I've been reading into EvoPsych of late and some things have occurred to me I'd like to discuss. They mostly concern the role of individuating from the pack as a prime motivator in our personal and collective evolutionary tracts. At the point in our develop as a species we are at, I do tend to think that it's individuality sets us apart from the rest of the animals.
Self-awareness seems to be the ultimate aspect of individuation, and what surely has led us to make the evolutionary advancements in cognition that we have. Moreover, I'd like to postulate that this, giving way to hierarchies, is what has made it possible for us to make improvements on tools rather than making the same old axe for centuries -- no matter how advanced.
Radically advanced is our language acquisition. This, too, I would postulate is a direct result of heightened individuation from our genus fellows. We need to know we are not another person in order to be able to communicate with that person; simple as.
So we have this two-pronged function of individuation and our incumbent individuality: hierarchical and communicative awareness -- self-awareness in the cerebral sense and intellectual function. So then the question becomes, what good is individuality to the entire race of we advanced hominids?
Well, firstly we have hierarchies in which more cerebral adepts can dictate to those who might not, as we say, cut the mustard. However, to become dictatorial or even autocratic requires strong adaptive language skills. The EEA (Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness) puts us naturally at odds with our fellows. In the very spirit of natural selection "only the strong survive" but what if stronger hominids were able to imbue their strength in weaker hominids? This is the blank slate, and the answer is in the chalk.
Those who can reckon can learn to communicate and those who can understand can learn mimicry. It is said that 'mimicry' can only be as such if the subject can improve on the original design. This does not mean we have everyone reckoning that E=MC^2 around the same time that Einstein did, but that we can be made to understand and learn by this.
Learning that we might be doing something less efficiently than we are now is the adaptedness we pose in the ability to learn so through not only example but communication.
Ever been talked down to? The very notion implies that there must be someone above us. The EEA must, then, have a number of entities of different levels of advancement sharing by way of both teaching and feedback/report. Having found our own value we recognize by having found the value in others -- gauging success and assigning merit creates hierarchies made explicable through language. We all know these things from having attended primary school.
The idea of individuality -- beyond stratification and egotism -- clearly places us in a continuum along which others might be more thinkers or more doers; the great unifying principle is that communication must be fluid between all parties involved. This would probably somewhat resemble the Bell Curve ('somewhat' at very least) but in our current society we learn to identify with uniqueness rather than our own potential.
That aforementioned qualm with our own egos tends to be responsible for many things, as far as I can see. Not the least of which are power-mongering, mental illness and even simple bravado. No one wants to be like the flock -- they'd rather be the shepherd -- but not all are as adept. Individuation gives way to individuality, gives way to envy.
We find ourselves then at odds with our EEA and then we effectively lose the plot. So having said all this, what is perhaps our next task to harbour before the next evolutionary cognitive leap? Perhaps to learn our places and not seek stratification? I'd say that's highly likely. Our emotions are far too privy to flights of fancy... and the media will never let us rest on our laurels, in this sense.
It's a tricky game to play, but as it was best put to me by a friend quoting Chuck Palahniuk in an appropriate situation: the things you own end up owning you. Is this a poll for anarchism? Perhaps. I, however, tend to like to think of it as a poll for working together rather than working for ourselves. As myriad of an issue as that might be.
I would be interested to find out if there's been any endeavours made in evolutionary neuroscience. Is there a such think as evolutionary neurology? Surely phenotypy dictates that there must at least have been some work done in evolutionary physiology. Anyone have anything to add?