What is SocioBiology ? Applications, Criticism and Examples

The discipline that studies the biological aspects of social behaviour among animals and humans scientifically and the way they evolve is known as sociobiology. It assumes social behaviour to have been resulting from evolution. So, it aims to study and explain the social behaviours within that context. The term emerged in the 1940s. However, only in and around 1975 it gained recognition when E.O. Wilson published his book named Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. According to Wilson, Sociobiology is “the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to a social organisation” (Wilson, 1978).

The argument of sociobiology rests on the premise that some of the social and individual behaviours are inherited at least partly and might be affected by natural selection. The behaviour being inherited can be understood as that a certain combination of genes affecting a number of behavioural patterns is inherited and flow from one generation to the other. It also argues that the pressure of the selection process not only led animals to develop ways to interact and co-exists with nature, it also led to the development of social behaviour that can benefit them to survive. Therefore, behaviour can be viewed as the product of natural selection which can be properly understood by analysing it in terms of evolutionary considerations. Since the inherited behavioural traits are honed by natural selection, these traits can be thought of as ‘adaptive’ in the environment the species evolved in.

Considered to be a branch of sociology and biology, it has close relations with Darwinian Anthropology, human behavioural ecology, and psychology of evolution. Socio biology studies the evolution of social behaviour such as the patterns of mating, the way territorial fights take place, pack hunting, the formation of the hive society among insects, etc. It believes that just like physical traits, behaviours to evolve over time. The animals develop those behaviours that can prove to be evolutionarily successful for them which further leads to the creation of social processes which are complex and favourable to cope up through the evolution process.  Sociobiologists are mostly interested in instinctive or intuitive behaviour which can be explained logically as the product of the selection pressures.

While explaining social behaviour within sociobiology, that behaviour is first explained as a hypothesis. The hypothesis is formed by looking at an evolutionary strategy matching that particular behaviour. The strategy should be proved as a stable one which will further foretell the gene frequencies. A correlation between the predicted gene frequencies and the expressed frequencies later supports the hypothesis.

An example of the application of sociobiological reasoning can be as follows: while traditional social sciences believe that a person is not born with any innate behavioural differences such that sex differences traced in the child’s behaviour are also due to the differential treatment the parents give the children. However, it is the Sociobiologists who argue that humans do bear with innate predispositions. Sociobiology is often criticised on the ground that they neglect the contribution made by culture and psychological characteristics. It is also criticised because it affirms the status quo by relying on genetic determinism.

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