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The Evolution of Personality in Animals and Humans: Presentation & Poster

I attended the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice, Sicily, for a workshop on The Evolution of Personality in Animals and Humans. The workshop brought together leaders in the field of behavioural ecology and evolutionary psychology. It was a fantastic experience, in a beautiful setting, and a great opportunity to meet leaders in the fields, including Marco del Giudice, whose work on evolutionary psychopathology I have followed for many years.


I gave a short talk on "Identifying disorders of relevance to the evolution of personality" (abstract below) and presented my DCIDE method poster from EHBEA. Happily, both were well received, and sparked enlightening conversations. The experience of being in a live conference, with experts in the field, was particularly satisfying after lockdown, and I hope to keep in contact with the people involved for years to come.


The abstract for my talk is below, followed by some photos.



Identifying disorders of relevance to the evolution of personality

Personality dimensions are often associated with mental disorder. Most significantly, high neuroticism is related to anxiety and depression and low agreeableness is associated with ‘Dark Triad’ disorders (psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism). Accounts of the evolution of personality need to take into account these apparently maladaptive outcomes. However, current approaches to mental disorder classification allow for heterogenous causes within single diagnostic categories, including cases of dysfunction and function, making an evolutionary analysis difficult. Here I present the ‘DCIDE method’ of systematic review to make this more tractable. Available evidence allows us to identify genuine dysfunctions which are products of known vulnerabilities via genetics and environmental damage. These require no further evolutionary analysis. Other cases of apparent mental disorder do not show these signs, and are common, long-lasting and early-onset, and linked to apparently normal personality variation. Accounting for the link between personality and psychopathology will be a necessary feature of theories of the evolution of personality, and presents an opportunity: whilst explaining the evolution of personality, evolutionary scientists can make progress in explaining various common mental disorders, a task of great social and scientific significance. The DCIDE method identifies the disorders of importance, and structures accounts of function or dysfunction.


Me and Jordan Martin from the Human Ecology Group in Zurich

View from the castle

Sleepy mornings


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