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Thread: mourning

  1. #1 mourning 
    Moderator Moderator AlexP's Avatar
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    What is the evolutionary purpose of grief and mourning? How'd they come about?

    (I made another post similar to this at one point and I guess I worded it badly, so please correct me if I just did so again)


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    Perhaps the evolutionary advantage is to attachment, and grief is a necessary corollary.

    There are examples of undesirable traits co-evolving with a trait for which there is an obvious selective pressure. An oft-cited example is sickle cell trait, which protects against malaria but which also has some minor negative physiological ramifications, as well as disease in homozygous individuals.


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    I agree with free radical. as social animals we form bonds with each other to expand our friendship networks. these networks can give us support in various ways that will ultimately help increase our reproductive success. so when we lose one of these bonds, we experience stress, because we now have less support than we did before.

    i'm reading a book on baboons that talked about this. though baboon social groups consist of strict hierarchies, for females rank doesn't necessarily predict reproductive success. The most successful females are the ones with the most social bonds. And when a female loses a social bond, say her daughter or other close relative dies, her stress hormones skyrocket. These females inevitably seek to form more social bonds with other individuals, and as they do so their stress hormones go back to lower levels.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    I also read somewhere (or maybe I'm making it up) that, as social animals, we needed to develop sophisticated and subtle cheat-detector mechanisms. So, like a form of sexual selection, grief and mourning could be indicators of genuineness of attachment, allowing the wider community to learn to trust the mourner: "She genuinely was a good friend of Eve's, so if she says she's my friend I can trust her."
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    I also read somewhere (or maybe I'm making it up) that, as social animals, we needed to develop sophisticated and subtle cheat-detector mechanisms. So, like a form of sexual selection, grief and mourning could be indicators of genuineness of attachment, allowing the wider community to learn to trust the mourner: "She genuinely was a good friend of Eve's, so if she says she's my friend I can trust her."
    haha, you're not making that up. there's a lot of literature on cheaters-cooperators. I'm inclined to say that our ability to detect genuine grief is probably more along these lines, but I don't think grief suits that kind of purpose. I could be wrong, that's just my humbly educated guess.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    I also read somewhere (or maybe I'm making it up) that, as social animals, we needed to develop sophisticated and subtle cheat-detector mechanisms. So, like a form of sexual selection, grief and mourning could be indicators of genuineness of attachment, allowing the wider community to learn to trust the mourner: "She genuinely was a good friend of Eve's, so if she says she's my friend I can trust her."
    haha, you're not making that up. there's a lot of literature on cheaters-cooperators. I'm inclined to say that our ability to detect genuine grief is probably more along these lines, but I don't think grief suits that kind of purpose. I could be wrong, that's just my humbly educated guess.
    Well you're right - I hadn't made it up. The authors I read (alas my dying neurons do not allow me to remember/look it up/link) suggested that, like the Zahavi theory regarding, say, the peacock's tail, the emotion has to be genuinely disabling in order to demonstrate its validity. Hence the realness of grief and mourning. Of course, from the other point of view (evolutionary psychology? a bunch of tales) it might be just another "just so story" (coinage of the late great Stephen Jay Gould, I think). Ooooh - perhaps it was Pinker in How the mind wortks or (a less balanced work of his) The Blank Slate.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    I also read somewhere (or maybe I'm making it up) that, as social animals, we needed to develop sophisticated and subtle cheat-detector mechanisms. So, like a form of sexual selection, grief and mourning could be indicators of genuineness of attachment, allowing the wider community to learn to trust the mourner: "She genuinely was a good friend of Eve's, so if she says she's my friend I can trust her."
    haha, you're not making that up. there's a lot of literature on cheaters-cooperators. I'm inclined to say that our ability to detect genuine grief is probably more along these lines, but I don't think grief suits that kind of purpose. I could be wrong, that's just my humbly educated guess.
    Well you're right - I hadn't made it up. The authors I read (alas my dying neurons do not allow me to remember/look it up/link) suggested that, like the Zahavi theory regarding, say, the peacock's tail, the emotion has to be genuinely disabling in order to demonstrate its validity. Hence the realness of grief and mourning. Of course, from the other point of view (evolutionary psychology? a bunch of tales) it might be just another "just so story" (coinage of the late great Stephen Jay Gould, I think). Ooooh - perhaps it was Pinker in How the mind wortks or (a less balanced work of his) The Blank Slate.
    Now that I think of it, cultural ideals of the "correct" way to display grief may fit into this category. The physiological stress response most certainly occurs no matter what culture you were raised in, but what other people actually judge is your outward expression of that stress.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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