Blog Two: Evolution and Psychology

I am a Bachelor of Arts psychology major so I have not had to take many other science classes outside of my major.  I can’t think of many specific instances of addressing evolution in my psychology classes, but there is a perspective in psychology called evolutionary psychology.  While I think there are a lot of valid ideas in evolutionary psychology, I do not agree that almost all of the behavior of humans today is based on what would be beneficial for survival.  Human variability is a huge part of psychology though.  One of the main goals in psychology is to understand the human mind and what makes individuals who they are.

I recently heard about a genetic test that you can take to find out which types of medicine will work best for you, based on your genetic makeup.  I had not considered the importance of DNA when it comes to prescribing medicines for people, but it makes a lot of sense that genetic makeup would be one reason that not all medicines work the same for everyone.  This could turn out to be important for psychiatrists when prescribing medication for people with mental health disorders.  There are so many medications out there now, especially for common disorders like anxiety and depression.  A majority of people end up trying multiple medications before finding one that works well for them without a lot of negative side effects.  If we are able to test patients’ genetic makeup and use that to give them a better medication for them, that would be a huge change in the field.

I thought the quote in the beginning of the Alters and Alters PDF from a developmental psychologist, that understanding evolution is critical to being able to understand our world, was very interesting.  I had never thought about the importance of evolution in modern day psychology but it makes a lot of sense.  The better we understand how genes are related to mental disorders, the better understand we will have about what causes mental disorders.  There are a lot of genetic risks for many mental health disorders but exactly how much DNA influences these disorders is still largely unknown.

The videos and readings this week have made me think differently about the importance of evolution.  I now see a much greater need for an understanding of the evolutionary process in not only my field of psychology but also in my everyday life.  One article discussed the threat of bacteria and viruses that are becoming immune to our medicines.  This is a serious threat to humans internationally.  I think we need more global education about what people can do to help prevent the forming of these super viruses.  I was always taught evolution in school while I was growing up so I was surprised to learn how many schools avoid the subject.  I think public schools should be required to teach evolution in science classes so our society as a whole will have a good understanding of this important subject.

5 thoughts on “Blog Two: Evolution and Psychology

  1. Hey Margaret!
    I really liked your blog post, I thought you had some interesting points. When you said in the first paragraph, “I do not agree that almost all of the behavior of humans today is based on what would be beneficial for survival” I was curious to know more of what you meant by this and why. In my opinion, I think behavior and intelligence have evolved a lot over the years and I was wondering if that is what evolutionary psychology is all about. I do, however, believe that behavior is a result of both cultural and genetic factors, but I just think that we cannot ignore the genetic factors.

    I thought it was interesting when you talked about genetic testing to figure out what medicine will work best for a person. I have never heard of that, but it sounds like some amazing technology. The medical field seems to be constantly advancing, and I think that is very good for us. I feel like that sort of technology would save people a lot of time and unfavorable side effects. I would be really curious to learn more about how that works.

    Anyways, great blog post!

  2. Hey Margaret,
    My major is psychology, too! I feel like ANP 206 class considers evolution at a nature level, where psychology focuses more on the nurture level. I took evolutionary psychology last semester, and I really liked my professor Dr.Cesario. In psychology classes we studied a lot of how nurture environment, parenthood and education, especially during early childhood, can significantly impact one’s personality, but it looks like psychology doesn’t care much on the genetic level. I wish our ANP 206 class can teach us more about how can a gene impact evolution. Plus, I really like how you brought up specific examples in your post, I’m really interested in that genetic test you mentioned, which can help you decide on medicines. Overall, good job on the post!

  3. I really found your point about genetic tests to determine what medication is best for you to be interesting. It is not something I thought about, yet it is clearly important when it comes to the idea of evolution. Some people have adapted to certain medicines while people might reject them all the same. Yet, evolution and human variability play a huge role in this aspect. It could most definitely come across in the field you are in and what you are going in to. human variability is based on how people act and how they think and as a physiologist this is probably important. You look at the mind of a patient and see how they react to certain problems and ideas, so you can actually see the differences among each and every individual that you come across. It is interesting to look at it from a psychological view.

  4. This post rocks and I feel like I definitely can relate to you on this topic. Mainly because I was a psychology major for quite some time before switching to IDS. Although- I still have a psychology cognate for Interdisciplinary Studies which rocks because I can still take a lot of awesome psych courses. Anyways. I found your second paragraph really interesting. It would be ideal to be able to determine what type of medication would work best for different people depending on their genetic makeup. I think a lot of times people tend to be overprescribed when it comes to medication and the process of finding the correct medication, as you said, can be lengthy and emotionally taxing. I think being able to understand human variable would help combat the limbo in between.

  5. Hi Margaret,
    I have had little experience in the social sciences throughout my education and I found it interesting how a person with a psychology background perceived the influence of evolution on human existence. Obviously, you are interested in neuroscience or at least the behaviors that develop as a result of neurologic development. I think we can agree that evolution has changed human appearance over the thousands of years we have moved around the earth, but behavior and cognition seems far more complicated. Since we truly do not understand how memory, thinking, and decision-making occurs physiologically, it is difficult to interject evolution as a definitive factor in an individual’s brain activity. Neural cells have DNA, like all other cells, but is there really some change or mutation that might offer an advantage for longer survival and reproductive success? I think the jury will be out on this issue until we can better understand how neural brain activity allows us to have an identity and function based on memories that are unique compared to every other living human being.
    -Jaclyn Kyko

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