Genes, Memes and the Physical and Social Environments: Understanding Human Thoughts, Emotions and Behaviors Through An Integrated Model

     Humans are a product of genes, memes and the physical and social environments.  All physiological and psychological processes of the human organism are a result of the interaction between genes, memes and the physical and social environments. 

     Genes are units of biological information that build organisms.  Memes are units of cultural information that help humans to live more successfully on earth.  The physical environment is all of nature around us, and the social environment is all the people and social institutions around us.

     All members of the human species share a common genome which is the genetic information in our DNA that directs the construction of an organism.  We all look human, but we donít all look alike.  We all look human because we are one species with a common genome.  But we all look different because of the genetic recombination which took place when our fatherís sperm cell fertilized our motherís ovum (egg).

     An individualís set of genes in their DNA is called their genotype.  The physical expression of the genotype, the organismís body and behavior, is called a phenotype.  The phenotype is a result of the interaction between genotype and physical and social environments, including the cultural environment of memes.  The human organism has been designed by evolution and natural selection to efficiently and effectively survive and reproduce.

     Humans, by virtue of the universal human genome, all share the same anatomical structures and physiological and biochemical processes.  These include the structure and neurological processes of the brain.  All humans share a common psychological architecture which springs from a common neurological architecture of the brain.

     The brain is an information processing organ which is designed to process information for the organism so that it can survive and reproduce in the physical and social environments and try to adapt, if possible, if these environments change.

     Human brain architecture is a collection of many neural circuits which process information.  There are neural circuits which work on their own without us even knowing it; these are the circuits that control our automatic bodily and mental processes   There are also neural circuits which we consciously use to get through our day to day life of surviving and reproducing.  These neural circuits produce our conscious mind which directs our conscious daily activities.  Our unique and individual patterns of thought, emotion and behavior, which are built upon our accumulated memories, together comprise our personality.  Our personality is the ďI and meĒ which interacts consciously with the physical and social environments.

     We have neural circuits that help us avoid danger, eat the right food, form social alliances and friendships, raise children and help relatives, understand other peopleís minds, communicate with other people and select mates.  Within these major circuits there are many other sub-circuits which altogether form the universal brain/psychological architecture as directed by the human genome.

     We all share the same neurological and psychological architecture but we donít all share the same culture.  The different cultures of the world are a result of different environmental and historical experiences and challenges.  From a universal brain and psychological architecture spring many different cultures by people who are adapting to different circumstances and having different cumulative experiences and histories.  Different peoples living in different times, places and circumstances have created different memes (ideas, beliefs & practices) that make up their culture.  But even people of the same culture donít all think, feel and behave the same because of the unique and individualized interaction of their genes, memes and physical and social environments.

     The human brain is the most powerful information processor on earth and is more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer.  What is the mind?  The mind is what the brain does.  The mind is a result of the information processing of the brain which is a result of neurochemical processes.

     Not all human thought, emotion and behavior patterns are biological/neurological adaptations engineered by natural selection.  Most of our great human achievements like religion, philosophy, art and science are not adaptations but are by-products or side-effects of the combined information processing abilities of our brains evolved circuitry.  From the large collection of content-specific circuits spring our content-general information processing abilities.  For example, the intuitive physics and naturalist intelligence that we come genetically equipped with lended themselves to scientific thinking, while our module for social exchange lended itself to logic.  However, even though these lofty human abilities are not adaptations per se, they are examples of the way that memes Ė cultural ideas Ė directly and indirectly support and enhance our existence.  Religion has obvious mental health and social solidarity control functions, while science aids us in our exploitation of the earthís resources. 

Psychology is the study of human thought, emotion and behavior.  When we study humans, if we want to get a real understanding, we need to always keep in mind Genes, Memes and the Physical and Social Environments.

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