Nature and Nurture: Evolution and Complexities

  • Gerald Young


Evolutionary psychology has been presented as a unifying force in psychology. In this chapter, I emphasize that, in adapting a systems perspective in which evolution is considered as one primary factor, a pathway can be laid down toward the unification of psychology. Tinbergen’s four questions are still seminal for the field (adaptive function, phylogeny, ontogeny, mechanism). They can serve to create an integrative meta-model of behavioral causality along with the biopsychosocial model, NLDST, and related models. The NLDST gives one axis of integration in these regards through its related concept of complexity.

A more integrated process of evolution with other models would consider the influence of niche, culture, development, and person. As emphasized in the approach of niche construction, organisms are active, casual agents in their own evolution.

Life history theory indicates that evolution constructs each developmental period as adaptive. This model is consistent with the notions that development affords flexibility and that evolution is informed by optimization.

Social genomics indicates that the genome is fluid, and that it is a metagenome. The socioaffective environment gets “under the skin,” as in epigenetics; but moreso—it gets “onto the genome.” For example, social rejection can create social signals of even a short-term immediate nature that have long-lasting molecular imprints that affect health through effects on the HPA axis and also on inflammatory responses.

Overall, the concept of evolution is evolving, as is the concept of genetic influence on behavior. Both need to adopt a broader framework in which the environment is included in a systems framework. For example, the field needs to integrate social genomics with evolution, and ask how social genomics has influenced evolution. Already, epigenesis has been shown to have transgenerational effects and the same might be true of social genomics, for example, through epigenetic and related processes. Similarly, if there might be transgenerational effects through epigenesis and perhaps through social genomics, one could ask to what extent the field of evolution should consider better how the environment has gotten in our forebears under their skin and onto their genome (and subsequently ours).


Natural Selection Sympathetic Nervous System Telomere Length Niche Construction Inclusive Fitness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald Young
    • 1
  1. 1.TorontoCanada

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