Monday, February 1, 2010

I get so jealous; I can't even work

This is why you should never talk about nature OR nurture. You end up looking stupid. I'm a big fan of Sharon Begley - she's one of my favorite science writers. But shouldn't she know better than to view psychology in such an absolute sense that she'd allow an article be titled Sexual Infidelity: Nature or Nurture - Gender differences in what makes us jealous has nothing to do with 'caveman DNA'? Yes, she should. The article takes on the evolutionary psychology approach to sexual jealousy:
According to evolutionary psychology (the field that seeks the roots of human behavior in our Paleolithic past), men's brains are wired to become more upset by sexual infidelity, and women's to become more upset by emotional infidelity. This difference is the result of "caveman DNA" that everyone alive today inherited from our Stone Age ancestors of 100,000 years ago...
I frequently criticize the exact same issue in class. With little surprise, female students admit they'd be pretty pissed if their guy cheated physically on them, likely even more than if they cheated emotionally. I also specifically criticize the evolutionary psychology argument that rape is an evolved predisposition that all modern males share, which she nicely ripped to shreds last year. As a general rule, I agree with her criticisms of evolutionary psychology.

But to criticize evolutionary psychology is one thing. To say that evolution has "nothing to do with" modern human behaviors and that behaviors are best explained as nature OR nurture is something all psychology-types should know better than. From Freud to Skinner to today, saying "I'm right, you're wrong" has always failed in psychology.

Look how badly Begley f*cks up. In attempting to show her superior knowledge, to show that evolutionary psychology is so wrong, she comes upon a different explanation for jealousy associated with infidelity. She says,
According to "attachment theory," how you are raised leaves a lasting impression on how trusting you are in intimate relationships...Conclusion: Mars-Venus differences in jealousy are the result of attachment style and not of our caveman genes.
Why is this stupid? Because one cannot reasonably say "attachment" OR "evolution." Why not? Because attachment theory is based on evolution. The basic premise of attachment theory is that humans are biologically predisposed, as a result of evolution, to attach to caregivers in order to improve chances of survival. (Note: Yes, I'm linking to Wikipedia...I dare anyone to challenge the first line in the article: Attachment theory is a psychological, evolutionary, and ethological theory concerning relationships between humans.) John Bowlby, father of attachment theory, "defines attachment behavior as behavior that has proximity to an attachment figure as a predictable outcome and whose evolutionary function is protection of the infant from danger."

So, to say any behavior is "the result of attachment style and not of our caveman genes" makes absolutely no sense because attachment style itself is the result, IN PART, of our caveman genes. Never go with nature OR nurture. You will always fail.

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Title frome here: