DNA… Digivolve!

No this isn’t about Digimon, much as I would like to talk about it. It’s about the kind of evolution that we as humans do (no, no, nothing like the one you see in Digimon Frontier!), and our study of it in psychological terms. Evolutionary psychology! Now evolutionary psychology’s a complex branch of psychology and I’ll never get to dabble in it unless I take my Honours in Psychology, which I won’t. However, I’ve seen some very simple stuff (on Wikipedia) about it, which I shall share here and maybe pique your interest to further your exploration on your own.

Now basically, researchers have classified the products of our evolution into 4 types: adaptation, exaptation, by-product and random noise. Adaptation is defined as a trait that was designed to solve an ancestral problem. For example, things like the development of the bones and the umbilical cord and various other body parts were developed for our survival. In psychological terms, it’ll be like the toddlers’ ability to learn to talk with minimal instruction. This is clear and easy to understand. As for exaptation, it’s like adaptation twice, in that the aspect’s re-designed to solve a different adaptive problem. An analogy would be the small bones of the inner ear, which are modified to suit a different function from ordinary bones. In psychology, a similar case is voluntary attention, where we can choose what we want to focus on rather than be able to focus on everything in our surroundings.

As for by-product and random noise, the former indicates the by-product of an adaptive mechanism that has no current or ancestral function, such as the white colour of bones or the presence of the belly button (which by the way I find is a most annoying invention). Psychological examples include the ability to learn to read or write, which doesn’t really help our chances of survival very much, but of course serve a social function. Random noise is just random variations in an adaptation or by-product, such as bumps on the skull, or whether people have a concave or convex belly button shape (mine’s concave I’d say!). In psychology, they’re things like the same-sex variations in voice pitch, which are of course cute and help to establish individuality in modern times.

When delving into the deeper areas of research, though, I found some things that I thought are really fascinating. Did you know that consciousness may be the result of evolution? The brain takes notice of itself to make itself the subject of thought, and that large tree-climbing apes evolved consciousness to take into account their mass when moving safely among tree branches. And Gordon Gallup found out that chimpanzees and orang utans, but not little monkeys or terrestrial gorillas, demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests! Somehow we think that every animal is aware of itself, but it seems it may not be the case.

And additionally, sleep may have evolved to conserve energy at a time when activity is less fruitful or more dangerous, such as at night and especially in winter. So guys, sleep is actually good for us! We evolved it to survive! So don’t neglect your sleep, or else our species may degenerate into sleepless animals again.

I could go into another area, because there’re so many areas that evolutionary psychology covers, such as emotions, personality and even religion. But I think we should all go ahead and venture into the ones that we like best, so I shall leave you free now to read more into this and marvel at how great nature can be.


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