Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2000). Evolutionary Psychology and the Emotions [Electronic version]. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of Emotions (2nd ed.).
Evolutionary psychology, as Cosmides and Tooby simply state it, “is a way of thinking about psychology that can be applied to any topic within it – including the emotions.” Using both evolutionary and cognitive principles, they explain what emotions are and how emotions come from a long line of adaptations.
An evolutionary psychological theory of the emotions
According to Cosmides and Tooby, our mind is made up of many domain-specific programs and “each is functionally specialized for solving a different adaptive problem that arose during hominid evolutionary history” (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 1). Each program solves a specific adaptive problem and is activated by different cues from the environment. The problem with these programs each performing a different function is sometimes more then one is activated at a time and they conflict or contradict each other. To solve this problem, the mind developed superordinate programs, called emotions, to coordinate the subprograms (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000).
Over time, emotions have evolved by recognizing recurring conditions or situations and selecting the best subprograms that together would lead to the best outcome. “The conditions or situations relevant to the emotions are those that (1) recurred ancestrally; (2) could not be negotiated successfully unless there was a superordinate level of program coordination; (3) had a rich and reliable repeated structure; (4) had recognizable cues signaling their presence; and (5) in which an error would have resulted in large fitness costs” (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 3). When these types of situations are detected, the emotion program sends out signals to its subprograms to solve the problem. Emotion function is to inhibit, promote, or alter any of the subprograms from all categories. “An emotion is not reducible to any one category of effects, such as effects on physiology, behavioral inclinations, cognitive appraisals, or feeling states, because it involves evolved instructions for all of them together, as well as other mechanisms distributed throughout he human mental and physical architecture” (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 3).
Many times it is mistaken that emotion programs act on impulse or in an unsystematic way but the authors want to replace that idea. Cosmides and Tooby (2000) suggest that “far from being internal free agents, these programs have an unchanging structure regardless of the needs of the individual or her circumstances, because they were designed to create states that work well in ancestral situations, regardless of their consequences in the present” (p. 3).
Chance and Selection: Every species has a type of design that is consistent for all of its kind called species-typical evolved architecture. These designs are passed along one generation to the next and over time, changes within them take place. By chance, random mutations are mixed into the species and selection is the idea of figuring out what mutation will work to the benefit of that species. Natural selection decides what mutations change the species for the better which goes along with the saying that “function determines structure.” If the mutation results in positive feedback then it is adapted into the species design and passed along through reproduction; if the mutation interfered with the species ability to reproduce (negative feedback) it would be discontinued; and if it had no effect then it may or may not be adapted into the design (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000).
How well-designed are emotion adaptations expected to be? Species have evolved over millions of years and therefore have produced incredible adaptive problem solving features. When tested against modern technology, natural adaptations have proven to be the best. Although they are not perfect, over time they have been shaped into well designed functions (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000).
Adaptive problems are recurring situations that give opportunities and obstacles so that a species can adapt to improve their architecture. Adaptive problems are not just a challenge to physical survival (shot-run threats) because survival is only good if the design features are passed on. Therefore, consequences of adaptive problems are total lifetime fitness consequences that will not just help out at the given moment but will produce the best long-term benefits (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000).
The design of an organism also takes into consideration the long-enduring structure of the world. “Evolutionary psychology is both environment-oriented and past-oriented in its functionalist orientation (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 7). Adaptations must assume that things in the future will remain somewhat constant or else there would be no point in adapting a certain way. A different type of environment is the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, or EEA. This is not a place or time, it is the pressures that are caused change in design until the design became species typical. The regularity of pressures can be measured statistically in the environment and these descriptions are “essential parts of the construction of a task analysis of the adaptive problem a hypothesized adaptation evolved to solve (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 7).
The cognitive science resolution of the mind-body problem states that the mind and body together are the same system. The brain is the physical machine with neural properties and the mind is a set of information-processing procedures. The brain is a computational organ and the properties of the selected neural circuits compute solutions to information-processing problems.
The brain was designed by evolution to use information derived from the environment and the body to functionally regulate behavior and the body. The brain came into existence and, over evolutionary time, accreted its present complex structure because, in ancestral populations, mutations that created or altered cognitive programs such that they more successfully carried out adaptively consequential information-processing tasks were differentially retained, replicated, and incorporated into our species’ neural design (Cosmides &Tooby, 2000, p. 8).
Emotion and computation: Cognition is not just “thinking,” it is a “language for describing all of brain’s operations, including emotions and reasoning, and not to any particular subset of operations. If the brain evolved as a system of information-processing relations, then emotions are, in an evolutionary sense, best understood as information-processing relations-i.e., programs – with naturally selected functions” (Cosmides &Tooby, 2000, p. 8). Emotions can therefore be talked about in a computational form. “Every mechanism in the brain…depends on an underlying computational organization to give its operation its patterned structure, as well as a set of neural circuits to physically implement it (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 9).
Domain specificity and functional specialization: Each information-processing problem requires different procedures and in turn, these procedures also require different tools.
The human cognitive architecture is multimodular: that it is composed of a large number of information-processing programs, many of which are functionally specialized for solving a different adaptive problem. These adaptations appear to be domain-specific expert systems, equipped with ‘crib sheets’: inference procedures, regulatory rules, motivational priorities, goal-definitions, and assumptions that embody knowledge, regulatory structure, and value weightings specific to an evolved problem domain (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 9).
These types of programs solve adaptive problems economically, reliably, and effectively.
Selection detects the individual unobservable:
Many important features of the world cannot be perceived directly. Cognitive adaptations can use perceivable events as cues for inferring the status of important, nonperceivable sets of conditions, provided there was a predictable probabilistic relationship between them that was maintained over evolutionary time. Natural selection can extract statistical relationships hat would be undetectable to any individual organism. It does this by testing randomly generated alternative designs, each of which embodies different assumptions about the structure of the world, and retaining the ones that succeed most effectively. The most effective design will be the one that best embodies design features that reflect most closely the actual long-term statistical structure of the ancestral world (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 10).
The functional structure of an emotion program is evolved to match the evolutionarily summed structure of its target situation. "The relationship between the summed details of the ancestral condition and the detailed structure of the resulting emotion program that makes this approach so useful for emotion researcher" (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 12). Emotions correlate with situations such that situations that have less structure and associated elements, the fewer specialized adjustments the emotion mode will make.
Each functionally distinct emotion state…will correspond to an integrated mode of operation that functions as a solution designed to take advantage of the particular structure of the recurrent situation or triggering condition to which that emotion corresponds. This approach can be used to create theories of each individual emotion, through three steps: (1) Reconstructing the clusters of properties of ancestral situations; (2) Constructing engineering analyses about how each o the known or suspected psychological mechanisms in the human mental architecture should be designed to deal with each ancestral condition or cluster of conditions, and integrating these into a model of the emotion program; (3) Constructing or conducting experiments and other investigations to test, and revise the models of emotion programs (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, p. 12).
How to characterize an emotion
The following properties of environments and mechanisms must be present to characterize an emotion. (1) An evolutionarily recurrent situation or condition; (2) the adaptive problem; (3) Cues that signal the presence of the situation; (4) situation-detecting algorithms (if situation is detected then it first goes to algorithms that monitor for situation-defining cues and then moves to the second type of algorithms which take these cues and identify the situation); (5) Algorithms to assign properties (Decide which emotion mode to activate and to what degree); (6) An internal communication system (emotion sends out messages to appropriate subprograms); (7) Each program and physiological mechanism entrained by an emotion program must have associated algorithms that regulate how it responds to each emotion signal.
What kinds of programs can emotions mobilize?
Emotions can mobilize any biological process that shift in performance. Some examples are goals, motivational priorities, information-gathering motivations, imposed conceptual frameworks, perceptual mechanisms, memory, attention, physiology, communication and emotional expressions, behavior, specialized inference, reflexes, and learning.
The theory that emotions adapted over evolutionary time through becoming superior programs in our minds to overlook other programs is given a strong base from both evolutionary and cognitive foundations. Emotions also relate to many aspects in our lives that we may not recognize because although we deny feeling a certain emotion, it doesn't mean its not there.
A. Evolutionary and Cognitive principles explain what emotions are and what adaptive problems they solve.
II. An Evolutionary psychological theory of the emotions.
A. Our mind is made up of many domain-specific programs.
1. Each one solves specific problems and is activated by different cues from the environment.
2. All of these programs working separately cause problems.
B. To solve this problem our mind developed superordinate programs to coordinate all the subprograms.
1. This is what we call emotions.
2. They become what they are by experiencing the same type of situations and then selecting subprograms that together, would lead to the best outcome.
a. Conditions or situations that are relevant to emotions are those that…
i. Recurred ancestrally
ii. Could not be negotiated successfully unless there was a superordinate level of program coordination
iii. Had a rich and reliable repeated structure.
iv. Had recognizable cues signaling their presence.
v. In which an error would have resulted in large fitness costs.
b. When this type of situation is detected, the emotion program sends out signals to subprograms to solve problem.
C. These superordinate programs affect all categories.
D. Superordinate programs are not free agents that produce actions freely. They have a “systematic unchangeable structure.
III. The evolutionary foundations
A. Chance and selection
1. Change in the species-typical evolved architecture caused by chance and selection.
a. Chance – random mutations
b. Selection – consequences or outcome of that mutation.
i. Positive feedback – mutation kept
ii. Negative feedback – deleted mutation
iii. Neutral effect – sometimes disappear, sometimes kept.
B. How well de3signed are emotion adaptations
1. Millions of years has produced well adapted problem solving features.
a. Outperform any artificial things we can make now with technology.
i. They many not be perfect but they are the best
C. Adaptive problems
1. Def: recurring situations that gives opportunity or obstacles so that species can adapt.
a. Species then improves net lifespan reproduction and spreads new design to offspring
2. Adaptive problems are not just a challenge to physical survival (short-run threats)
a. Survival is only good if design features are passed on.
3. Consequences of adaptive problems are total lifetime fitness consequences.
a. Not what will help just at that given moment but will produce the best long –term benefits.
D. The environment of evolutionary adaptiveness.
1. Design is also based on the long-enduring structure of the world. (environment)
a. Assumes things in future will remain somewhat constant.
2. The environment of evolutionary adaptedness or EEA
a. Not place or time, it is the pressures that caused change in design until design became species-typical.
i. Measured statistics of regularities in environment.
IV. Cognitive foundations
A. The cognitive science resolution of the mind-body problem.
1. Together mind and body are the same system
a. Brain – physical machines with neural properties.
b. Mind is set of information-processing procedures
2. Brain is an organ of computation
a. The computational properties of the selected neural circuits computed solutions to info-processing problems.
b. Designed to take information from environment and body to regulate behavior and body.
i. Over time mutations altered cognitive programs and this changed our species neural design.
B. Emotion and computation
1. Cognition is not just “thinking,” it is a language used to describe brain’s operations, including emotion
2. Brain evolved from info-processing relations (i.e. emotions)
a. We can therefore think about emotions in a computational form
i. Every mechanism in brain needs computational organization to give structure.
C. Domain specificity and functional specialization
1. Each info-processing problem requires different procedures
a. Different procedures require different tools.
2. Human cognitive architecture is mulimodular
a. Made up of many info-processing programs that are functionally specialized to solving different adaptive problems.
i. These adaptations are domain-specific expert systems.
1. equipped with “crib sheets”
2. Solve adaptive problems economically, reliability, and effectively.
D. Selection detects the individual unobservable
1. Many features of the world we can not perceive directly
a. Cognitive adaptations use the events we can perceive as cues for inferring no perceivable conditions.
2. Natural selection can detect statistical relationships
a. By testing randomly generated alternative designs.
E. The functional structure of an emotion program evolved to match the evolutionary summed structure of its target situation.
1. three theories on individual emotion
2. Emotion program correlates with situation.
a. ex. Situations that have less structure and associated elements, the fewer specialized adjustments the emotion mode will make.
V. How to characterize and emotion
A. The following properties of environment and mechanisms must be present to characterize an emotion.
1. An evolutionarily recurrent situation or condition
2. The adaptive problem
3. Cues that signal the presence of the situation
4. Situation-detecting algorithms.
a. If it does detect situation
i. 1st goes to algorithms that monitor for situation-defining cues.
ii. 2nd goes to algorithms that take the cues and identify situation.
5. Algorithms to assign properties.
a. Decide which emotion mode to activate and to what degree.
6. An internal communication system
a. Emotion sends out messages to appropriate subprograms
7. Each program and physiological mechanism entrained by an emotion program must have associated algorithms that regulate how it responds to each emotion signal
VI. What kinds of programs can emotions mobilize?
A. Any biological processes that shift in performance
1. ex. Goals, memory, attention, behavior, reflexes, ect.