Sociobiology and Culture Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Traditionally, researchers in various fields of study have generally limited investigations to their area of expertise. Social scientists attend to prescribed areas such as memory, deviance, and microeconomics. In addition, natural scientists restrict their focal points to phenomena like DNA, gravity, and erosion. This practice of detached exploration, which initially proved productive, is gradually giving way to interdisciplinary endeavors as new and overwhelming evidence indicates that many domains are profoundly interconnected. Although some conventional sociologists steadfastly resist such infiltration, the field is not immune to this growing interdisciplinary movement.

Sociobiology, as the name indicates, is the synthesis of sociology and biology. It is the logical bridge 'between the natural sciences on the one side and social sciences and humanities on the other' (Wilson, 5). Stated differently, it applies the principles of biology to the study of social behavior in both human and non-human populations. More precisely, sociobiology employs evolutionary theories to describe, explain, and explore social phenomena. Considering the amount of social creatures on this planet, it is not surprisingly that 'sociobiology consists mostly of zoology' (Wilson, 1). Areas of interest within this discipline include but are not limited to sexual attraction and behavior, aggression, infant and parental behavior, social structure, assistance and altruism, and fairness.

The idea that evolutionary forces influence social behavior is not a new one; it has a long history. For example, some ancient Greeks acknowledged examples of this trend. It was Darwin who brought this notion within the reach of mass consciousness. However, in the 1970's, 'E.O. Wilson's comprehensive review and synthesis of the applications of Darwinism and neo-Darwinian theory to behavior marked the apex of the [current] movement' (Silverman, 3). Furthermore, 'the entomologist E.O. Wilson was the first to formalize the idea that social behavior could be explained evolutionarily, and he called his theory sociobiology' (Boeree, 1). Moreover, in 1975, with the publication of the legendary book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Wilson carried this field into the realm of several academic circles, including those of biology, anthropology, philosophy, religion, and psychology.

A sister discipline to sociobiology, evolutionary psychology is the study of the former as it pertains to humans; in other words, the two spheres overlap. As such, 'the goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand the design of the human mind' (Cosmides & Tooby, 1). What's more, 'evolutionary psychology can be thought of as the application of adaptationist logic to the study of the architecture of the human mind' (Cosmides & Tooby, 11). Again, Darwin foresaw the implications of evolution theory and the process of natural selection on psychology when he proclaimed that 'in the distant future ... psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation' (Cosmides & Tooby, 1). Although initially slow going, evolutionary psychology is gaining momentum as models of sociobiology are presented to and accepted by more progressive psychologists.

A common misconception of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology is that both fields claim human social behavior is determined solely by genetics. In fact, adherents to these schools of thought readily admit the presence of multiple influential forces on human behavior, stemming from evolutionary and environmental origins, not to mention individual idiosyncrasies. Hence it is not, as frequently assumed, a nature vs. nurture debate wherein one mutually excludes the other. Rather, an important premise in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology is the notion that different areas of study, although superficially compartmentalized, are in reality, intimately connected. Considering this inclusive approach, it is logical that the findings of social psychology and sociology are equally relevant to those in biology, genetics, and neurology, for instance. This bridge between allegedly distinct spheres has undoubtedly led to unparalleled insights into social behavior that would be otherwise protracted if not inaccessible.

Having succinctly outlined sociobiology and its complementary discipline, evolutionary psychology, it seems prudent to illustrate some of the more prominent areas of investigation. Sexual attraction is an ideal example. When questioned about mate choice, nearly all provide answers based on the other's personal characteristics, with little conscious regard to his or her breeding capabilities. Actually, the direct indication of the latter is recently and oftentimes perceived as callous and prosaic. Nevertheless, the inability to procreate is an excruciating experience for those inauspicious enough to succumb to its grip.

Apparently sexual attraction has deep evolutionary roots despite its popular perception otherwise. Sociobiology states that 'we should be sexually attracted to others whose characteristics would maximize our genetic success, that is, would give us many healthy, long-lived, fertile children' (Boeree, 2). In light of this proclamation then, it is less startling that males prefer younger females as they represent more reproductive health and capabilities than older females. There is an inverse relationship with females concerning sexual attraction in that they prefer males who are more mature-meaning they have managed to remain alive despite environmental hazards-which attests to their genetic achievement. Sociobiology certainly elucidates the proverbial image of the young and healthful woman slung over the arm of an old and usually rich man.

Sexual behavior is another area of interest to sociobiology. 'According to many sociobiologists, mating practices are the result of an evolutionary process favoring genes that most successfully replicate themselves. This theory states that those most successful in this regard give rise to behavior and attitudes maximizing reproductive success' (Layng, 2). Once humans are attracted to individuals who meet their physical criteria, the way in which they conduct themselves has gender-specific manifestations. For example, females are not required to put forth much effort during the courtship. Indeed, 'in courtship and mating behavior, most men are more sexually aggressive and most women are more coy' (Layng, 1). A woman, due to the inherent restrictions on the number of offspring she can produce, assesses the male's ability to provide necessities-such as protection and economic support-that will enable the survival of her children. Males, on the other hand, concern themselves more with the fidelity of mates, as they, unlike females, can never be one hundred percent certain of paternity. This biological explanation illustrates why many women overlook adultery while males are less tolerant in this matter.

As previously mentioned, aggression is another phenomenon with which sociobiology concerns itself. Aggression can be defined in many ways, with both positive and negative connotations. For the present discussion, however, it is limited to those assertive behaviors that humans and non-humans exhibit regarding mating. In mammals, males are most noted for aggression, especially when it pertains to mates (Boeree). In humans, 'most violent crime is committed by men' (Boeree, 6). It does not take extended searches to discover the perpetrator of most domestic violence incidents. Regarding infidelity, males are more likely to 'severely beat or even kill an unfaithful mate' (Layng, 1). This behavior has its roots in biology, as the male is never absolutely certain that a mate's offspring shares his genes. Therefore, an allegedly disloyal female increases a male's aggression to sometimes murderous levels. Naturally, female infidelity is not the only reason why aggression exists in humans but it certainly accounts for a large portion of it.

Infants are deemed attractive and lovable the world over; the vast majority of humans find infants sweet, cute, and irresistible. The initial helplessness of newborns makes them all the more alluring. This is especially true for females, who are the more nurturing sex. From a sociobiologist's standpoint, however, 'it does make considerable evolutionary sense that, in animals with relatively helpless young, the adults should be attracted to their infants' (Boeree, 4). Actually, to ensure this magnetism, infants 'resort to subterfuge: the broad, full bodied, toothless smile which parents find overwhelmingly attractive' (Boeree, 4). Although not necessarily a romantic notion, it illustrates the innate adult mechanisms that promote the survival of offspring.

This attraction is bi-directional in that infants are predisposed to search for caretakers. Research indicates that 'a newborn's brain has response systems that 'expect' faces to be present in the environment: babies less than 10 minutes old turn their eyes and head in response to face-like patterns, but not to scrambled versions of the same pattern with identical spatial frequencies' (Cosmides & Tooby, 9). This reciprocal attachment ensures infants protection from environmental hazards and provides them with other basic needs, such as food and affection. At the same time, it increases the probability that adult reproductive effort was worthwhile.

Even the origin, structure, and size of human social units do not escape the attention of sociobiologists. In truth, 'evidence from primatology and paleoanthropology suggests that our ancestors have engaged in social exchange for at least several million years' (Cosmides & Tooby, 16). 'Our social arrangements most closely resemble those of the Old World monkeys and apes, which on anatomical and biochemical grounds are our closest living relatives' (Wilson, 2). Furthermore, due to humanity's extended history of hunting and gathering societies, which are comprised of intimate groups of individuals, 'it is easier for us to deal with small, hunter-gatherer-band sized groups than with crowds of thousands' (Cosmides &…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Sociobiology And Culture" (2005, April 22) Retrieved October 25, 2016, from

"Sociobiology And Culture" 22 April 2005. Web.25 October. 2016. <>

"Sociobiology And Culture", 22 April 2005, Accessed.25 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Sociobiology What Are the Central Themes in

    Sociobiology What are the central themes in the socio-biological study of conflict? Sociobiology is a field of scientific study that holds the basic premise that social behavior resulted from evolutionary pressures and the biology of the organism, thus explaining behavior within that context. Arguing that just as natural selection involved organisms evolving based on the useful traits that provided more opportunities to mate and survive, the same is true for genetic

  • Understanding the Social Psychology and Criminal Behavior

    Sociobiology Theory and Criminology Criminology field has varying psychological and biological theories that explain the criminality and factors that predispose individuals to engaging in criminal behaviors. Biological theories consider criminal behavior as a product of biological abnormality or defect. The criminal cannot change their behaviors because of the variation of their biological traits, thereby, forcing them to act in a specific manner. However, biological theory is considered odd with the presence

  • Anthropology Historical Foundations of Anthropology

    Gift giving creates a bond between the giver and the receiver. Mauss felt that to reject a gift, was to reject the social bond attached to it. Likewise, to fail to reciprocate is viewed as a dishonorable act in some cultures. Gift giving is a means to create social cohesion among the group. What Distinctive contributions did Weber make to social theory? Weber used his work to attempt to understand the

  • Sexual Disorders According to Croucher 2003 There

    Sexual Disorders According to Croucher (2003), there are five layers in the erotic life of human beings. The first of these is sexual identity. This is the physical differentiation between male and female, which is fixed by the end of the first trimester in the development of the foetus. Transsexuals feel that they have the "wrong sex" and therefore the wrong core identity. The second layer is sexual orientation, which refers

  • Extinction or Survival Implications for

    Early Education Shows No Benefit (HSLDA 2007) This article argues for the viewpoint that Head-Start-type early education is not only non-productive, but can actually lead to detriments to children's development as they enter formal school. The article begins by citing the results of a recent study of 35,000 students by Durham University, which found that there was no benefit to pre-school education programs for children. The article points to a series

  • Psychology Dawkins Selfish Gene and

    Nonetheless, an argument from common sense can be made based on our own observational context. For example, neurologically speaking, there is a wealth of evidence to illustrate that genes have an immense impact on the final structure of the brain, and thus on behavior. Schizophrenia is an obvious example of this. Logically, though, there is also abundant support for Dawkins' thesis. Roughly, an argument can be shown to be logically

  • Survival Theory Richard Dawkins the

    As this meme passed down through generations, it became more pervasive and it also became more complete. When slavery in the New World began, both blacks and whites were enslaved, black slaves could gain freedom, and slavery was not a condition of birth. However, as that changed, the memes surrounding African-Americans also changed. Not only were blacks seen as not equal to whites, but they were seen as incapable

Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved