Jul 15, 2019 in Psychology


The present paper is devoted to the evolutionary theory of conflict that is presented via developing a specific culture on the basis of the analysis of such psychological mechanisms as general intelligence and explicit processing mechanisms. General intelligence implies construction of the tools and various technological exemplars based on the capacity to ensure means-end reasoning and engendering of hypothetical scenarios, while explicit processing mechanisms include using symbols in representations of the surrounding world. The latter enables the people to do modular mechanisms regulation taking into account the norms and payoff schedules (cost-benefit) accepted under the conditions of a certain culture. Culture construction causes conflicts since there is a wide range of interpretations of benefits and costs in the framework of a certain culture. Explicit processing enables general cultural categories of social ideology and control, which can determine the motivation and regulation of a person’s behavior in the framework of a certain historical context but contradict with the developed predispositions. The concepts of ideology and social control are self-reliant in the logical and physiological theory, although they are frequently considered to be related. The existing social controls are rationalized by ideologies, which in their turn also obtain benefits from the ability of social control to ensure the ideological conformity at educational establishments and religious institutions. The present theory envisages severe conflicts and controversy over culture because of the explicit processing monitoring of the behavior of an individual. There are numerous topics for discussion related to the culture construction. They are co-evolution of gene culture, transmission of the culture, the nature of competing interests (conflict of interest) and models of selecting groups. 

Evolutionary Psychology


The paper is aimed at presenting and analyzing the conflict theory for certain human culture aspects. There were several culture theories which are devoted to the specific conditions for evolvement of peculiar norm. Boyd and Richerson focused on the conditions for a reciprocity norm, while other researchers worked on norms of altruistic punishment. Other authors devoted their researches to peculiar culture patterns developed as a result of imitation process. 


Some theories are based on the idea of constructing a certain culture associated with the generation conflicts. This problem is closely related to the control over the behavior of people in the societies at high level of economy. Those researches which focus on the conflicts in the framework of a society take into consideration the main evolutionary ideas. In case there is no genetic identity, the conflict of interests is peculiar to all living organisms; consequently, culture construction cannot be accomplished without the conflicts of interests either. Furthermore, the conflict of interests among the people over the culture construction was mainly caused by the explicit processing. Therefore, it is essential to specify the intensity of the effect the cultural conflict may have on the biological fitness. In case the idea is presented from this angle, the relationships between the human interests from the perspective of theory of evolution are considered in their contradiction to those which are caused by explicit processing. 


Marxism and other culture theories based on the principle of non-evolution are also applied for analyzing the conflict theory of culture. According to Marxist views, the economically prevailing classes try to serve their own interests via the culture they construct. The conflict theory of culture under research is also related to the cases of conflicts in the society over various issues in the framework of culture; for instance, there are conflicts over praying in public schools, evolution, or regulation over the media coverage of controversial and violent issues within the bodies of legislation. 


The concept of culture was defined in various ways; the paper uses the definition of culture offered within the evolutionary theory. Culture can be interpreted as peculiar information which can influence the behavior of people acquired through different types of social transmission, including imitating and teaching practice, from other representatives of the same species. Other evolutionists provide similar definitions of culture, since they also highlight relevance of the culture characteristics to other members of the group. Moreover, they emphasize representation of that information in the minds of people and its expression in peculiar interactions and behavior. The paper pays special attention to the mechanisms of culture development to provide thorough analysis of the types of transmitted information and the effect it may cause, in particular the effect of control over the behavior of people. 


The concept of social learning is emphasized in various evolutionary culture models owing to their focus on cultural transmission, while the culture production is disregarded. Richerson and Boyd research on the culture production accomplished using operant conditioning with subsequent transmission of the culture via the process of social learning. Other researchers express the idea of modular mechanisms of culture production, which are specific for certain domains and adapt psychologically depending on the specific local character. Sperber and Hirschfeld demonstrate how the cultural variations are caused by meeting of the artificial input specific for the culture the module requirement specific for peculiar domains. It means that the module of biological species can increase from only those animals which were seen personally to those which are extinct or imaginary. Furthermore, an image of a certain bird or animal may be resulted from social communication; for example a dog as a loyal domestic animal.  


The present paper elaborates on the cultural production mechanisms and presents the idea that explicit processing and general intelligence are the major psychological tools needed for understanding the cultural conflicts and behavior control exercised by them in the leading societies. Explicit processing implies the capacity of people to ensure regulation of the modular schemes associated with sexuality, ethnocentrism, aggression, and other concepts depending on the norms and payoff schedules (cost/benefit) developed in the framework of a particular culture. Furthermore, due to explicit processing it is possible to interpret the costs, benefits and their various cultural alternative variants and subsequently, to motivate the human behavior which is capable of affecting the culture. Consequently, the culture theory implies that people deliberately act as creative producers of culture, which in its turn is supposed to serve their needs and interests. 


In addition, owing to explicit processing, it is possible to distinguish social control attributed only to humans, for example legal systems or bureaucracies. Besides, the theory gives rise to the idea of political or religious ideology that is capable of behavior regulating in the framework of a certain context even if it contradicts with human psychology. There is a heated discussion over the characteristic features of cultural transmission, group selection and conflicts of interests within the culture construction process. 

Psychological aspects of culture generation

No other culture can be compared to the one constructed by humans. A huge amount of cultural artifacts comprises a wide collection of various innovations which would never appear on the basis of the animal mechanisms of culture building (classical and operant conditioning). Furthermore, according to the theory of cultural conflicts, people can affect culture deliberately making plans. It happens when they promote certain parties during the election period or when they advertise various services and products to potential buyers. Besides, people can produce explicit theories of potential benefits and expenditures related to certain forms of culture and then behave in accordance with them. 


As per evolutionary theory of culture, there is a chance that culture generation depends on the general intelligence. Research demonstrates that it is the difference in intelligence between different people that determines the capacity of accomplishing goals if the already acquired knowledge is not significant. Horn and Hofer define the fluid intelligence as the capacities of reasoning applied to heuristics, strategies and automated systems, which may be applied to resolving of new problems, establishing and developing relations, and solving the tasks of conjunctive, deductive, and inductive types of reasoning. The level of intelligence determines the problem-solving efficiency when the previous experience cannot be useful, although it may appear helpful while doing induction and analogy to the present situation. 


Intelligence is ascribed with a number of executive functions, one of which is managing goals while resolving the new problems. This process implies designing, executing and implementing a certain mental action plan aimed to resolve a new problem. Carpenter et al. cites the example of the Tower of Hanoi problem in which a group is supposed to stack rings in a certain manner according to their developed plan. Effective problem-solving here requires activation of numerous sub-goals of a participant to satisfy each of them. 


Cultural artifacts are produced in real life with the help of goal visualization and means-end reasoning. A vivid example is when a seasonal hunter is supposed to fancy effective means for preserving the hunted fish and meat aimed for the seasons when they cannot hunt for certain reasons. Thus, hunters imagine the future absence of food and hunger and this time travel in their mind influences their present behavior. According to Bischof-Köhler hypothesis, no other species except humans can exercise mind time travel or predict the future demands and needs. Animals have only the present-time needs without any anticipation of the future; however, there was an observation of a chimpanzee that anticipated agitation and joy of the future activity and collected stones to throw at the visitors at the zoo. 


The mentioned time travel in the mind of humans demands having the ability to perform executive function. Hunters are supposed to store the food for the future being aware that the process requires efforts and it would not be as delicious as it is now. Therefore, the executive functions imply the following factors: suppression of the desire to consume the food or waste it without any delay (inhibition of response), thinking of effective ways to store food for the future (preparation of response), and the ability to achieve the goal (preservation of food) via integrating the action across the time. Besides, the hunters are supposed to be able to obtain information from different sources, use the working memory and combine the data they have to do problem-solving.


One more factor that is required for human culture construction is the ability of analogical reasoning that is associated with general intelligence. According to Chiappe and MacDonald, it enables a person to draw parallels between the problems which have just appeared and those which have already been experienced in the past. Analogical reasoning takes away the irrelevant characteristics of the problem to concentrate on the common features and rules of abstraction, being based on the knowledge transference across the conceptual domains. An analogue can be used if all the properties of a concept are in the state of activity; thus, the working memory with its executive processes is involved and there is active search for similar features between the existing domains. It should be mentioned that it is essential to implement control over the distracting characteristics of the mentioned domains. It may happen that one abstract concept can undergo expansion; a parallel can be drawn between the water, sound and light waves. Glucksberg stated that the new produced category can be even more abstract than that which served as a source. 


It is not difficult to determine the major implication for the culture theory. Humans have the ability to invent various scenarios and think of absolutely new creative solutions to the problems using the alternative scenarios if needed. Moreover, they have the ability to apply analogical reasoning to ensure efficient problem solving. The presented creative process results in producing new categories of culture and artifacts that are supposed to facilitate problem solving. 

Explicit processing

The study on explicit processing has a narrower scale than that of above-mentioned general intelligence. There are two types of processing: explicit and implicit, which have a number of differences. Implicit processing can be defined as a relatively quick and easy automatic process which implies parallel procession of huge amounts of acquired data. Implicit processing initially was presented by evolutionary psychologists. It is characteristic to modules that can be defined as mechanisms with special functions which provide automatic responses to the information relevant to domains. When a human faces a challenging long-existing problem presented by the environment and sees the cues applicable for resolving the problem, the most efficient solution implies evolving the modules suitable for generating certain solutions and handing special inputs. Zeki stated that the visual system, both humans and monkeys have, comprises multiple zones specifically suitable for responses to various stimulation by the environment, for instance the cells which are sensitive to motion. There is a wide range of modules described by the evolutionary psychologists, in particular the mind theory, social exchange modules, grammar learning modules, fear modules, etc. 


There is a vivid contrast between implicit and explicit types of processing. The latter can be defined as a relatively slow conscious process of serial processing of insignificant amount of data, which can be controlled. The general intelligence mechanisms presented above involve explicit processing in its operation, for example in time travel in mind, planning for future off-nominal situations or development of hypothetical scripts. It can use linguistic capacities to ensure the production of explicit context representation, in particular hypothetical ideas of potential effects of certain behavior patterns.   


Explicit processing is characterized with the possibility of being under monitoring and control; this evolutionary development is relatively new. Researchers attribute it only to human species. The center of explicit processing is in the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, it is located at the peak if hierarchical process which ensures the possibility to exercise behavior control from top downwards. The primate evolution tendency implied diminishing of the significance of module parallel processing in which the connections between individual neurons widely diverged and converged. Instead of that kind of processing, the hierarchical serial design got intensive promotion. It implies behavior control from top downwards and attempts to do the matching of behavior patterns to the intentions of people.


One of the most crucial aspects of evolutionary culture theory is the ability of explicit processing to ensure at least partial control and regulation subject to the individual characteristics of personalities related to conscientiousness and deliberate control. It should be noted that research in the sphere of intelligence also determines the availability of the same phenomenon. Heuristic automatic processing can be under control; people make decisions on the basis of explicit processing. It is challenging to ensure control over heuristic processing; therefore, resources of the working memory and attention are involved to a great extent to guarantee that the process of problem solving is under deliberate control. 


Those people who have better rates of general intelligence are more efficient at ensuring selective control over automatic heuristic processing within the social context. In case of providing abstract tasks, the percentage of logical and correct responses is higher among the people with higher rate of general intelligence. Provided that the problem is presented and interpreted as related to social exchange and interaction, the majority of respondents give correct answers, while the assignments with abstract notions require higher IQ and general intelligence. Those who provide correct responses are supposed to control automatic responses which are incorrect, although they are the first that come to the mind due to some false linguistic similar features. 


Likewise, drawing conclusions from a syllogism if the premises are false can be challenging since it implies developing mental counterfactual models. In addition, it makes a person inhibit their natural tendency to think concretely. Even in case the problem is new and formal, and there is no solution which would not be a content-free rule, there is a tendency to use the prior experience and knowledge to ensure contextualization of a problem. The process of explicit solving of the problems applies those mental models which use the information and corresponding images or language presented explicitly. There are two types of reasoning: everyday reasoning is concrete and socially-related that depends on the context; logical reasoning is aimed at looking for abstract regulations and laws as well as producing the knowledge in the field of mathematics and science in the framework of the culture. 


Implicit processing is under the control of explicit type. It does not only cover those problems which are related to research in the sphere of intelligence, but also ensures control over behavior and inner feelings using the accepted social norms and other cultural possibilities in their explicit introduction. Those assumptions can be explained in the following way. Various regularities in evolution cause different affective states and provoke certain actions. For instance, the affective state of anxiety and fear can be cause by multiple natural reasons such as heights, spiders (those reasons are referred to as evolutionary dangers), shouts, noises (referred to as intense stimulation), being alone in a dark room, strangers on the street (referred to as social situations), which serve as recurrent cues to hazards. According to evolutionary theory of fear, those affective states can be referred to as the effects of implicit processing or emotional reflexes. 

It is important to note that explicit processing mechanisms can exercise deliberate control over those emotional reflexes. The explicit processing inputs comprise a great variety of non-recurrent information. It means that the information is obtained from explicit appraisal of benefits and costs in contrast to that which comes from evolutionary regularities as it happens in case of applying the modular prototypical mechanisms studied by evolutionary psychologists. Being sensitive to all changes in the specific cultural context, the explicit appraisal is based on context representation different from the recurrent contexts over the time of evolution. 


According to the above mentioned information, general intelligence is closely related to the ability to ensure control over the heuristic automatic processing. According to Geary, this ability implies the development of new mental models of potential and hypothetical situations instead of referring to the experience and previous knowledge. The behavior of socio affective nature is under deliberate control when the mental models comprise explicit representing of the cost and benefit of this type of behavior, and their is a prototypical conflict between symbolic representation of the surrounding world (being informed about all norms and laws related to improper attitude to people of other races) and the output of implicit processing of socio affective nature (negative attitude towards people of other races). Symbolic representation is changing all the time since there are numerous technological and scientific discoveries, innovations and advances, the customs and laws may be amended, and the typical beliefs, ideas and attitudes may change from time to time. 


The provided explanation implies that behavior can be controlled by the cultural representations in case they are represented explicitly and formatted linguistically in the corresponding way. There is a vivid example of a strong psychological conflict between desire to take the visible food and fear to be killed by predators in the area where it is dangerous to reach for food. This conflict of fear versus hunger is easily resolved by the animal species by taking part in competitive struggle that implicitly directs the action tendencies. According to Goetz and Walters, it is a typical ethological account in which the relative strength of the approach signal and system of avoidance are comparatively equal. People resolve the existing problem in a different manner. The conflict is resolved under the effect of the context explicit appraisal. The humans first think over numerous questions which arise when the conflict appears. They try to determine whether it is possible to exercise control over the predators or even eradicate them with the help of some devices or technological advances. They consider whether this kind of food is good for eating and whether it is allowed to consume in accordance with the religious laws. They try to remember if there are any legal prohibitions of harvesting exactly this type of crops. It is important for them to know whether getting the desired food would threaten them with being fined or sentenced. Thus, the conflict for a human appears as a result of module conflicting signals; however, there are other factors that influence the conflict and it turns into a conflict between the module output and context symbolic representation. 


In contrast to the evolved modules, the mentioned symbolic representations of the context do not represent an adaptation recurrence in the environment over the period of evolution. There are no limitations or constraints caused by natural selection which could affect the symbolic representations of the context. Tooby and Cosmides as well as other evolutionary psychologists mention the formal demand for certain adaptation; for instance, if the symbolic representation does not allow taking the food for certain religious reasons or legal considerations, it does not mean that it is adaptation caused by environmental regularities over the time of evolution. 


The cost and benefit explicit assessment does not need to be adaptive or true. The cited example with food proves that religious beliefs held explicitly can cause a particular type of behavior even if that belies is wrong. Religious beliefs can be regarded as manifestly maladaptive or evolutionarily adaptive. MacDonald provided thorough analysis of the relationship between the implicit processing and explicit evaluation of the context as related to the states of ethnocentrism and aggression. 


Evolutionary regularities can cause certain affective states which make people feel aggressive. The evolutionary theory of aggression, presented by Buss, focuses on the evolutionary regularities in the mating context. According to this theory, they result in causing the affective cues of anger and sexual jealousy which may lead to aggression between the romantic rivals. The origination of aggression can be also affected by explicit assessment of the cultural context at the wide scale taking into consideration the explicit evaluation possible of those benefits and costs that an act of aggression may have. Its consequences may include fines, penalties, arrest, detention, or other measure taken on the basis of evidence obtained from  security cameras or peculiar forensic technologies.


Those individuals who have the ability to exercise effortful control at the sufficient level manage to take control over their state of aggressiveness without any impulsive actions. Reflective and thoughtful manner of handling those situations is the most efficient. Research shows that the enfeebled prefrontal control over subcortical areas resulted in aggression among the impulsive murderers. A combination of prefrontal functioning and high levels of subcortical activity is typical among those predatory murderers who committed crimes after deliberate planning. Those observations serve as the proof for the hypothesis that the actions of impulsive murderers are unplanned and emotional since their inability to ensure control and regulation over the aggression impulses is caused by deficient prefrontal regulation and special subcortical structures. Another research demonstrates that if murderers are non-impulsive, they make decisions taking into consideration a wide range of costs and benefits generated symbolically. Only then they decide whether they will commit the crimes. 


The costs and benefits figured up in the explicit manner result from the explicit evaluation of the specific cultural context, being not recurrent over the period of evolution. Moreover, they produce the mental models of potential effects on the behavior patterns. Such a criminal is supposed to be well aware of numerous technological advancements which can facilitate the detection (DNA fingerprinting, etc.). Since the technological progress is a continuous process and criminal punishment and detection methods, as well as the corresponding cultural environment are changing, only explicit processing mechanisms can assist in their appraisal. 


MacDonald claimed that there is a common tendency to have implicit hostility or negative attitude to representatives of other ethnic groups or races. According to social psychology in its standard form, such an attitude can result from the learned associations or such evolutionary adaptations as social identity. Whatever reason for the negative attitude is, the goals represented explicitly can assist the person in controlling the implicit feelings towards representatives of other racial backgrounds. 


According to the results of research conducted by Cunningham et al., the black subjects had a weaker amygdalar or subcortical response to the photos of whites than vice versa provided that the subjects saw the images only during a limited period of time. The chosen time for display, 30 msec, was not sufficient for explicit representation in the prefrontal area. However, a more prolonged display of the same photos that lasted for 525msec was sufficient for representation in the prefrontal area; thus, the results were different. There was a decrease in the difference in reaction to the photos between whites and blacks. Activation of prefrontal area caused considerable changes. The obtained results enabled the researchers to make the conclusion that automated processing may cause the actions which are moderated with explicit controlled processing. 


Explicit processing activates the mechanisms of prefrontal control which get an essential input from the awareness of ethnocentrism explicit cultural norms and acquired information about the fines for norm violation. Those white individuals, who are aware of the existence of racial egalitarianism cultural norms and the measures taken to punish people who violate those norms, attempt to adhere to the accepted personal and cultural norms. They do not let themselves show their inner desire to display disrespect. 


The time for response is prolonged if the explicit details concerning the automatic stereotypical reaction of the subject do not coincide with the inner attitude. The subject takes more time to respond as it is time-consuming to attempt to provide the response which would correspond to the explicit attitude. In case the subjects have strong prejudice towards other ethnical or racial groups, it is cognitively challenging for them to ensure explicit control over their implicit biases and implicit processing. Besides, implicit biases of white subjects raise the intensity of the related cognitive distractions. The results of the study demonstrate that controlled processing resources are used by those people who have intense implicit biases to fight the stereotypical view and manage the negative attitude. However, it is important to note that this process applies to using cognitive resources. 


To sum up, the present analysis focused on a burning issue of psychological peculiarities of culture demonstrates the sophistication and complexity of the matter, covering the major aspects of reasoning of the means-end and analogical types, mental models development, and conflicts between the types of processing (explicit/implicit). The idea of the paper, that is compatible with considering culture as an independent evolution force, matches the evolutionary culture model. Indeterminacy is defined in the research as the main implication. Being based on improvisation and creativity, explicit processing is not determined by the mechanisms of universal psychology which interact with ecological contingencies. On the contrast, being a part of human intelligence, it plays an active role in regulating the evolved modular predispositions. Explicit processing has its creative productions in the form of mental models of hypothetical events in the future and analogical reasoning. Those products frequently cause the appearance of new artifacts which can resolve the old reproduction and survival problems from another angle using absolutely new methods. Furthermore, they can be applied for creativity in music or poetry. The analyzed mechanisms are used for representing the work of artistic imagination so that the artists could create the imaginary landscapes, events, people, whole worlds and relationships. Finally, culture construction is possible also due to explicit processing and its active tries to correspond to the possible costs and benefits according to the explicit perception of them. 



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