Why Use Evolutionary Theory To Describe Personality?
Elements of evolutionary theory were introduced by Millon in a 1990 book owing to his belief that its essential principles operate in all aspects of nature and scientific endeavor, from cosmogony, at one end, to human interactions, at the other. Read More
Basic Human Motivation Across Three Polarities
Citing basic laws of evolution, Millon described core “motivating aims” belonging to evolutionary biology and their connection to personality. Different combinations of these motivating aims, then, give rise to unique personality strategies, along with manifestations of core personality dimensions described in a later section. The core motivating aims are arranged along three bipolarities: Existence, Adaptation, and Replication.
Existence: The Pleasure-Pain Polarity
The first aim, existence, concerns basic survival strategies, whether for nuclear particles, plant life, or human beings. The polarity that represents this aim is one of life-enhancement versus life-preservation (or pleasure vs. pain). The former is concerned with orienting individuals toward enhancing the quality of life; the latter orients individuals away from actions or environments that jeopardize existence. This may manifest in actions such as fulfillment seeking without regard for emotional safety, or hesitating and/or withdrawing away from sources of social discomfort, respectively.
Adaptation: The Active-Passive Polarity
Following assurance of existence, an organism/personality must be maintained through exchanges of energy and information with its environment. The second motivating aim relates to adaptation, which is also framed as a two-part polarity. On one end, there is a passive orientation, which is a tendency to accommodate to one's environment, whatever it may be. On the other end is an active orientation, or a tendency to modify in one's surrounds to make the environment more suitable to the personality or organism. Evidence of this aim is found in people “going along with the crowd,” for example, versus “getting what is deserved,” though, like with existence and the next aim, there are many variants.
Replication: The Self-Other Polarity
Although organisms/personalities may be well-adapted to their environments, the existence of all life-forms is time-limited. Therefore, they develop a replication aim, that is, a way in which to leave progeny (in organisms) or place their interpersonal interest (in personalities). These strategies reflect what biologists have referred to as r- or self-propagating strategy, at one polar extreme, and K- or other-nurturing strategy, at the other extreme. Psychologically, the former strategy is disposed toward actions which maximize self-reproduction; here, organisms are egotistic, insensitive, inconsiderate, and socially uncaring; while the latter strategy is disposed toward protecting and sustaining kin or progeny; this leads to actions which are socially affiliative, intimate, caring, and solicitous.