One of my favorite articles on this topic is David J. Ley’s ‘No, Dopamine is not addictive.’Which is published in Psychology Today. There are however deeper and more complex perils at play in the age of information.
The reason that I find the aforementioned article particularly salient is because it touches on something that I call ‘facility delusion.’ Which is a rather awkward way of codifying an even more unwieldy idea. Namely, that technical jargon and the perception that one has grasped some concrete knowledge leads one to dangerous overconfidence. In the case of dopamine, it reduces your range of solutions to your problems and causes you to misinterpret and diminish the struggles of others.
As the meme goes, ‘We live in a society!’ And that means lots of complex interactions from even more complicated beings. The temptation to simplify is understandable even necessary but oversimplification is just as obfuscating as ‘Inception’ style convolutedness.
Now on to a bigger, uglier, stinkier fish. Think Coelacanth, it’s fitting since this fish is actually Evo Psych.
Evolutionary psychology is like psychology itself a young and emerging field. Like its parent discipline, it relies on a heady combination of biological nostrums, social statistics, and Freudian speculation.
I happen to be somewhat infatuated with this sexy new idea. But just like the blonde in the littleblack dress it’s probably better to take things slow, with skepticism, and prophylactics.
Caution is rare, especially in romantic situations. Which is why so many courters of this cute little theory are a touch overeager.
Primarily I am talking about lay people of whom I am a number. I have seen some professional academics turned raconteurs get a bit carried away. But, the likes of Peterson and Gad Saad suffer more from overzealous audience members than from serious errors. Which is why I’ll be discussing popular conceptions of Evo Psych and the giddy cynics that it both attracts and manufactures.
Narrowing your range of options can be healthy. In fact, focusing on specific aspects of specific phenomenon in a specific way is pretty much how science works. However, relying too much on a particular lens can make you nearsighted.
As funny as it sounds, myopia, is exactly what I’ve been seeing. The popular imagination wants to feel smart, gritty, and down to earth. So, everything is seen in pseudo-Darwinian terms. Breaking things down to limbic forces forged in the crucible of a dog eat dog world gives us a cynicism boner. Dr. House is in! Now we’re armed with all we need to spit forth world-weary, sarcasm-tinged, wisdom to the bewildered herd. We can break their rose-colored glasses and reveal the truth in all its chaotic primordial fury!
That would be great if what we had was the truth. But sadly we don’t even have a very clear grasp of evolutionary psychology when we smugly opine about things like Sexual Market Value or ‘genetics.’
Evolutionary psychology is psychology that functions from the perspective of evolution. Assuming that evolution is true it uses the theory to explain neurology, general biology, and behavior.
Which is all well and good. The problem is not evo psych. It is Pop Evo Psych. The problem is that evo psych gives us insights into biological and behavioral mechanisms, it explains how those mechanisms arose, and why (Adaptation). It tells you that this is a car and that it functions so and so because it makes sense to function so and so, you are well adapted to be on roads etc. But it doesn’t tell what roads you are on.
The giddy cynics that I’m describing don’t realize this. Instead, everything is a comically oversimplified, edge lord-esque, set of ideas. You’re not depressed because your spouse cheated on you, your dog died, and your friends are listless idiots, you’re depressed because your mother was depressed. Your love interest isn’t a complicated barely scientifically understood entity that rejected you for mercurial reasons. No, your market value wasn’t high enough. Better hire a PR firm, preferably one sporting fuzzy hats and designer sunglasses.
The sexual market value idea has merit. Some of it can be supported via biology and evolutionary psychology. However, immediately jumping to it as the cause for your relationship woes is silly. Just because we have primordial urges, that it may be the engine that drives the car that we are, this does not mean it is the road we’re traveling on.
There’s a huge emergent world of complex phenomenon like philosophy, ethics, art, and culture that comprise the highway system of human existence.
So when you feel lost in your relationship, in your understanding of the world, if you’re depressed or anxious this can be a multitude of things. Most of which don’t have much to do with the fact that you’re low on some arbitrary totem pole or attracted to pithy inattentive men.
The world is not a sterile laboratory. The world is dirty and baroque.
Monochromatically chanting the muh genes, muh secks mantra will leave you bored and lost. No matter how slick you feel reducing everything to chimpanzee absurdity.
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