Niche construction: ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive

By Matthew C. Nisbet and Dietram A. Scheufele | July 23, 2012

Excerpt: “The lesson is that many of the same background factors that shape the perceptions of the general public also influence the political judgments of scientists, explaining in part why several of the myths reviewed in this article linger on.”


My comment: Genetically predisposed behavior (i.e., all behavior) must first be examined by linking sensory input from the environment directly to the evolved gene, cell, tissues, organ, organ system pathway that links adaptive evolution to ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. The epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones are clear in all animal models, and no correlates are required to link the epigenetic effects directly to hormones that affect human behavioral development.

Biologists who study behavior who are not biochemists, neuroendocrinologists, or molecular biologists must still keep the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization in mind (as indicated in the FDA Critical Path Initiative) lest they become more like social scientists who think that correlates can be meaningfully interpreted as evidence of anything (e.g., including the evolution of morality or fitness benefits of religious belief).

The early ethologists, for example, thought birds had poor olfactory abilities, “… so the use of olfactory cues was ruled out a priori. The resulting correlates with behavior associated only with audiovisual input in birds brought us to our current failure to understand much of anything in the context of nutrient dependent and pheromone-dependent neurogenic niche and socio-cognitive niche construction, which means everything to anyone studying the behavior of any species.

No neurogenic niche does not mean no behavior, and no socio-cognitive niche only means that the unconscious affects of sensory stimuli on hormones and behavior will predominate. In context, however, 1) ecological, 2) social, 3) neurogenic, and 4) socio-cognitive niche construction explain the adaptive evolution of behavioral development in species from microbes to man.

None of the above is easy to explain to science journalists or to a lay audience, but what’s worse is when there is a need to explain niche construction to biologists. Recently, for example, I was asked by an antagonist to define the term ‘neurogenic niche’.  The antagonist, Clarence ‘Sonny’ Wiliams, claims expertise in biology and evolutionary theory, including random mutations, domain-specific modules, and  unknown natural mechanisms. All his claims are made with the absence of any understanding of biologically based cause and effect. But his question about the neurogenic niche makes me wonder how many others, especially other social scientists, do not understand the importance to behavior of the diet-responsive hypothalamic neuronal niche.  And those who do not understand the adaptive evolution of that neuronal niche are probably the same people who think correlates of audiovisual input in humans can be meaningfully interpreted in the context of biologically based cause and effect — as if we were birds with poor olfactory abilities.

In truth, we are like birds that have superior olfactory abilities, whether or not we think we do. We assess food odors and pheromones that determine our food preferences and prefernces for other people. The assessments begin at birth. Isn’t it long past time to stop thinking about the human sense of smell as if we were bird-brained ethologists, and include the epigenetic effects of nutient chemicals and human pheromones in our scientific approaches to the study of animal behavior?

About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society