Time, Orientation, Universalism, and Vocab: Notes from Chapter 2 of "Adapting Minds" by David J. Buller

Whether or not this blog will evolve into an accredidated academic institution of tdaxpology, the genetics reading has been interesting and informative. Because of a busy day I was only able to read one of the three books (Adapting Minds by David Buller). The notes below are from the second chapter, which focuses “soley on the fundemental theoretical thenents of the Evolutionar Psychology Paradigm” (Buller 49).

The big thing I got out of it? Everyone should comprehend this:


The above is the Orientation module of the OODA Loop. Without going into all the variations of the OODA loop, the important parts are the five sub-modules of Orientation

  • Analysis / Synthesis
  • Cultural Traditions
  • Genetic Heritage
  • New Information
  • Previous Experience

A surprising amount of ambiguity and academic infighting could be almost completely avoided if people thought for a second and realized all five help guide orientation and all five are important.

That said, the below focuses on references to Orientation (in the OODA sense) within Evolutionary Psychology, a timeline of the last two million years, the Evolutionary Psychological claim of a Universal Human Nature (without implying a Uniform Human Culture), and of course more definitions.

Topic: Orientation
“The conditions that are relevant to how an animal’s brain produces behavior are of two types. First, there are current conditions of the animal’s environment, which may change rapidly and about which its brain is constantly updating information. Second, there are the current conditions of the animal’s own brain.” (Buller 51)
“[Extreme situations throw off an organism’s genetic factors and lead to] failure of adaptiveness … the brain could continue to produce the same old behavior under the new conditions [or] the brain could produce some new behavior in response to the new informational inputs…” (Buller 57) (similar to bounds problems in programming)
“With respect to human psychology, then the selectively relevant features of the human EEA are primarily those of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer social life.
“[Mental modules] come equipped with certain “innate knowledge” about the problem domain which which it is specialized to deal and an “innate” set of produces for applying that knowledge to solve problems in its special domain… modules are comparatively fast. That is, they solve problems in their special domains in far less time than general cognitive processes take to solve e problem for which there is no dedicated module.” (Buller 65) (in other words, evolution evolved for rapidly cycling the OODA loop by specializing different genetic factors)
“According to Tooby and Cosmides, our universal psychological adaptions are designed in such a way that individual differences in “manifest psychologies or behaviors” can be produced by differences in either “situational assessments,” “environmental cues,” or “genetic switches.”” (Buller 74)

Topic: Timeline


“…it can take another several hundred [200 generations * 20 years / generation = 4 TYA) to several thousand [9000 generations * 20 years/generation = 180 TYA] generations for the population to adapt to the new environment — depending on whether a new mutation is required.” (Buller 56)
“The invention of agriculture some 10,000 years (four hundred generations) ago; the industrialization of Western societies some 200 years (eight generations) ago…” (Buller 57-58)
“…the Pleistocene, the epoch stretching from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago… Homo sapiens evolved… in a speciation event that occured approximately 150,000 years ago. Homo sapiens continued to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in eastern Africa until some populations began to disperse into Europe, Asia, and Australia some 50,000 years ago.”” (Buller 59)
compare with (from last time)

“The bonobos that live to the south of the Congo River may look rather like chimpanzees, but they have been evolved apart for 2 million years, ever since the river split their ancestral range in two.” (Ridley 21- 22)
“Perhaps, muses Marki, the expansion of the human brain, which accelerated about 2 million years ago, was made possible by going on further and switching off the gene altogether throughout the body.” (Ridley 29)
“At around 1.9 million years ago the teeth of human ancestors shrank at the same time as the body size of females grew. This indicates a better diet, more easily digested, which in turn sounds like cooking…. These increasingly monogamous males would then not be competing with each other so fiercely for every mating opportunity, which would result in their becoming smaller relative to females — and the sex difference in size began to shrink 1.9 million years ago.” (Ridley 21)
“Surprisingly, the fossil record suggests that there has been a rather steep decline in the size of the human brain during the past 15,000 years, partly but not wholly reflecting a shrinking body that seems to have accompanied the arrival of dense and “civilized” human settlements.” (Ridley 35)

Topic: Universal Human Nature
“… most (but not all) cognitive psychologists — and Evolutionary Psychologists along with them — now reject [the view of a domain general mind] in favor of a view of the mind as constituting a number of psychological modules [for all people everywhere].” (Buller 64)
“[Evolutionary psychologists argue that] since the Pleistocene was a vast stretch of evolutionary time, there was ample opportunity for selection to drive each beneficial module to fixation in early human populations.” (Buller 70)
“Second, Evolutionary Psychologists argue, cultural diversity has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, they claim, many of the landmark studies in cultural anthropology that were responsible for the idea of radical cultural diversity have recently been shown to suffer from methodological defects.” (Buller 71) (a claim my adolescent psychology instructor denied)
“Since sexual reproduction is a process in which random halves of each parent’s genes are “recombined” to form the genome of a zygote, if parents differed in any of their complex adaptions, the random sexual recombination of the genes for those adaptions would make it highly improbably that their offspring would receive all the genes necessary for developing any of the parental adaptions.” (Buller 73)
“[Evolutionary psychologists claim] most effects of genetic differences will be confined to quantitative variation within each qualitatively distinct universal adaption.” (Buller 74)
“Evolutionary Psychologists do, however, grand two major exceptions to the claim that human psychological adaptations exhibit a “species-typical” design. First, the count male and female morphologies as alternative adaptive forms of our species and sex determination is under the control of a genetic switch… the adaptive differences between males and females are not confined to morphology… the selection pressures on individuals within a sex also change across the course of the life cycle…. Consequently, the second major exception to a “species-typical design” … is adaptive “coordinated design differences” at various stages of life.” (Buller 79-80)

Topic: Definitions
“In short, an animals’ behavioral response to current conditions depends on the nature of the cognitive and motivational mechanisms in its brain — it depends, that is, on the nature of what Evolutionary Psychologists call the proximate mechanisms that regulate and control the animal’s environment.” (Buller 51)
“[Behavior is phenotypic, and speaking] of natural selection as selection for ‘behaviors’ is a convenient shorthand… natural selection… can only select for mechanisms that produce behavior.” (Buller 53)
“[Evolution Psychology is anti-Rational Choice because] from the standpoint of reproductive success, contemporary human behavior is frequently maladaptive.” (Buller 55)
“Thus, the central premise of Evolutionary Psychology is the idea that the brain’s design was produced by a history of reproductive success, rather than the idea that the brain is designed to produce reproductive success.” (Buller 58)
“The environment of evolutionary adaptedness (or EEA), according to Evolutionary Psychologists, is not a specific space… or habitat [but] a “composite of the adaption-relevant properties of the ancestral environments encountered by members of ancestral populations.” … With respect to human psychology, then the selectively relevant features of the human EEA are primarily those of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer social life.” (Buller 59-60)
Evolutionary functional analysis, then, is a method of inferring the proximate causes of behavior … begins with speculation about the nature of the EEA … a task analysis is performed to break down the adaptive problem into a number of subproblems … identity the forms of behavior that would have solved each of the subproblems…. a module is then postdated which is assumed to respond to environment input about the subproblems… determine the information-processes procedures, or decision rules.” (Buller 69-70) (interesting references to rulesets and iterative OODA loops there…)
“The operational adaption consists of the anatomical structures, physiological processes, and psychologicla processes that develop because of interactions with the environment… the innate adaptions is the information encoded int he genes that mediates the development of the operational adaption.” (Buller 78)

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