Evolutionary psychologist Ed Hagen talks about the evolutionary basis of anxiety and depression, explaining that depression is a response to adversity that can signal to others that help is needed, while anxiety is a response to uncertainty that helps individuals anticipate threat and take precautionary measures. Hagen discusses the sex differences in depression rates, suggesting that depression may be more prevalent in physically weaker individuals, as upper body strength is associated with resolving social conflicts in one’s favor and thus reducing the likelihood of depression.
Additionally, Hagen explains how postpartum depression is a cue that a mother lacks social support, and how symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation are signals that something is wrong and help is needed. Finally, Hagen emphasizes the importance of empirical testing in evolutionary psychology, citing the example of music and dance as possible adaptations that evolved to allow for social bonding and tribal cohesion.
Ed Hagen further explains that music might have originated as a way to signal to potential allies that one’s group is a high-quality coalition. This hypothesis suggests that engaging in activities that increase biological fitness, like mastering music and sending such signals, creates a psychological state change that makes us feel good and encourages us to continue engaging in these activities that benefit us and our group. Therefore, Hagen proposes that music may have evolved to serve a social function, explaining why it has persisted in human societies throughout history.
You can learn more about Ed Hagen HERE.
In this section, the guest speaker explains that their hypothesis was that the sex difference in depression is really a strength difference, not a sex difference. When they controlled for upper body strength, the sex difference in depression diminished and actually went away in some of their analyzes, suggesting that once you control for the differences in strength between the sexes, there is no longer a sex difference in depression. They found that stronger people are less likely to become depressed, and physically weaker people are more likely to be depressed. Additionally, the guest speaker explains the evidence that suggests depression is caused by adversity, and that depression should be understood through an evolutionarily adaptive lens, as it is a reaction to adversity and is an extreme form of sadness or psychic pain. In the same way, physical pain is a signal that something that could harm your biological fitness is happening, and depression is a signal that something wrong is happening in your social context, causing harm to one’s biological fitness.
spotted something that would have prevented his death. In this section, Ed Hagen discusses the evolutionary explanation for why depression may cause individuals to act the way they do, including symptoms such as low energy, lack of motivation, and even anti-social behavior. He suggests that depression may be a coping mechanism for psychological pain caused by adversity that is not easily fixed, requiring individuals to shift their cognitive resources to think through problems. Hagen argues that rumination is a major component of depression and that individuals may need to take time to themselves to figure out how to address the situation that caused the adversity.
In this section of the video, evolutionary psychologist Ed Hagen discusses how depression and anxiety may serve a functional purpose in signaling to others that help is needed. He uses the example of his mother’s depression after his father’s death, which led her to become hyper-aware of potential health issues in her family members. Although her depression did not bring her husband back, it potentially helped her notice health problems and save her son’s life by pushing him to get a colonoscopy. Hagen also notes that depression and physical pain both require help from others, and that the physical manifestations of depression, such as facial expressions, may serve as signals to others that help is needed.
In this section, the speaker discusses the sex differences in depression rates, stating that women are about twice as likely to experience depression as men. While there have been many theories about why this is, one factor that he highlights is that depression is intertwined with social conflict and anger, both of which are common triggers for depression. Additionally, the speaker’s research group found that the sex difference in depression rates is, in fact, a strength difference, rather than a sex difference, and that once the difference in upper body strength is controlled for, there is no longer a sex difference in depression rates. Lastly, while physical exercise has been shown to help with depression, the direction of causation is still not fully understood.
In this section, Ed Hagen discusses the relationship between upper body strength and depression. He explains that hand grip strength is a good indicator of upper body strength, which is in turn associated with prevailing in physical fights. Social conflicts, which are intertwined with depression, can be resolved in the favor of those with greater upper body strength, and therefore they are less likely to become depressed. However, this association is not necessarily about having to engage in physical fights, but about being more likely to prevail in conflicts, leading to better outcomes. Hagen also talks about the gender differences in suicide rates, with men being more successful in their attempts due to their extra degree of lethality and strength, while women attempt suicide at a higher rate.
In this section, Ed Hagen discusses the phenomenon of suicide attempts and argues that the phenomenon of interest is the attempt, not the success. He explains that the suicide deaths are unintended and accidental consequences of making an attempt to signal that you are in need and have suffered adversity. Hagen suggests that suicidal behavior is a credible signal of need that can convince skeptical social partners that a person genuinely needs their help. He explains that the suicide attempt is a behavior that is often private and difficult to prove, and there is a conflict of interest between the signal sender and receiver. Therefore, suicidal behavior can be an honest signal of need. Hagen suggests that the sex difference in suicide may be cultural, as men are more likely to use guns.
In this section, Ed Hagen discusses the potential benefits of convincing social partners of the truthfulness of a young woman’s sexual harassment or abuse claim, outweighing the potential risks, such as suicide, associated with coming forward. Hagen notes that due to the physical formidability difference between men and women, a young woman may not have the ability to stop her abuser by herself, needing help from social partners. The discussion of suicidal behaviors in the ethnographic record reveals that cases are predominately female, but it is not clear if men ancestrally took riskier forms of suicidal behavior. However, if this were true, it could be attributed to an evolutionary mismatch between the tools that men have now, making them more successful at suicide attempts.
In this section, evolutionary psychologist Ed Hagen discusses the onset of depression and suicidal tendencies and how they occur when individuals transition from the juvenile to adult reproductive phase of life, during intense mating and resource competition. While the suicidal behavior becomes less frequent as people age, the risk of successful suicide completions increases. Hagen notes that there is no clear explanation as to why older individuals engage in riskier behaviors, but suggests that it could be a combination of needing to engage in costlier signals to convince others to provide help, especially as aging individuals become more physically vulnerable to other causes of mortality. Finally, he mentions that there is no clear link between suicide and intelligence.
In this section, evolutionary psychologist Ed Hagen discusses the concept of within-species variation in intelligence and highlights the lack of a good proxy to measure it. He then dives into his research on postpartum depression, which he sees as a cue that a new mother is lacking social support, a crucial factor in the cooperative breeding system of humans’ ancestors. The lack of this support triggers psychic pain to help the mother start thinking about ways to get the required support and care for the newborn. The absence of social support could imply a tough environment, where viability of the offspring is uncertain, leading to postpartum depression as an adaptive mechanism to prevent harm to the child.
In this section, Hagen discusses postpartum depression and how it is a signal to others that a mother needs extra help in raising a baby. Hagen argues that a lot of the symptoms of postpartum depression arise because mothers do not get the help they need from family or society. Mothers should use costly signals to convince people that they are genuinely in need of help, as not getting help may negatively impact the health and fitness of the child. Moreover, Hagen discusses how suicidal ideation and depression can be seen as signals that something is wrong and that help is needed. Hagen also explains how evolutionary psychology is not racist, as the discipline argues that all humans share unique cognitive abilities due to the brain expansion that occurred when humans were still in Africa- thousands of years before the emergence of race.
In this section, the speaker discusses the idea of population differences in intelligence and how it is a controversial topic. He argues that while there are physiological differences between populations, any psychological differences are likely to be very minor. However, he acknowledges that there are some who are interested in exploring the possibility of psychological differences between populations, despite it not being a part of mainstream evolutionary psychology. He cautions against using a National IQ database to draw conclusions, as the data is extremely problematic and unreliable. The speaker also defends the use of Just So Stories in evolutionary psychology, but emphasizes the need to test these stories with empirical research. He cites the example of the hypothesis that mating preferences might vary across menstrual cycles, which failed to pan out in research.
In this section, Ed Hagen discusses the importance of empirical testing in science, and how many theories fail to get support in the long run. He then moves on to discuss his research regarding the evolutionary nature of music and dance, which he believes can be explained by the concept of precise synchronization as a signal of coalition quality. By practicing and performing music together, individuals can demonstrate their willingness to cooperate and work together effectively, making it a possible adaptation that evolved to allow for tribal cohesion and social bonding.
In this section, Ed Hagen argues that music might have originated as a way to signal to potential allies that one’s group is a high-quality coalition worth allying with. Engaging in activities that increase biological fitness, like mastering music and sending such signals, creates a psychological state change that makes us feel good. This encourages us to continue engaging in these activities that benefit us and our group. Hagen suggests that music may have evolved to serve a social function, which explains why it has persisted in human societies throughout history.