Principles of Organic Design in Evolutionary Psychology

To understand the workings of any entity, it is of utmost importance that we first familiarize ourselves with its components. Post that comes to the comprehension of the guiding frameworks it embodies itself on. Biology is the investigation of living things, and psychology is, in some ways, a subfield of biology. It is the examination of how organisms' behaviour-regulating elements have evolved. Psychologists ought to learn, at a minimum, the fundamentals of natural design principles to conduct successful research.

Principles of Organic Design

Following are the major principles of organic design −

Natural Selection Posing as an Engineer Manufacturing Organic Machinery

The existence of functional structure in biological frameworks, the organization that appears to have been created by a sentient designer to address a challenge, is the phenomenon Darwin attempted to explain. Darwin concluded that creatures could be viewed as self-replicating machines. Reproduction separates living things from nonliving things: the ability of a machine to create new, similarly reproducing cells.

This characteristic—self-reproduction—drives a mechanism of both favourable and adverse feedback—natural selection—that can elucidate the excellent match between the architecture of creatures and the issues they must overcome to thrive and flourish, given a community of living machinery.

Because living systems multiply, they develop complex functional architecture over incredibly extended periods. Darwin's original revelation that procreation is the distinguishing characteristic of life leads inevitably to the magnificent deductive structure of contemporary Darwinism, which states that as an entity propagates, genes that enable the growth of its design traits are transferred into its progeny.

Nevertheless, occasionally it is not error-free to replicate the parental machine's design. As a consequence, communities of reproducers are exposed to designs that have been randomly mutated. Random changes frequently induce changes in the intricate series of events required for self-reproduction since living machinery is already meticulously designed to produce offspring machinery, which is an ordinarily impossible occurrence.

As a result, most recently changed but now flawed designs will vanish from the inhabitants: an instance of detrimental feedback. Nevertheless, the system's replication mechanism will be enhanced by a small percentage of these randomized redesigns. Such enhanced designs increase their prevalence in the populace, an example of positive input.

Genetic Engineering

Without modifications that protected the functionality from entropy from one iteration to the next, self-reproducing structures would not be possible. Functional design elements replicate from parent to child through the use of genes. These could be considered "particles of design." These factors are passed on from parent to child, and when combined with consistent environmental factors, they influence which design traits an organism develops and which it does not.

Genes can spread through two main methods: boosting the likelihood that the creature they are located in will create children or boosting procreation in other individuals with a greater probability than random people in the community to contain the same gene. Because they shared some genes with a recent ancestor, a person's genetic relatives share several comparable genes. As a result, a gene that increases an individual's kin's fertility success will typically boost its prevalence in the group.

Functionality and Procreation

The odd but true engineering criterion determining whether a particular design element will be introduced to or removed from a species' architecture is how well it consistently encourages straight and kin replication. Now a precise definition of adaptive behaviour is possible.

According to evolutionary theory, adaptive behaviour is any action that tends to increase an individual's or their genetic relatives' ability to reproduce over their entire lifetimes. Pathways that—systematically over numerous iterations—cause dynamic behaviour to get integrated into a species' brain architecture by encouraging the repetition of the alleles that created them.

In contrast, conduct that hinders the person or his or her hereditary relatives from reproducing eliminates the circuits responsible for those behaviours from the species.

Issues with Adaptations Choose for Adaptations

The existence of infections, variations in the availability of food, infant susceptibility, or the availability of relatives in a person's social circle are lasting factors in the environment that generate reproductive possibilities or barriers. Two features distinguish adaptive problems.

First, they are circumstances or cause-and-effect connections many progenitors faced and repeatedly recurred during the species' human evolution, providing natural selection with enough opportunity to create adaptations.

Second, these are that fraction of long-lasting connections that an organism's characteristics may theoretically use to boost its breeding or the proliferation of its kin. Darwinism decides whether to keep or eliminate design alternatives based on how well they work as remedies to changing environments.

Throughout evolution, more design elements build up to create a well-engineered, overarching framework or gadget to tackle a specific adaptive challenge. An adaptation is a framework or mechanism like this. A combination of adjustments, engineering outputs of those acclimation, and evolutionary chaos can all be thought of as making up an organism. Only adaptive issues can be solved by technology that has been designed through natural selection.

The Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness

Remembering that its programmes were not chosen because they provided solutions to the issues that contemporary humans encounter is essential to comprehending the functional layout of the mind. Instead, how well they handled adaptive challenges amongst our hunter-gatherer predecessors shaped them.

The second element is realizing that every programme was created using developmental procedures that relied on data and circumstances consistently present in ancestors' environments. An adaptation's architecture presupposes the existence of prior domain circumstances, and it only functions as a practical issue responder when those criteria are met.

The term "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" (EEA) refers to both the issues that hunter-gatherers had to deal with and the circumstances in which they did so (conjoining their growth ecologies too).

Familiarizing with the Past

It is frequently stated that since conduct does not fossilize, we cannot know anything about the former that is pertinent to psychology. Hence, it is asserted that evolutionary theory is based on speculative or conjectural assumptions. We may utilize many significant facts about our ancestors and their environment to inform the psychological study. Even if their implications are unclear, some of these need to be.

Psychology is Reverse Engineering

Natural selection is the ultimate engineer. It has generated superbly engineered biological machines—the vertebrate eye, the four-chambered heart, the liver, and the immune system—that outperform any machine developed by humans to solve problems. Psychologists, evolutionary or otherwise, are reverse engineers. The human cerebral architecture is a complicated functional system comprising programmes designed by natural selection to handle specific adaptation issues.

We aim to break its computational architecture into functionally isolable information processing units—programs—and discover how these units operate, both computationally and physically. To get at the correct interpretation, cognitive architecture must be viewed as a collection of elements meant to interact to solve adaptive issues.

This paradigm necessitates adaptive function theories—engineering specifications that assess what constitutes appropriate design for a specific situation. They also give the criteria for determining if an organism's trait is a design feature, a functionless by-product, or noise. The cross-generationally recurrent design of an organism can be divided into three categories −

  • Adaptations that were selected for

  • By-products of adaptations that were not selected for but were causally coupled to or produced by traits that were

  • Noise that was injected by the stochastic components of evolution

Note that all brain-intact people learn to speak (or sign) the language of their surroundings without explicit training. However, reading and writing take explicit instruction, are not mastered by all people, and are altogether missing in certain societies. The neuronal programming that allows people to learn and use spoken language are adaptations that have been specialized for that purpose through selection.

However, once an information processing system is in place, it might be used for purposes unrelated to its intended role. We can learn to write and read via laborious study and training because we have evolved learning processes that promote language acquisition.

However, the learning mechanisms that enable these activities were not chosen because they resulted in reading and writing. Reading and writing are byproducts of adaptations for spoken language, made possible by their causal nature. There is also random evolutionary noise, such as the gene variations that cause dyslexia.


Several other reliable conclusions can be drawn by combining the expertise of investigators from different fields. To analyze processes, evolutionary psychologists, behavioural ecologists, and palaeontologists have already built up a library of complex models. Which model is appropriate for a particular species relies on several significant functionalities and modalities elucidating given paradigms.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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