Darwin’s influence on psychology, in 5 points

Some people insist that psychology and philosophy are pretty much the same. That both work fundamentally with ideas, and that they are used to know how to develop an own perspective from which to live life.

But this is wrong: psychology is not based on ideas, but on matter; not how we should behave, but how we actually behave, and how we might behave if certain objective conditions were met. In other words, psychology has always been a science closely related to biology. After all, behavior does not exist if there is no body performing actions.

In view of the above, it is not uncommon the fact that Charles Darwin had and still has a great influence on psychology. Ultimately, biology is based on a mixture of genetics and developments that have deviated from the theory of evolution posed by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Below we will look at some of the aspects in which this researcher influences the development of behavioral science.

    What is Darwin’s theory of evolution?

    Everything that is done in biology today is based on the idea that Charles Darwin was fundamentally right when he explained the mechanism by which different forms of life arise. Any other proposition that claims to be a unifying theory of biology as modern synthesis now is (a mixture of evolutionary theory and genetics) has to provide enormous amounts of evidence, and that is not a thing. which looks set to arrive soon.

    Before continuing, it is important to know the main basic ideas about what Darwin proposed in terms of biology. According to biologist Ernst Mayr, the ideas by which Darwin explained the appearance of species are as follows:

    1. Evolution

    The different lineages of living things show how across generations there are constant changes in the traits of individuals and in the way they organize or inhabit ecosystems.

    2. Common ancestor

    Although all “family lines” tend to change over time, they all have common ancestors. For example, humans and chimpanzees they come from lineages that were impossible to tell apart millions of years ago.

    3. Gradualism

    According to Darwin, the changes that have taken place across generations have come about very slowly and gradually, so that no specific point in time can be identified when a turning point occurs in the development process of a certain trait. Today, however, it is known that the appearance of characteristics does not always have to happen in this way.

    4. Speciation

    From one species may come from others, So that different evolutionary branches appear from the one that gives them their origin.

    5. Natural selection

    The changes that appear in the lineages of life forms are motivated by natural selection, a process by which certain traits are more likely to be passed on to future generations, Depending on the environmental conditions to which it is necessary to adapt.

    The importance of genetics

    It is clear that Darwin left many questions unanswered, among other things because by the middle of the 19th century the limits of research on such complex questions proved to be a major obstacle. One of these questions was, for example: how do traits appear which will or will not then be distributed in the population according to whether they offer advantages of adaptation to the environment? These types of problems include the genetic studies promoted by Gregor Mendel. At the base of the construction of living things is a genotype, Composed of genes, which will describe what will be the approximate conception of each living being.

    The effects of Darwin’s influence on psychology

    From what we have seen so far, it is already possible to guess that Darwin’s ideas have implications for psychology. Indeed, the fact that behind every living being there is a history of interactions between certain traits and the environment in which they appear, makes the style of behavior, which also it can be understood as a trait even if it is not exactly a physical thing but a psychological thing, Can be analyzed in another way.

    In this sense, several of the topics covered by psychology that come in contact with Darwin’s ideas are as follows.

    1. Concern for gender differences

    In Western societies, even before Darwin wrote on evolution, the differences that exist between men and women were generally interpreted from an essentialist point of view: masculinity is expressed through men, and femininity does it through women, because otherwise. “

    However, Darwin clearly shows that essentialism is totally useless to understand these differences between man and woman. His ideas gave way to a new perspective: the two sexes are different because in each of them the ways of having offspring (and, therefore, of making others inherit our traits and our genes) are different. The main thing in this case is that, as a rule, women have to pay a higher reproductive cost than men to have offspring, because it is they who conceive.

    But … what about psychological traits? Do the psychological differences between men and women also respond to the consequences of biological evolution, or are there other alternative explanations? Currently, this is an area of ​​research in which there is a lot of activity and which generally generates a lot of interest. No wonder: accepting this or that answer can lead to very different public policies.

    2. The myth of the all-inclusive mind

    There was a time when it was thought that rationality was the very essence of human mental activity. With effort, patience and the development of the right tools, we could fully understand everything around us, through the use of reason.

    However, Charles Darwin’s contributions to science challenged these ideas: if all that we are exists just because it helped our ancestors survive, why should it be any different with the ability to think rationally?

    So the reason is not because he is predestined to end ignorance, but because it allows us to know the world enough to keep us alive and we hope to reproduce. The tree of life does not have at its highest point a place which should occupy the most reasonable species, we are one more branch.

    3. The key is adaptation

    The concept of adaptation is fundamental in psychology. In fact, in the clinical setting it is often said that one of the main criteria for determining whether something is a mental disorder or not is to see whether the behaviors exhibited are adaptive or not. In other words, if in the context in which the person lives, this pattern of behavior generates discomfort.

    As for expressing behaviors, it is necessary that there is someone who performs actions and a means by which these actions are received, the key to understanding the behavior is in pay attention to the relationship between these two components, not just the individual.

    In the same way that Darwin pointed out that there are no good or bad traits per se, since one can be useful in one environment and harmful in another, something similar can happen with behaviors: a predilection for repetitive tasks. a work facing the public, but not in another intended for construction.

    4. Intelligence breaks paradigms

    Another of the influences on psychology that Darwin’s work had to do with highlight the uniqueness of this set of mental abilities we call intelligence. This naturalist has shown that while in the animal world there are many species capable of behaving in surprising ways in order to survive, in most cases these actions are the result of evolution, and have been inherited from generation to generation. ‘other without there being any learning from the environment. . For example, ants can coordinate in incredible ways to achieve a goal, but that’s because they are “programmed” to do so.

    On the other hand, there are a number of animal species that are not under so many biological constraints when it comes to behaving, and we are one of them. Intelligence is a process of selecting the right answers as part of a process of selecting the right traits. Genes take us on rails in some things (for example, most people experience sexual impulses), but beyond that we have relative freedom to do whatever we want. This, however, does not go against the theory of evolution: being intelligent is useful in certain contexts, and in our case has allowed a relatively sparse species of hominids to spread across the planet. It is a feature that this allows us not to have to specialize in a single environment by assuming the risk of extinction if this environment disappears or changes too much.

    5. Being happy is not the same as being persistent

    Finally, another aspect in which Darwin influenced psychology is that he helps us to give relative importance to success from an evolutionary point of view. Being part of a species that has many descendants capable of surviving adulthood does not mean success, it is simply the result of a natural process in which you do what you do you do not have the right to. last word and in which, moreover, our happiness is not important. After all, there are many individuals of the same species, ethnicity, or family. it means that for some reason sons and daughters can leave their offspring, Possibly in abundance. Why were sacrifices made to get there? Here is the important thing.

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