Music comprises a diverse category of cognitive phenomena that likely represent both the effects of psychological adaptations that are specific to music and the effects of adaptations for non-musical functions. How did music evolve? Here, we show that prevailing views on the evolution of music – that music is a byproduct of other evolved faculties, evolved for social bonding, or evolved to signal mate quality – are incomplete or wrong. We argue instead that music evolved as a credible signal in (...) at least two contexts: coalitional interactions and infant care. Specifically, we propose that the production and reception of coordinated, entrained rhythmic displays is a co-evolved system for credibly signaling coalition strength, size, and coordination ability; and the production and reception of infant-directed song is a co-evolved system for credibly signaling parental attention to secondarily altricial infants. These proposals, supported by interdisciplinary evidence, suggest that basic features of music, such as melody and rhythm, result from adaptations in the proper domain of human music. The adaptations provide a foundation for the cultural evolution of music in its actual domain, yielding the diversity of musical forms and musical behaviors found worldwide. (shrink)
Evidence suggests that humans might have neurological specializations for music processing, but a compelling adaptationist account of music and dance is lacking. The sexual selection hypothesis cannot easily account for the widespread performance of music and dance in groups (especially synchronized performances), and the social bonding hypothesis has severe theoretical difficulties. Humans are unique among the primates in their ability to form cooperative alliances between groups in the absence of consanguineal ties. We propose that this unique form of social organization (...) is predicated on music and dance. Music and dance may have evolved as a coalition signaling system that could, among other things, credibly communicate coalition quality, thus permitting meaningful cooperative relationships between groups. This capability may have evolved from coordinated territorial defense signals that are common in many social species, including chimpanzees. We present a study in which manipulation of music synchrony significantly altered subjects’ perceptions of music quality, and in which subjects’ perceptions of music quality were correlated with their perceptions of coalition quality, supporting our hypothesis. Our hypothesis also has implications for the evolution of psychological mechanisms underlying cultural production in other domains such as food preparation, clothing and body decoration, storytelling and ritual, and tools and other artifacts. (shrink)
This study tested four theoretical models of leadership with data from the ethnographic record. The first was a game-theoretical model of leadership in collective actions, in which followers prefer and reward a leader who monitors and sanctions free-riders as group size increases. The second was the dominance model, in which dominant leaders threaten followers with physical or social harm. The third, the prestige model, suggests leaders with valued skills and expertise are chosen by followers who strive to emulate them. The (...) fourth proposes that in small-scale, kin-based societies, men with high neural capital are best able to achieve and maintain positions of social influence (e.g., as headmen) and thereby often become polygynous and have more offspring than other men, which positively selects for greater neural capital. Using multiple search strategies we identified more than 1000 texts relevant to leadership in the Probability Sample of 60 cultures from the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF). We operationalized the model with variables and then coded all retrieved text records on the presence or absence of evidence for each of these 24 variables. We found mixed support for the collective action model, broad support for components of the prestige leadership style and the importance of neural capital and polygyny among leaders, but more limited support for the dominance leadership style. We found little evidence, however, of emulation of, or prestige-biased learning toward, leaders. We found that improving collective actions, having expertise, providing counsel, and being respected, having high neural capital, and being polygynous are common properties of leaders, which warrants a synthesis of the collective action, prestige, and neural capital and reproductive skew models. We sketch one such synthesis involving high-quality decision-making and other computational services. (shrink)
Religious healing specialists such as shamans often use magic. Evolutionary theories that seek to explain why laypersons find these specialists convincing focus on the origins of magical cognition and belief in the supernatural. In two studies, we reframe the problem by investigating relationships among ethnomedical specialists, who possess extensive theories of disease that can often appear “supernatural,” and religious healing specialists. In study 1, we coded and analyzed cross-cultural descriptions of ethnomedical specialists in 47 cultures, finding 24% were also religious (...) leaders and 74% used supernatural theories of disease. We identified correlates of the use of supernatural concepts among ethnomedical specialists; incentives and disincentives to patronize ethnomedical specialists; and distinct clusters of ethnomedical specialists that we label prestigious teachers, feared diviners, and efficacious healers. In study 2, we interviewed 84 Maasai pastoralists and their traditional religious and non-religious healing specialists. We found that laypersons relied on medicinal services based on combinations of efficacy, religious identity, and interpersonal trust. Further, laypersons and specialists largely used abstract concepts that were not conspicuously supernatural to describe how local medicines work. We conclude that religious healers in traditional societies often fulfill a practical and specialized service to local clients, and argue that supernatural theories of disease often reflect abstract cognition about rare phenomena whose causes are unobservable (e.g., infection, mental illness) instead of a separate “religious” style of thinking. (shrink)
Many cognitive and evolutionary theories of religion argue that supernatural explanations are byproducts of our cognitive adaptations. An influential argument states that our supernatural explanations result from a tendency to generate anthropomorphic explanations, and that this tendency is a byproduct of an error management strategy because agents tend to be associated with especially high fitness costs. We propose instead that anthropomorphic and other supernatural explanations result as features of a broader toolkit of well-designed cognitive adaptations, which are designed for explaining (...) the abstract and causal structure of complex, unobservable, and uncertain phenomena that have substantial impacts on fitness. Specifically, we argue that (1) mental representations about the abstract vs. the supernatural are largely overlapping, if not identical, and (2) when the data-generating processes for scarce and ambiguous observations are complex and opaque, a naive observer can improve a bias-variance trade-off by starting with a simple, underspecified explanation that Western observers readily interpret as “supernatural.” We then argue that (3) in many cases, knowledge specialists across cultures offer pragmatic services that involve apparently supernatural explanations, and their clients are frequently willing to pay them in a market for useful and effective services. We propose that at least some ethnographic descriptions of religion might actually reflect ordinary and adaptive responses to novel problems such as illnesses and natural disasters, where knowledge specialists possess and apply the best available explanations about phenomena that would otherwise be completely mysterious and unpredictable. (shrink)
Pregnancy involves puzzling aversions to nutritious foods. Although studies generally support the hypotheses that such aversions are evolved mechanisms to protect the fetus from toxins and/or pathogens, other factors, such as resource scarcity and psychological distress, have not been investigated as often. In addition, many studies have focused on populations with high-quality diets and low infectious disease burden, conditions that diverge from the putative evolutionary environment favoring fetal protection mechanisms. This study tests the fetal protection, resource scarcity, and psychological distress (...) hypotheses of food aversions in a resource-constrained population with high infectious disease burden. The role of culture is also explored. In the first of two studies in Tamil Nadu, India, we investigated cultural explanations of pregnancy diet among non-pregnant women (N = 54). In the second study, we conducted structured interviews with pregnant women (N = 94) to determine their cravings and aversions, resource scarcity, indices of pathogen exposure, immune activation, psychological distress, and emic causes of aversions. Study 1 found that fruits were the most commonly reported food that pregnant women should avoid because of their harmful effects on infants. Study 2 found modest support for the fetal protection hypothesis for food aversions. It also found that pregnant women most commonly avoided fruits as well as “black” and “hot” foods. Aversions were primarily acquired through learning and focused on protecting the infant from harm. Our findings provide modest support for the fetal protection hypothesis and surprisingly strong support for the influence of cultural norms and learning on dietary aversions in pregnancy. (shrink)
Evolutionary models of human cooperation are increasingly emphasizing the role of reputation and the requisite truthful “gossiping” about reputation-relevant behavior. If resources were allocated among individuals according to their reputations, competition for resources via competition for “good” reputations would have created incentives for exaggerated or deceptive gossip about oneself and one’s competitors in ancestral societies. Correspondingly, humans should have psychological adaptations to assess gossip veracity. Using social psychological methods, we explored cues of gossip veracity in four experiments. We found that (...) simple reiteration increased gossip veracity, but only for those who found the gossip relatively uninteresting. Multiple sources of gossip increased its veracity, as did the independence of those sources. Information that suggested alternative, benign interpretations of gossip decreased its veracity. Competition between a gossiper and her target decreased gossip veracity. These results provide preliminary evidence for psychological adaptations for assessing gossip veracity, mechanisms that might be used to assess veracity in other domains involving social exchange of information. (shrink)
A long-standing theoretical tradition in clinical psychology and psychiatry sees deliberate self-harm , such as wrist-cutting, as “functional”—a means to avoid painful emotions, for example, or to elicit attention from others. There is substantial evidence that DSH serves these functions. Yet the specific links between self-harm and such functions remain obscure. Why don’t self-harmers use less destructive behaviors to blunt painful emotions or elicit attention? Economists and biologists have used game theory to show that, under certain circumstances, self-harmful behaviors by (...) economic agents and animals serve important strategic goals. In particular, “costly signals” can credibly reveal a “private state” in situations where verbal claims and other “cheap” signals might be disbelieved. Here, DSH is scrutinized using signaling theory, and a variant, the theory of bargaining with private information. The social contexts and associated features of DSH suggest that it might be a costly, and therefore credible, signal of need that compels social partners to respond. (shrink)
Lethal and nonlethal suicidal behaviors are major global public health problems. Much suicidal behavior occurs after the suicide victim committed a murder or other serious transgression. The present study tested a novel evolutionary model termed the Costly Apology Model against the ethnographic record. The bargaining model sees nonlethal suicidal behavior as an evolved costly signal of need in the wake of adversity. Relying on this same theoretical framework, the CAM posits that nonlethal suicidal behavior can sometimes serve as an honest (...) signal of apology in the wake of committing a severe transgression, thereby repairing valuable social relationships. To test this hypothesis, the CAM was operationalized into a set of variables, and two independent coders coded 473 text records on suicidal behavior from 53 cultures from the probability sample of the Human Relations Area Files. The results indicated that in ethnographic accounts of suicidal behavior, transgressions, punishment, and shame were relatively common, supporting the CAM, but explicit motives to apologize and evidence of forgiveness were rare, contrary to the CAM. The theoretical variables of the CAM nevertheless formed a cluster distinct from the BRM, and a subset of cases of suicidal behavior were largely related to transgressions and other CAM variables rather than BRM or other variables. Support for the CAM varied widely across cultures, but there was evidence for it in every major geographical region. Exploratory analyses suggested that the CAM is potentially more likely to occur in response to severe conflicts concerning transgressions committed against nonkin. Furthermore, in text records that involved transgressions, male suicidal behavior was most frequently associated with murder, whereas female suicidal behavior was most frequently associated with sexual transgressions. In conclusion, the results provided mixed support for the hypothesis that some instances of suicidal behavior function to send a costly signal of apology to those harmed by a transgression. (shrink)
Here we argue that the concept of strategies, as it was introduced into biology by John Maynard Smith, is a prime illustration of the four dimensions of theoretical biology in the post-genomic era. These four dimensions are: data analysis and management, mathematical and computational model building and simulation, concept formation and analysis, and theory integration. We argue that all four dimensions of theoretical biology are crucial to future interactions between theoretical and empirical biologists as well as with philosophers of biology.
After they diverged from panins, hominins evolved an increasingly committed terrestrial lifestyle in open habitats that exposed them to increased predation pressure from Africa’s formidable predator guild. In the Pleistocene, _Homo_ transitioned to a more carnivorous lifestyle that would have further increased predation pressure. An effective defense against predators would have required a high degree of cooperation by the smaller and slower hominins. It is in the interest of predator and potential prey to avoid encounters that will be costly for (...) both. A wide variety of species, including carnivores and apes and other primates, have therefore evolved visual and auditory signals that deter predators by credibly signaling detection and/or the ability to effectively defend themselves. In some cooperative species, these predator deterrent signals involve highly synchronized visual and auditory displays among group members. Hagen and Bryant (_Human Nature_, _14_(1), 21–51, 2003) proposed that synchronized visual and auditory displays credibly signal coalition quality. Here, this hypothesis is extended to include credible signals to predators that they have been detected and would be met with a highly coordinated defensive response, thereby deterring an attack. Within-group signaling functions are also proposed. The evolved cognitive abilities underlying these behaviors were foundations for the evolution of fully human music and dance. (shrink)
Dubourg and Baumard explain why fictional worlds are attractive to consumers. A complete account of fictional worlds, however, should also explain why some people create them. Creation is a costly and time-consuming process that does not resemble exploration but does resemble the culturally universal phenomenon of knowledge specialization.
Researchers, including Boyer & Petersen (B&P), commonly use experimental economic studies to draw their conclusions. These studies conventionally strip away context and present participants only with abstract rules. Because context is a strictly necessary component of the decision-making process, it is not clear that inferences about high-level folk psychological concepts (e.g., rationality) can be drawn from decontextualized economic games.
We applaud Müller & Schumann (M&S) for bringing needed attention to the problem of motivation for common non-addictive drug use, as opposed to the usual focus on exotic drugs and addiction. Unfortunately, their target article has many underdeveloped and sometimes contradictory ideas. Here, we will focus on three key issues.
Proxies of mate value must be evolutionarily salient. Gangestad & Simpson (G&S) have made a good case that fluctuating asymmetry is an important proxy of male mate value that correlates well with genetic and developmental quality. The use of financial variables as proxies for male investment ability by Gangestad, Simpson, and virtually every other investigator of human mating in evolutionary perspective, is, however, more problematic. Correspondence:a1 Address correspondence to the first author. Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA (...) 93106 [email protected] www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/hagen. (shrink)
An evolutionary account of excessive crying in young infants – colic – has been elusive. A study of mothers with new infants suggests that more crying is associated with more negative emotions towards the infant, and perceptions of poorer infant health. These results undermine the hypothesis that excessive crying is an honest signal of vigor.
Buller recently posted a critique of evolutionary psychology (reproduced below). Although I disagree with many of his assertions, this is the most credible attempt to critique evolutionary psychology that I have encountered. Bullers arguments regarding improper motivational inferences from evolutionary psychological explanations are largely correct--such inferences are indeed erroneous. Furthermore, the mistakes he identifies have been made by some prominent evolutionists including, apparently, W. D. Hamilton (Symons, personal communication). However, most evolutionary psychologists are not saying what he claims they are (...) saying. Buller wishes to find evolutionary psychology trapped in Freudian quicksand so that he can rescue it. Instead, it is he who must hoist himself from the bog using the theoretical rigging created by evolutionary psychologists over the last two decades, including, most prominently, Don Symons, a primary target of his essay. (shrink)
We discuss approaches to the study of the evolution of music (sect. R1); challenges to each of the two theories of the origins of music presented in the companion target articles (sect. R2); future directions for testing them (sect. R3); and priorities for better understanding the nature of music (sect. R4).
The fitness maximization standard incorrectly assumes that most adaptations have high heritablility, and it imposes the difficult requirement that correlated phenotypic and environmental contributors to reproduction be controlled for. Despite infrequently recognized problems, the special design standard is the foundation of the spectacular successes of modern medicine. It also suggests that the ancestral environment provides a window into the functioning of the brain.