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Psychology Colloquium presents: ‘What Evolutionary Theory Tells Us About Behavior’ by William M. Baum PhD

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Please join us in Veterans Hall on the second floor of the Ellison Campus Center to meet for brunch and listen to a talk by William M. Baum PhD, an associate researcher at the University of California Davis.

Baum's research concerns choice, molar behavior/environment relations, foraging, cultural evolution, and behaviorism. He is the author of the book “Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.”

Topic of discussion: What Evolutionary Theory tells us about behavior

Why do organisms and behavior exist? Organisms exist because of genes that make organisms increase reproductive success. An organism’s behavior is its interactions with its environment. Behavior, on average and in the long run, functions to serve reproduction.

Survival usually serves reproduction, and other activities like maintaining health, maintaining relationships, and gaining resources usually serve survival and sometimes directly serve reproduction.

When phylogenetically important features of the environment vary in ways that can be tracked by physiological mechanisms, selection favors phenotypic plasticity. Part of phenotypic plasticity is behavioral plasticity. Phylogenetically important events (PIEs), such as the presence of potential mates, predators, or prey, impact the reproductive success and underpin selection for behavioral plasticity.

PIEs induce activities that tend to mitigate threats and enhance benefits. Additionally, selection favors phenotypes that respond to covariance in the environment between PIEs and other events and between activities and PIEs.

Events that co-vary with a PIE come to induce the same activities as the PIE, and activities that co-vary with a PIE come to be induced by the PIE. Induction is the mechanism of the Law of Allocation that governs the allocation of time among an organism’s activities.

This event is a collaboration of the psychology and biology departments.

When 1:30pm
Assistant Professor Ashita Goswami

For access and accommodation information, visit our page on access or email

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