Behaviours and Psychological Process in Human Beings
A typical human being (homo-sapien) in the present-day context of the twenty-first century is considered as an evolutionary by-product of several species of humans, in the earlier centuries, with significant developments observed periodically, in each species, based on the changing environmental and climatic changes surrounding them, their adaptive capabilities and based on their basic biological make-up. Several variations in complexion, eye color, hair color, height and face structure are resultant of reproduction and selective adaptation to certain features of the parent gene and certain variations as a result of mixing of the parent genes with each other. But, on an overall basis, there are certain biological and psychological changes and variations observed as one transitions from one species to the other, as a result of evolution to new climatic conditions, changes in dietary requirements, structural changes in the DNA and certain changes in the functions of basic organs based on change in daily activities and reactions to stimuli present in the situations.
There are certain functions and behaviors or psychological processes which make us identify ourselves as our unique species of homo-sapiens of the present context, which we do not necessarily recognize as evolutionary by-products and/or adaptations of the body to the changing environment around it since they are fairly basic and are performed almost unconsciously without careful attention to each of its aspects, unless specifically devoted to it. Therefore, let us understand and analyze the behaviors and psychological processes an individual engages in on a daily basis in his/her everyday life and attempt to understand that which of these behaviors/psychological processes are evolutionary by-products or adaptations.
Behaviours/Psychological Process Observed in daily life of an individual
- Attention: Attention is a psychological process, an individual engages in almost every passing moment of his/her life, in order to perceive, understand and make note of the stimuli in the environment and respond accordingly to them. According to William James (1890), “attention is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.” Considering the salient aspects of James’s definition, attention is used as a psychological process by an individual in his daily life in order to respond to stimuli around him such as someone calling out their name in a crowded place, paying attention to conversation with music in the background and a variety of faint voices, attending to the professor’s voice, focusing on what is being written on the board by him, his voice, simultaneously focusing on the contents of the book such as the chapter, page numbers, specific paragraph and sentences in it. Attention is required in any given task one performs such as cooking, writing, reading, learning, memorizing, speaking, listening, narration, walking, sitting, running, driving, etc.
- Perception: Perception is another important psychological process in which an individual engages whilst attending to specific stimuli and filtering out other irrelevant stimuli in the background. Perception and attention go hand-in-hand while attending to stimuli and reacting to it. Perception is defined as “vivid experiences resulting from stimulation of the senses.” Perception can be considered as an essential behavior in terms of noting the vivid details of an object such as identifying its specific color, its shape, its size, judging whether it would fit into a specific location, deciding upon its specific position in a fixed setup, identifying objects by discriminating among those having similar shapes, orientation and size. For instance, perception helps one identify the location of an object he/she wishes to grab such as a coffee mug on a rectangular table with other objects by placing the palm around it, grabbing it and lifting it to bring it near to themselves. Perception helps in object discrimination, whilst perceiving several objects at the same time, it helps in selection of an accurate object for a specific task and also helps identify objects in illusionary set-ups which involve camouflaging, identification of objects in set-ups involving similar shape objects combined and embedded together and/or identification of text in a darkened background.
- Memory: Memory refers to the ability of an individual to attend to a specific piece of information, perceive it in terms of its details and salience and then registering the attended piece of information in the mind by either repeating it till it gets registered as a permanent concept/schema in the long-term memory storage or by connecting it to certain pre-registered concepts in the mind which might be similar to the concerned new concepts in terms of relevance, definition, appearance, pronunciation, meaning and so on. Memory is defined as the “process involved in retaining, retrieving, and using information about stimuli, images, events, ideas, and skills after the original information is no longer present.” Memory is used as an everyday term in order to emphasis its importance in terms of its essential requirement in important events such as preparing for an exam, preparing for a speech at a public event, remembering what was taught in the previous class, remembering important dates such as birthdays, Independence Day, Republic Day, birth and death anniversaries of important historic personalities, identifying familiar faces in social contexts, remembering names of people one met at an earlier occasion. Memory is not limited to recalling important dates, details of specific occasions but also of procedures such as the recipe for cooking a specific food item, remembering the process of driving while sitting in the car, remembering the specific routes that lead you to specific location such as your house, your school, your office, etc.
- Decision-Making: Decision-making refers to the ability to evaluate the importance and necessity of a given situation, and as a consequence, plan out a specific procedure or methodology in order to implement it into reality. It also implies towards choosing the most favorable option from a set of alternatives in order to formulate a specific plan to accomplish it. Decision making essentially involves choosing between “different courses of action.” Decision making is a skill one applies in his daily life, in order to choose amongst several alternatives such as preparing for an exam or going out for entertainment purposes, waiting patiently for your turn or intruding into a queue, watching your favorite film or studying for the whole day, scoring good marks in an exam and receiving a reward or not preparing for the exam and scoring good by cheating and then receiving the reward and so on. Decision making reflects the specific emphasis the individual lays upon specific tasks by labelling them as important by choosing them or by simply neglecting them by choosing another alternative. It gives deeper insights onto one’s attitude, judgement and overall planning strategies.
- Language: Language refers to “a system of communication using sounds and symbols according to grammatical rules.” Language can be commonly understood as a manner of expressing one’s feelings, emotions, thoughts and ideas into speech or by symbolism such as non-verbal actions, gestures, facial expressions, body movement, posture, eye movement, etc. by using rules of grammar, phonetics and pronunciations. Language is used by humans in their daily lives in order to express anything they might consider necessary to be conveyed to other individuals such as sharing of important information such as scoring good in an exam, applying for a job/master’s degree, news about death of a family member/known person, expression of emotions such as grief, anger, pain, anxiety, stress, disappointment, happiness, thrill, surprise, fear, love, hatred, etc. It is also used to convey the innermost feelings via silent expression (eye movements, facial expressions, whispering, actions, writing, etc.). The language humans use can be either verbal or non-verbal. Language is an essential behavioral aspect in order to understand the ideas, thoughts and emotions conveyed by the other individual, to interpret them, to analyze them and to react to them.
- Intelligence: Intelligence refers to “the ability to use knowledge to reason, make decisions, make sense of events, solve problems, understand complex ideas, learn quickly, and adapt to environmental challenges.” Intelligence is often understood only in its capacity to understand concepts and reflect good performance in academics, but is not only restricted to excelling in academics, but also in terms of solving complex problems by making the correct decisions, evaluating the importance or urgency of a situation and acting upon it, being aware of situations prevailing around oneself and ability to learn and retrieve the learned information for a long time, it also reflects an adaptiveness towards changing situations around oneself. Intelligence also reflects sensitivity towards one’s emotional transitions and being patient with them.
Behaviours/Psychological Processes that can be considered Evolutionary By-products/Adaptations
Adaption can be understood as “an inherited and reliably developing characteristic that came into existence through natural selection because it helped to solve a problem of survival or reproduction during the period of its evolution.” It basically indicates a necessary presence of genes which might facilitate the process of adaptation, based on exposure to certain environmental conditions in the past.
- Language: Language is an important psychological process/behavior which can be considered as an evolutionary by-product/adaption in the current human species of homo-sapiens as evolved from its previous ancestors of apes and chimpanzees, primates, etc. As observed by several psychologists such as Herbert-Terrace, Laura-Ann Petitto and Tom Bever, in their research regarding training chimpanzees of acquiring the ability to use the verbal human language by making them use basic phonemes in their speech. There were several conclusions regarding the ability of the trained chimpanzees to understand the visual cues and signs used for them to understand the specific learned word being talked about and repeat it, with the chimpanzees being partially successful in accurately pronouncing using their vocal tract (pharynx), but, at the same time, they could not formulate sensible and complete sentences which could be comprehended by the researchers, and they were observed as repeating the same learnt words again and again which eventually made no sense as they conveyed the same thing. Therefore, based on Laura and her associates’ research conclusions, it is evident that chimpanzees do possess vocal cords in their throat and can be trained to acquire verbal ability by making use of those vocal cords, but at the same time, these cords are not evident as present in all chimpanzees, they are visible in only a selective few, and therefore, they are not able to adapt to their usage into verbal language as used by humans to convey their thoughts. On the other hand, human beings are the evolved by-products of chimpanzees, and therefore all of the human species possesses the evolved vocal cord (pharynx) in their throats and can actively use them for communicating ideas, thoughts, emotions through speech. Therefore, the presence of vocal cord and the existence of verbal language as an effective form of communication can be considered as an important component of evolution/adaptation to environmental changes, biological transformation and reproduction. This ability of using verbal language to convey thoughts and acting upon visual cues and signs is the trait that differentiates humans from their biological predecessors, chimpanzees.
- Intelligence: Intelligence is an essential psychological process which justifies human species as an evolutionary by-product of chimpanzees or apes. Human beings possess all the necessary attributes which form as qualities which are essential to acquiring intelligence. Intelligence, as discussed earlier refers to the ability to effectively understand and comprehend upon the thoughts, ideas and emotions as expressed by an individual. It also reflects an ability to discriminate and choose among the best alternative which is viable, flexible, essential and beneficial in the long run from a set of available courses of action in order to implement a decision in the prevailing situation. It implies use of judgement in order to evaluate the importance, relevance, significance of a specific situation as more or less as compared to that of others. It also reflects an ability to adjust to changing environmental conditions, show sensitivity towards others emotions by understanding them, being open to new ideas, and also an ability to solve problems rapidly. On the other hand, if one considers these aspects of intelligence in the context of non-human species then they do possess the ability to adapt to environmental changes as observed in their tendency to hibernate (prolonged period of sleep during winter months, in order to conserve energy and use of stored fat accumulated as a result of eating heavily during other seasons). But, it is uncertain whether they do possess sweat glands in their skin, which aids in regulating the body temperature in humans during extreme cold and extreme hot climatic conditions. They also do not possess the ability to convey their thoughts by using phonetics and grammar in speech, therefore it can be stated that they do not possess thoughts at all, since a thought needs language as its fuel to ignite creativity, discussion, debates and opinions, if a thought is not conveyed at all, then it is merely abstract symbolism, which cannot be interpreted or understood easily. Due to absence of thoughts, animals also lack the capacity to make judgements and engage in reasoning in order to understand and evaluate the effectiveness of a decision and to solve a problem. A partial existence of thoughts might be possible in animals due to their ability to make sounds as warning signals to approaching stimuli, interpret visual stimuli by making physical movements, facial expressions and eye movements, but not a whole and complex thinking and communication system as present in humans. Moreover, human adaptations include specific thought engaging skills which are visibly absent in other species of animals, namely, analogical reasoning, inductive and deductive reasoning, critical thinking, classical conditioning, working memory and formation of concepts to better understand larger units of information.