Can practising compassion create lasting, physiological changes in your brain?
Is homosexuality really ‘against nature’?
And can an evolutionary understanding of our minds help explain, and offer solutions to many of the mental health problems we are facing today?
These are just some of the topics we’ll explore at ‘A Day on Evolutionary Psychology‘ at The Weekend University. In this series of talks, we’ll examine human psychology and behaviour through the lens of modern evolutionary theory.
You’ll leave with a clear understanding of how these evolutionary insights can improve your emotional intelligence in the modern world.
The only reason you’re here, reading this, is because there is an unbroken chain leading back from you to the origin of life itself. In nature, adaptations shaped by environments to solve the problems of survival and mating: Endless forms of beautiful complexity like echolocation, courtship dances, and lactation. For millions of years we’ve had to find food, find mates and take care of our children and for hundreds of thousands of years we’ve used language to communicate, made tools, formed societies and shared our cultural innovations. Evolutionary psychology sees the human mind as shaped by the problems we faced over and over again throughout our deep history. According to evolutionary psychologists nothing about human nature makes sense except in light of evolution.
The endless forms in the human mind include emotions, thought patterns, perceptions, and social interactions which can be discovered and examined by investigating their possible function in solving problems of survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychology has had a massive influence on the field of psychology and the public’s perception of the human mind. But, detractors also criticize evolutionary psychology for being biologically determinist, reactionary, and lacking falsifiability and scientific rigor. In this talk, I’ll introduce you to the field of evolutionary psychology, its foundational principles and methods as well as common misunderstandings, questions, and legitimate concerns.
Same-sex behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it is “against nature”. Indeed, selection favours those who leave more offspring. Nevertheless, homosexual behaviour is widespread – not only amongst humans, but other animals alike. Some may say that homosexual behaviour has been around forever but because of our more tolerant attitude, that’s why we’re hearing about it more often and that likely is the case. As a society, we are far more accepting of homosexual behaviour now, so much so sites like this Anal Dating site exist so people can seek pleasure from others like them.
Doesn’t this constitute a paradox for Darwinian theory? And should we make connections between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? The talk will address these controversial topics.
Volker Sommer, PhD is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London. His research interests focus on the evolution of human and primate social and sexual behaviour, cognition, rituals, biodiversity conservation, animal rights and evolutionary ethics. Even studying popular role play themes in humans such as making your own foxy lady have become a part of his fascinating research.
He serves on the boards of various journals and is the only scientist advising on both the “Section on Great Apes” and the “Section on Small Apes” of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Sommer has published several hundred articles – scientific as well as popular – and two dozens of books, including novels and poetry. He is a renowned science journalist in German-speaking countries, regularly featured by major magazines and newspapers.
Can an evolutionary understanding of our minds help explain, and offer solutions to many of the mental health problems we face today?
This talk, from the Founder of Compassion Focused Therapy and one of the world’s leading evolutionary psychologists, will explore how, by understanding the evolved nature of the human mind, and the importance of the social and cultural contexts in which it develops, it can help us better treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Particular attention will be given to the nature and difference between evolved motives (that guide us throughout life) emotions (that come and go according to the contexts in our lives) and competencies (our abilities to do certain things such as think reason and have empathy). It is the patterning of these different aspects of mind that give rise to different states of mind.
The talk will then go on to explore the rapidly developing evidence base for Compassion Focused Therapy, and how compassion, like anger or aggression, is an extremely powerful motivational force that can bring about real, lasting change .
You’ll learn how this groundbreaking form of therapy can help you be kinder both towards yourself and others, end toxic self criticism, heal trauma and shame, and improve your emotional wellbeing.
Professor Paul Gilbert, FBPsS, PhD, OBE is a British clinical psychologist, the founder of compassion focused therapy (CFT), compassionate mind training (CMT) and author of books such as The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges, Overcoming Depression.
He has researched evolutionary approaches to psychopathology for over 40 years with a special focus on the roles of mood, shame and self-criticism in various mental health difficulties for which Compassion Focused Therapy was developed. Professor Gilbert has written/edited 21 books and over 200 papers. In 2006 he established the Compassionate Mind Foundation as an international charity with the mission statement: “To promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion”.
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