Emotional selection

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Emotional Selection is a psychological theory of dreaming that describes dreams as modifiers and tests of mental schemas. It was introduced by Richard Coutts in 2008[1] and refined by him in 2010.[2] According to emotional selection, during non-REM sleep, the mind processes dreams with content intended to improve the ability of mental schemas to meet waking human needs. For example, individuals struggling with self-perceptions of incompetence may process dreams in which they successfully navigate a complex situation, those who feel powerlessness may dream of being empowered, and so forth. The theme of the non-REM dream is tentatively accommodated by mental schemas. Because schemas coexist as a network,[3] accommodations can introduce accidental, maladaptive conflicts[4] and therefore are ideally tested prior to full integration. Therefore, during subsequent REM sleep, a second set of dreams is executed in the form of test scenarios. If schema accommodations performed during prior non-REM dreams alleviate anxiety, frustration, sadness, or in other ways appear emotionally adaptive during REM dream tests, they would be selected for retention. Those accommodations that compare negatively to existing, unchanged schemas would be abandoned or further modified and tested.

REM dreams are often described in the academic literature as having bizarre themes.[5] According to Coutts, this description fits neatly in emotional selection. During the development of complex systems, engineers often test with rigorous, outwardly bizarre scenarios, such as intentionally crashing expensive automobiles, dropping functioning electronics onto hard surfaces, or vibrating scale models of buildings on shake tables.[6] Such extreme, costly tests assure that designs meet specifications. The themes of REM dreams are often likewise extreme and bizarre, such as being chase down an alley by a monster, finding oneself naked in the presence of a crowd of people, or realizing that one's teeth or hair are falling out. When such themes are reviewed as tests of the ability of mental schemas to cope with extreme stress, they appear rational.

According to emotional selection, pleasant dreams, such as having sex, finding riches, or suddenly being able to fly, are also tests, which evaluate a person's ability to cope with success. This concept may appear to be an oxymoron. However, the challenges of coping with success are often poignantly depicted by people with self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse.[7] Success thrust those with a poor self-image can cause people to reject the notion that they are worthy of good fortune, which is why related schemas must be modified and tested with dreams. From Coutts' 2008 paper, "People strive for independence, yet find solace in the company of others; they place a high priority on our personal safety, yet quickly jeopardize it to help those in need; they are sexually attracted to many people, yet seek loving, monogamous relationships. Schemas help strike the balances necessary for navigating the complex, often contradictory landscape that comprises life."[8]

The schemas targeted by emotional selection are those essential for meeting human needs, such as those define by Abraham Maslow and Henry Murray. Consequently, emotional selection theory agrees with evolutionary forces by describing a role for dreams as adaptively enhancing mental schemas.

The theory that dreams facilitate the selection of adaptive mental schemas supports the survival value description of emotional communication in general. The German philosopher Ferdinand Fellmann proposed in 2009 emotional selection as a third form of evolutionary selection besides natural and sexual selection.[9] Loving, monogamous pair-bonding seems to be the favored field where sexual selection is being transformed in emotional selection specific for human courtship and mating.

The concept of emotional selection fits the recent trend of evolutionary psychology which suggests that individual differences are more than the raw material upon which natural selection operates as a homogenizing force. Instead, personality and individual differences are created by “psychosocial selection”[10] in the more intense forms of pair-bonding in primate sociality. Pair-bonds are based on detecting and supporting emotional complexity in partners with whom we maintain long-term intimate intercourse.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Coutts, Richard (2008). "Dreams as modifiers and tests of mental schemas: an emotional selection hypothesis". Psychological Reports. doi:10.2466/pr0.102.2.561-574. PMID 18567225. 
  2. ^ Coutts, Richard (2010). "A Pilot Study for the Analysis of Dream Reports Using Maslow's Need Categories: An Extension to the Emotional Selection Hypothesis". Psychological Reports. doi:10.2466/09.PR0.107.5.659-673. PMID 21117494. 
  3. ^ Arbib, M.A & Hesse, M.B. (1986). The construction of reality. Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ Piaget, J. (1975). The equilibration of cognitive structures: the central problem of intellectual development. University of Chicago Press. 
  5. ^ Revonsuo, A. & Salmivalli, C. (1995). "A content analysis of bizarre elements in dreams". Dreaming. doi:10.1037/h0094433. 
  6. ^ Adams, J. L. (1991). Flying buttresses, entropy, and o-rings: the world of an engineer. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674306899. 
  7. ^ Beck, Aaron (1995). Cognitive therapy: the basics and beyond. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1609185046. 
  8. ^ Coutts, Richard. "Richard Coutts, Abstracts A-D". Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ Fellmann, Ferdinand (2009). "Das Paar als Quelle des Selbst. Zu den soziobiologischen Grundlagen der philosophischen Anthropologie". Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 57 (5): 745–56. doi:10.1524/dzph.2009.0062. 
  10. ^ Huxley, Julian (1942). Evolution: The Modern Synthesis. The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262513661. 

References[edit]

  1. Coutts, Richard (2008). "Dreams As Modifiers and Tests of Mental Schemas: An Emotional Selection Hypothesis1". Psychological Reports 102 (2): 561–74. doi:10.2466/pr0.102.2.561-574. PMID 18567225. 
  2. Coutts, Richard (2010). "A Pilot Study for the Analysis of Dream Reports Using Maslow's Need Categories: An Extension to the Emotional Selection Hypothesis1, 2". Psychological Reports 107 (2): 659–73. doi:10.2466/09.PR0.107.5.659-673. PMID 21117494. 
  3. Fellmann, Ferdinand (2009). "Das Paar als Quelle des Selbst. Zu den soziobiologischen Grundlagen der philosophischen Anthropologie". Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 57 (5): 745–56. doi:10.1524/dzph.2009.0062. 
  4. Fellmann, Ferdinand (2010). "The Origin of Man Behind the Veil of Ignorance: A Psychobiological Approach". Biological Theory 5 (3): 240–5. doi:10.1162/BIOT_a_00048. 
  5. Buss, David M. / Hawley, Patricia H. (2011): The Evolution of Personality and Individual Differences. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. Fellmann, Ferdinand; Walsh, Rebecca. "Emotional Selection and Human Personality". Biological Theory. doi:10.1007/s13752-013-0093-3. 

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