Midterm Flashcards Preview

Human Nature and Human Diversity > Midterm > Flashcards

Flashcards in Midterm Deck (29):

what “evolution” means as it is used in this course

Evolution in this course can be viewed as the claim that over many generations, organic forms (e.g. microorganisms, plants, and animals) change and that distant ancestors greatly differ from most contemporary organisms. For instance, some of our distant ancestors were “ape-like” creatures who were also ancestors of modern chimpanzees and gorillas. If you go back further, the most distant ancestors were single-celled organisms.


what artificial selection is, and why it is important in understanding Darwin’s theory

Selection by humans of animals and plants with the express purpose of producing offspring with those desirable characteristics. It could be used for breeding over several generations. → EG: Large Breasted Turkeys
It is important to understanding the “causal process” of Darwin’s theory regarding evolution and how these characteristics have been shaped throughout time. Darwin's theory is based on this process. It explains how these changes take place. It severed as model for Darwin. Natural selection is just like that except that humans aren’t doing it.


what three factors are crucial for artificial selection - explain each factor

The three factors are the following:
Variation: Organism’s variation of size, shape, strength, intelligence, docility, etc.)
Inheritance: High probability that if the parent has a particular trait, the offspring will obtain it. (e.g. height, athleticism, intelligence, etc.)
Selection: Humans decide which traits are going to be passed on. Which organisms are allowed to reproduce. (EG: Large Breasted Turkeys)


the insight that Darwin borrowed from Thomas Malthus (15%)

Thomas Malthus’ insights were the following:
With endless resources and no constraints, organisms will keep on reproducing. The insight was that something might stop the process, otherwise we would be knee deep in rabbits. Like starvation, predation, and disease.


the crucial components of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection (10%)

The crucial components in Darwin’s Theory of evolution are:
Variation, inheritance, and natural, not artificial, selection. (It’s nature that decides which species will survive by their adaptability.)


what plays the role in natural selection that human breeders play in artificial selection – in your answer you should include some examples (20%)

In Darwin’s theory, selection plays the role that humans play in artificial selection
In Darwin’s theory, natural processes like predation, disease, finding and competing for mates plays the role that humans play in artificial selection. EG: Rabbit that runs faster or Giraffes that have longer necks


Darwin thought that inheritance was a blending process. Why was this a problem for his theory? (15%)

The notion of inheritance “blending” is problematic because blending would quickly eliminate variation within a species. Without variation, natural selection wouldn’t have anything to work on. There would be no natural selection in any group where everyone is genetically identical.


Explain “Descartes’ Challenge.” What was Descartes’ answer to the challenge? Explain the theory, known as “Cartesian Dualism,” that Descartes proposed in response to his challenge. (20%)

Descartes Challenge: Descartes said that the mind and the body are separate things. Minds are the kinds of things whose nature enables them to have consciousness, intentionality & rationality. While matter, the body, is the kind of thing whose nature is to obey the basic laws of physics. Thus, how could a physical thing have consciousness, intentionality & rationality?
Descartes Answer: He can vividly and clearly conceive of his mental states (his thoughts, perceptual experiences, pains, etc.) existing apart from his body, and he can also vividly and clearly conceive of his body existing apart from his mental states. From this, Descartes concludes, his body and his mind are in fact distinct. They are different things.


an explanation of the idea that we can build a machine that follows the rules of logic (20%)

Since symbols are physical objects with physical properties, we (and nature) can build devices that recognize & manipulate symbols in ways that depend only on their “form” (i.e. their shape or some other physical property). Thus we can build a machine that follows logical rules and generates logical proofs, even though the machine does not know what the symbols it is manipulating mean. To the extent that rational thought (reasoning, decision making, etc.) can be captured by formal rules, we can build a machine that engages in rational thought.


Explain why the Computational Theory of Cognition provides a partial answer to Descartes’ challenge. Explain why the answer is only partial. (20%)

It answers how a physical system can think. Physicals systems can think and perform logical operations likes our brain. If WE can build such a machine, NATURE can build one too. The theory shows us how rational thought is possible in a physical system and thus it answers (part of) Descartes’ challenge. We don’t need to posit special “mind stuff” to explain how thinking is possible. Physical systems can think. It does not explain consciousness.


Explain why Functionalism and the Computational Theory of Cognition form a natural unit. (20%)

The major challenge of the Computational Theory of Cognition is to specify the rules that enable rational thinking and decision making. These rules specify WHAT is done -- how the symbols are manipulated -- but they do not tell us what physical mechanism is doing the manipulating. So the rules are functional rules. A computer program is a functional specification of the information processing activity of the computer running the program. The goal of a Computational Theory of Cognition is to discover the information processing programs (algorithms that are functional theories) that the human brain is running and how they interact.


Give a clear, accurate explanation of the idea of “multiple realizability”. Your answer should include an example. (20%)

A functional description of something can be mapped or “realized” onto many physical descriptions. For example, thermostats being built out of many different systems.


Explain the functionalists’ account of the nature of mental states. (20%)

Functionalism maintains that mental states and processes (e.g. thoughts, emotions, reasoning) are functional states and processes and thus that mental states and processes can be “realized” in many different ways.


What is a mental module? (10%)

Special purpose mind/brain mechanisms, like the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), are often called “mental modules”. Though Chomsky prefers to call them “mental organs” to stress the analogy with the rest of our biology. Our body is FULL of special purpose systems (organs): EG: Eyes are great for seeing, but no good for hearing or digesting food; the pancreas secretes insulin, but it can’t be used to throw a spear, etc. etc.


Give an example (2) of a mental module that has been posited by evolutionary psychologists. (10%)

There are specialized systems for grammar induction, for face recognition, for dead reckoning, for construing objects and for recognizing emotions from the face. There are mechanisms to detect animacy, eye direction, and cheating. There is a "theory of mind" module .... a variety of social inference modules .... and a multitude of other elegant machines.”


Explain the “massive modularity” hypothesis. (10%)

Evolutionary Psychologists believe that the mind/brain contains hundreds of these modules, just as the rest of the body contains hundreds of special purpose mechanisms. This is sometimes called “the massive modularity hypothesis”.


What is a Darwinian module? (10%)

One of the hundreds or thousands of functionally dedicated modules designed by evolution to solve adaptive problems and to accomplish the many chores that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to complete in order to survive and reproduce.


Give a clear, detailed explanation of what evolutionary psychologists mean when they say that “in our modern skulls there is a stone age mind”. (20%)

The environment that humans -- and, therefore, human minds -- evolved in was very different from our modern environment. Our ancestors spent well over 99% of our species’ evolutionary history living in hunter-gatherer societies. That means that our ancestors lived in small, nomadic bands of a few dozen individuals who got all of their food each day by gathering plants or by hunting animals. Each of our ancestors was, in effect, on a camping trip that lasted an entire lifetime, and this way of life endured for most of the last 10 million years. Generation after generation, for 10 million years, natural selection slowly sculpted the human brain, favoring circuitry that was good at solving the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors -- problems like finding mates, hunting animals, gathering plant foods, negotiating with friends, defending ourselves against aggression, raising children, choosing a good habitat, and so on. Those whose circuits were better designed for solving these problems left more children, and we are descended from them. Our species lived as hunter-gatherers 1000 times longer than as anything else. Natural selection is a slow process, and there just haven't been enough generations for it to design circuits that are well adapted to our post-industrial life. In other words, our modern skulls house a stone age mind. The key to understanding how the modern mind works is to realize that its circuits were not designed to solve the day-to-day problems of a modern American -- they were designed to solve the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. These stone age priorities produced a brain far better at solving some problems than others.


Give an example of a modern problem that evolutionary psychologists think can be explained by the fact that that “in our modern skulls there is a stone age mind.” How would evolutionary psychologists explain this problem? (20%)

For example, it is easier for us to deal with small, hunter-gatherer band sized groups of people than with crowds of thousands; it is easier for us to learn to fear snakes than electric sockets, even though electric sockets pose a larger threat than snakes do in most American communities. In many cases, our brains are better at solving the kinds of problems our ancestors faced on the African savannahs than they are at solving the more familiar tasks we face in a college classroom or a modern city. In saying that our modern skulls house a stone age mind, we do not mean to imply that our minds are unsophisticated. Quite the contrary: they are very sophisticated computers, whose circuits are elegantly designed to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors routinely faced, not our modern problems.


Explain what evolutionary psychologists mean when they say that our genes’ goals are often very different from our goals. (20%)

Evolutionary Psychology claims that genes build mental modules, and that behavior is the result of LOTS of modules that are often in competition with one another. The factors that led to genes being selected by NS are different from and incompatible with your concious goals. EG: What are you conscious goals about having children for the next 4 years? Explicit - Not to have. However you genes are to have children. You're built to want multiple partners but your explicit goals


Give a clear, accurate sketch of parental investment theory. Your answer should include an explanation of the “obligatory investment” that each sex makes in producing offspring.

There are some traits we share with all mammals. Eggs are much bigger than sperm & more costly to produce, gestation occurs inside the female, and the female provides all of the early nutrition for the offspring. Because of these sex differences, the “obligatory investment”, or the amount of resources required for the creation of and survival of an offspring, of the female in the reproductive process is MUCH greater than the obligatory investment of the male in the reproductive process. This is because for reproduction, males only need to deposit their sperm, which is little investment. Females, have a 9 month gestation period as well as nurturing the child for a few years, which is a lot of investment.


Explain why females are the “limiting resource” in reproduction. (10%)

The number of offspring that a group of humans can produce in a year is limited by the number of females available But not by the number of males available, since a very small number of males could impregnate all the females. Human males can, in principle, produce hundreds or thousands of offspring while human females can, at most, produce a few dozen.


Explain what sorts of genes parental investment theory would expect to spread thru a population. (10%)

If a gene appears that leads a male to want many sexual partners, natural selection will spread that gene thru the population. Since the number of females is limited, if most males want many sexual partners, there will be competition among males for sexual partners. This would be the case because the cost of reproduction is low for males, there is practically no downside and huge upside. Additionally, If a gene appears that leads females to be more discriminating about sexual partners – preferring partners who will (in one way or another) contribute to the survival and reproductive success of offspring, then that gene will spread thru the population. This would be the case because the cost of reproduction for females are high, women can only gestate, at most a few children, at the same time. Thus they need to be much more discriminating.


Explain two predictions that parental investment theory would make about the mating preferences of women. (10%)

The two predictions are:
1) Women have a preference for mates who have or will have resources they are willing to invest in offspring.
2) Women have preference for mates with good genes, that are genes which would benefit their offspring the most.


Describe two experiments that are thought to confirm the predictions you discussed in (iv: Explain two predictions that parental investment theory would make about the mating preferences of women). (20%)

Prediction 1: A study found that the minimum acceptable financial earning capacity for marriage in women were significantly higher than men. More money means more resources, resources that they are willing to invest in their offspring. So this shows that women have a preference for men with more resources.
Prediction 2: A T-shirt experiment found that women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men whose MHC (major histocompatibility) genes were different from their own. It is known that offsprings with differing MHC genes have more robust immune systems. So this looks like striking evidence that women have a preference for “good genes”.


Explain two predictions that parental investment theory would make about the mating preferences of men. (10%)
The two predictions are:

1) Since men have more to gain (obtaining more children) from having multiple sexual partners, men should want more sexual partners than women.
2) Since men have more to gain in a casual sexual encounter, men should overestimate the sexual interest that women have in them -- “The Sexual Overperception Bias”


Describe two experiments that are thought to confirm the predictions you discussed in (vi: Explain two predictions that parental investment theory would make about the mating preferences of men.). (20%)

Prediction 1: A study by the USA College students - Buss & Schmitt (1993), found that men wanted significantly more sexual partners over their life compared to women.
Prediction 2: A study was conducted that used photos of men and women studying together. The men viewing the photos interpreted friendliness and mere smiling as indicating significantly more sexual intent than the women viewing the photos.


Give a clear, accurate explanation of the difference between a physical description of an object and a “functional description”. Illustrate your answer by giving both a physical and a functional description of some object. (40%)

A physical description is an explanation of all the literal existing parts that make up an object. For example, a physical description of a pencil would go like this ‘a pencil is a thin, handheld device made of wood with a core of graphite and a piece of rubber attached to one end with a piece of metal’. A functional description is an explanation of the function of the object and how it does it. Even more, there may be multiple functions of an object since it can be ‘realized’ in many ways. Going back to the example of the pencil, ‘a pencil is a writing utensil in which it is held by a hand and is scratched on paper to make marks’ or ‘a pencil is a paper weight placed on a piece of paper so it doesn’t blow away in the wind’.


an explanation of the idea that the rules of logic are “formal” – include an example (20%)

In a logically valid argument, if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true. Logic provides rules for generating conclusions from premises in a way that preserves truth. Logical rules are “FORMAL” in the way that they depend only on the shape (or form) of the symbols and NOT on their meaning. These inferences can be chained and combined into much larger structures a.k.a. arguments & proofs. EG: If Stitch has hands, I will dance. Stitch has hands, thus I dance. (In formal form: If A, then B. A, therefore, B.)