Psychological adaptation

Psychological adaptation

A psychological adaptation, also called an Evolved psychological mechanism or EPM, is an aspect of a human or other animal's psychology that is the result of evolutionary pressures. It could serve a specific purpose, have served a purpose in the past (see vestigiality), or be a side-effect of another EPM (see spandrel_(biology)). Evolutionary psychology proposes that the human psychology mostly comprises psychological adaptations, in opposition to blank slate models of human psychology such as the standard social science model, [ Dead link|date=June 2008] popular throughout most of the twentieth century.

Evolutionary psychologist, David Buss, lays out six properties of evolved psychological mechanisms (EPM's):
# An EPM exists in the form that it does because it solved a specific problem of survival or reproduction recurrently over evolutionary history.
# An EPM is designed to take in only a narrow slice of information
# The input of an EPM tells an organism the particular adaptive problem it is facing
# The input of an EPM is transformed through decision rules into output
# The output of an EPM can be physiological activity, information to other psychological mechanisms, or manifest behaviors
# The output of an EPM is directed toward the solution to a specific adaptive problem

Further important properties include the following:
* EPM's provide nonarbitrary criteria, (i.e. adaptive function) for "carving the mind at its joints," (i.e. evolved structure).
* EPM's tend to aid in solving specific adaptive problems, (e.g. food selection, mate selection, intrasexual competition, etc.)
* EPM's are believed to be numerous, which contributes to human behavioral flexibility. An analogy would be like a carpenter who, instead of having one tool that does everything, has many tools, each with a specific function for a specific task, (e.g. a hammer for pounding nails, a saw for cutting wood, etc.)
* Some EPM's are "domain-specific", (i.e. evolved to solve specific, recurrent adaptive problems), while others are "domain-general", (i.e. evolved to aid the individual in dealing with novelty in the environment).

The least controversial EPMs are those commonly known as instincts, including interpreting stereoscopic vision and suckling a mother's breast.

ee also

* Adaptive bias
* Cognitive module
* Dual inheritance theory
* Evolutionary developmental psychology
* Evolutionary psychology
* Human behavioral ecology
* Instinct
* Modularity of mind


* Barrett, H. C., and Kurzban, R. (2006). Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. "Psychological Review, 113," 628-647. [ Full text]

* Boyer, P. & Barrett, H. C. (2005). Domain specificity and intuitive ontology. In Buss, D.M. (ed.). " [ Handbook of evolutionary psychology.] " (pp. 96-118). Wiley. [ Full text]

* Buss, D.M. (2004). [,1144,0205370713-TOC,00.html "Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind".] Boston, MA. Pearson Education, Inc.

* Chiappe, D., & MacDonald, K. B. (2005). The Evolution of Domain-General Mechanisms in Intelligence and Learning. "Journal of General Psychology, 132(1)," 5–40. [ Full text]

* Henrich, J. & Boyd, R. (2002). Culture and Cognition: Why Cultural Evolution Does Not Require Replication of Representations. "Culture and Cognition, 2:" 87–112. [ Full text]

* Krill, A. L., Platek, S. M., Goetz, A. T., & Shackelford, T. K. (2007). Where evolutionary psychology meets cognitive neuroscience: A précis to evolutionary cognitive neuroscience. "Evolutionary Psychology, 5," 232-256. [ Full text]

* Tooby, J., Cosmides, L. & Barrett, H. C. (2005). Resolving the debate on innate ideas: Learnability constraints and the evolved interpenetration of motivational and conceptual functions. In Carruthers, P., Laurence, S. & Stich, S. (Eds.), " [ The Innate Mind: Structure and Content.] " NY: Oxford University Press. [ Full text]

External links

*cite web
url=|title=Evolutionary Psychology Primer by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby||accessdate=2008-06-17|last=Leda Cosmides & |first=John Tooby

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