Evolution and Behavior

Why is it that, except in cases of injury or illness, we all walk upright? We could walk around on all fours like most animals. However, for some reason, one which we will discuss in this article, we learned that walking up-right served us best. Through evolution, these behaviors have evolved throughout each generation. Lets explore how evolution and behavior have changed throughout the years. 

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______________ is the principle in which the traits that help an organism survive are more likely to be selected and passed on to later generations. 

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____________ are changes in a gene that is either random or triggered by the environment.

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What might be an evolutionary explanation for arachnophobia?

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True or False? Evolution is only responsible for our differences, not our similarities. 


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True or False? Women are often pickier when it comes to choosing a partner. 

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Which of the following is a type of organizational behavior affected by evolution?

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What is altruism?


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___________ is when an organism is more likely to help those who share genes that are similar to theirs.

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Explain why are babies afraid of strangers using principles of evolutionary psychology. 


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What is the evolutionary explanation for why male lions are known to exile other male lions with no shared genes and kill their offspring?

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What did Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila True show in their fox studies? 

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______________ is the principle in which the traits that help an organism survive are more likely to be selected and passed on to later generations. 

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____________ are changes in a gene that is either random or triggered by the environment.

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What might be an evolutionary explanation for arachnophobia?

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True or False? Evolution is only responsible for our differences, not our similarities. 


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  • Mo

True or False? Women are often pickier when it comes to choosing a partner. 

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Which of the following is a type of organizational behavior affected by evolution?

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What is altruism?


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___________ is when an organism is more likely to help those who share genes that are similar to theirs.

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Explain why are babies afraid of strangers using principles of evolutionary psychology. 


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What is the evolutionary explanation for why male lions are known to exile other male lions with no shared genes and kill their offspring?

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What did Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila True show in their fox studies? 

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Table of contents
    • In this article, we will begin by explaining the relationship between evolution and behavior.
    • As we continue, we will being to understand evolution and behavior in psychology.
    • Then, we'll discuss evolution and animal behavior.
    • We'll explore evolution and human behavior more thoroughly, identifying the evolution and behavior relationship.
    • We will then wrap things up by discussing evolution and organizational behavior.

    The Relationship between Evolution and Behavior

    We all have many important goals we try to achieve each day. However, our primary goal for each and every moment of our lives is to survive, even beyond our time by producing offspring. Our brains are hardwired to ensure our survival. Lucky for us, our brains also control our behavior. We automatically pull our hands away from hot surfaces and flail our arms and legs if we feel like we're drowning. We don't even have to think about it, our brains will usually have our back.

    Some of us, though, have certain behavioral traits that help improve our chances of survival and reproduction -- this is called our fitness. Throughout generations, these traits may change through a process called evolution.

    Evolution: the process by which the behavioral traits and characteristics of a living organism gradually change and adapt throughout generations.

    The evolution and behavior relationship is most commonly explained in the terms of Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection.

    Natural selection: the principle in which the traits that help an organism survive are more likely to be selected and passed on to later generations.

    Evolution and Behavior, Charles Darwin portrait, StudySmarterFig. 1, Charles Darwin is considered one of the fathers of evolution theory, Commons.Wikimedia.org

    The consequence of natural selection is that not all traits will persevere, which is why organisms must compete to survive and reproduce so that their genes and behavioral traits continue to be passed on.

    Mutation: changes in a gene that is either random or triggered by the environment.

    Evolution and Behavior in Psychology

    Psychology is the study of mind and behavior, so it's easy to see why the relationship between evolution and behavior may be important in the field. In fact, there is an entire discipline in psychology that focuses primarily on evolution and behavior psychology called evolutionary psychology.

    Evolutionary psychology: a field of psychology that uses principles of natural selection to study the evolution of the mind and behavior.

    Evolutionary psychologists aim to answer questions that help explain why and how certain behavioral traits provide an evolutionary advantage.

    Why are babies afraid of strangers? Perhaps this is an evolutionary behavioral trait that helped our ancestors protect themselves against intruders.

    Evolutionary psychology can also help to explain some mental illnesses. For example, evolutionary psychologists suggest that phobias, extreme and irrational fears, may stem from an ancient adaptation to environmental threats.

    Arachnophobia is the intense fear of spiders. Evolutionary psychologists may suggest that this fear is a consequence of an ancient evolutionary adaptation that occurred as protection from this potentially harmful creature. Before the internet and science, there would be no way of knowing whether spiders are harmless or deadly. People with arachnophobia may have this trait but to the extreme.

    Evolution and Animal Behavior

    Evolution occurs for all living organisms. Let's first explore examples of evolution and animal behavior. Unfortunately, we haven't discovered time traveling yet. So we can't go back in time and see what the earth was like thousands and thousands of years ago. We can't see what natural threats or situations might have led to the evolution of certain behaviors.

    What we can do is observe animal behavior and see evidence of the world before us. Here are some examples of animal behavior that may reflect an evolutionary advantage.

    Evolution and Behavior, family of lions, StudySmarterFig. 2, Lion's exhibit their own evolutionary behaviors, Commons.Wikimedia.org

    Male lions have been known to exile other male lions with no shared genes and kill their offspring. This allows the new male lion to then mate with the female lion after the loss of her cub.

    Wolves stay in a pack because their chances of finding food are better with a group than alone.

    Peppered moths were originally light in color. However, after the Industrial Revolution, many had a mutation that made them darker so they can blend in with the pollution at the time.

    Pesticides can be used to kill a large part of an insect population. However, some will survive and experience a gene mutation that will make them immune to the poison. Since an insect's span is so short, it doesn't take long for the genetic mutation to pass down to other generations, eventually making them all resistant to the pesticide.

    Evolution and Animal Breeding

    With natural selection, evolution occurs over a long span of time. This can make it difficult to definitively say that certain behavioral traits are the result of evolution. However, researchers have found ways to observe evolution in a much shorter time through animal breeding. Take the following study for example.

    Foxes are known for their stand-offish and fearful behavior but could they, through evolution, become more like house pets -- trusting and affectionate? In 1959, Dmitri Belyaev and his co-researcher Lyudmila Trut wanted to find out so they took 30 male and 100 female foxes and mated 5 percent of the most laid-back males with 20 percent of the females.

    He then repeated this process over 40 years and more than 30 generations of foxes. By the end, Belyaev had a new breed of foxes that were so tame and affectionate that they could even be promoted as house pets (Trut, 1999).

    Evolution and Human Behavior

    Now, let's look at a few more examples of evolution and human behavior. Like any other organism, humans have evolved over time to help us survive and reproduce as a species. Evolution is responsible for both our similarities and differences. We all walk on our two feet, exist in groups, and communicate using language. All of these behavioral traits are common because they were the most survivable traits of early humans. The shared genetic profile among all humans is called the human genome.

    Our differences also form due to evolution. The earth's terrain is incredibly diverse and a trait that might make one environment more survivable might lead to destruction in another. Luckily, humans are highly adaptable are capable of a wide range of genetic diversity.

    Evolution and Human Behavior: Mating

    Mating is a type of human behavior that is strongly influenced by evolution. This makes a lot of sense considering reproduction is a vital part of a species' survival. Heterosexual men and women have different needs that center around improving one's chances of producing offspring.

    For example, women are often much pickier when it comes to choosing a partner. This is because evolutionarily speaking, women are tasked with protecting their offspring, starting with in the womb. Therefore, women search for a partner who could help provide and protect both them and their offspring. Heterosexual men often show a preference for women who appear to be at their peak fertility and have wider hips, also a sign of fertility.

    Evolution and Behavior, mother holding pregnant belly on bed, StudySmarterFig. 3. Mating is a human behavior influenced by evolution, Freepik.com

    Evolution and Organizational Behavior

    Evolution does not only impact individual behavior but also impacts our behavior towards others. Many organisms, including humans, have learned that sticking together is the best way to survive. Evolution and organizational behavior (or social behavior) go hand-in-hand.

    Behaviors that help improve social interactions can also improve an organism's chances of survival. Imagine you are on a deserted island with your worst enemy. You two have never gotten along, but after a while, you find yourself willing to protect this person and them you? It's likely that this is an adaptive behavior that is the result of evolution.

    Types of Organizational Behavior in Evolution

    Let's take a look at a few types of organizational behavior and how they may serve a group's evolutionary needs.

    Altruism

    Altruism is the act of improving the well-being of another person knowing that it could potentially cost you yours. This is a behavioral trait that most of us have that offers an evolutionary advantage when considering the longevity of the species itself.

    Some types of squirrels might make a warning call to warn others of a nearby predator. Doing this will put that squirrel at risk but protect all the others in its group.

    Reciprocity

    Reciprocity is when you do something for someone else with the expectation that they will do the same for you -- in other words, I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. Both parties mutually benefit from this exchange. Reciprocity is an evolutionary behavioral trait that many organisms including humans engage in.

    Some types of bats are willing to share their meals with other bats that they encounter more often and will probably run into in the future. This ensures that if there is every time that bat does not have food, the bat it helped before may be more willing to help in return.

    Kin Selection

    Kin selection is when an organism is more likely to help those who share genes that are similar to theirs. Helping those with a similar genetic makeup to your own has a clear evolutionary advantage -- some of your genes will still be passed down even if you don't survive or reproduce.

    We are often more likely to help a sibling or someone that looks similar to us than someone who looks different than us.


    Evolution and Behavior - Key takeaways

    • Evolution is the process by which the behavioral traits and characteristics of a living organism gradually change and adapt throughout generations. The odds of survival through natural selection are either influenced by our genes or our environment through a mutation.
    • Evolutionary psychology: a field of psychology that uses principles of natural selection to study the evolution of mind and behavior. Evolutionary psychologists aim to answer questions that help explain how certain behavioral traits provide an evolutionary advantage.
    • Researchers have found ways to observe evolution in a much shorter time through animal breeding.
    • Humans have evolved over time so we can survive and reproduce as a species. Evolution is responsible for both our similarities and differences.
    • Evolution impacts individual behavior and our behavior towards others. Many organisms, including humans, have learned that sticking together is the best way to survive. Evolution and organizational behavior (or social behavior) go hand-in-hand.

    References

    1. Trut, L. N. (1999). Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment: Foxes bred for tamability in a 40-year experiment exhibit remarkable transformations that suggest an interplay between behavioral genetics and development. American Scientist, 87(2), 160–169. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27857815
    Frequently Asked Questions about Evolution and Behavior

    How does evolutionary psychology affect behavior?

    Evolution affects behavior over time. Due to an organism's need to survive, it's behaviors may change or adapt to fit the environment through evolution. 

    What is the relationship between evolution and behavior?

    The relationship between evolution and behavior is most commonly explained in the terms of Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection which states that the traits that help an organism survive are more likely to be selected and passed on to later generations. 

    What is the evolutionary approach to animal behavior?

    The evolutionary approach to animal behavior suggests that some behaviors are the outcome of evolution through means of natural selection. 

    What is the evolution of organizational behavior?

    Evolution and organizational behavior (or social behavior) go hand-in-hand. Evolution does not only impact individual behavior but also impacts our behavior towards others. Behaviors that help improve social interactions can also improve an organism's chances of survival.

    What is the main idea of evolutionary psychology?

    Evolutionary psychology is a field of psychology that uses principles of natural selection to study the evolution of the mind and behavior.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    ______________ is the principle in which the traits that help an organism survive are more likely to be selected and passed on to later generations. 

    ____________ are changes in a gene that is either random or triggered by the environment.

    Which of the following is a type of organizational behavior affected by evolution?

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