Geoffrey Miller (psychologist)

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Geoffrey F. Miller (born 1965 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American evolutionary psychologist, serving as an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico and known for his expertise in sexual selection in human evolution.[1]

Education[edit]

In 1987, Miller graduated from Columbia University, where he earned a BA in biology and psychology. He received his PhD in cognitive psychology from Stanford University in 1993 under the guidance of Roger N. Shepard.

Career[edit]

Miller held positions as a postdoctoral researcher in the evolutionary and adaptive systems group in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex, UK (1992–94); lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Nottingham (1995); research scientist at the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, Germany (1995–96); and senior research fellow at the Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution, University College London (1996–2000). He has worked at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, since 2001, where he is now Associate Professor. In 2009, he was Visiting Scientist, Genetic Epidemiology Group, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia.

Academic research[edit]

Evolution of human cognition[edit]

The starting point for Miller's work was Charles Darwin's theoretical observation that evolution is driven not just by natural selection, but by the process called sexual selection.[2] In support of his views on sexual selection in human evolution, he has written The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature. His research states that human mate preferences, courtship behavior, behavior genetics, psychometrics, and life history patterns support the survival value of traits related to sexual selection, such as art, morality, language, and creativity. He states that the adaptive design features of these traits suggest that they evolved through mutual mate-choice by both sexes to advertise intelligence, creativity, moral character, and heritable fitness.[3]. Miller argued that the 21st century would allow a revival of eugenics. Building on China and the one-child policy, Miller argued that a government with reproductive power could act to increase the IQ of its population: perhaps by 5-15 IQ poitns per generation. He speculated on the consequences of a nation with a mean IQ of 120 and concluded that it "would be game over for Western global competitiveness." Miller recommends that "self-righteous" or ideological biases would fall, as nations, be they the US or Europe would have to learn from such an example.[4]

Evolutionary psychology of consumerism[edit]

Miller's most recent work has used Darwinism to gain an understanding of how marketing has exploited our inherited instincts to display social status for reproductive advantage.[5] Miller argues that in the modern marketing-dominated culture, "coolness" at the conscious level, and the consumption choices it drives, is an aberration of the genetic legacy of two million years of living in small groups, where social status has been a critical force in reproduction. Miller's thesis is that marketing persuades people—particularly the young—that the most effective way to display that status is through consumption choices, rather than conveying such traits as intelligence and personality through more natural means of communication, such as simple conversation.[6]

Miller argues that marketers still tend to use simplistic models of human nature that are uninformed by advances in evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology. As a result, marketers "still believe that premium products are bought to display wealth, status, and taste, and they miss the deeper mental traits that people are actually wired to display—traits such as kindness, intelligence, and creativity". This, he claims, limits the success of marketing.[7]

Research in abnormal psychology[edit]

Miller's clinical interests are the application of fitness indicator theory to understand the symptoms, demographics, and behavior genetics of schizophrenia and mood disorders. His other interests include the origins of human preferences, aesthetics, utility functions, human strategic behavior, game theory, experiment-based economics, the ovulatory effects on female mate preferences, and the intellectual legacies of Darwin, Nietzsche, and Veblen.

In 2007, Miller (with Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan) published an article in Evolution and Human Behavior, concluding that lap dancers made more money during ovulation.[8] For this paper, Miller won the 2008 Ig Nobel Award.[9]


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ SEXUAL SELECTION AND THE MIND
  2. ^ Darwin, Charles. "Chapter IV. Natural selection; or the survival of the fittest. 2. Sexual Selection.". The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection. This leads me to say a few words on what I have called sexual selection. This form of selection depends, not on a struggle for existence in relation to other organic beings or to external conditions, but on a struggle between the individuals of one sex, generally the males, for the possession of the other sex. 
  3. ^ Miller, G. (2000), The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, London: Heineman, ISBN 0-434-00741-2 (also Doubleday; ISBN 0-385-49516-1).
  4. ^ What should we be worried about
  5. ^ Miller G, Spent: Sex, Evolution and the Secrets of Consumerism, London: Random House, May 14, 2009 (ISBN 978-0-670-02062-1).
  6. ^ Transcript of interview with Geoffrey Miller, All in the mind, ABC Radio National, February 14, 2009.
  7. ^ Dylan Evans, "Spent by Geoffrey Miller" (book review), The Guardian, August 8, 2009, accessed August 23, 2009.
  8. ^ Miller, G., Tubur, J. M., & Jordan, B. D. (2007). "Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus?", in Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 375-381.
  9. ^ "Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize". 

References[edit]

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