Adaptation (Encyclopedia of Science)
Adaptation is a term used to describe the ways in which organisms change over time in response to the changing demands of their environment. Organisms seem to accumulate certain physiological, behavioral, and structural traits gradually, and these traits aid them in their ability to survive and reproduce under existing environmental conditions. The grasping hands of primates, the sensitive antennae of insects, and the flowers and fruits of plants are all forms of adaptation that promote survival, reproduction, or both.
Up until the eighteenth century, scientists generally believed that every species was created separately and remained unchanged for centuries. Many features of living thingshe bee's sting, the vertebrate (an animal with a backbone) eye, the human brainppeared to have been designed by a master engineer to serve their specific purpose. A philosophy known as natural theology, which arose in the seventeenth century, argued that the elegant and often complex features of organisms were the products of a direct design by God.
But during the eighteenth century, the scientific community began to take a closer look at the immense diversity (the vast differences) and interrelatedness of (connections between) living things. The excavation of plant and animal fossils prompted a new view that life on Earth developed...
(The entire section is 1548 words.)
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Adaptation (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Behavior that enables an organism to function effectively in its environment.
Adaptation describes the process of change in organisms or species to accommodate to a particular environment, enabling their survival. Adaptation is crucial to the process of natural selection. Ethologists, scientists who study the behavior of animals in their natural habitats from an evolutionary perspective, have documented two main types of adaptive behavior. Some behaviors, known as "closed programs," transmit from one generation to the next relatively unchanged. "Open genetic programs" involve greater degrees of environmental influence.
Adaptation occurs in individual organisms as well as in species. Sensory adaptation consists of physical changes that occur in response to the presence or cessation of stimuli. Examples include the adjustment eyes make when going from broad daylight into a darkened room and the way bodies adjust to the temperature of cold water after an initial plunge. Once a steady level of stimulation (such as light, sound, or odor) is established, we no longer notice it. However, any abrupt changes require further adaptation.
The adrenalin-produced reaction to environmental dangers called the "fight or flight" syndrome (including rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and sweating) can also be...
(The entire section is 268 words.)
Adaptation (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The act or process of modifying an object to render it suitable for a particular or new purpose or situation.
In the law of patentsrants by the government to inventors for the exclusive right to manufacture, use, or market inventions for a term of yearsdaptation denotes a category of patentable inventions, which entails the application of an existing product or process to a new use, accompanied by the exercise of inventive faculties. Federal law provides: "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." 35 U.S.C.A. §101.
The adaptation of a device to a different field can constitute an invention if inventiveness exists in the conception of new use and with modifications necessary to render the device applicable in the new field. The progressive adaptation of well-known devices to new, but similar, uses is merely a display of an expected technical proficiency, which involves only the exercise of common reasoning abilities upon materials furnished by special knowledge ensuing from continual practice. It, therefore, does not represent a patentable invention. Ingenuity beyond the mere adaptation of teachings as could be done by a skilled mechanic is required to achieve a patentable...
(The entire section is 1202 words.)
Adaptation (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
The term adaptation refers to changes in an organism's structure, function, or behavior that increase its ability to live in a particular environment. As such, adaptation is a central term in the life sciences. The many known examples of animals and plants adapting to their environment were the basis for the theories of evolution formulated by Charles Darwin (1809882) and Jeanaptiste de Lamarck (1744829). Adaptation in the Darwinian sense describes a process of evolutionary change by natural selection. In this process the average performance of the individuals in a population with respect to survival and reproduction is improved.
The term adaptation is also used to describe the result of the process of evolutionary change (the state of being adapted) or to describe the "solution" to a problem that is set by the environment. The word is used this way in the adaptationist program, which has been criticized for explaining traits post hoc as having evolved to serve certain functions. Because the environment of any organism is continuously changing, the degree of adaptation is never optimal, and adaptation is, therefore, a never-ending process.
Not all traits in an organism or features of an organism's appearance are necessarily the result of adaptation; they may be by-products of selection acting on other traits. For example, the increased brain size in humans is considered to be a side effect of selection favoring increased body size. Specific traits can also be the result of adaptations for other functions that have since changed. For example, feathers in birds originally evolved to provide insulation, and only later were they used for flying. Physiological adaptations are plastic responses to the physical environment that occur within a lifetime and are not inherited by the next generation. Such adaptations can be of short duration and reversible, such as the adaptation of the eye to light and dark, or they may be long-lasting, such as the increased number of red blood cells in humans who live at high altitudes.
See also EVOLUTION; FITNESS; LIFE SCIENCES; SELECTION, LEVELS OF
Adaptation (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Adaptation is not part of Freudian vocabulary (it does not appear in the index of the Standard Edition, for example). The idea of adaptation, however, is present throughout Freud's work. It appears as early as 1895, in his "Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1950a), when he discusses the mechanisms of perception, attention and memory. The idea runs through all of Freud's subsequent work whenever he discusses the relation between psychic reality and the "reality of the outside world." It is found, for example, in "Instincts and their Vicissitudes" (1915c) and "Repression" (1915d), when he writes that dangers that can't be avoided through behavioral means are "rejected toward the interior." Other texts where the concept appears include "Neurosis and Psychosis" (1924b), "The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis" (1924e), and "An Outline of Psycho-Analysis" (1940a). In fact, there are few texts by Freud where the question of adaptation isn't found, even if the word itself rarely appears.
Adaptation and the related theoretical issues are central to the development of ego-psychology, which was, for the most part, based on Freud's structural theory and the work of Anna Freud (1936/1937) and Heinz Hartmann, author of Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (1938/1958). It was in this period that a theorical schism developed, leading to differences in clinical psychoanalytic practice between those analysts (especially English-speaking) who adapted this point of view and those who preferred other options, either along the lines developed by Melanie Klein and her successors or the rather different approach taken by Lacan and his successors.
Jacques Lacan was, in fact, highly critical of the primacy given to the problems of adaptation in ego-psychology. He emphasized that naively establishing "external reality" as a given prior to and outside of psychic activity is a theoretical absurdity since that exterior reality is constructed through close interaction with psychic reality itself. He also pointed out the dangers of an analytical practice in which the analyst, within the framework of a normative and "normalizing" enterprise, developed mastery, or even a sense of excessive power, in assuming that his or her own "adaptation" is by definition better than that of the patient. Whatever one might think of these criticisms and their rebuttals, there is little doubt that they have had considerable impact, well beyond the field of Lacanian thought, especially in the French-speaking world. Unfortunately, this has had the effect of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" through the unjustified condemnation of any psychoanalytic consideration of the problems of adaptation. These problems cannot be avoided, however, to the extent that psychic processes are constantly being adjusted in terms of their internal equilibrium and modified as a result of the impact of outside events.
See also: Defense; Ego; Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation; Individuation (analytical psychology); Kardiner, Abram; ; Pichon-Rivière, Enrique; Self (true/false).
Canguilhem, Georges. (1989). The normal and the pathological (Carolyn R. Fawcett & Robert S. Cohen, Trans.). New York: Zone Books. (Original work published 1966)
Freud, Anna. (1937). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1936)
Freud, Sigmund. (1915c). Instincts and their vicissitudes. SE, 14: 109-140.
. (1915d). Repression. SE, 14: 141-158.
. (1924b ). Neurosis and psychosis. SE, 19: 147-153.
. (1924e). The loss of reality in neurosis and psychosis. SE, 19: 180-187.
. (1940a ). An outline of psycho-analysis. SE, 23: 139-207.
. (1950a [1887-1902]). Extracts from the Fliess papers. SE, 1: 173-280.
Hartmann Heinz. (1958). Ego psychology and the problem of adaptation (David Rapaport, Trans.). New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1938)