Reviewing the Options: Noise, Adaptation, and By-Product

  • C. A. Soper
Part of the Evolutionary Psychology book series (EVOLPSYCH)


The three broad classes of possible evolutionary explanations for suicide’s persistence in the human species are explored. Suicide is unlikely to result from random genetic noise, although mutation selection and other random processes in behavioral genetics may be relevant. Suicide is also unlikely to have come about as an adaptation, positively favored by natural selection for the inclusive fitness benefits it supposedly confers on those who take their own lives: theories proposed by deCatanzaro (Behav Brain Sci 3(02):265–272, 1980), including the alleged suicidogenic effect of low reproductive potential and burdensomeness, are critiqued. This chapter concludes that suicide most likely emerged as a noxious side effect of some other traits that were adaptive overall, despite the concomitant cost of intentional self-killing. A preliminary review points to some aspects of normal human cognition as responsible.


Suicide Evolution Evolutionary theory Human evolution Natural selection Reproductive fitness Fitness threat Adaptation Behavioral genetics Mutation-selection balance deCatanzaro Burdensomeness Reproductive potential 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Soper
    • 1
  1. 1.Private PracticeLisbonPortugal

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