Neuroimaging offers great potential to clinicians and researchers for a host of mental and physical conditions. The use of imaging has been trumpeted for forensic psychiatric and psychological evaluations to allow greater insight into the relationship between the brain and behavior. The results of imaging certainly can be used to inform clinical diagnoses; however, there continue to be limitations in using neuroimaging for insanity cases due to limited scientific backing for how neuroimaging can inform retrospective evaluations of mental state. In (...) making this case, this paper reviews the history of the insanity defense and explains how the use of neuroimaging is not an effective way of improving the reliability of insanity defense evaluations. (shrink)
Emotions can be explained as specialized states, shaped by natural selection, that increase fitness in specific situations. The physiological, psychological, and behavioral characteristics of a specific emotion can be analyzed as possible design features that increase the ability to cope with the threats and opportunities present in the corresponding situation. This approach to understanding the evolutionary functions of emotions is illustrated by the correspondence between (a) the subtypes of fear and the different kinds of threat; (b) the attributes of happiness (...) and sadness and the changes that would be advantageous in propitious and unpropitious situations; and (c) the social emotions and the adaptive challenges of reciprocity relationships. In addition to addressing a core theoretical problem shared by evolutionary and cognitive psychology, explicit formulations of the evolutionary functions of specific emotions are of practical importance for understanding and treating emotional disorders. (shrink)
Runaway social selection resulting from partner choice may have shaped aspects of human cooperation and complex sociality that are otherwise hard to account for. Social selection is the subtype of natural selection that results from the social behaviors of other individuals. Competition to be chosen as a social partner can, like competition to be chosen as a mate, result in runaway selection that shapes extreme traits. People prefer partners who display valuable resources and bestow them selectively on close partners. The (...) resulting phenotypic covariance between displays and preferences gives fitness advantages to both, creating runaway selection that could shape a whole suite of prosocial traits including altruism, moral capacities, empathy, and theory of mind. Even though they give a net fitness benefit, traits at the endpoint of runaway social selection can have substantial deleterious effects on other traits such as viability, ability to accumulate resources, or vulnerability to mental disorders. Social selection forces arising from self-interested partner choices may be an invisible hand that shaped capacities for commitment, altruism, and other prosocial capacities of the human social brain. (shrink)
Most attempts to craft a definition of disease seem to have tackled two tasks simultaneously: 1) trying to create a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria that correspond to medical usage of the word disease and 2) using this definition to understand the essence of what disease is. The first task has been somewhat accomplished, but cannot reach closure because the concept of “disease” is based on a prototype, not a logical category. The second task cannot be accomplished by deduction, (...) but only by understanding how the body works and what each component is for, in evolutionary detail. An evolutionary view of the origins of the body and its vulnerabilities that result in disease provides an objective foundation for recognizing pathology. Our social definition of disease will remain contentious, however, because values vary, and because the label “disease” changes judgments about the moral status of people with various conditions, and their rights to medical and social resources. (shrink)
Progress in emotions research requires understanding why debate about the general nature of emotions remains intractable. Much confusion arises from proposals that offer one of the four different kinds of biological explanation, without recognizing the need for other three. More arises from tacitly thinking of emotions as products of design, when they are actually organically complex products of natural selection. Finally, debate persists because of categorizing emotions by functions, instead of recognizing that each emotion was shaped by the adaptive challenges (...) posed by a recurring situation. No general explanation of the kind usually sought for emotions exists, however progress is possible if we study emotions as organically complex partially differentiated constellations of changes that have been useful in certain situations. (shrink)
Sex differences in mortality rates stem from genetic, physiological, behavioral, and social causes that are best understood when integrated in an evolutionary life history framework. This paper investigates the Male-to-Female Mortality Ratio (M:F MR) from external and internal causes and across contexts to illustrate how sex differences shaped by sexual selection interact with the environment to yield a pattern with some consistency, but also with expected variations due to socioeconomic and other factors.
Game theory has progressed from analysis of one-move games between two rational agents, to iterated n-person games in which strategies evolve, and actors use prior experience to coordinate their moves. The next step in this direction is to analyse commitment strategies. An individual can influence others by announcing his or her commitment to a future act that would not be in his or her best interests. Spiteful threats can coerce others. Promises to aid someone when nothing can be reciprocated can (...) create deep relationships. Such strategies are inherently paradoxical because the maximum payoff comes from not having to follow through on the commitment, and this is made more likely by expensive signalling of commitments to outlandish threats and promises whose plausibility declines with their magnitude. Nonetheless, the fitness benefits of subjective commitment are substantial and may well have shaped human capacities for revenge and spite, as well as deep attachment and genuine morality. (shrink)
Strong recent selection for social cognition may well explain the persistence of genes that predispose to schizophrenia. The specific mechanism responsible may be a skewed fitness function in which selection pushes the mean for advantageous mental traits perilously close to a “fitness cliff” where the system fails catastrophically in some individuals.
Mounting evidence documents the extraordinary toll on human health resulting from the consumption of unhealthy food products and physical inactivity. In response to America's growing obesity problem, local policymakers have been looking for legal strategies that can be adopted in their communities to encourage healthful behaviors. In order to provide practical tools to policymakers, this article examines four possible venues for local policy change to improve the health of a community: the school environment the built environment () community facilities and (...) the point of sale environment. Finally, the article examines the use of taxes or fees as a means of paying for nutrition policy work as well as potentially reducing the consumption of unhealthy products. This article illustrates that local laws and policies can be a valuable tool in changing a community's environment in order to improve nutritional options and increase opportunities for physical activity. (shrink)
Mounting evidence documents the extraordinary toll on human health resulting from the consumption of unhealthy food products and physical inactivity. Diseases related to poor nutrition – such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers – are among the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Poor diet and lack of exercise come second only to tobacco use in actual causes of preventable death in this country. It is estimated that 6% of all adult health care, 7% (...) of Medicare, and 11% of Medicaid expenditures are attributable to obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the direct medical cost associated with physical inactivity was nearly $76.6 billion in 2000.In response to America's growing obesity problem, local policymakers have been looking for legal strategies to adopt in their communities to encourage healthful behaviors. Taking the lead from the successful tobacco control movement, nutrition advocates are seeking strategies to “denormalize” unhealthy behaviors, rather than pursuing education-based approaches that encourage individuals to change their own personal behavior. (shrink)
Despite the effort on DSM-5 and ICD-11, few appear satisfied with these classification systems. We suggest that the core reason for dissatisfaction is expecting too much from them; they do not provide discrete categories that map to specific causes of disease, they describe clinical syndromes intended to guide treatment choices. Here we review work on anxiety and anxiety disorders to argue that while clinicians draw a pragmatic distinction between normal and abnormal emotions based on considerations such as severity and duration, (...) understanding the evolutionary origins and utility of the emotions, including the adaptive value of adverse emotions, is key for formulating comprehensive assessments of an individual patient’s symptoms and for providing a conceptual foundation for pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and public health. (shrink)
Genes are ‘selfish’ in that they make organisms whose behaviours are shaped, necessarily, to benefit their genes. But altruism and selfishness as we usually think of them have little to do with ‘evolutionary altruism’ and ‘evolutionary selfishness', and the use of these phrases has given rise to much confusion. The most pernicious is the false conclusion that individual altruism is impossible unless it has been shaped by group selection. In fact, human altruism and morality are shaped by genes because individuals (...) with these capacities have a fitness advantage. The advantage may come from sexual selection, social selection, or the advantages of a capacity for commitment, as well as from cooperation, and kin selection. Ironically, morality may be a metaphor so powerful that it inhibits careful thinking precisely because our brains are wired by natural selection to see the world in terms of good and evil. (shrink)
Pascal’s famous pragmatic argument for belief in God is plagued by a number of well-known problems, not the least of which is related to the claim that significant benefits may arise when we acquire a certain set of religious beliefs. But it is reasonable to hold a wide range of conflicting beliefs about the existence of God, the nature and supposed purposes of divine reality, and other related metaphysical claims. If it is not clear what claims are true about God, (...) then the world is religiously ambiguous. If the world is characterized by religious ambiguity, then the punishment-reward structure that underlies Pascalian wagering should be rejected in favor of what I call the agnostic wager. Given our bewildering epistemic situation in relation to questions about divine reality, if theism is true it is unlikely that it matters whether we believe theism is true. (shrink)