Zig-zag and Reuse: The Evolutionary Construction of the Human Psyche

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Rune Emborg
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis attempts to propose a new model to understand the evolution and architecture of the human psyche. This is done by trying to answer the thesis statement: How can new evolutionary, cognitive, and neurobiological insights bring to light the construction of the human psyche and what implications might it have for the field of psychology?
To construct a synthesis between these fields of research a naturalistic, reductionistic ontological model is proposed which can integrate the different disciplines into an overall evolutionary framework, showing how biology, psychology, and the social world can exist within a continuum.
Existing research, within each field, is presented followed by a discussion within each field. In the first chapter, evolutionary theory is presented, with focus on selection pressures that can affect evolutionary change, construct behavioral repertoires, and generate as well as enhance sociality. This is followed by a discussion on the randomness of evolution, the pitfalls of panadaptationist views of evolution, and the illusion of “purposeful evolution”, which amounts to the suggestion of zig-zag evolution. The model of zig-zag evolution proposes that the evolutionary history of humankind has been more like a zig-zag-pattern rather than a well thought out design. Furthermore, it’s argued that social forces have been the dominant selection pressure throughout the zig-zag-pattern of human evolution.
The second chapter introduces theories that relate to the human neurocognitive architecture — therein included a discussion on modularity vs connectionism and a presentation of Fodorian modularity, Massive Modularity Hypothesis, and evolutionary connectionism. This is followed by a discussion in which the neural reuse theory is presented. In short, the theory of neural reuse proposes that functional brain areas are used and reused in different combinations, and that all newer functions of the brain are a reuse of older functions, which is thought to explain the structural-functional properties of human neurocognitive architecture.
Lastly, in the metadiscussion, this thesis attempts to connect the model of zig-zag-evolution and neural reuse into a model with which the construction of the human psyche can be understood. The zig-zag-reuse-model proposes that evolution has modified, duplicated, and reused older functions of the human biology, brain, and psyche in our social evolution. Social evolution thereby creates a positive feedback mechanism leading to ultrasocial runaway selection. It is concluded that this model can possibly serve as a way to evaluate current psychological theory and inspire new research questions. An example of how this could be done is discussed using attachment theory. It is further concluded and hoped that this model, over time and with further research, can serve as an overarching framework in which new psychology as a science can blossom.
Publication date9 May 2022
Number of pages79
ID: 469811023