background preloader

Evolutionary Psychology

Facebook Twitter

Evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary psychology

It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations – that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection.

Fields related to Evolutionary Psychology

Modern evolutionary synthesis. The modern evolutionary synthesis is a 20th-century union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution.

Modern evolutionary synthesis

It is also referred to as the new synthesis, the modern synthesis, the evolutionary synthesis, millennium synthesis or the neo-Darwinian synthesis. The synthesis, produced between 1936 and 1947, reflects the consensus about how evolution proceeds.[1] The previous development of population genetics, between 1918 and 1932, was a stimulus, as it showed that Mendelian genetics was consistent with natural selection and gradual evolution.

The synthesis is still, to a large extent, the current paradigm in evolutionary biology.[2] The modern synthesis solved difficulties and confusions caused by the specialisation and poor communication between biologists in the early years of the 20th century. At its heart was the question of whether Mendelian genetics could be reconciled with gradual evolution by means of natural selection. T. History of evolutionary psychology. The history of evolutionary psychology began with Charles Darwin, who proposed that humans have social instincts that evolved by natural selection.

History of evolutionary psychology

Darwin's work inspired later psychologists such as William James and Siegmund Freud but for most of the 20th century psychologists focused more on behaviorism and proximate explanations for human behavior. E. O. Wilson's landmark 1975 book, Sociobiology, synthesized recent theoretical advances in evolutionary theory to explain social behavior in animals, including humans. Wikipedia entry on the history of Evolutionary Psychology. Theoretical foundations of evolutionary psychology. The theoretical foundations of evolutionary psychology are the general and specific scientific theories that explain the ultimate origins of psychological traits in terms of evolution.

Theoretical foundations of evolutionary psychology

These theories originated with Charles Darwin's work, including his speculations about the evolutionary origins of social instincts in humans. Modern evolutionary psychology, however, is possible only because of advances in evolutionary theory in the 20th century. In 1964, William D. Hamilton proposed inclusive fitness theory, emphasizing a "gene's-eye" view of evolution. Hamilton noted that individuals can increase the replication of their genes into the next generation by helping close relatives with whom they share genes survive and reproduce. Several mid-level evolutionary theories inform evolutionary psychology. Cultural universal. General[edit] The emergence of these universals dates to the Upper Paleolithic, with the first evidence of full behavioral modernity.

Cultural universal

List of cultural universals[edit] Among the cultural universals listed by Brown (1991) are: Language and cognition[edit] Language employed to manipulate othersLanguage employed to misinform or misleadLanguage is translatableAbstraction in speech and thoughtAntonyms, synonymsLogical notions of "and," "not," "opposite," "equivalent," "part/whole," "general/particular"Binary cognitive distinctionsColor terms: black, whiteClassification of: age, behavioral propensities, body parts, colors, fauna, flora, inner states, kin, sex, space, tools, weather conditionsContinua (ordering as cognitive pattern)Discrepancies between speech, thought, and actionFigurative speech, metaphorsSymbolism, symbolic speechSynesthetic metaphorsTabooed utterancesSpecial speech for special occasionsPrestige from proficient use of language (e.g. poetry)PlanningUnits of time.

Wikipedia entry on Evolutionary Psychology. Criticism of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology (EP) has generated substantial controversy and criticism, including: 1) disputes about the testability of evolutionary hypotheses, 2) alternatives to some of the cognitive assumptions (such as massive modularity) frequently employed in evolutionary psychology, 3) alleged vagueness stemming from evolutionary assumptions (e.g. uncertainty about the environment of evolutionary adaptation, EEA), 4) differing stress on the importance of non-genetic and non-adaptive explanations, as well as 5) political and ethical issues.[1] Evolutionary psychologists respond by arguing that these criticisms[clarification needed] are straw men, ideologically rather than scientifically motivated, are based on an incorrect nature vs. nurture dichotomy, or are based on misunderstandings of the discipline.[2] [3][page needed] [4][page needed] [5][page needed] [6][page needed] [7][page needed] [8]

Criticism of evolutionary psychology

Topics reported to have successful theoretical predictions

Language. A mural in Teotihuacan, Mexico (c. 2nd century) depicting a person emitting a speech scroll from his mouth, symbolizing speech Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system.


The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Languages evolve and diversify over time, and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral languages must have had in order for the later developmental stages to occur. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family.

Definitions[edit] As an object of linguistic study, "language" has two primary meanings: an abstract concept, and a specific linguistic system, e.g. Memory. Overview of the forms and functions of memory in the sciences In psychology, memory is the process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.


Encoding allows information that is from the outside world to reach our senses in the forms of chemical and physical stimuli. In this first stage we must change the information so that we may put the memory into the encoding process. Storage is the second memory stage or process. This entails that we maintain information over periods of time. Perception. Since the rise of experimental psychology in the 19th Century, psychology's understanding of perception has progressed by combining a variety of techniques.[3] Psychophysics quantitatively describes the relationships between the physical qualities of the sensory input and perception.[5] Sensory neuroscience studies the brain mechanisms underlying perception.


Perceptual systems can also be studied computationally, in terms of the information they process. Perceptual issues in philosophy include the extent to which sensory qualities such as sound, smell or color exist in objective reality rather than in the mind of the perceiver.[3] The perceptual systems of the brain enable individuals to see the world around them as stable, even though the sensory information is typically incomplete and rapidly varying. Human and animal brains are structured in a modular way, with different areas processing different kinds of sensory information. Process and terminology[edit] Mismatch theory. Mismatch theory is a concept in evolutionary biology that refers to fluidity in fitness criteria.

Mismatch theory

Human nature. The branches of contemporary science associated with the study of human nature include anthropology, sociology, sociobiology, and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology, and developmental psychology. The "nature versus nurture" debate is a broadly inclusive and well-known instance of a discussion about human nature in the natural sciences.

History[edit] The concept of nature as a standard by which to make judgments was a basic presupposition in Greek philosophy. Specifically, "almost all" classical philosophers accepted that a good human life is a life in accordance with nature.[1] (Notions and concepts of human nature from China, Japan or India are not taken up in the present discussion.) Modularity of mind. Modularity of mind is the notion that a mind may, at least in part, be composed of innate neural structures or modules which have distinct established evolutionarily developed functions. Somewhat different definitions of "module" have been proposed by different authorities. Early investigations[edit] Cognitive module. A cognitive module is, in theories of the modularity of mind and the closely related society of mind theory, a specialised tool or sub-unit that can be used by other parts to resolve cognitive tasks. The question of their existence and nature is a major topic in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology.

Some see cognitive modules as an independent part of the mind.[1] Others also see new thought patterns achieved by experience as cognitive modules.[2] Other theories similar to the cognitive module are cognitive description,[3] cognitive pattern[4] and psychological mechanism. Language acquisition. Wason selection task. Each card has a number on one side, and a patch of color on the other. Which card(s) must be turned over to test the idea that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is red?

The Wason selection task (or four-card problem) is a logic puzzle devised by Peter Cathcart Wason in 1966.[1][2] It is one of the most famous tasks in the study of deductive reasoning.[3] An example of the puzzle is: You are shown a set of four cards placed on a table, each of which has a number on one side and a colored patch on the other side. The visible faces of the cards show 3, 8, red and brown. Which card(s) must you turn over in order to test the truth of the proposition that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is red? A response that identifies a card that need not be inverted, or that fails to identify a card that needs to be inverted, is incorrect. Solution[edit] The correct response is to turn over only the 8 and brown cards.

Westermarck effect. The Westermarck effect, or reverse sexual imprinting, is a hypothetical psychological effect through which people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to later sexual attraction. This phenomenon, one explanation for the incest taboo, was first hypothesized by Finnish anthropologist Edvard Westermarck in his book The History of Human Marriage (1891). Observations interpreted as evidence for the Westermarck effect have since been made in many places and cultures, including in the Israeli kibbutz system, and the Chinese Shim-pua marriage customs, as well as in biological-related families.

In the case of the Israeli kibbutzim (collective farms), children were reared somewhat communally in peer groups, based on age, not biological relation. Contrasting Westermarck and Freud[edit] Steven Pinker wrote on the subject: The idea that boys want to sleep with their mothers strikes most men as the silliest thing they have ever heard. Adaptationism. Debate[edit] Adaptationism could also be characterized as an approach to studying evolution of form and function that attempts to frame the existence and persistence of traits on the scenario that each of them arose independently due to how that trait improved the reproductive success of the organism's ancestors.

Adaptationism is also a description of "folk biology" where non-experts see that, in general, organisms have an amazing array of adaptations, then apply this principle too broadly and describe everything as adaptive. Psychological adaptation. The least controversial EPMs are those commonly known as instincts, including interpreting stereoscopic vision and suckling a mother's breast.[4] Sexual selection.

Sexual selection is a mode of natural selection in which some individuals outreproduce others of a population because they are better at securing mates.[1][2] In 1858,[3] Darwin described sexual selection as an important process driving species evolution and as a significant element of his theory of natural selection, but this concept was only named in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. Evolutionary psychology of parenting. Evolutionarily speaking, offspring have a greater bond to mothers than fathers; women are universally known to be the direct caregivers in a parent-offspring relationship, whereas males are seen as material resource providers or involved only with their own reproductive success.

Women have the "maternal instinct" to aid, assist, embrace and invest in their offspring. Males are evolutionarily known to invest less due to paternal uncertainty and therefore seek as many sexual partners and seek for an increase of their genes amongst society.[1] However, males also have a role in securing a connection with the offspring by taking part in making an offspring's decisions when involved in a household. Natural selection. Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations occur in the genome of an individual organism, and these mutations can be passed to offspring. Throughout the individuals’ lives, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits.