What Is Evolutionary Psychology
- An evolutionary psychologist (EP) studies the
structure of the mind by trying to identify evolved structure
gave a benefit (at least in the Pleistocene) in terms of survival and reproduction.
Thus they look for "Darwinian algorithms":
specialized learning mechanisms that evolved in our ancestral populations.
- EPs study:
- Problems and stresses in our ancestral environment:
physical (shelter, warmth, safety, food, water, etc.) and social (e.g. group cohesion,
reciprocal relationships, cheater detection, communication, protection from enemies,
- Mental proximate mechanisms that evolved to deal with such problems and stresses.
EPs think these mechanisms were shaped by natural selection.
[A proximate cause is an immediate factors responsible for a
particular response (conditions in the environment, internal physiology, previous experience,
- How the present environment differs from the environment when those mechanisms developed.
While some differences have little impact, some can change the behaviors, sometimes in ways that are
Most Accessible Texts on Evolutionary Psychology
Evolutionary Psychology I: The Science of Human Nature.
- Evolutionary Psychology: A Conceptual History.
- Investigating the unmentionable.
- Natural section and adaptation.
- Evolved psychological mechanisms.
- Deconstructing the blank slate.
- Food, clothing, shelter, and health.
- Cooperation and the paradox of altruism.
- Gender and sex differences.
- Sex lives of the vertebrates.
- The evolution of human sexuality.
- Monogamy and polygamy.
- Attraction, courtship, and mating.
- Love, attachment, and child rearing.
- Parents, offspring, and families.
Evolutionary Psychology II: The Science of Human Nature.
Players: Naming Some Names
Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, two researchers at U.C. Santa Barbara.
- Apologists writing passionately about evolutionary psychology
in language accessible to a broad audience include:
linguist Steve Pinker, philosopher Daniel Dennett,
essayist Robert Wright, and
science writer Matt Ridley.
Steve Pinker is particularly prolific, with:
in which he makes a core protest of evolutionary psychology, that
"many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature
by embracing three linked dogmas:
The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits),
the Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society),
and the Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology.
Each dogma carries a moral
burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists
who are now challenging them."
- The Language Instinct (1994).
- How the Mind Works (1997).
- The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002).