The Sociobiological Perspective: Biological Versus Cultural Influences on Human Behavior

This chapter will begin with a brief historical description of the evolutionary perspective of social Darwinism, which was described briefly in Chaps. 1 and 3. It is important to emphasize that contemporary sociobiology differs substantially from the perspective of biological and cultural evolution represented by social Darwinism, even though it is also an evolutionary theory. One major difference is that sociobiology is based heavily on recent advances in scientific knowledge regarding genetics that go far beyond what was available in the early twentieth century. Its more sophisticated explanation of genetic variations helps account for a wider range of behavioral strategies that enable human beings to adapt to different types of environments. Moreover, the emphasis on underlying predispositions in contemporary sociobiology is not seen as causing specific behavior patterns in the strong sense. Instead, the way these predispositions are manifested may vary greatly for different people and will always reflect the strong influence of the social and cultural environment. In addition, contemporary sociobiology does not provide support for the unacceptable ideological implications that were developed from social Darwinism. Nevertheless, to show the contrast with contemporary sociobiology, some themes from social Darwinism and their ideological implications will be reviewed briefly.

Following our brief review of social Darwinism, the contemporary sociobiological perspective will be used in exploring the following areas:

  • Social emotions and the formation of social bonds

  • Reproductive behavior, sex roles, and parenting

  • Cooperation and altruism among kin and ingroup members

  • Competition and conflict in relations within and between groups

  • Religion, morality, and hope

  • Cultural evolution


Genetic Code Cultural Evolution Behavioral Predisposition Dominance Hierarchy Sexual Attraction 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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