Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (2010)

Adapted from:

Table of Contents

Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness

This symposium at Notre Dame brings together an international audience interested in innovative approaches to human development, children, families, parenting, and human evolution. Speakers will present their research on the relationship between caregiving practices and outcomes.

DATE: OCTOBER 10-12, 2010

This Human Nature and Early Experience symposium features speakers from many countries and disciplines who will provide their expertise along three broad themes: How Early Life Matters, Parenting Effects and Modern Cultural Practices, and How Does the EEA and Evolutionary History Matter?. For more information, check out this site.

Session One

1. Welcome and Opening Remarks

2. Introduction

3. Social Emotion Systems of Mammalian Brains and Vicissitude of Early Social Bonds: The Transformation of Social Delight to Grief, Depression and Despair. – Jaak Panksepp, Washington State University

4. Early Research on Emotion Development and the Implications for Human Society – James Prescott, Institute of Humanistic Science (formerly of NICHD)

5. Bowlby’s “Environment of evolutionary adaptedness”: Recent studies on the interpersonal neurobiology of attachment and emotional development. – Allan Schore, UCLA

Session Two

6. Social Bonding in Early Development in Primates – Stephen J. Suomi, NIH

7. Fussy Babies and the Autonomic Nervous System – S. W. Porges, University of Illinois-Chicago

8. Oxytocin and Early Experience – C. Sue Carter, University of Illinois-Chicago

9. Caregiver Responsivity: Prompt Response to Needs – Alison Fleming, University of Toronto

Session Three

10. Birth and the First Hour of Life – Wenda R. Trevathan, New Mexico State University

11. Infant feeding practices: Rates, risks of not breastfeeding and factors influencing breastfeeding – Pranee Liamputtong, La Trobe University, Victoria Australia

12. Night-time nurturing: an evolutionary perspective on breastfeeding and sleep – Helen Ball, Durham University

13. Ready to Share Experience From Birth—In a Human Way – Colwyn Trevarthen, University of Edinburgh

14. Discussant: Jay Belsky, Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, London

15. General Discussion

Session Four

16. The Effects of Early Experience on Brain Structure and Functioning – M.H. Teicher, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School

No video available

17. The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health, Well-being, and Social Function  – Vincent Felitti, California Institutes of Preventive Medicine

18. Mothers, Fathers, Infants and Alloparents In Evolutionary Perspective: Revising the Conceptual Relevance of The Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness – James McKenna, University of Notre Dame

No video available

19. Movement, Play and Multi-Age Playmates – Joseph Flanders, McGill University

Session Five

20. The Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, Rough-and-Tumble Play, and the Selection for Restraint in Human Aggression – Douglas Fry, Åbo Akademi University in Finland

21. Social cooperation, niche construction, and the core role of intergenerational bonding in human evolution – Agustin Fuentes, University of Notre Dame

22. Incentives Incentives in the Family Firm: An Evolutionary/Economic Approach to Avian Family Dynamics. – Joan Roughgarden, Stanford University

23. Early Experience, Moral Development and Human Nature – Darcia Narvaez, University of Notre Dame, and Tracy Gleason, Wellesley College

24. General discussion

Reproduced from:

Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy

Edited by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., Allan N. Schore, Ph.D., and Tracy R. Gleason, Ph.D.

  • The first book to pull together research on the set of parenting practices in early life that characterize social mammals
  • Discusses the effects of parenting practices on child development
  • Asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs
  • For scholars and professionals in the human sciences, including psychology and anthropology, as well as experts in mental health and human services


The field of cognitive psychology has expanded rapidly in recent years, with experts in affective and cognitive neuroscience revealing more about mammalian brain function than ever before. In contrast, psychological problems such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, and depression are on the rise, as are medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Why, in this era of unprecedented scientific self-knowledge, does there seem to be so much uncertainty about what human beings need for optimal development?

Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs. In this pioneering volume, scientists from a range of disciplines theorize that the increase in conditions such as depression and obesity can be partially attributed to a disparity between the environments and conditions under which our mammalian brains currently develop and our evolutionary heritage. For example, healthy brain and emotional development depends to a significant extent upon caregiver availability and quality of care. These include practices such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and parental social support, which have waned in modern society, but nevertheless may be integral to healthy development. As the authors argue, without a more informed appreciation of the ideal conditions under which human brains/minds develop and function, human beings will continue to struggle with suboptimal mental and physical health, and as problems emerge psychological treatments alone will not be effective. The best approach is to recognize these needs at the outset so as to optimize child development. Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development puts forth a logical, empirically based argument regarding human mammalian needs for optimal development, based on research from anthropology, neurobiology, animal science, and human development. The result is a unique exploration of evolutionary approaches to human behavior that will support the advancement of new policies, new attitudes towards health, and alterations in childcare practices that will better promote healthy human development.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Value of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness for gauging children’s well-being
Darcia Narvaez, Jaak Panksepp, Allan Schore, Tracy Gleason
Chapter 2. Bowlby’s “Environment of evolutionary adaptedness”: Recent studies on the interpersonal neurobiology of attachment and emotional development
Allan Schore
Commentary: Early experience, neurobiology, plasticity, vulnerability and resilience by Michael Lamb
Chapter 3. How primary-process emotional systems guide child development: Ancestral regulators of human happiness, thriving and suffering
Jaak Panksepp
Commentary: The integrative meaning of emotion by Daniel Siegel
Chapter 4. Epigenetics and the environmental regulation of the genome and its function
Michael Meaney
Commentary: The messages of epigenetic research by Jerome Kagan
Chapter 5. Neurobiology and the evolution of mammalian social behavior
C. Sue Carter and Stephen W. Porges
Chapter 6. Dopamine: Another ‘magic bullet’ for caregiver responsiveness?
Alison Fleming, Viara Mileva-Seitz, Veronica M. Afonso
Chapter 7. The Neurobiological basis of empathy and its development in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness
Eric E. Nelson
Commentary: The Death of Empathy? by Bruce Perry

SECTION COMMENTARY: Born For Art, and the Joyful Companionship of Fiction by Colwyn Trevarthen

Chapter 8. Birth and the first postnatal hour
Wenda R. Trevathan
Chapter 9. Night-time nurturing: an evolutionary perspective on breastfeeding and sleep
Helen Ball and Charlotte Russell
Chapter 10. Touch and pain perception in infants
Tiffany Field and Maria Hernandez-Reif
Chapter 11. Infant feeding practices: rates, risks of not breastfeeding and factors influencing breastfeeding
Zaharah Sulaiman, Lisa H. Amir and Pranee Liamputtong
Commentary: Short term and long term effects of oxytocin released by suckling and of skin to skin contact in mothers and infants by Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg
Chapter 12. Developmental optimization
Darcia Narvaez & Tracy Gleason
Commentary: Darwin et al. on developmental optimization by David Loye

SECTION COMMENTARY: Adaptations and Adaptations by Ross Thompson

Chapter 13. Play, plasticity, and ontogeny in childhood
Anthony D. Pellegrini and Adam F. A. Pellegrini
Chapter 14. The Value of a play-filled childhood in development of the hunter-gatherer individual
Peter Gray
Chapter 15. Rough-and-tumble play and the cooperation-competition dilemma: Evolutionary and developmental perspectives on the development of social competence
Joseph L. Flanders, Khalisa N. Herman, and Daniel Paquette
Commentary: Play in Hunter-Gatherers by Barry Hewlett and Adam H. Boyette

Chapter 16. Perspective 1: Why would natural selection craft an organism whose future functioning is influenced by its earlier experiences?
Jay Belsky
Chapter 17. Perspective 2: Play, Plasticity, and the Perils of Conflict: ‘Problematizing’ Sociobiology
Melvin Konner
Chapter 18. Perspective 3: The Emergent Organism: A New Paradigm
William Mason
Chapter 19. Perspective 4: Can science progress to a revitalized past?
Gay Bradshaw
Chapter 20. Perspective 5: Earliest experiences and attachment processes
Howard Steele
Chapter 21. Perspective 6: Nurturant vs. non-nurturant environments and the failure of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness
James W. Prescott
Chapter 22. Perspective 7: It’s dangerous to be an infant: on-going relevance of John Bowlby’s Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (the EEA) in promoting healthier births, safer maternal-infant sleep, and breastfeeding in a contemporary western industrial context
James J. McKenna and Lee T. Gettler

Chapter 23. The Future of human nature: Implications for research, policy, and ethics
Darcia Narvaez, Jaak Panksepp, Allan Schore and Tracy Gleason

Subject Index
Author Index

Author Information

Darcia Narvaez is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on moral development through the lifespan with a particular emphasis on early life effects on the neurobiology underpinning moral functioning (triune ethics theory). Dr. Narvaez has co-authored or co-edited seven books and is editor of the Journal of Moral Education.
Jaak Panksepp is the Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, in the Department of Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology. His work has been devoted to the analysis of neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms of emotional behavior, with a focus on understanding how basic affective processes are evolutionarily organized in the brain. He is the author of Affective Neuroscience (2004) and Archaeology of the Mind (2012).
Allan N. Schore is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. His interdisciplinary studies on Regulation Theory, grounded in developmental neuroscience and developmental psychoanalysis, focus on the origin, psychopathogenesis, and psychotherapeutic treatment of the early forming subjective implicit self. He is the author of Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self (2003) and The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy (2012).
Tracy R. Gleason is the Whitehead Associate Professor of Critical Thought in the Psychology Department at Wellesley College, where her research focuses on the development of children’s understanding of their relationships with others. Dr. Gleason is also Psychological Director of the Wellesley College Child Study Center. Her work has appeared in journals such as Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Educational Psychology.


Veronica M. Afonso, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Toronto at Mississauga

Lisa Amir, MBBS, MMed, Ph.D.
Mother & Child Health Research
La Trobe University
Centre for Women’s Health, Gender and Society
University of Melbourne

Helen Ball, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Durham University

Jay Belsky
University of California, Davis
Birkbeck University of London

Adam H. Boyette
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University

Gay Bradshaw, Ph.D.
The Kerulos Center

C. Sue Carter, Ph.D.
Brain and Body Center
Department of Psychiatry
University of Illinois, Chicago

Tiffany Field, Ph.D.
Touch Research Institute
University of Miami School of Medicine

Alison Fleming, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Toronto

Lee Gettler
Department of Anthropology
University of Notre Dame

Tracy Gleason, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Wellesley College

Peter Gray, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Boston College

Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D.
Department of Human Development & Family Studies
University of Alabama

Barry Hewlett, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University and Hawassa University

Jerome Kagan, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Harvard University

Melvin Konner, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Emory University

Michael Lamb, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Cambridge

Pranee Liamputtong, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
La Trobe University

David Loye, Ph.D.
The Darwin Project
Pacific Grove, CA

James McKenna, Ph.D
Department of Anthropology
University of Notre Dame

William Mason, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of California at Davis

Michael Meaney, Ph.D.
Department of Neurology
McGill University

Viara Mileva-Seitz
Institute of Medical Science
University of Toronto

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Notre Dame
Eric E. Nelson, Ph.D.
Section on Development & Affective Neuroscience
National Institutes of Mental Health

Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology
Washington State University

Daniel Paquette, Ph.D.
School of Psychoeducation
University of Montreal

Adam Pellegrini
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Princeton University

Anthony Pellegrini, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Minnesota

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
The Child Trauma Academy, Houston TX
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Feinberg School of Medicine
Northwestern University

S.W. Porges, Ph.D.
Brain and Body Center
Department of Psychiatry
University of Illinois-Chicago

James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
Institute of Humanistic Science
Lewes, DE

Charlotte Russell, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Durham University

Allan Schore, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
University of California at Los Angeles

Daniel Siegel, M.D.
UCLA School of Medicine and Mindsight Institute
UCLA Center for Culture, Brain and Development
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Zhiyuan Song, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Stanford University

Howard Steele, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
New School for Social Research

Zaharah Sulaiman, MBBS
School of Public Health
La Trobe University

Steve Suomi, Ph.D.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health

Ross Thompson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of California at Davis

Wenda R. Trevathan, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
New Mexico State University

Colwyn Trevarthen, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Edinburgh

Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
Karolinska Institute

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