09:30 bis 10:30 Uhr in Hörsaal 1b

Willem Frankenhuis, Associate Professor, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam (UvA)

Social, emotional, and cognitive adaptation to harsh environments: Implications for education?

Some people ask whether a given behavior results from evolution or development. However, all traits result from development. And all development, in turn, results from interactions between evolved mechanisms and contexts across the lifespan. Therefore, all traits have an evolutionary history and a developmental history. In this talk, I will conceptualize evolution and development as nested processes operating on different timescales. Then, I will argue that the human species has evolved mechanisms for developmental adjustments to certain forms of childhood adversity, including exposure to violence, resource insecurity, and low and inconsistent parental care. Such developmental adaptations to stressful conditions may include hidden talents, cognitive abilities enhanced by adversity, and reasonable responses, strategies that respond to the affordances and constraints of adverse conditions. Incorporating such adaptations contributes to a well-rounded understanding of human cognition and behavior in adverse conditions, with implications for education, policy, and intervention. In general, the better we understand stress-adapted minds and brains–including their strengths–the more effectively we will be able to tailor education, employment, and interventions to suit the needs and potentials of the affected individuals.