addition already known or accommodating pre- existing systems if they need to be modified to accommodate new information).

          This theory assumes that over the course of development, increasingly complex capacities and thought patterns emerge, past subject to various stages or periods of development. For this author, the biological / organic prevails over the social, in function and after developmental learning.

          The author identifies the sensorimotor period (in which the patterns simply reflect the interaction, lasts approximately up to two years), the preoperative period (in which he begins to learn to use symbols and abstractions between two and six years), that of operations (between seven and eleven years, in which appears the ability to perform different mental operations and solve logical problems) and that of formal operations (in which it already occurs from about twelve or fifteen years of hypothetico-deductive thinking and a capacity for complete abstraction, typical of adults).

            Vygotsky’s socio-cultural model

            Another of the great authors of evolutionary psychology, Vygotsky believed that it was learning that made us evolve. Cognitive growth is learned through interaction, not the other way around. The most relevant concept of this author is that of the proximity development zone, which marks the difference between what the subject is able to do for himself and what he can achieve with the existence of aid. exterior, so that by awarding grants, we can help develop and optimize subject skills.

            Culture and society largely mark the development of the child, through processes of internalization of external information obtained through action. The child first learns interpersonal, then performs intrapersonal learning.

            Bronfenbrenner ecological model

            This author’s model describes i analyzes the importance of different ecological systems in which the miner travels to assess his development and performance.

            Microsystem (each of the systems and environments in which the child is directly involved, such as family and school), mesosystem (relationships between the components of microsystems), exosystem (the set of elements that influence the child without the the child participates directly) and the macrosystem (the cultural context) are next to the chronosystem (the events and changes that can occur over time) are the aspects that this author values ​​most at the structural level.

            Bibliographical references:

            • Sanz, LJ (2012). Evolutionary and educational psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 10. CEDE: Madrid.

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