How does evolution explain our behavior?

All species are related to each other. Over the time, they have evolved. This is the main idea on which the Evolution theory is based. And this theory in turns explain the evolutionary explanation of behavior. In terms of Biology the evolution includes the changes in the characteristics of a species depend upon the process of natural selection and over several generations.

Evolutionary theory helps us to understand not only the human body but the human mind also. When evolution emerges with psychology it inquires about diverse approaches:

  • Memetics
  • Human behavioral ecology
  • Dual-inheritance theory
  • Evolutionary psychology

Here, it is important to understand what is the law of natural selection before diving into the evolutionary explanation of behavior.

Law of Natural Selection:

According to Charles Darwin:

“Natural populations possess the feature of natural selection. Every population produces a progeny more than the environment can manage. This overproduction manages the survival of individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment. These individuals compete with the environment more successfully and produce better offspring.”

Evolutionary And Human Nature:

In a broad spectrum, evolutionary psychology adopts the evolutionary perspective of human behavior. It supplements the psychology by the tenants of biology.

For centuries, scientists are trying to understand what makes humans unique from other animals. But they forget that every species is unique on this planet. But at the same time, every species shares some features with other species also. At this point evolutionary approach appears. This approach allows us to investigate the shared features of Homo Sapien with other animals.

Evolutionary explanation of behavior

The simplest explanation of evolution and behavior would be:

‘’Humans are evolved to behave in a particular way that increases the chances of survival and provides chances of passing on genes’’.

And the genetics we pass on influences the physiology in terms of promoting adaptive behaviors.

Evolutionary Theory and human behaviors:

With the help of evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology explains the similarities of psychological characters. According to Evolutionary psychology process of natural selection evolves patterns of behaviors. It happens in the same way as physical characters evolve. And this is how the adaptive behaviors keep passing from one generation to the other.

Humans are evolved as social, collaborating, compassionate, and charitable beings. They share these common identities in small groups. Similarly, humans remain trapped in a fear of strangers. This fear influences the ways of perceiving events and people. This also explains how humans react to newcomers in their societies.

How Behaviors Evolve?

Behaviors are partially controlled by genetics. And behaviors evolved through the process of ‘’Natural selection’’. But the natural selection of behaviors is not only controlled by genes but performing of that behavior by an individual increases the chances of successful reproduction of that behavior.

For example:

‘’Selfishness’’ is a behavior that promotes successful competing with the other members of the same species. This competing is mainly for food and mate. By performing the selfish behavior an individual gets more food and mates. Selfishness increases the chances of surviving and reproducing that individual than the other members of the same species with less competitive abilities.

But there are other behaviors that we observe in humans but find these harder to explain like Altruism.


Charles Darwin admitted that Altruism is a behavior referred to as ‘’One special difficulty’’ and he could not explain it via means of natural selection. Altruism is a kind of behavior that puts oneself at risk for others. Moreover, it is a helping behavior of individuals for their species or sometimes for other species as well. You can more likely observe it in predators, which decreases the fitness of this behavior.

Behavior and nurture:

Most of the psychological behaviors are directed subconsciously and we just remain unaware of these processes. We only depend upon our conscious for decision making.  According to evolutionary explanation of behavior, some behavioral skills are deeply penetrated in complex neural circuits of the brain. And these behaviors are hereditary. These behaviors are psychological abilities such as:

  • Gaining trust
  • Reading the intentions of others
  • The ability to make friends

These skills are instinctive but these innate tendencies of behavior can also get tempered by nurture. The common nurture factors are individual factors, family, religion, and culture.

How evolutionary psychology explains behavior?

Evolutionary psychology takes the help of evolutionary theory to explain Psychological characteristics or behaviors. And this explanation of behaviors strongly supports the law of natural selection. The law of natural selection explains adaptive behaviors and how they pass on from one generation to the next. Mating behavior explains this aspect even further.

What is mating behavior?

The hot topic of evolutionary theory is a reproductive success. And it is about the study of ‘’Parental investment’’ that is the quantity of parental investment that is done by the males and females of a species. In various species, both members do not invest equally. The result appears in two consequences:

  • The less investing member fights with the same sex to mate with the opposite sex.
  • The member that invests more gets a chance of more discrimination during the selection of the opposite sex.

These are explained by the following patterns of parental investment:

Sexual selection:

Sexual selection is similar to natural selection. Similar to natural selection, this selection also makes the organisms more likely to mate. Some features of sexual selection are not very helpful for survival but these only for attracting the opposite sex like flashy tail feathers.


It is a situation in which a male member of species mates with more than one female. You can observe it as a common feature for many animal species. For a polygynous system of mating, a male has to fight with other male members of species to get access to the female. This is because females only pick the winners. It ensures that the offspring will have a healthy, strong, and good gene.

The evolutionary explanation has some issues:

This explanation has some problems also. It is not able to justify the behavior of polygyny in humans. Human’s have a variable type of complex behavior. Cultural variations also have their role in the explanation of this behavior.

In addition to it, some researchers criticize that an existing trait not necessarily shows that the trait is adaptive. Maybe the traits were helpful in the past but these are not anymore adaptive.


Evolutionary psychology has covered a long way but still there are many secrets remain unrevealed. Humans are trying to explore the path of their identity but some many ifs and buts need more time to solve.

What is your opinion? Please share your suggestions and ideas with us to create an environment of collective learning.

Log Kya Kahein Gay: Log Kya Kahein Gay provides a platform to discuss ideas and opinions about the culture and social ethics of our society.
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