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Specialised minds: extending adaptive explanations of personality to the evolution of psychopathology


Hunt, Adam D; Jaeggi, Adrian V (2022). Specialised minds: extending adaptive explanations of personality to the evolution of psychopathology. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 4(E26):1-23.

Abstract

Traditional evolutionary theory invoked natural and sexual selection to explain species- and sex-typical traits. However, some heritable inter-individual variability in behaviour and psychology – personality – is probably adaptive. Here we extend this insight to common psychopathological traits. Reviewing key findings from three background areas of importance – theoretical models, non-human personality and evolved human social dynamics – we propose that a combination of social niche specialisation, negative frequency-dependency, balancing selection and adaptive developmental plasticity should explain adaptation for individual differences in psychology – ‘specialised minds’ – explaining some variance in personality and psychopathology trait dimensions, which share various characteristics. We suggest that anthropological research of behavioural differences should be extended past broad demographic factors (age and sex) to include individual specialisations. As a first step towards grounding psychopathology in ancestral social structure, we propose a minimum plausible prevalence, given likely ancestral group sizes, for negatively frequency-dependent phenotypes to be maintained as specialised tails of adaptive distributions – below the calculated prevalence, specialisation is highly unlikely. For instance, chronic highly debilitating forms of autism or schizophrenia are too rare for such explanations, whereas attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and broad autism phenotypes are common enough to have existed in most hunter-gatherer bands, making adaptive explanations more plausible.

Abstract

Traditional evolutionary theory invoked natural and sexual selection to explain species- and sex-typical traits. However, some heritable inter-individual variability in behaviour and psychology – personality – is probably adaptive. Here we extend this insight to common psychopathological traits. Reviewing key findings from three background areas of importance – theoretical models, non-human personality and evolved human social dynamics – we propose that a combination of social niche specialisation, negative frequency-dependency, balancing selection and adaptive developmental plasticity should explain adaptation for individual differences in psychology – ‘specialised minds’ – explaining some variance in personality and psychopathology trait dimensions, which share various characteristics. We suggest that anthropological research of behavioural differences should be extended past broad demographic factors (age and sex) to include individual specialisations. As a first step towards grounding psychopathology in ancestral social structure, we propose a minimum plausible prevalence, given likely ancestral group sizes, for negatively frequency-dependent phenotypes to be maintained as specialised tails of adaptive distributions – below the calculated prevalence, specialisation is highly unlikely. For instance, chronic highly debilitating forms of autism or schizophrenia are too rare for such explanations, whereas attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and broad autism phenotypes are common enough to have existed in most hunter-gatherer bands, making adaptive explanations more plausible.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Arts > Linguistic Research Infrastructure (LiRI)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Cultural Studies
Social Sciences & Humanities > Anthropology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Applied Psychology
Language:English
Date:31 May 2022
Deposited On:15 Dec 2022 06:43
Last Modified:28 Apr 2024 01:40
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:2513-843X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2022.23
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)