Evolutionary psychology and consciousness

Evolutionary psychology and consciousness

The main title is “The serpent’s gift,” Chapter 22 of The  Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). A copy can be found at this link. A copy of this chapter can be found here. The abstract:

“As a higher-order cognitive system enabling access to intentional states, and one that few (if any) other species even marginally possess, consciousness or, more appropriately, self-consciousness has likely been both selectively advantageous and the source of adaptive conflict in human evolutionary history. Consciousness was likely advantageous to early human beings because it built on more ancient primate social adaptations. Individuals likely profited by having the capacity to track the intentions of the self and of social others in that consciousness permitted behavioral strategies involving deception and declarative communication. However, consciousness was likely also a source of adaptive conflict in that it interfered with the functioning of more ancient social adaptations, such as infanticide and male sexual coercion of females. Having access to the epistemic states of others meant that knowledge of social transgressions could be rapidly conveyed between parties. For many evolved psychological mechanisms, what was adaptive in human ancestral history suddenly became maladaptive when consciousness appeared.”

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Paul Watson

The explanations of our intentions and actions, all communicated in accord with the dynamic content of our conscious, “adaptively subjective dreamworld” (i.e., our situationally optimized sense of internal and external reality) are not at all irrelevant. /// The nonconscious mental mechanisms that produce these strategically warped, salient, and therefore efficiently communicable versions of reality, are magnificently sophisticated adaptations for successful social navigation. They are in constant use by modern humans; this is why social interactions, even if pleasant (i.e., successful), can leave us exhausted. /// These non-conscious cognitive adaptations, I guess by definition, operate with near total transparency, even though,… Read more »

Paul Watson

I do NOT think self-consciousness as it now exists in humans is epiphenomenal. It now is a direct product of natural selection built to be a social navigation tool. At this point in our evolution, it is a multi-faceted, well-integrated, meta-adaptation, in my view. It represents our “adaptively subjective dreamworld.” However, like many other human cognitive traits, like the many instincts or cognitive biases that support our (somewhat contingent) obsession with religion and the paranormal, human consciousness probably has epiphenomenal evolutionary ORIGINS, probably beginning in early hominid ancestors. Thanks for the references you are posting, Ed. — PJW

Paul Watson

New Study shows that the Creative Brain is Wired Differently. Feb 18, 2018 Albert Einstein once said “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” It is well known that creative people see the World differently, but now researchers have discovered one possible reason for why. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists studying brain scans of people who were asked to come up with inventive ways to use everyday objects were able to see a specific pattern of connectivity that correlated with the most creative responses.… Read more »

Paul Watson

I agree up to here: “This is typically what evolutionary psychologists are referring to when they state that self-consciousness has had little to do with the evolution of adaptive human behaviors.”

It is true that some EP’s think that self-consciousness is maladaptive or adaptively neutral. That is stupid. To the extent that self-consciousness is part of the larger the “adaptively subjective dreamworld” we live in, it has been a key feature of intrapsychic design affecting the evolution of all kinds of crucial social navigation adaptations in humans. — Paul

Paul Watson

The conscious accounts are adaptively warped. Yet, they are a product and more or less perverted (usu. more) reflection of the constantly updated causal nonconscious model of reality that runs an individual. — Paul

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