Evolutionary psychology

Evolutionary psychology (EP) attempts to explain mental and psychological traits—such as memory, perception, or language—as adaptations, that is, as the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. They hypothesize, for example, that humans have inherited special mental capacities for acquiring language, making it nearly automatic, while inheriting no capacity specifically for reading and writing. Other adaptations, according to EP, might include the abilities to infer others' emotions, to discern kin from non-kin, to identify and prefer healthier mates, to cooperate with others, and so on. Consistent with the theory of natural selection, evolutionary psychology sees organisms as often in conflict with others of their species, including mates and relatives. For example, mother mammals and their young offspring sometimes struggle over weaning, which benefits the mother more than the child. Humans, however, have a marked capacity for cooperation as well.

Evolutionary psychologists see those behaviors and emotions that are nearly universal, such as fear of spiders and snakes, as more likely to reflect evolved adaptations. Evolved psychological adaptations (such as the ability to learn a language) interact with cultural inputs to produce specific behaviors (e.g., the specific language learned). This view is contrary to the idea that human mental faculties are general-purpose learning mechanisms.

Fields closely related to EP are animal behavioral ecology, human behavioral ecology, dual inheritance theory, and sociobiology.


Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach to the entire discipline that views human nature as a universal set of evolved psychological adaptations to recurring problems in the ancestral environment. Proponents of EP suggest that it seeks to heal a fundamental division at the very heart of science --- that between the soft human social sciences and the hard natural sciences, and that the fact that human beings are living organisms demands that psychology be understood as a branch of biology. Anthropologist John Tooby and psychologist Leda Cosmides note:

"Evolutionary psychology is the long-forestalled scientific attempt to assemble out of the disjointed, fragmentary, and mutually contradictory human disciplines a single, logically integrated research framework for the psychological, social, and behavioral sciences—a frameworkthat not only incorporates the evolutionary sciences on a full and equal basis, but that systematically works out all of the revisions in existing belief and research practice that such a synthesis requires." [Tooby & Cosmides 2005, p. 5]

Quote box
quote = In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.
source = Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species"
width = 15%
align = right
Just as human physiology and evolutionary physiology have worked to identify physical adaptations of the body that represent "human physiological nature," the purpose of evolutionary psychology is to identify evolved emotional and cognitive adaptations that represent "human psychological nature." EP is, to quote Steven Pinker, "not a single theory but a large set of hypotheses" and a term which "has also come to refer to a particular way of applying evolutionary theory to the mind, with an emphasis on adaptation, gene-level selection, and modularity." EP proposes that the human brain comprises many functional mechanisms, [ [http://psychegames.com/evolutionary-psychology.htm evolutionary psychology] Psyche Games. Accessed August 22 2007] called "psychological adaptations" or evolved cognitive mechanisms or "cognitive modules" designed by the process of natural selection. Examples include language acquisition modules, incest avoidance mechanisms, cheater detection mechanisms, intelligence and sex-specific mating preferences, foraging mechanisms, alliance-tracking mechanisms, agent detection mechanisms, and others. EP has roots in cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology ("See also" sociobiology). It also draws on behavioral ecology, artificial intelligence, genetics, ethology, anthropology, archaeology, biology, and zoology. EP is closely linked to sociobiology,Fact|date=February 2008 but there are key differences between them including the emphasis on "domain-specific" rather than "domain-general" mechanisms, the relevance of measures of current fitness, the importance of mismatch theory, and psychology rather than behaviour. Many evolutionary psychologists, however, argue that the mind consists of both domain-specific and domain-general mechanisms, especially evolutionary developmental psychologists. Most sociobiological research is now conducted in the field of behavioral ecology.Fact|date=February 2008

The term "evolutionary psychology" was probably coined by American biologist Michael Ghiselin in a 1973 article published in the journal "Science". [cite journal |author=Ghiselin MT |title=Darwin and Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin initiated a radically new way of studying behavior |journal=Science |volume=179 |issue=4077 |pages=964–968 |year=1973 |pmid=17842154 |doi=10.1126/science.179.4077.964] Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby popularized the term "evolutionary psychology" in their highly influential 1992 book "". [cite book |author=Tooby, John; Barkow, Jerome H.; Cosmides, Leda |title=The Adapted mind: evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=Oxford [Oxfordshire] |year=1995 |pages= |isbn=0-19-510107-3 |oclc= |doi=] EP has been applied to the study of many fields, including economics, aggression, law, psychiatry, politics, literature, and sex.

EP uses Nikolaas Tinbergen's four categories of questions and explanations of animal behavior. Two categories are at the species level; two, at the individual level, as noted in the table below.

The species-level categories (often called “ultimate explanations”) are
*the function (i.e., adaptation) that a behavior serves and
*the evolutionary process (i.e., phylogeny) that resulted in the adaptation (functionality). The individual-level categories are
*the development of the individual (i.e., ontogeny) and
*the proximate mechanism (e.g., brain anatomy and hormones).

Evolutionary psychology mostly focuses on the adaptation (functional) category.


Evolutionary psychology is a hybrid discipline that draws insights from modern evolutionary theory, biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science, and paleoarchaeology. The discipline rests on a foundation of core premises. According to evolutionary psychologist David Buss, these include:

# Manifest behavior depends on underlying psychological mechanisms, information processing devices housed in the brain, in conjunction with the external and internal inputs that trigger their activation.
# Evolution by selection is the only known causal process capable of creating such complex organic mechanisms.
# Evolved psychological mechanisms are functionally specialized to solve adaptive problems that recurred for humans over deep evolutionary time.
# Selection designed the information processing of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be adaptively influenced by specific classes of information from the environment.
# Human psychology consists of a large number of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms, each sensitive to particular forms of contextual input, that get combined, coordinated, and integrated with each other to produce manifest behavior.

Similarly, pioneers of the field Leda Cosmides and John Tooby consider five principles to be the foundation of evolutionary psychology:
# The brain is a physical system. It functions as a computer with circuits that have evolved to generate behavior that is appropriate to environmental circumstances
# Neural circuits were designed by natural selection to solve problems that human ancestors faced while evolving into "Homo sapiens"
# Consciousness is a small portion of the contents and processes of the mind; conscious experience can mislead individuals to believe their thoughts are simpler than they actually are. Most problems experienced as easy to solve are very difficult to solve and are driven and supported by very complicated neural circuitry
# Different neural circuits are specialized for solving different adaptive problems.
# Modern skulls house a stone age mind.cite web |last=Cosmides |first=L |authorlink=Leda Cosmides |coauthors=Tooby J |date=1997-01-13 |url=http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/primer.html |title= Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer |accessdate=2008-02-16 |publisher=Center for Evolutionary Psychology]

Evolutionary psychology is founded on the computational theory of mind, the theory that the mind, our "inner world," is the action of complex neural structures in the brain. For example, when a child shrinks in fear from a spider, the child's brain has attended to the spider, computed that it's a potential threat, and initiated a fear response.

General evolutionary theory

: "Main article: Evolution

Evolutionary psychology is rooted in evolutionary theory. It is sometimes seen not simply as a sub-discipline of psychology but as a way in which evolutionary theory can be used as a meta-theoretical framework within which to examine "the entire field of psychology." A few biologists challenge the basic premises of evolutionary psychology. [See for example:cite book
first=Stephen Jay
authorlink=Stephen Jay Gould
title=The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
publisher=Harvard University Press

Darwin's illustrations of beak variation in the finches of the Galápagos Islands.]

Natural selection

Natural selection, a key component of evolutionary theory, involves three main ingredients:

* Genetically based inheritance of traits - some traits are passed down from parents to offspring in genes,
* Variation - heritable traits vary within a population (now we know that mutation is the source of some of this genetic variation),
* Differential survival and reproduction - these traits will vary in how strongly they promote the survival and reproduction of their bearers.

Selection refers to the process by which environmental conditions "select" organisms with the appropriate traits to survive; these organisms will have such traits more strongly represented in the next generation. This is the basis of adaptive evolution. Darwin's great claim was that this "natural selection" was "creative" - it could lead to new traits and even new species, it was centred on individual survival, and it could explain the broad scale patterns of evolution.

exual selection

Many traits that are selected for can actually hinder survival of the organism while increasing its reproductive opportunities. Consider the classic example of the peacock's tail. It is metabolically costly, cumbersome, and essentially a "predator magnet." What the peacock's tail does do is attract mates. Thus, the type of selective process that is involved here is what Darwin called "sexual selection." Sexual selection can be divided into two types:

* Intersexual selection, which refers to the traits that one sex generally prefers in the other sex, (e.g. the peacock's tail).
* Intrasexual competition, which refers to the competition among members of the same sex for mating access to the opposite sex, (e.g. two stags locking antlers).

Inclusive fitness

Inclusive fitness theory, which was proposed by William D. Hamilton in 1964 as a revision to evolutionary theory, is basically a combination of natural selection, sexual selection, and kin selection. It refers to the sum of an individual's own reproductive success plus the effects the individual's actions have on the reproductive success of their genetic relatives. General evolutionary theory, in its modern form, "is" essentially inclusive fitness theory.

Inclusive fitness theory resolved the issue of how "altruism" evolved. The dominant, pre-Hamiltonian view was that altruism evolved via group selection: the notion that altruism evolved for the benefit of the group. The problem with this was that if one organism in a group incurred any fitness costs on itself for the benefit of others in the group, (i.e. acted "altruistically"), then that organism would reduce its own ability to survive and/or reproduce, therefore reducing its chances of passing on its altruistic traits. Furthermore, the organism that benefited from that altruistic act and only acted on behalf of its own fitness would increase its own chance of survival and/or reproduction, thus increasing its chances of passing on its "selfish" traits.Inclusive fitness resolved "the problem of altruism" by demonstrating that altruism can evolve via kin selection as expressed in Hamilton's rule:::::cost < relatedness × benefitIn other words, altruism can evolve as long as the fitness "cost" of the altruistic act on the part of the actor is less than the "degree of genetic relatedness" of the recipient times the fitness "benefit" to that recipient. This perspective reflects what is referred to as the gene-centered view of evolution and demonstrates that group selection is a very weak selective force. However, in recent years group selection has been making a comeback, (albeit a controversial one), as multilevel selection, which posits that evolution can act on many levels of functional organization, (including the "group" level), and not just the "gene" level.


Source: [Mills, M.E. (2004). "Evolution and motivation". Symposium paper presented at the Western Psychological Association Conference, Phoenix, AZ. April, 2004.]

Middle-level evolutionary theories

Middle-level evolutionary theories are theories that encompass broad domains of functioning. They are compatible with general evolutionary theory but not derived from it. Furthermore, they are applicable across species. During the early 1970s, three very important middle-level evolutionary theories were contributed by Robert Trivers: [cite journal|last=Trivers|first=Robert L.|title=The evolution of reciprocal altruism|journal=Quarterly Review of Biology|volume=46|issue=1|pages=35–57|year=1971|month=March|url=http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0033-5770%28197103%2946%3A1%3C35%3ATEORA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S|doi=10.1086/406755] [cite book|last=Trivers|first=Robert L.|chapter=Parental investment and sexual selection|editor=Bernard Campbell|title=Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971|pages=136-179|publisher=Aldine Transaction (Chicago)|year=1972|isbn=0202020053] [cite journal|last=Trivers|first=Robert L.|title=Parent-offspring conflict|volume=14|issue=1|pages=249–264|year=1974|doi=10.1093/icb/14.1.249|publisher=The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology|journal=American Zoologist]

* The theory of reciprocal altruism explains how altruism can arise amongst non-kin, as long as there is a sufficient probability of the recipient of the altruistic act reciprocating at a later date. The possibility was also noted by Trivers, later coined 'indirect altruism' by Richard D. Alexander, that reciprocation could be provided by third parties, raising the issue of social reputation.

* Parental investment theory refers to the different levels of investment in offspring on the part of each sex. For example, females in any species are defined as the sex with the larger gamete. In humans, females release approximately one large, metabolically costly egg per month, as opposed to the millions of relatively tiny and metabolically cheap sperm that are produced each day by males. Females are fertile for only a few days each month, while males are fertile every day of the month. Females also have a nine month gestation period, followed by a few years of lactation. Males' obligatory biological investment can be achieved with one copulatory act. Consequently, human females have a significantly higher obligatory investment in offspring than males do. (In some species, the opposite is true.) Because of this difference in parental investment between males and females, the sexes face different adaptive problems in the domains of mating and parenting. Therefore, it is predicted that the higher investing sex will be more selective in mating, and the lesser investing sex will be more competitive for access to mates. Thus, differences in behaviour between sexes is predicted to exist not because of maleness or femaleness per se, but because of different levels of parental investment.

* The theory of parent-offspring conflict rests on the fact that even though a parent and his/her offspring are 50% genetically related, they are also 50% genetically different. All things being equal, a parent would want to allocate their resources equally amongst their offspring, while each offspring may want a little more for themselves. Furthermore, an offspring may want a little more resources from the parent than the parent is willing to give. In essence, parent-offspring conflict refers to "a conflict of adaptive interests" between parent and offspring. However, if all things are not equal, a parent may engage in discriminative investment towards one sex or the other, depending on the "parent's" condition. Additional middle-level evolutionary theories used in EP include:

*The Trivers-Willard hypothesis, which proposes that parents will invest more in the sex that gives them the greatest reproductive payoff (grandchildren) with increasing or marginal investment. Females are the heavier parental investors in our species. Because of that, females have a better chance of reproducing at least once in comparison to males, but males in good condition have a better chance of producing high numbers of offspring than do females in good condition. Thus, according to the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, parents in good condition are predicted to favor investment in sons, and parents in poor condition are predicted to favor investment in daughters.

*r/K selection theory, which, in ecology, relates to the selection of traits in organisms that allow success in particular environments. r-selected species, (in unstable or unpredictable environments), produce many offspring, each of which is unlikely to survive to adulthood, while K-selected species, (in stable or predictable environments), invest more heavily in fewer offspring, each of which has a better chance of surviving to adulthood.
*Evolutionary game theory, the application of population genetics-inspired models of change in gene frequency in populations to game theory.
*Evolutionary stable strategy, which refers to a strategy, which if adopted by a population, cannot be invaded by any competing alternative strategy.

Evolved psychological mechanisms

At a proximal level, evolutionary psychology is based on the hypothesis that, just like hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, and immune systems, cognition has functional structure that has a genetic basis, and therefore has evolved by natural selection. Like other organs and tissues, this functional structure should be universally shared amongst a species, and should solve important problems of survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychologists seek to understand psychological mechanisms by understanding the survival and reproductive functions they might have served over the course of evolutionary history.

While philosophers have generally considered human mind to include broad faculties, such as reason and lust, evolutionary psychologists describe EPMs as narrowly evolved to deal with specific issues, such as catching cheaters or choosing mates.

Some mechanisms, termed "domain-specific", deal with recurrent adaptive problems over the course of human evolutionary history. "Domain-general" mechanisms, on the other hand, deal with evolutionary novelty.

Environment of evolutionary adaptedness

EP argues that to properly understand the functions of the brain, one must understand the properties of the environment in which the brain evolved. That environment is often referred to as the "environment of evolutionary adaptedness", or EEA for short. [See also "Environment of evolutionary adaptation," a variation of the term used in Economics, e.g., in Rubin, Paul H., 2003, "Folk economics" Southern Economic Journal, 70:1, July 2003, 157-171.]


The term "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" was coined by John Bowlby as part of attachment theory. It refers to the environment to which a particular evolved mechanism is adapted. More specifically, the EEA is defined as the set of historically recurring selection pressures that formed a given adaptation, as well as those aspects of the environment that were necessary for the proper development and functioning of the adaptation. In the environment in which ducks evolved, for example, attachment of ducklings to their mother had great survival value for the ducklings. Because the first moving being that a duckling was likely to see was its mother, a psychological mechanism that evolved to form an attachment to the first moving being would therefore properly function to form an attachment to the mother. In novel environments, however, the mechanism can malfunction by forming an attachment to a dog or human instead.

Human EEA

Humans, comprising the genus Homo, appeared between 1.5 and 2.5 million years ago, a time that roughly coincides with the start of the Pleistocene 1.8 million years ago. Because the Pleistocene ended a mere 12,000 years ago, most human adaptations either newly evolved during the Pleistocene, or were maintained by stabilizing selection during the Pleistocene. Evolutionary psychology therefore proposes that the majority of human psychological mechanisms are adapted to reproductive problems frequently encountered in Pleistocene environments.cite book
last= Symons‎
authorlink= Donald Symons‎
chapter=On the use and misuse of Darwinism in the study of human behavior
title=The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture
publisher=Oxford University Press
date= 1992
] In broad terms, these problems include those of growth, development, differentiation, maintenance, mating, parenting, and social relationships. To properly understand human mating psychology, for example, it is essential to recognize that in the EEA (as now) women got pregnant and men did not.


If humans are mostly adapted to Pleistocene environments, then some psychological mechanisms should occasionally exhibit “mismatches” to the modern environment, similar to the attachment patterns of ducks. One example is the fact that although about 10,000 people are killed with guns in the US annually, [ [http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_10.pdf CDC pdf] ] whereas spiders and snakes kill only a handful, people nonetheless learn to fear spiders and snakes about as easily as they do a pointed gun, and more easily than an unpointed gun, rabbits or flowers.cite journal
author=Ohman, A.
coauthors=Mineka, S.
title=Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning
journal=Psychological Review
] A potential explanation is that spiders and snakes were a threat to human ancestors throughout the Pleistocene, whereas guns (and rabbits and flowers) were not. There is thus a mismatch between our evolved fear-learning psychology and the modern environment.Citation
author=Pinker, S.
title=How the Mind Works
publisher=WW Norton & Co. New York
] cite journal
title=Game theory and human evolution: A critique of some recent interpretations of experimental games
journal=Theoretical Population Biology
author=Hagen, E and Hammerstein, P

Research methods

Evolutionary psychologists use several methods and data sources to test their hypotheses, as well as various comparative methods to test for similarities and differences between: humans and other species, males and females, individuals within a species, and between the same individuals in different contexts. They also use more traditional experimental methods involving, for example, dependent and independent variables.

Evolutionary psychologists also use various sources of data for testing, including archeological records, data from hunter-gather societies, observational studies, self-reports, public records, and human products. [cite book
first= David
authorlink=David Buss
title=Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind
publisher=Pearson Education, Inc
location= Boston

Areas of research

Areas of research in evolutionary psychology can be divided into broad categories of adaptive problems that arise from the broader theory of evolution itself: survival, mating, parenting, kinship, and group living.


The Hunting Hypothesis might explain the emergence of human coalitions as a psychological mechanism. With men being the providers for the family, their lives depended on hunting wild game. They could not risk going about such an arduous task on their own. If they did it alone they risked not catching anything at all sometimes. Also, the meat would spoil if they caught a large animal and could not finish it on their own. Therefore, they hunted together with other men and shared their food. These human coalitions can be seen todayOne form of evolutionary adaptiveness can be found in morning sickness in women during their first trimester. Over thousands of years, women’s bodies have adapted to the dangers that the environment may pose to the developing fetus when they eat something. Therefore, during this time many women experience disgust and even vomiting when eating certain foods which may be toxic to the fetus. Vomiting is the body’s way of coping with the toxins in the environment and keeping them from reaching the child during this critical period when the vital organs are being formed. The function of this physiological reaction was to protect the fetus.


Given that sexual reproduction is the means by which genes are propagated into future generations, sexual selection plays a large role in the direction of human evolution. Human mating, then, is of interest to evolutionary psychologists who aim to investigate evolved mechanisms to attract and secure mates. Several lines of research have stemmed from this interest, such as studies of mate selection [Buss, D. M. (1994). "The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating". New York: Basic Books.] [Buss, D. M., & Barnes, M. (1986). [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/prefs_mate_selection_1986_jpsp.pdf Preferences in human mate selection.] "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50," 559-570.] [Li, N. P., Bailey, J. M., Kenrick, D. T., & Linsenmeier, J. A. W. (2002). [http://www.psych.northwestern.edu/psych/people/faculty/bailey/Publications/Li%20et%20al.,%202002.pdf The necessities and luxuries of mate preferences: Testing the tradeoffs.] "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6," 947-955.] , mate poaching [Schmitt, D. P., & Buss, D. M. (2001). [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/Human_Mate_Poaching_2001.pdf Human mate poaching: Tactics and temptations for infiltrating existing relationships.] "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80," 894-917.] , and mate retention [Buss, D. M. (1988). [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/Vigilance_to_Violence_1988.pdf From vigilance to violence: Tactics of mate retention in American undergraduates.] "Ethology and Sociobiology, 9," 291-317.] , to name a few.

Much of the research on human mating is based on parental investment theory [Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), "Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man". Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.] , which makes important predictions about the different strategies men and women will use in the mating domain (see above under "Middle-level evolutionary theories"). In essence, it predicts that women will be more selective when choosing mates, whereas men will not, especially under short-term mating conditions. This has led some researchers to predict sex differences in such domains as sexual jealousy [Buss, D. M. (1989). [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/SexDifferencesinHuman.PDF Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures.] "Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12," 1-49.] [Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Westen, D., & Semmelroth J. (1992). [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/SexDifferencesinJealousy.PDF Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology.] "Psychological Science 3(4)," 251–255] (however, see also, [Harris, C. R. (2002) Sexual and romantic jealousy in heterosexual and homosexual adults. "Psychological Science 13(1)," 7–12] ), wherein females will react more aversively to emotional infidelity and males will react more aversively to sexual infidelity. This particular pattern is predicted because the costs involved in mating for each sex are distinct. Women, on average, should prefer a mate who can offer some kind of resources (e.g., financial, commitment), which means that a woman would also be more at risk for losing those valued traits in a mate who commits an emotional infidelity. Men, on the other hand, are limited by the fact that they can never be certain of their paternity because they do not bear offspring themselves. This obstacle entails that sexual infidelity would be more costly for a man because it is not in his best interest to invest resources in another man's offspring.

Another interesting line of research is that which examines women's mate preferences across the ovulatory cycle [Haselton, M. G., & Miller, G. F. (2006). [http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/haselton/webdocs/haseltonmiller.pdf Women’s fertility across the cycle increases the short-term attractiveness of creative intelligence.] "Human Nature, 17(1)," 50-73.] [Gangestad, S. W., Simpson, J. A., Cousins, A. J., Garver-Apgar, C. E., & Christensen, P. N. (2004). [http://faculty.oxy.edu/clint/evolution/articles/Women%E2%80%99s%20Preferences%20for%20Male%20behavioral%20display%20change%20across%20the%20menstrual%20cycle.pdf Women’s preferences for male behavioral displays change across the menstrual cycle.] "Psychological Science, 15(3)," 203-207.] . The theoretical underpinning of this research is that ancestral women would have evolved mechanisms to select mates with certain traits depending on their hormonal status. For example, the theory hypothesizes that, during the ovulatory phase of a woman's cycle (approximately days 10-15 of a woman's cycle [Wilcox, A. J., Dunson, D. B., Weinberg, C. R., Trussell, J., & Baird, D. D. (2001). Likelihood of conception with a single act of intercourse: Providing benchmark rates for assessment of post-coital contraceptives. "Contraception, 63," 211-215.] ), a woman who mated with a male with high genetic quality would have been more likely, on average, to produce and rear a healthy offspring than a woman who mated with a male with low genetic quality. These putative preferences are predicted to be especially apparent for short-term mating domains because a potential male mate would only be offering genes to a potential offspring. This hypothesis allows researchers to examine whether women select mates who have characteristics that indicate high genetic quality during the high fertility phase of their ovulatory cycles. Indeed, studies have shown that women's preferences vary across the ovulatory cycle. In particular, Haselton and Miller (2006) showed that highly fertile women prefer creative but poor men as short-term mates. Creativity may be a proxy for good genes [Miller, G. F. (2000b) "The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature". Anchor Books: New York.] . Research by Gangestad et al. (2004) indicates that highly fertile women prefer men who display social presence and intrasexual competition; these traits may act as cues that would help women predict which men may have, or would be able to acquire, resources.


Applying evolutionary theory to animal behavior is uncontroversial. However, adaptationist approaches to human psychology are contentious, with critics questioning the scientific nature of evolutionary psychology, and with more minor debates within the field itself. [cite book |author=Alcock, John |title=The Triumph of Sociobiology |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=Oxford [Oxfordshire] |year=2001|pages= |isbn=0-19-516335-4 |oclc= |doi=] [cite book |author=Segerstråle, Ullica Christina Olofsdotter |title=Defenders of the truth : the battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=Oxford [Oxfordshire] |year=2000 |pages= |isbn=0-19-850505-1 |oclc= |doi=] Criticisms of the field have also been addressed by scholars. [citation |authorlink=John Tooby |last=Tooby |first=J |coauthors=Cosmides L |year=2005 |title=Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology |url=http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/papers/bussconceptual05.pdf |format=pdf; in cite book |author=Buss, David M. |title=Handbook of evolutionary psychology |publisher=John Wiley & Sons |location=Chichester |year=2005 |pages= |isbn=0-471-26403-2 |oclc= |doi=]

See also

* Behavioural genetics
* Dual inheritance theory
* Evolutionary developmental psychology
* Evolutionary educational psychology
* Gene-centered view of evolution
* Human behavioral ecology
* List of evolutionary psychologists
* Evolutionary Psychology Research Groups and Centers
* Evolutionary neuroscience




Further reading

* Buss, D. M. (1995). Evolutionary psychology: A new paradigm for psychological science. "Psychological Inquiry, 6," 1-30. [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/ANewParadigmforPsych.PDF Full text]

* Durrant, R., & Ellis, B.J. (2003). Evolutionary Psychology. In M. Gallagher & R.J. Nelson (Eds.), "Comprehensive Handbook of Psychology, Volume Three: Biological Psychology" (pp. 1-33). New York: Wiley & Sons. [http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/38/04713840/0471384038.pdf#search='evolutionary%20psychologypdf' Full text]

* Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2005). Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), "The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology" (pp. 5-67). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. [http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/papers/bussconceptual05.pdf Full text]

* For more readings, see the [http://hbes.com/Hbes/books_c.htm books] page at the [http://hbes.com/ Human Behavior and Evolution Society]

External links

* [http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Evolutionary_psychology Evolutionary Psychology page] at Scholarpedia
* [http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology Evolutionary Psychology page] at Citizendium
* [http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/mind/glabachep/glabachwhatisep.shtml What Is Evolutionary Psychology? by Clinical Evolutionary Psychologist Dale Glaebach] .

Academic societies

* [http://www.hbes.com Human Behavior and Evolution Society] ; international society dedicated to using evolutionary theory to study human nature
* [http://evolution.anthro.univie.ac.at/ishe The International Society for Human Ethology] ; promotes ethological perspectives on the study of humans worldwide
* [http://www.aplsnet.org/ The Association for Politics and the Life Sciences] ; international and interdisciplinary association concerned with evolutionary, genetic and ecological knowledge
* [http://www.sealsite.org/ Society for Evolutionary Analysis in Law]
* [http://www.une.edu/nei/ The New England Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology]
* [http://www.neepsociety.com/ The NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society] ; regional society dedicated to encouraging scholarship and dialogue on the topic of evolutionary psychology


* [http://www.epjournal.net/ Evolutionary Psychology]
* [http://www.jsecjournal.com/ The Journal of Social, Evolutionary & Cultural Psychology]
* [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10905138 Evolution and Human Behavior] ; journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society
* [http://www.kli.ac.at/publications-a.html Biological Theory: Integrating Development, Evolution and Cognition] ; publishes theoretical advances in the fields of biology and cognition, emphasizing the conceptual integration afforded by evolutionary and developmental approaches. [http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/biot/1/1 Free access to Winter 2006 issues]


* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEmX8Rim-hs Brief video clip re what EP is (from the "Evolution" PBS Series) ]
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3157675332479529894&q=margaret+mead+and+samoa&total=11&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0 Margaret Mead and Samoa;] review of the nature vs. nurture debate triggered by "Coming of Age in Samoa"
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3554279466299738997 Video interview] with Steven Pinker by Robert Wright (journalist) discussing evolutionary psychology
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4975549474851602314 Video interview ] with Edward O. Wilson by Robert Wright (journalist), contextualizing evolutionary psychology within science, politics, academics and philosophy

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • evolutionary psychology — noun Date: 1890 the study of human cognition and behavior with respect to their evolutionary origins • evolutionary psychologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • evolutionary psychology — noun A theoretical approach to psychology that attempts to explain mental and psychological traits such as memory, perception, or language as adaptations, that is, as the functional products of natural selection …   Wiktionary

  • Evolutionary psychology of religion — is based on the hypothesis that religious belief can be explained by the evolution of the human brain. As with all other organ functions, cognition s functional structure has been argued to have a genetic basis, and is therefore subject to the… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary psychology controversy — Articleissues POV = June 2008 refimprove = June 2008 unbalanced = June 2008The purpose of this article is to outline the various scientific, political and philosophical criticisms of that have been leveled against evolutionary psychology , as… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary psychology research groups and centers — A list of Evolutionary Psychology Research Groups and Centers * [http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/ The UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology] UCSB researchers in evolutionary psychology and allied disciplines. *… …   Wikipedia

  • Criticism of evolutionary psychology — From its beginning, evolutionary psychology (EP) has generated substantial controversy and criticism.[1] Criticisms include 1) disputes about the testability of evolutionary hypotheses, 2) alternatives to some of the cognitive assumptions (such… …   Wikipedia

  • Center for Evolutionary Psychology — (CEP) is a research center co founded and co directed by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides and is affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara. The center is meant to provide research support and comprehensive training in the field of… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary ethics — concerns approaches to ethics (morality) based on the role of evolution in shaping human psychology and behavior. Such approaches may be based in scientific fields such as evolutionary psychology or sociobiology, with a focus on understanding and …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary developmental psychology — Evolutionary developmental psychology, (or EDP), is the application of the basic principles of Darwinian evolution, particularly natural selection, to explain contemporary human development. It involves the study of the genetic and environmental… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolutionary educational psychology — is the study of the relation between inherent folk knowledge and abilities and accompanying inferential and attributional biases as these influence academic learning in evolutionarily novel cultural contexts, such as schools and the industrial… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”