HARDWIRED IS HUMAN BEHAVIOR?
RESPONSE & REACTION TO: NIGEL NICHOLSON “HOW HARDWIRED IS HUMAN BEHAVIOR”
The work of Nigel Nicholson entitled: “How Hardwired is Human Behavior” relates that management in organizations have attempted to rid their organization of politics, hierarchies and rivalry within the organization but that these efforts have failed. Nicholson relates that according to evolutionary psychologists the failure is due to management working against human nature or human emotional and behavioral hardwiring that has been inherited from human ancestors. According to Nicholson evolutionary psychology is a discipline that is still emerging in nature however it is the strong connection of evolutionary psychology and the theory of natural selection that has been the source of great debate. Evolution psychology holds that human ancestors needed these human instincts in order to survive in what were highly unpredictable circumstances and that as time progressed humans became predisposed to gossip and that this was integrated into the mental programming of the human mind.
The work of Tancredi (2005) states that the fact that “morality in humans evolved from other primates and depends on the brain for universality and stability does not negate the importance of social forces in its creation, or the role of ‘free will’ in its execution.” (p.8) According to Tancredi “recent neuroscience discoveries are adding twists to this equation.” (p.9) Tancredi writes that in time brain biology as it is related to specific moral precepts will be “in time…seen as originating to some degree, in biology.” (Tancredi, 2005, p.9) This is precisely what Nicholson states in his work and specifically that the understanding of evolutionary psychology assists management through making provision of a “new and provocative way to think about human nature…” And further in offering “a framework for understanding why people tend to act as they do in organizational settings.” (p.3) Or stated otherwise evolutionary psychology, “in identifying the aspects of human behavior that are inborn and universal can explain some familiar patterns.” (Nicholson, p. 3) This helps to describe how great parents have children that despite the proper upbringing exhibit problematic behavior and even criminal behavior. Nicholson states that the central tenet of evolutionary psychology is that humans to this day retain “the mentality of their Stone Age forebears” and that this “gathers its strength from six convergent sources of scientific research” which are those of: (1) anthropology; (2) behavioral genetics; (3) comparative ethnology; (4) Neuropsychology; (5) Paleontology; and (6) social psychology. The work of Benderly (2000) in a review of the work of Clark and Grunstein states that humans are not hardwired and states that biologists Clark and Grunstein demonstrate in their review of what biology understands concerning the relationship between genetics and biological systems involved in behavior that “the things that people do hardly ever arise directly from the promptings of their DNA.” (p.1)
In the work of Terry Ryan which is a review of Nicholson’s work it is stated that particularly interesting is the description of Nicholson of “the evidence for new models of management that the scientific discipline of evolutionary psychology is now offering business.” (ND, p.1) Ryan notes that evolutionary psychology with its roots “in a convergence of findings from fields as diverse as anthropology and neuropsychology, and a number of its findings are controversial.” (ND, p.1) According to Ryan the human brain is an “evolved system” and one that is organized “to an underlying evolutionary logic.” (ND, p.1) It is the claim of evolutionary psychologists that “the human brain has not changed” and furthermore, that it has not been “under any evolutionary pressure to do so — in any significant way over the past 100,000 years, and therefore, modern man maintains the ‘mind’ of his Stone Age ancestors.” (ND, p.1)
Lynch (2004) author of ‘The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science is Changing Our World” states that “emotions and feelings are mediated by distinct neural systems. Whereas emotions are automatic responses to stimuli, feelings are ‘private, subjective experiences’ that emerge from the cognitive processing of an emotion eliciting state.”(p.1) Therefore, it can be understood that indeed human brains are to some extent hardwired however, the individual’s cognitive processing capacity has a great deal to do with how the individuals reacts to specific stimuli.
The work published in the ‘Brain Mysteries’ publication (2008) states that human imaging studies “have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health.” (Brain Mysteries, 2008) Specifically it is stated that findings show that “different brain activities are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order — or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors.” (Brain Mysteries, 2008) In fact, it related that NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. stated that “Our position in social hierarchies strongly influences motivation as well as physical and mental health. This first glimpse into how the brain processes that information advances our understanding of an important factor that can impact public health.” (Brain Mysteries, 2008)
These discoveries have important implications for today’s management within organizations however, it is simultaneously important to understand that while the human brain is to a great extent hard-wired that as stated by Nicholson “people are complex and many-sided” and it would be impractical and illogical to attempt to classify individuals based upon this hardwiring alone or to attempt to predict the actions or reactions of a group of human beings upon the basis of hard-wiring of the human brain.
Clark, William R. & Grunstein, Michael. Are We Hardwired?: The Role of Genes in Human Behavior. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000.
Benderly, B.L. Are We Hardwired? The Role of Genes in Human Behavior. Genome News Network. 2000 Nov 3. Online available at: http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/11_00/Hardwired_review.php
Tancredi, L. Hardwired Behavior. What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality. 2005. Cambridge University Press. Online available at: http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/60017/sample/9780521860017ws.pdf
Ryan, Terry. Review: How Hardwired is Human Behavior? The 21st Century Learning Initiative. Online available at: http://www.21learn.org/archive/articles/ryan_nicholson.php
Lynch, Zack. Brain Waves. Corante 22 Feb 2004. Online available at: http://brainwaves.corante.com/archives/2004/02/22/empathy_is_a_hardwired_feeling.php
Human Brain Appears ‘Hard-Wired’ for Hierarchy.” Brain Mysteries. 26 Apr 2008. Online available at: http://www.brainmysteries.com/research/Human_brain_appears_hard-wired_for_hierarchy.asp
Nicholson, Nigel (1998) How Hardwired is Human Behavior? Little Rooster Liquors.
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