Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology

In today's society it is widely accepted that the anatomy and physiology of all species on earth (including Homo sapiens sapiens) are the product of an evolutionary process that occurred over hundreds of thousands of years; although probably occurring in relatively discrete steps according to the theory of punctuated equilibria (Donald, 1991). However, the proposition that our minds and psychology were also subject to the same evolutionary pressures is much more controversial - but not to evolutionary psychologists. The subject of evolutionary psychology seeks to determine how and why animals and humans behave and think as they do, with the view that all behaviours are adaptations that evolved during some point in the evolutionary history. The definition of this field provided by Crawford (1998, p.4) states 'Evolutionary psychology focuses on the naturally selected design of the mental mechanisms that make up the mind'. The theory of evolution and the logic of natural selection provides the basis of all evolutionary explanations of behaviour, even if prima facie observations of behaviours such as altruism seem to be incompatible with this. Crawford (1998, p.8) argues that ' is likely that any good explanation of behavior will be compatible with an evolutionary explanation, even if it were not explicitly developed from an evolutionary perspective'.

In order to understand the foundations upon which evolutionary psychology is based, it is necessary to have some insight into both Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation. These two concepts provide the basis for the studies and investigations that are performed by those who seek the answers for why animals and humans behave and think as they do. All sorts of human behaviours have been studied and explanations developed with the help of the theory of evolution.

Just for interests sake, here is a small list of some such studies -

Cosmides, L. (1989). The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason. Cognition, 31, pp. 187 - 276.

Singh, D. (1993). Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: Role of waist to hip ratio. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, pp. 293 - 307.

Buss, D. (1994). The evolution of human desire: Strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.

This site does not try in any way to cover all the topics in evolutionary psychology. It only contains a basic introduction to this vast field of knowledge, expanding on a few interesting topics such as Intelligence and Altruism. Leda Cosmides and John Tooby are the gurus in the study of evolutionary psychology. They are co-directors for the department of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Click here to be taken to an informative web site written by them. There is also a very detailed site that deals with a lot of the frequently asked questions about evolutionary psychology. Click here to go to FAQ site.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation


Sexual Selection

The social function of intelligence

References and Bibliography

This site was written by Ninya Maubach, 99013770.
This webpage is for the paper Human Nature, Learning, and Mind.

Site last updated Friday, 14th September, 2001.