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Sociobiology is a branch of biology that attempts to explain animal behavior and social structures in terms of evolutionary advantage or strategy. It uses techniques from ethology, evolution and population genetics.

The term 'sociobiology' was coined by Edward Osborne Wilson in the 1970s. He wrote the famous Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Sociobiology attempts to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviors such as altruism, aggression, and nurturance.

Individual genetic advantage fails to explain many social behaviors. However, genetic evolution appears to act on social groups. The mechanisms responsible for selection in groups are statistical and can be harder to grasp than those that determine individual selection. The analytical processes of sociobiology use paradigms and population statistics similar to actuarial analyses of the insurance industry or game theory. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociobiology

Evolutionary psychology

The term evolutionary psychology was coined in the book The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and The Generation of Culture. (Leda Cosmides & John Tooby, 1992.) They believe that more scientists and psychologists should study human cognition and behavior from the perspective of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary psychology is related to the fields of cognitive psychology, genetics, ethology, anthropology, biology, and zoology. It is derived from the concept of sociobiology pioneered by the entomologist E. O Wilson, who was the first to formalize the idea that social behavior could be explained evolutionarily, and coined the term sociobiology.

Many researchers have published in the field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology has been applied to the study of economics, aggression, law, psychiatry, politics, literature, and sex. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology, May 2004

Madame Bovary's Ovaries : A Darwinian Look at Literature (2006) - David P. Barash

Madame Bovary's Ovaries : A Darwinian Look at Literature (2006) - David P. Barash [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Their book is modest in scope: its aim is to show how human nature is reflected in the stories humans read and write.  The authors parse human nature into various adaptive problems (e.g., mate selection, adultery, parent-offspring conflict, kin selection), which form the basis for the chapter divisions.  Each chapter adroitly fuses biology (a description of the featured adaptive problem and associated cognitive adaptations) with literary analysis (a discussion of literary works whose main conflict centers around the featured adaptive problem).  In Chapter 5, for example, female infidelity is discussed in relation to a variety of texts, including Le Mort d’Arthur, The Scarlet Letter, Madame Bovary, The Golden Bowl, Anna Karenina, The Awakening, and Ulysses.  The book thus serves to acquaint the reader not only with the premises of evolutionary literary analysis, but with some rudiments of evolutionary psychology as well.  --http://www.entelechyjournal.com/michellescalisesugiyama.html [Jan 2007]

As a new species of literary theory, what the authors call Bio-Lit-Crit, it signals a reduction to the absurd. Their starting point comes from Northrop Frye, of all people, who famously declared literary criticism "badly in need of an organizing principle, a central hypothesis which, like the theory of evolution in biology, will see the phenomena it deals with as parts of a whole." But such a principle already exists, "needing only to be recognized and developed." And, ironically, "it is the same one that Frye gestured toward so longingly: evolution." --http://www.goodreports.net/reviews/madamebovarysovaries.htm [May 2006]

See also: Madame Bovary - Charles Darwin - sociobiology - literature

More books

  1. Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World - Kevin Kelly [book, Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In many ways, the 20th century has been the Age of Physics. Out of Control is an accessible and entertaining explanation of why the coming years will probably be the Age of Biology -- particularly evolution and ethology -- and what this will mean to most every aspect of our society. Kelly is an enthusiastic and well-informed guide who explains the promises and implications of this rapidly evolving revolution very well. --Amazon.com

  2. The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins [Amazon US]
    Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel's work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that "our" genes build and maintain us in order to make more genes. That simple reversal seems to answer many puzzlers which had stumped scientists for years, and we haven't thought of evolution in the same way since. [...] --Rob Lightner

  3. Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) - Edward Osborne Wilson [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    E.O. Wilson defines sociobiology as "the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior," the central theoretical problem of which is the question of how behaviors that seemingly contradict the principles of natural selection, such as altruism, can develop. Sociobiology: A New Synthesis, Wilson's first attempt to outline the new field of study, was first published in 1975 and called for a fairly revolutionary update to the so-called Modern Synthesis of evolutionary biology. Sociobiology as a new field of study demanded the active inclusion of sociology, the social sciences, and the humanities in evolutionary theory. Often criticized for its apparent message of "biological destiny," Sociobiology set the stage for such controversial works as Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene and Wilson's own Consilience.

    Sociobiology defines such concepts as society, individual, population, communication, and regulation. It attempts to explain, biologically, why groups of animals behave the way they do when finding food or shelter, confronting enemies, or getting along with one another. Wilson seeks to explain how group selection, altruism, hierarchies, and sexual selection work in populations of animals, and to identify evolutionary trends and sociobiological characteristics of all animal groups, up to and including man. The insect sections of the books are particularly interesting, given Wilson's status as the world's most famous entomologist.

    It is fair to say that as an ecological strategy eusociality has been overwhelmingly successful. It is useful to think of an insect colony as a diffuse organism, weighing anywhere from less than a gram to as much as a kilogram and possessing from about a hundred to a million or more tiny mouths.

    It's when Wilson starts talking about human beings that the furor starts. Feminists have been among the strongest critics of the work, arguing that humans are not slaves to a biological destiny, forever locked in "primitive" behavior patterns without the ability to reason past our biochemical nature. Like The Origin of Species, Sociobiology has forced many biologists and social scientists to reassess their most cherished notions of how life works. --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com

  4. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating - David M. Buss [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In the pursuit of a mate, women prefer men who possess money, resources, power and high social status, while men tend to seek attractive, youthful women who will remain sexually faithful. This finding emerged from a global survey by Buss and colleagues of 10,047 persons in 37 cultures, from Australia to Zambia. Women and men are often at cross-purposes in mate selection, sexual relations and affairs. In a provocative study, Buss, a University of Michigan psychology professor, attributes these differences to ingrained psychological mechanisms which he argues are universal across cultures and rooted in each gender's adaptive responses over millennia of human evolution. One area, however, where Buss finds common ground between men and women is in their ruthless use of deception, sexual display and denigration of rivals in the pursuit of a partner. --Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --From Publishers Weekly

    Evolutionary psychology--or, in the vernacular, "instinct"--rules the dating and mating game, and this scientist's discoveries are bound to clash with theories of patriarchy that purport to account for male dominance of wealth. Buss' synthesis of many studies conforms with popular wisdom: Women want an older man with actual or potential means; men want an attractive, younger woman; and men have a much greater proclivity for promiscuity than do women. Why? The reasons reside in vestigial "cues"... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. --From Booklist via amazon.com

    David Buss updates his classic study of the origin of human mating behavior with fascinating new research. If we all want love, why is there so much conflict in our most cherished relationships? To answer this question, says noted psychologist David Buss, we must look into our evolutionary past. Based on the most massive study of human mating ever undertaken, encompassing more than ten thousand people of all ages from thirty-seven cultures worldwide, The Evolution of Desire is the first book to present a unified theory of human mating behavior. --Book Description via amazon.com

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