For many centuries, the human body has evolved to adapt to and survive in its environment. And as humans’ physical realm evolved, so did the human brain. Have you ever wondered how our ancestors thought and reason in their time?
Evolutionary psychology is a field of psychology focused on studying how the human mind evolved to survive. It states that what shaped human personality and individual differences in the natural need to adapt and reproduce.
Evolutionary psychology’s history started when Charles Darwin got interested in the theory of evolution. His curiosity how organisms emerge, evolve, and tend to be so well-suited in their natural habitats.
With this, the theory of evolution via natural selection was his conclusion to all questions.
To begin, here are some critical concepts in evolutionary psychology:
- Fight or Flight Response
The body’s automatic response to a perceived threat is where you either face it or run from it. This situation can either be a physical danger or a stressful circumstance.
During a situation like this, the body is on high alert. It manifests through faster heart rate, tensing of muscle, cold sweating, etc.
- Kin Selection
This theory states that humans’ conscious or unconscious genetic relatedness influences behavior. Hence, we favor our blood relatives over strangers.
At the same time, we back our immediate relatives over distant relatives. In essence, this is to ensure that our genes will survive through or immediate kins’ survival.
- Reproductive fitness
It is the measure of reproductive success along with environmental adaptation. For instance, men or women will act a particular way to increase the odds of reproduction.
- Parental Investment
There is a difference in the way parents invest energy and resources in their offspring. Meaning, the sex that supports more (usual females) focuses on mate quality. On the other hand, the sex that invests less (usually males) seeks quantity.
But in today’s world, how exactly do evolutionary psychologists apply this approach in their practice? To give an example, here are some notable topics studied in modern evolutionary psychology:
- Romantic and sexual jealousy. These links to the fear of jeopardizing potential reproduction
- Group social behavior, wherein, as humans, we’re accustomed to living among smaller groups.
For more in-depth information, here are some frequently asked questions on this topic.
Who is the founder of evolutionary psychology?
Charles Darwin most probably deserves to be referred to as the founder of evolutionary psychology, being the first recognized evolutionary psychologist. His theories laid the foundation for the area of study that would arise after over a century.
Why is evolutionary psychology important?
Evolutional psychology is as important as neuropsychology – and they are equally compatible as well. Evolutionary psychology helps in identifying psychological adaptations and their fundamental evolutionary functions.
Neuropsychology, on the other hand, helps in identifying the immediate presentations of these adaptations.
How does evolutionary psychology explain human behavior?
According to the records from evolutionary psychology, our ancestors with the psychological edge handed down a range of behavioral attributes to the future generation. This resulted in a general population of descendants that then developed adaptive behaviors.
Is evolutionary psychology scientific?
As most witnesses have claimed, evolutionary psychology is mainly based on assumptions instead of evidence. Because of this, it is controversial whether or not it should be recognized as something scientific.
What are the principles of evolutionary psychology?
The main principles of the theory of evolution include:
- More children are born than they can survive.
- Individuals of the same species are not identical.
- Traits are handed down from generation to generation.
- Only those who survive, those who are capable of acquiring resources, get to reproduce.
What is the focus of evolutionary psychology?
Briefly speaking, evolutional psychology is mainly about how evolution has formed an individual’s mind and behavior. This is valid for any species with a nervous system, although most research in evolutionary psychology focuses on human beings.
How do you become an evolutionary psychologist?
It is typically required to get a doctor’s degree in psychology, or perhaps a discipline related to it like biological anthropology or evolutionary biology, to start a career in evolutionary psychology.
Why is evolutionary psychology criticized?
A common statement said about evolutionary psychology is the fact that its assumptions and concepts are not refutable.
For instance, one concept states that humans’ social behavior is funneled by certainly evolved predilections chosen because they boosted reproductive attainment throughout the history of human evolution.
What are the three main criticisms of evolutionary psychology?
The three frequent criticisms about evolutionary psychologists are that they:
- Absolve humans from being responsible for their sexual behaviors
- Begin with an effect and then work backward toward an explanation
- Do not acknowledge cultural and social influences
What are the basic concepts of evolutionary perspective?
The three fundamental principles of evolution, which emerged in 1970, are heredity, differential fitness, and variation. They continue to be the conceptual foundation for the evolutionary theory through natural selection.
Where do evolutionary psychologists believe people get their behavior patterns?
Evolutionary psychologists suggest that individuals acquire behavioral patterns from adaptive organisms as they transmit their genes to future generations.
Where do evolutionary psychologists work?
Most evolutionary psychologists concentrate exclusively on research. Institutes, state or federal agencies, private laboratories, or research facilities may hire them. Research tends to center around biological subjects like physical attraction and reproductive methods.
Where can I study evolutionary psychology?
Below are some locations where to study evolutionary psychology:
- Michigan State University
- Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada
- Integrative Anthropological Sciences, Department of Anthropology
- The University of Michigan Evolution and Human Adaptation Program
- Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology, Department of Psychological Brain Sciences
What is the evolutionary perspective?
Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical psychological approach that tries to explain useful psychological and mental traits – language, memory, and perception – as adaptations.
In many ways, evolutionary psychology integrates the paradigms of both social and biological sciences.
Evolutionary psychologists believe that our ancestors’ evolutionary adaptation continues to shape our behavior today. To understand behavior, these psychologists trace its genetic and socially influenced roots.
While many criticisms are surrounding the field, we can’t deny the contributions of evolutionary psychology. With their knowledge and expertise, evolutionary psychologists contributed significant learnings.
For example, it paved the way to understand that the best way to change a behavior is to understand its mechanisms. And these mechanisms are best understood by studying our history.
Moreover, many refer to evolutionary psychology as something regressive, deterministic, or even sexist and racist. However, evolutionary psychologists think otherwise.
For them, studying our evolutionary past helps uncover some necessary facts. It reveals how both desirable and undesirable human characteristics came and continue to be.
Evolutionary psychologists stress that their approach ushers in and causes the discovery of new facts. This is contrary to being established later to fit a known fact.
To further understand the field, here are some key ideas and arguments of evolutionary psychology:
- The cognitive mechanism behind our behavior developed from our adaptation.
- Because it’s impossible to study it directly by observing the brain, it uses functional analysis. Here, we start with a hypothesis about our ancestors’ problems and infer which cognitive adaptations occurred to address them.
- Cognitive adaptations are not to solve problems in our current environment. Instead, these adaptations are for solving recurrent issues of our ancestors’ adaptive evolution.
- The human mind is a complex set of cognitive mechanisms or domain-specific modules. These modules define human nature, trumping our individual, societal, and cultural differences.
In essence, evolutionary psychology revolves around finding the link between language, memory, perception, and adaptation.
Ultimately, it aims to uncover the human mind’s evolutionary roots. Knowing this shapes our thinking and behavior and applies the appropriate adaptive changes to our lives.