Human social values : explorations from an evolutionary psychology perspective.
The series of papers in this dissertation are aimed at testing evolutionary hypotheses concerning the adaptive advantages of religious values or experiences, a gender difference in purpose in life and the evolutionary relationship between deception and self-deception. Explanations are argued for in terms of their consequences for evolutionary fitness contributing to individual survival within the human species. Darwin's theory of natural selection within the framework of evolutionary psychology provides the theoretical background for the study. In psychology as well as in other social sciences, Darwinian theories of natural and sexual selection have been undergoing a revival with a significant upsurge of an interest in evolutionary psychology as a unifying paradigm for the understanding of human functioning as a living organism, optimising its fitness to survive the exigencies of environmental and social selection pressures. The broad or covering hypothesis addressed is that religious values or experiences, purpose in life, deception and self-deception each involve a kind of consciousness or strategic cognitive process that has evolved through the operation of natural selection due to its importance and worth for the survival of the individual. The study is empirical, conducted by using the technique of secondary analysis on the data yielded by the World Values Survey collected in 43 countries in its second wave of 1990 to 1993 as well as on a South African dataset containing variables of interest to the second and third papers of this dissertation. National aggregate data has been obtained from the United Nations Development Reports for the corresponding years under study. Findings showed a significantly positive relationship between religious values and evolutionary fitness promoting factors derived by factor analysis; a significantly greater purpose in life in females as compared to males; and a significantly positive relationship between deception and self-deception. However, the relationship between deception and evolutionary fitness promoting factors, derived by factor analysis, was inconclusive.