The Role Of Mismatch In Evolutionary Psychology

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Are we humans perfectly fitted to the world we live in today? Evolutionary psychology suggests this may not be the case. An important concept in evolutionary psychology is mismatch (link is external) (1). Evolutionary mismatch occurs when the environment that organisms are adapted to, via a slow process of biological evolution, changes so quickly and intensely that it hinders these organisms to fulfill their reproductive needs.

Take an example from nature. Deforestation has changed the habitats of many species so profoundly that they are no longer able to thrive, or even survive, in these altered environments. Just consider the alarming reports of the decline in Borneo's orangutans' populations, the result of human interference that is destroying
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In our new book Mismatch: How Our Stone Age Brain Deceives Us Every Day (And What We Can Do About It) (link is external), we use mismatch theory to understand all kinds of ills of modern society, from depression to drug-abuse, from bottle-feeding to bad parenting, and from toxic leadership to stress in the workplace (2). The basic tenet of mismatch theory is that if we have two options, A and B, mismatch occurs when we prefer option B, where option A would be better for us in the long run. Take the classic example of food-intake. Humans have an evolved preference for high-calorie foods—this preference helped them survive in ancestral environments where food supplies were short. Yet, in the modern world, high-calorie foods are abundant and easy to get, and so humans would be better off showing some restraint in what they eat and how much. Yet many of us lack in self-control, which was not needed in our ancestral environment, and the result is an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart …show more content…
In small-scale societies, trust and cooperation are established on the basis of frequent face-to-face interactions. Yet these interactions are increasingly lacking as remote workplace arrangements have become the norm. Small-scale societies have no formal leaders and status and power differences between individuals were minimal. Yet modern organizations have CEOs with excessive pay schemes and middle managers who in principle can control all aspects of your working life. The result is job stress, job alienation, and the potential for corruption and power abuse (5). Work also causes many novel stressors like handling deadlines and dealing with temporary contracts that were unknown to our ancestors, these are stressors that our immune system is poorly adapted to (6).

So, what to do about evolutionary mismatch? We offer a number of suggestions. First, we should find out, on a case-by-case basis, to what extent our modern social and work life is mismatched. Second, we don’t have to go back to living in a cave. Yet we should acknowledge that human-evolved psychology poses constraints on the way we structure our lives and how we deal with new environmental challenges. Third, we should design our lives in such a way that they either work with or if this

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