Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Human suicide: a biological perspective

  • Denys deCatanzaro (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Human suicide presents a fundamental problem for the scientific analysis of behavior. This problem has been neither appreciated nor confronted by research and theory. Almost all other behavior exhibited by humans and nonhumans can be viewed as supporting the behaving organism's biological fitness and advancing the welfare of its genes. Yet suicide acts against these ends, and does so more directly and unequivocally than any other form of maladaptive behavior. Four heuristic models are presented here to account for suicide in an evolutionary and sociobiological framework. The first model attributes suicide to the extraordinary development of learning and cultural evolution in the human species. Learning may make human behavior so independent of biological constraints that it can occasionally assume a form entirely contrary to the principles of biological evolution. The second model attributes suicide to a breakdown of adaptive mechanisms in extremely stressful novel environments. The third model involves kin and group selection, arguing that in limited circumstances suicide may occur because of beneficial effects it has on other, surviving individuals who share the suicidal individual's genes. The last model suggests that suicide should be tolerated by evolution when it has no effect on the gene pool. This model holds particular promise in accounting for aspects of suicide not attributable to culture. The evidence indicates that suicide is most common in individuals who are unlikely to reproduce and unable to engage in productive activity; such individuals are least capable of promoting their genes. A complete explanation of suicide may derive only from an analysis of its biological significance.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

H. Anisman (1978) Neurochemical changes elicited by stress: behavioral correlates. In Psychopharmacology of aversively motivated behavior, ed. H. Anisman and G. Bignami . New York: Plenum Press. [HA]

Jack D. Douglas , The social meanings of suicide. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press. [JDD]

E. Mayr (1963) Populations, species, and evolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. [DSW]

P. B. Medawar (1957) The uniqueness of the individual. London: Methuen. [DdC]

G. E. Murphy , and R. D. Wetzel (in press) Suicide risk by birth cohort in the United States, 1949–1974. Archives of General Psychiatry. [RDW]

R. D. Wetzel , T. Margulies , R. Davis , and E. Karam (in press) Depression, hopelessness and suicide intent. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. [RDW]

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 29 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 257 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.