DARWIN AND THE FUNCTIONALIST APPROACH TO MODERN PSYCHOLOGY Talk at the Darwin Day Collegium Budapest, 9 February 2009 - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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DARWIN AND THE FUNCTIONALIST APPROACH TO MODERN PSYCHOLOGY Talk at the Darwin Day Collegium Budapest, 9 February 2009


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Title: DARWIN AND THE FUNCTIONALIST APPROACH TO MODERN PSYCHOLOGY Talk at the Darwin Day Collegium Budapest, 9 February 2009

PSYCHOLOGY Talk at the Darwin Day Collegium
Budapest, 9 February 2009
  • Dept of Cognitive Science, Budapest U. of
    Technology and Economics
  • pleh_at_cogsci.bme.hu

  • Psychology as a science of role hybridization
  • Darwinism and street level hibrids three aspects
    of early psychological Darwinism
  • Bühler/Popper/Campbell/Dennett and the multiple
    selection fields
  • Debates on interpreting pan-adaptationism
  • Natural seelction and sexual selection
  • Present day evolutionary theories ad the
    biology-culture interface

Three hybridization models of the birth of modern
psychology Kurt Danziger
Original theory Domains hybridized Present day equivalent
Laboratory introspection Philosophy and natural science Cognitive psychology
Practical developmental Everyday life and modern evolutionism Evolutionary psychology Developmental psychology
Clinical - interpretive Medicine and hermenutics Clinical psychology
The three domains
  • Wundtexperiments
  • Galton mass data gathering
  • Charcot hypnotizing

The adaptive message and functionalist psychology
  • Mental has to have a biological function
  • All mental should be looked in its process
  • Eveything to be looked at from two developmental
  • animals and children
  • Varieties and variations are key features of
    mental life

The structure of Darwinian theory (after Lewontin
and others)
Darwinian principles Psychological Darwinism
Variabilty in fitness Adaptive view of the mind James, Dewey, Mach
Phenotypic variability study of individual differences Galton paradigm
Inheritance of fitness increasing features mental evolution in the race and the child
Three types of behavioral Darwinism
  • Comparative from Romanes through Thorndike and
    ethology to Premack et al
  • Individual differences from Galton to Cloninger
  • Epistemological
  • - armchair and experiments Mach to Dennett
  • - babies as knowers Baldwin to Tomasello and

The importance of James Baldwin (1861-1934)
  • evolution is too slow as a process
  • traditional view of inherited behavior is too
  • Mechanisms are needed that speed up behavioral
    change and involve variation and activity on
    the part of the organism, without challening the
    separation of generation and selection
  • 1. Organic selection. Change of niche today.
  • 2. Learning based on reinforcement.
  • 3. Imitation a short cut for behavioral
  • 4. Social heritage.

since it is the one principle of Organic
Selection working by the same functions to set
the direction of both phylogenesis, the physical
and the mental, the two developments are not
two, but one. Evolution is therefore, not more
biological than psychological (Baldwin, 1894)
  • The individual organisms accomodations ...
  • while not physically inherited ,
  • still act to supplement or screen
  • the congenital endowment during its incomplete
    stages (1930)
  • Three ways to implement the
  • New Factor
  • Epigenetic modulatory effects. Since the genetic
    makeup presupposes environmental effects and
    organistic trials, certain solutions here will
    have more survival value.
  • The habit system itself also shows a selection
  • 3. Habits develop cranes of development in the
    sense of Dennett (1994) man made cultural
    adaptations shape our epigenesis.

Dennett the essence of the Baldwin-effect is
that creatures capable of reinforcement
learning not only do better individually than
creatures that are entirely hard-wired their
species will evolve faster because of its
greater capacity to discover design improvements
in the neighborhood.
Two early animal behavior models.
  • Jacques Loeb 1900
  • avoid all teleology
  • life biochemistry
  • Darwinian functionalism dangerous
  • blind mechanisms
  • teacher to Watson
  • the pill
  • H. S. Jennings 1906
  • purposeful behavior
  • survival functions
  • Darwininian considerations in behavior studies
  • Goals in behavior
  • teacher to many evolutionists

Jenningsintentionality Loeb mechnical model
  • we usually attribute
  • consciousness to the dog, because this is useful
    it enables us practically to appreciate, foresee,
    and control its actions ... If an amoeba ...
    were as large as a whale, it is quite
    conceivable that occasions might arise when the
    attribution to it of elemental states of
    consciousness might save the unsophisticated
    human being.
  • The central nervous system participates in these
    functions as a conductor. The true problem with
    which the physiology of the reflexes is concerned
    is the mechanics of protoplasmic conductivity.
    This problem is no longer a biological problem
    but a problem of physical chemistry

E. B. Holt level based description of behavior.
Jennings and Loeb do not exclude each other
  • We tend to believe that behavior somehow is
    composed of reflex actions. This is entirely true
    on the level of process. But in this way, in the
    final analysis coral reefs consist of positive
    and negative ions, but the biologist, the
    geographer and the ship captain would not
    understand the essence of the matter by
    interpreting it this way. (Holt, 1915)

Karl Bühler and the proposal for a multifactored
evolutionary account of mind
  • For me, in Darwinism the concept of play field
    seems to be productive. Darwin has basically
    known only one such play field, while I point to
    three of them These three play fields are
    instinct, habit and intellect (Bühler 1922,

Bühlers reconstructed view of multiple
Features Instinct Habit Intellect
Pool of selection Individuals Behaviors Thoughts
Roads to selection Darwinian selection Reinforcement Insight
Proofs Species specific behavior Associations new combinations Detour, n
Representative author Volkelt, Driesch Thorndike Köhler
Organization "Naturplan" Associative net Mental order
Students/ followers of Bühler
Topic Follower Continued topic Continued topic
Gestalten Ludwig Kardos, Egon Brunswik Ludwig Kardos, Egon Brunswik Constancies, sign theory of perception
Animal behavior Konrad Lorenz, Paul (Harkai) Schiller Konrad Lorenz, Paul (Harkai) Schiller Releasers, behavior evolution
Language functions Popper, Lorenz, Kardos, Jakobson Popper, Lorenz, Kardos, Jakobson Anthropogenesis, culture, representation
Selection in development Lorenz, Karl Popper, F. Hayek, Harkai Lorenz, Karl Popper, F. Hayek, Harkai Selectionist theory of knowledge, competition of ideas
Karl Popper on variation, selection, and change
Campbell's framework for evolutionary
  • Blind variation - selective retention
  • 2. Vicarious selection memorized knowledge
    fosters internal selection
  • 3. Nested hierarchy" a retained selector itself
    can undergo variation and selection by another

Selection levels according to Campbell
Domain Example
Science Hypot-Solution-Choice
Cultural accumulation Selection in technology
Language Language variation
Observation and imitation Social insects
Thought supported by memory Imagery based solutions
Visually supported thought Köhler insights in apes
Habit Rearranging control systems
Instinct Organismic perceptual systems
Vicariating locomotion Echolocation
Problem solving not relying on memory Tropisms
Genetic adaptation Genetic variation and change
Where Bühler would be happy Dennetts conception
of multiple selections
  • Different challenges and time constraints in
    differrent selections
  • Darwinian
  • Skinnerian
  • Popperian creatures

Gregory creatures as a subsample of Popperians
  • Instruments selected as well
  • Sky hooks and Cranes
  • Thoughts and instruments as cranes

Two contemporary approches to evolution and
Rebirth of intentionality in cognitvism
  • Intentionality in machines is it primary or
  • Do we have primary intentionality?
  • Folk psychology and the instrumentalism issue
  • What is really new?
  • 1. combination of levels of explanation
  • 2. Brentano and naturalization combined.
  • Hairy intentionality
  • 3. true genetic method evolution and babies
  • 4. clarification of many ideas about action
  • 5. the idea of stances in what sense are they
    real in the mind of everyone and tools of the

Are folk psychology notions real like the bridge
or phantoms like the kobold?
Is there progress in evolution?
  • A progressivist vision
  • and a varieties vision after Popper
  • We always fall back upon the tree of life
    progression idea
  • Can this equality be held regarding the domains
    of selection?

The ideological message of universal Darwinism
  • 1. Our life is governed by blind forces rather
    than consciousness rational evaluation.
  • ? Where is consciousness?
  • 2. Whatever survives has a function.
  • ? What if conditions change and it still
  • 3. All human matters obtain an explanation in
    competition and selection
  • ? Exaptation, constraints and cultural

The issue of circularity. Panglossian
  • Three notions of function (Bekoff and Allen,
  • Today there since it works today
  • Historical e.g. ritualization in
  • Ability time neutral, heart pumps.
  • Panglossian problems
  • time neutral, does not allow change
  • just so stories Kipling, the nose of
  • e.g. talking in the dark and
    breeding,hunting as tales about the origin of

  • there is a certain tendency to answer the causal
    question by merely pointing to the goal, and or
    purpose of behavior
  • There are ways to avoid this
  • - combining distal and proximal explanation
  • - allowing for and studying evolutionary dead

Apparent teleology in organisms (Ruse, 2000)
  • Classical design and providence arguments
    (Cuvier) derived from God
  • Darwin gives explanation for function via
    selection. Taken up by Fisher.
  • Gould, Lewontin, Chomsky not entirely blind,
    exaptation and structural constraints
  • Can we really forget teleological language? It is
    always art of the context of discovery as if
    way of talking

Traditional oposition between biology and culture
and its questioning by Hull (1982)
Possible relations between evolution and cultural
  • Law only expresses anevolutinary principle Thou
    shall not kill !
  • Law is a prefence between competing porinciples
    Honor your father and your mother
  • Law is counterbalacing evolutionary tendencies,
    thereby its regulatiry functions You shall not
    covet your neighbours wife

Architectural issues. Modularity in the new EP
theories Three visions of modularity (Cole, 1998)
A version by Steven Mithen Specialization
followed by cross talk
Some new trends in EvoPsychol
  • Postulating mental as real
  • Natural selection and sexual selection together
  • Language and fitness
  • Combination of EvoDevo with Neuro
  • Allowing for programs of epigenesis

Canalization following Conrad
WaddingtonMultiple canalizations
Real controversial issues
  • Exaptation versus adaptation
  • How to reconstruct the past
  • Appealing Just so stories
  • Cultural sampling and social networks
  • How to shape social policies e.g. based on
    Darwinian medicine?

Four fallacies of EvoPsychologyDavid Buller,
  • Fallacy 1 Analysis of Pleistocene Adaptive
    Problems Yields Clues to the Minds Design
  • Fallacy 2 We Know, or Can Discover, Why
    Distinctively Human Traits Evolved
  • Fallacy 3 Our Modern Skulls House a Stone Age
    MindFallacy 4 The Psychological Data Provide
    Clear Evidence for Pop EP
  • Fallacy 5 Total modularity

Some philosophical issues of EP (Ketljaar,
  • Develop testable predictions
  • Allow for co-development and environmental
  • Postulate rigid and flexible, early and
    late.g.face recognition,word learning
  • Do not expect engineering perfection
  • Cludges are important tinkering (Lévi-Strauss,
    Jacob, Marcus)

Where is the future of EP and functionalism?
  • Combine theoretical functionalism with individual
    variation reserach
  • Serious interpretation of EvoDevo-Brain-genes
  • Put determinism into a proper frame
  • Clarify mutiple mappings between evolutionary
    tolls and social roles
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