Cultural Variation is not Biological Variation

Fessler and Machery (in press) argue that current research is emphasizing that natural selection only favors particular forms of phenotypic plasticity in humans” which clases with the arguments that human universals are evolutionary products thanks to natural selection (Fessler & Machery 3, in press). The human ability to exploit and adapt to insular cultural information becomes a favored trait rather than a product. Moreover, the forces of evolution lead to variety, not homogeneity. Nevertheless, the debate on natural selection’s role will not be further developed here. Rather, this project will explore the psychological universals and cross-cultural differences. The psychological universals will be consist of homologies and canalized traits.

Psychic Unity?

  • Homology
    • inherited via common descent, generatively entrenched; enables other traits to develop; not just a human thing
    • Example: Approximate Numerical Sense
  • Canalized
    • Two possible definitions:
      • Wilkins (identified in Gibson & Wagner 372, 2000): the stabilization of developmental pathways by multiple genetic factors within the genome, a form of genetic buffering
      • Gibson & Wagner (2000): canalization is genetic buffering that has evolved under natural selection in order to stabilize the phenotype (Gibson & Wagner 372, 2000)
        • Folk psychology & folk biology, how different human communities organize the knowledge [hierarchical taxonomy]
        • Generic - super-ordinate - sub-ordinate

A Different World

  • Cross-cultural psychological differences:
    • Best described as ethnographic rather than psychological, since people live in different social and physical worlds with different cultural frames, beliefs, and experiences.
    • Two possible sources
      • Extended cognition: insists that social practices and physical artifacts affect cognitive processes; thus, variation in practices and artifacts across cultures produce different effects on the human mind
        • BUT, this raises a big issue, the approach is implying that particular cognitive processes might not exist in all cultures, only some.
      • Environmental differences: notes that people possess various processes and strategies for psychological functioning, and these strategies are not always conducive in every environment; therefore, people learn to rely on the processes and strategies that prove to be effective for them in their environment
        • Thus, culture produces the source for diversity based upon social and physical environments – people constantly modify their physical and social worlds – the same processes exists in all cultures, but are employed differently

Cultural Variation is not Biological Variation || Baggage Check: Culture || Culture Sketches: Emotions & Emotions|| More food for thought

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