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An Antidote to Overpathologizing Computer-Mediated Communication: An Evolutionary Perspective on Mixed Effects of Mismatch


Katiyar, Tanay; Hunt, Adam; Chaudhary, Nikhil; Jaeggi, Adrian (2023). An Antidote to Overpathologizing Computer-Mediated Communication: An Evolutionary Perspective on Mixed Effects of Mismatch. PsyArXiv Preprints t4azn, The Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science.

Abstract

Mixed associations are recurrently found between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and mental health & well-being. Recently, different theoretical efforts have emerged to parse these mixed results. However, evolutionary considerations in such efforts remain largely on the periphery, despite fields like evolutionary medicine and anthropology often theorising about mental health problems arising due to evolutionarily novel environmental circumstances: so-called evolutionary mismatch. While certain aspects of CMC have been previously identified as plausible evolutionary mismatches, two important limitations emerge: (a) a failure to contextualise the negative mental health effects of CMC against other broader societal factors which are plausible pre-existing evolutionary mismatches themselves; (b) ignoring the positive effects of CMC in mitigating these mismatches. In this paper, we propose an evolutionary perspective that addresses these two limitations while noting distinct epistemic and empirical benefits of such a perspective (e.g. providing a culturally invariant theory-driven baseline of ‘normal behaviour’, renewed theoretical focus on alternative variables, concrete design recommendations). Importantly, we contend that our perspective serves as an antidote to the overpathologisation of novel behaviours facilitated by CMC by framing such behaviours within the hunter-gatherer social environment characterising the majority of our evolutionary history.

Abstract

Mixed associations are recurrently found between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and mental health & well-being. Recently, different theoretical efforts have emerged to parse these mixed results. However, evolutionary considerations in such efforts remain largely on the periphery, despite fields like evolutionary medicine and anthropology often theorising about mental health problems arising due to evolutionarily novel environmental circumstances: so-called evolutionary mismatch. While certain aspects of CMC have been previously identified as plausible evolutionary mismatches, two important limitations emerge: (a) a failure to contextualise the negative mental health effects of CMC against other broader societal factors which are plausible pre-existing evolutionary mismatches themselves; (b) ignoring the positive effects of CMC in mitigating these mismatches. In this paper, we propose an evolutionary perspective that addresses these two limitations while noting distinct epistemic and empirical benefits of such a perspective (e.g. providing a culturally invariant theory-driven baseline of ‘normal behaviour’, renewed theoretical focus on alternative variables, concrete design recommendations). Importantly, we contend that our perspective serves as an antidote to the overpathologisation of novel behaviours facilitated by CMC by framing such behaviours within the hunter-gatherer social environment characterising the majority of our evolutionary history.

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Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2023
Deposited On:22 Nov 2023 16:05
Last Modified:27 May 2024 14:07
Series Name:PsyArXiv Preprints
ISSN:0010-9452
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/t4azn
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)