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Maloney, A. (2003). Archetype theory, evolutionary psychology and the Baldwin effect. A commentary on Hogenson's paper (October 2001, JAP, 46, 4). J. Anal. Psychol., 48(1):101-107.

(2003). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 48(1):101-107

Archetype theory, evolutionary psychology and the Baldwin effect. A commentary on Hogenson's paper (October 2001, JAP, 46, 4)

Alan Maloney, M.D.

A recent article by George Hogenson ‘The Baldwin effect: a neglected influence onC. G. Jung's evolutionary thinking(2001) brought the readership of the Journal of Analytical Psychology into contact with an important evolutionary principle, one with special relevance to psychology. Hogenson deftly guides the reader through a historical review of Jung's exposure to the Baldwin effect and in the process elucidates a non-Lamarckian explanation for Jung's model of the psyche. However valuable his historical analysis, Hogenson seriously missteps when he considers the Baldwin effect as it relates to the psyche; his elaborations at this point are inconsistent with the Baldwin effect itself. Hogenson's ensuing critique of sociobiology and its intellectual heir, evolutionary psychology, is not as sound it appears. This may be especially disorienting to readers unfamiliar with evolutionary thinking. His criticism collapses in the face of his failure to account for a priori features of the mind which are innate and therefore present prior to experience.

The Baldwin effect holds that learned adaptations affect the accumulation of genetic traits through natural selection: any organism possessing specific genetic capacities to learn can, through learning, be exposed to selective pressures favouring modifications in the design of that organism which promote, in turn, enhanced future learning. The Baldwin effect is relevant to a wide range of biological processes including phenomena such as the formation of antigen-specific antibodies. In mammals there are stretches of DNA that have unique properties. These so-called ‘hyper-variable regions’ have special properties. One feature is that these regions mutate easily when exposed to specific types of stimuli, like a virus particle (or other antigens). This mutability, which in other segments of the genome would be catastrophic, allows mammals to produce custom-made antibodies, which help fight infections. Only certain types of stimuli produce an antibody response, other pathogens are ignored by this particular system. Antibody formation illustrates a non-psychological application of the Baldwin effect explaining learning of a certain sort. However, its relevance to psychology is even more compelling.

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