Meet Glenn Geher, Ph.D and the Founding Director of Evolutionary Studies

Hello Everyone,
It’s been a minute since we did our interview’s but who’s excited for it? Because I know I am! We are super excited to launch our interview series again and to start it off; we have Glenn Geher! Author of more than 10 published books and an academic professor. Glenn focuses on the study of evolution and how us human became who we are today. I found it very informative and gave me a better understanding regarding evolutionary studies. So, let’s get started!

1) Before we get started, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself? What caught your attention in the psychology field and made you decide to pursue this career path? 

GG: Like many 18-year olds who enter college, in 1988, at the University of Connecticut, I decided to study psychology because I thought it was all about therapy and it seemed interesting. And I thought that jobs in the field made good money. I quickly learned that none of that was exactly true … but I found that research in the behavioral sciences (which is the part of Psychology that I focus on) is truly rewarding in so many ways. My early education at UCONN helped me see how broad of a field Psychology is. And there, I learned the basic research skills needed to go on to an advanced doctoral program on this path at the University of New Hampshire.

2) Based on your website, it mentions that you love evolutionary psychology. I personally never heard about it before, can you tell me what about it stood out to you?

GG: Sure! Evolutionary psychology is essentially an approach to questions of behavior that consider our evolutionary history. For instance, under ancestral human conditions in the African savanna, we know that drought and famine were common. Our evolved taste preferences for foods that are high in caloric content evolved as a result. But now, these same food preferences are mismatched from our modern environments. We have food preferences that are evolved for famine conditions, yet high-caloric food is available, for so many of us, cheaply all over the place. This is partly why obesity and various resultant diseases characterize so much of the industrialized world.

Evolutionary psychology looks at any question of human behavior (such as the foods that we prefer) and thinks about them from this deep, stepped-back perspective. I find it powerful, exciting, and humbling. And students tend to be fascinated by this approach to the human experience.

3) I just did a little research on it and it says that it is the evolution of mind and behaviour. Now i’m curious, what has changed through the human evolution from stone age to our current time? 

GG: Honestly, no much! Organic evolution takes a long time, generally, to result in actual changes to the genome of a species. The Neolithic revolution, which took place around 10,000 years ago when our ancestors first started developing agriculture and building non-nomadic settlements, took place pretty recently from the perspective of evolution.

This point is of profound importance. It essentially says that our minds are evolved for conditions that, in so many ways, are mismatched from the modern environments that surround so many of us now.

4) Since mating is involved with evolutionary psychology, can you explain how the human mating strategies work to determine our choice in partner and how it relates to our sexual orientation?

GG: The evolutionary perspective largely focuses on factors that lead to gene proliferation, or reproductive success. So any and all issues of mating, such as courtship, love, infidelity, relationship dissolution, etc., are critical from an evolutionary perspective. As such, many evolutionary psychologists study these topics.

Sexual orientation is particularly interesting because non-heterosexual behaviors do not directly lead to reproductive success. Yet such behaviors are highly prevalent in human groups across the globe. Evolutionary psychologists are often puzzled by such non-reproductively based behaviors. Various potential evolutionary explanations for non-heterosexuality exist, but, honestly, I’d say that, for the most part, this facet of the human experience remains something of a puzzle for scholars in the field.

5) How does mate selection differ with evolutionary psychology? 

GG: Evolutionary psychologists differ from other relationship researchers in that they take the approach that mating processes, such as choosing a mate, likely have some adaptive value. That is, such processes that are now species-typical (and characterize people generally) probably had the effect of leading to some kind of reproductive advantages. Women who were attracted to very wealthy and successful men were more likely to have support for themselves and their offspring. And this fact helps explain women’s desire for such characteristics now. On the other hand, ancestral men who were attracted to women with youthful looks were more likely than were other men to mate with fertile women. And this fact helps explain men’s desires in female partners today.

6) You even published 3 books regarding the topic of mating relationships! Now what would you say is the key of success in a relationship, whether its through emotions or sex; what is the biggest tip you can give to any couple out there ?

GG: LOL, I’m not sure if you’re asking the right guy … but I’ll try. Several scholars in the field, most notably Helen Fisher, have focused on the evolved function of love. While love has various meanings and facets, at the end of the day, strong, emotional, passionate love that draws two individuals together has the capacity to create an extraordinarily strong pairbond that will benefit both members of that couple as well as any shared offspring they may have. I’d say that without genuine, passionate love, a relationship is really just asking for trouble.

7) Let’s get a little personal now, you have tons of hobbies and you were also a head guitar player. Do you ever plan on getting back into a rock band or through your hobbies it gives you ideas on what articles to write?

GG: I’m happy to say that I’ve been the lead guitarist for the Hudson Valley’s premier (only?) all-professor punk rock band, Questionable Authorities for over a decade now. Tragically, about a year ago, the heartbeat of our band, renowned sociology professor Peter Kaufman, passed away after a valiant fight against lung cancer. Peter was our drummer, but he was so much more. He was an amazing friend and an exceptional member of our broader community. And a brilliant writer and perhaps the most inspiring teacher I’ve ever known.

Losing Peter has been nothing short of tragic for our community in general and for our band in particular. After months of soul searching, I will say that we have decided to regroup and invite a new drummer to join on. Never to replace Peter, but to allow us to continue as Peter 1000% would have wanted.

Music is a gift and being able to unwind and rock out with the Authorities is about as good as life gets for me. Our end-of-semester graduation gigs at Snugs (our local dive bar in town) have emerged as a true cornerstone of my life and I look forward to the next one. By the way, we all have nicknames in the band. And I bet you won’t be surprised that I am Caveman …

8) Are you still teaching now and do you plan on continuing to teach and educate students for as long as you can ? 

GG: Teaching is a blessing and I’m thrilled to be in my 26th year of college teaching right now. Sculpting the minds of the next generation of leaders, inspiring them and instilling them with needed skills, and helping them advance on to the next stages of life and career – these are, to me, the core elements of teaching. And there are, to my mind, few professions that are as impactful at the end of the day.

And  yes, “for as long as I can” is fully how long I plan to continue this line of work!

9) Last but not least, what is one tip you would give anyone who plans on finding their passion in psychology? 

GG: Take advantage of opportunities and work hard (I guess that is two tips, but hey!). If you’re a college student who is studying psychology, don’t fool yourself into thinking you know what the field is all about. When I was 18, I thought the field was only about therapy. I look back now and realize that I was beyond naïve in this thinking.

Psychology is an enormous field with all kinds of questions to be asked and work to be done. Take the lead of seasoned experts, dive into extra-curricular opportunities, get involved in research, and work to, at the end of the day, make a positive difference. Life is too short to do anything else.

For more information on Glenn, please visit his website at https://faculty.newpaltz.edu/glenngeher/  and check out his articles on https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/experts/glenn-geher-phd

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