Human Evolution Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2416 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Anthropology

Anthropology

Behavioral Implications of Developmental Changes in Human Past

Just as humans have developed from a biological and physiological perspective over thousands of years, so too has human behavior. Much of human behavior in fact is influenced by developmental changes that have occurred among homosapiens in the last two millennia.

Human beings have transformed into more complex, interactive and social creatures largely a result of developmental changes including bipedalism, brain growth and improved language capacity. These developments have not only changed human behavior but have also improved humankind's survival rate. For one to understand the impact physiological developments have on human behavior, one must first understand the nature of human behavior. Human behavior as a function of development is discussed in greater detail below, with careful attention to specific developmental milestones including bipedalism, brain growth and language development.

Nature of Human Behavior

Human behavior is more complex and varied than behavior exhibited by other organisms, however the basic processes share between humans and non-humans is not much different (Barnes-Holmes, et. al, 2003). Darwin suggests that no fundamental difference exists between man's behavior and other higher mammals with respect to certain mental abilities, suggesting that a continuity of sorts exist between the two and hence comparisons can be made between humans and non-humans with respect to behavior.

Others including Skinner shy away from non-human studies believing but do suggest that such studies are useful for "assessing what behaviors and traits are distinctly human vs. those that are not" (Skinner, 1969: 101). For purposes of this evolution primarily human behaviors and traits will be explored in relation to developmental patterns over time. Human behavior will be examined as a direct correlate to developmental changes that have occurred in human beings since the dawn of time.

Effects of Development on Human Behavior

Physiological developments have had a tremendous impact on human behavior over several thousand years. Alland (1973) supports Darwinian theory suggesting that two major forms of adaptive behavior have evolved within the animal kingdom as evolution has occurred; these include (1) innate responses and (2) learning (p. 191). This suggest that human beings have innate responses that result from biological and physiological developments but also learn to do things in different ways based on improved functioning or physical capacity. Both forms of behavior according to Darwin are equally important to adaptation, however the degree to which one's responses "are patterned by one of the other varies from species to species" (Alland, 1973: 191).

Some theorists and anthropologists believe that human behavior is not innate but rather that it is all learned, the result of responses people generate to certain stimulus given at one time or another. Others however argue equally as strongly that all behavior is patterned based on genetic predisposition and certain biological codes ingrained into they human psyche.

Evolutionary Ecology's Contribution to Human Behavior

Evolutionary ecologists have long concerned themselves with how human ecology has impacted human behavior. The same theorists suggest that human behavior is as much a byproduct as biological evolution as of cultural evolution (Smith & Winterhalder, 1992). Evolution has both adapted and varied the way people move, behave, and relate to one another and more.

Behavior is the result of multiple diverse and complex forces thus shaped by many factors including evolution. There are many evolutionary advances that have adapted the way man behaves or reacts to his environment. These include bipedalism, increasing cranial capacity and brain size and language development. All of these anthropological advances are interrelated and have contributed to developments in human behavior.

Humans have over time become complex social creatures, capable of much more intricate and collaborative social interactions. These social interactions have led to increased communication, understanding and a higher survival rate for the human species over time. The manner in which developmental changes have affected homosapiens is discussed in greater detail below.

Bipedalism

Bipedalism has affected human socialization and behavior in numerous ways. One way it has affected human behavior according to Phillips (2002) & Bel (1999) is by socializing the human birthing process. According to the researchers birthing used to be a much more private process, but since bipedalism has flourished has transformed into a much more social process. The birthing process itself has changed. As these researchers point out primates are birthed facing forward so the mother can birth her own infant, however human infants rotate to come exit the birth canal in multiple ways, making the process more complex and more akin to a social process "allowing assistance during delivery" (Bel, 1999: 187). If something becomes complicated during delivery assistance from others is also needed, and bipedalism has enabled people to come together to encourage survival of the species. Bipdedalism also encouraged mothers to hold their babies in front instead of carry them on the back, which may have increased social interaction.

Many theorists suggest that bipedalism evolved in order to secure human survival, as an "adaptation to help facilitate more efficient movement" and to help "find food sources located in more distant regions" (Leakey & Lewin, 1996: 88). This decisive evolutionary step for many also enabled greater dexterity and skill and allowed hominids at the time to engage in more laborious tasks, which also changed and altered behaviors.

Bipedalism did enable human beings to forage and move to larger and more expansive regions of the world. Bipedalism changed the way homosapiens interacted among each other and with other animals. Humans became a dominant species, capable of more efficient and speedy interactions and movement. Greater dexterity facilitated improved interaction and survival (Cronk, 1999). As humans were more mobile groups of hunters and gatherers would gather together to collect food and distribute food among kin, an important behavioral adaptation resulting from improved mobility.

Brain Size

Increasing developmental advances including bipedalism also favored other changes including an increasing brain size and a "smaller pelvis" (Smith & Winterhalder, 1992: 32). This made labor more difficult and perhaps made females more dependent on others for support (Barns-Holmes, Dymond & Roche, 2003). Infants were birthed earlier as their brain size increased to a point where it would be too large to birth if their gestation was longer; hence babies were born in a state where they must depend on the mother or parent for longer periods of time (Smith & Winterhalder, 1992: 32). This also influenced human behavior and social relations, encouraging more socialization, dependency and interaction among humans at the time.

The larger brain size did result in many behavioral changes, as humans began explaining their thoughts and actions and using speech to communicate and discover new aspects of the world. Human intellect continues to grow encouraging humans to act in ways that would provide the best benefits and to modify behavior in a way to promote optimal survival. Anthropologists have varied in their synopsis of the effects of increasing brain size on behavior. Some have hypothesized that increasing brain size led to more coordination between sensory-motor activities such as foraging, which in turn was reflected by humans adopting a more flexible feeding strategy that included tool development to "facilitate food acquisition" (Gibson, 1987: 64).

Still others suggest that increasing brain development and encouraged mankind to use other tools, namely to manipulate his social environment to meet survival needs. Studies suggest that humans were more likely to engage in social manipulation, form allegiances and work together in order to acquire what was needed (Rifkin, 1995). Alliances between groups or primates are indicative of mental sophistication. "Intra-group interactions" enabled alliances to form that provided competitive benefits among varying populations, so that selection of resources could be more easily accomplished (Rifkin, 1995:1).

Dunbar (1992) suggests that brain size directly correlates with social group size and humans ability to engage in cooperative interaction and manipulation; he also suggests that larger brain size has enabled humans to interact socially without disrupting one another in a manipulative or harmful way. Still others suggest that group living is only possible when members of the group share the ability to work cooperatively, share, barter and elicit favors from one another; a larger brain makes this possible as it facilitates social collaboration (Stanford, 1999).

Mankind also made many behavioral adaptations associated with increased brain capacity in the form of developmental strategies aimed at acquiring greater food sources, which are necessary to support a larger brain (Stanford, 1999). Increased social interaction and collaboration between groups also enabled better hunting and gathering for food resources and sharing of food resources.

Language Development

As human's brain size increased so too did humankind's ability to communicate with one another. Along with the evolution of the brain came developments in speech, which also fostered increasing communication and socialization. Many theorists view the brain's development as the single most important influence on human behavior and socialization, though others argue bipedalism was far more influential as it occurred first and homosapiens appeared to have small brains for a time even after they started walking (Leaky & Lewin, 1996).

Communication transformed our once hunting-gathering societies into societies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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