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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 5 family relations and cooperation,” (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992. p. 24) and that this programming is common to all members of our species. And, given this common architecture of the mind, one might expect to encounter great similarities across social groups in how human beings see and organize the world, and how they relate to others. In fact, one does. Brown’s Human Universals (1991) is summative of the body of anthropological and ethnographic work unearthing evidence of recurring surface psychological, behavioral and cultural practices and themes (see also Buss, 1994). Planning, promise, insulting, nouns, rhythm, and rites of passage are just a few of the 368 entries listed under Human Universals in the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences (Wilson & Keil, 1999). While evolutionary psychologists will readily admit that these themes are not necessarily the product of evolutionary adaptations, the fact that they appear common to all cultures or social groups across space and time, makes them good candidates for further investigation. Ultimately, these recurrent patterns are only confirmed to be the result of adaptations if it can be reasonably hypothesized that they are cognitive solutions to selection pressures faced by our hominid ancestors, if the characteristics that these solutions need to possess to overcome selection obstacles can be readily identified, and when experimental research confirms that humans have these specialized design features for survival and reproduction (Hagen, 2001); Krebs & Denton, 1997; for examples see Buss, 1989; Cosmides, 1989; see also Cosmides & Tooby, 1992 for review). As this body of work appears vulnerable to accusations of biological determinism, it is essential to stress that the environment figures prominently in evolutionary thought. First, it is a recurring environment that facilitates the development of all adaptations to begin with. Secondly, and especially in the case of human thought and behavior, natural selection would have favored flexible psychological adaptations capable of reading cues in the environment and acting in the direction of self-interest. As Pierce and White (1999) remind us, for evolutionary psychology, “the evolutionary invariant is at the level of psychological mechanism, not at the level of manifest behavior” (Evolutionary debates, par 2). In other words, the built-in ‘crib-sheets’ or “reasoning circuits […] about the nature of the world and human action” (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997, The standard social science model, par. 5) that humans share, are flexible algorithms designed to interact with the environment so as to maximize ‘fitness’ and allow for behavioral adjustment, given specific socio-ecological conditions. It must be stressed, however, that adjustment can only take place if it is regulated. A collection of highly specialized programs, “if simultaneously activated, deliver outputs that conflict with one another, interfering with or nullifying each other’s each others’ functional computations, and physiological states” (Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, An evolutionary psychological theory of emotions, par. 1). This poses a huge adaptive problem that can only be resolved through the development of superordinate programs, which act as subordinate program switches. The battery of emotions (e.g., fear, love, anger) that humans come

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
5
family relations and cooperation,” (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992. p. 24) and that this programming is
common to all members of our species. And, given this common architecture of the mind, one might
expect to encounter great similarities across social groups in how human beings see and organize the
world, and how they relate to others. In fact, one does. Brown’s Human Universals (1991) is summative
of the body of anthropological and ethnographic work unearthing evidence of recurring surface
psychological, behavioral and cultural practices and themes (see also Buss, 1994). Planning, promise,
insulting, nouns, rhythm, and rites of passage are just a few of the 368 entries listed under Human
Universals in the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences (Wilson & Keil, 1999). While evolutionary
psychologists will readily admit that these themes are not necessarily the product of evolutionary
adaptations, the fact that they appear common to all cultures or social groups across space and time,
makes them good candidates for further investigation. Ultimately, these recurrent patterns are only
confirmed to be the result of adaptations if it can be reasonably hypothesized that they are cognitive
solutions to selection pressures faced by our hominid ancestors, if the characteristics that these solutions
need to possess to overcome selection obstacles can be readily identified, and when experimental research
confirms that humans have these specialized design features for survival and reproduction (Hagen, 2001);
Krebs & Denton, 1997; for examples see Buss, 1989; Cosmides, 1989; see also Cosmides & Tooby, 1992
for review).
As this body of work appears vulnerable to accusations of biological determinism, it is essential
to stress that the environment figures prominently in evolutionary thought. First, it is a recurring
environment that facilitates the development of all adaptations to begin with. Secondly, and especially in
the case of human thought and behavior, natural selection would have favored flexible psychological
adaptations capable of reading cues in the environment and acting in the direction of self-interest. As
Pierce and White (1999) remind us, for evolutionary psychology, “the evolutionary invariant is at the
level of psychological mechanism, not at the level of manifest behavior” (Evolutionary debates, par 2). In
other words, the built-in ‘crib-sheets’ or “reasoning circuits […] about the nature of the world and human
action” (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997, The standard social science model, par. 5) that humans share, are
flexible algorithms designed to interact with the environment so as to maximize ‘fitness’ and allow for
behavioral adjustment, given specific socio-ecological conditions.
It must be stressed, however, that adjustment can only take place if it is regulated. A collection of
highly specialized programs, “if simultaneously activated, deliver outputs that conflict with one another,
interfering with or nullifying each other’s each others’ functional computations, and physiological states”
(Cosmides & Tooby, 2000, An evolutionary psychological theory of emotions, par. 1). This poses a huge
adaptive problem that can only be resolved through the development of superordinate programs, which
act as subordinate program switches. The battery of emotions (e.g., fear, love, anger) that humans come


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