The Evolution of Healing Behaviors

Current interpretations of the origins of health-maintaining behaviors and of medical systems posit the evolution of "healmemes" in higher primates and in humans (Fabrega, 1997, p. 184; the term meme comes from Dawkins, 1982). A healmeme is a unit of information or instruction learned by an individual in dealing with pain, injury, or illness. This unit is stored in the brain and later communicated and transmitted to others. It is not a genetic trait, but if it has beneficial effects at the individual or group level, it will be retained. If not, it will be deselected.

More firmly rooted in genetic evolution, according to Fabrega (1997, p. 31), is the biological adaptation for sickness and healing, termed the SH adaptation. Elements of this adaptation include seeking relief for pain, communicating pain and distress through gestures and vocalization, and seeking or giving help to conspecifics. Nurturing and carrying helpless members of the group, sharing food and water, and direct healing actions (e.g., licking wounds, pressure to stop bleeding, resting to conserve energy) are other examples. Specific SH behaviors are not necessarily instinctive, especially in social animals. What is genetically programmed or "wired in" (Fabrega, 1997, p. 34) is the propensity to seek help and to give help when injury or illness occurs, or when problems arise such as parasite infestation (hence, grooming behaviors). Other aspects of the adaptation include "curiosity about sickness, some fascination with its manifestations, a compassionate appreciation of its burdens, and attempts to reverse its morbid effects" (Fabrega, 1997, p. 38). These components form the basis for the evolution of medical systems in human groups.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Complete Compendium Of Everything Related To Health And Wellness

The Complete Compendium Of Everything Related To Health And Wellness

A lot of us run through the day with so many responsibilities that we don't have even an instant to treat ourselves. Coping with deadlines at work, attending to the kids, replying to that demanding client we respond and react to the needs of other people. It's time to do a few merciful things to reward yourself and get your health in order.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment