Editor’s Choice Award for Evolutionary Psychology – January to March 2021

By Danielle Zurinsky, Frontiers in Psychology

Professor Peter K. Jonason, the Specialty Chief Editor of the Evolutionary Psychology specialty section (Frontiers in Psychology), is delighted to announce the winners of the Editor’s Choice Award for January to March of 2021. The two articles selected have received notable attention within the community and offer important insights from the field of evolutionary psychology to better understand behavioral responses within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two chosen articles are clearly an important contribution to the Evolutionary Psychology specialty section and the field of evolutionary psychology overall. Moreover, these two articles also appear within the multidisciplinary Research Topic that was launched in 2020, Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and its Psychobehavioral Consequences. This focused Research Topic, led by Drs. Severi Luoto, Marjorie Prokosch, Indrikis Krams, Marco Antonio Correa Varella, and Corey L. Fincher, welcomed submissions addressing evolutionary approaches to understanding human behavior, specifically offering insights into responses and outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 Pandemic on Fire: Evolved Propensities for Nocturnal Activities as a Liability Against Epidemiological Control

By Marco Antonio Correa Varella*, Severi Luoto, Rafael Bento da Silva Soares and Jaroslava Varella Valentova

HYPOTHESIS AND THEORY article

Dr. Varella (and team) provided a broad review of how distal evolutionary drives for nocturnal activities undermined country’s abilities to control the spread of COVID. In this paper, he exemplifies the modern synthesis in evolutionary science by drawing together a broad array of information from various fields to help us understand a pressing concern for individuals, economics, and societies. With his team, he lays out the evolutionary logic of how selection pressures for nighttime activities and argues that these adaptations and the COVID threat come together to explain why people developed conspiracy theories, experienced high levels of anxiety and even overreactions to threat, and failure/refusal to comply with restrictions and safety protocols. The eveningness epidemiological liability hypothesis not only proves useful for understanding reactions to COVID in broad zoological terms, it provides opportunities for how best to design interventions and how to deal with and what to expect from the next viral pandemic to hit the world. Reading this paper, one is struck by the interdisciplinary nature of evolutionary sciences from Wrangham’s fire hypothesis (i.e., anthropology) to Jonason’s work on the association for chronotype and antisocial, fast life history traits (i.e., personality psychology).

Disgust Sensitivity Among Women During the COVID-19 Outbreak

By Karolina Miłkowska*, Andrzej Galbarczyk, Magdalena Mijas and Grazyna Jasienska

ORIGINAL RESEARCH Article

Dr. Miłkowska (and team) embodied, their paper on disgust sensitivity among women during the COVID outbreak exemplify the greatest tradition of researchers capitalizing on real life events to conduct non-experimental work to compare pre-event data that they already had with new data they collected after the event occurred. With substantial sample sizes of Polish women at both time points, the researchers test rather straightforward predictions that are usually quite hard to test in the lab, and when tested may lack ecological validity (e.g., the reliance on dubious priming methods). Research from life history theory and on the behavioral immune systems suggests that the latter are adaptive responses to contextual information to allow people to calibrate their life history strategies accordingly. With feedback from the world that all is well and safe, people are better suited and likely to benefit in terms of reproductive fitness by engaging in a slow life history strategy where they conform to group norms and take precautions like wearing masks. In contrast, when conditions are unsafe, organisms are best served by engaging in more risk-taking and may be less willing to do what they are told.  The results presented by this team provide a unique test of how disgust may change in response to feedback to the world, how that change depends on the kinds of moral emotion, and the role of anxiety, and OCD.