Article

Evolutionary Psychology

Zachary Hohman and Bruce Ellis

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0025
Evolutionary Psychology

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Evolutionary psychology is the application of the principles and knowledge of evolutionary biology to psychological theory and research. The field is comprehensive insofar as it encompasses both our species-typical human nature and its individually differentiated manifestations. A central assumption of evolutionary psychology is that the human brain is composed of a large number of specialized mechanisms that were shaped by natural selection over vast periods of time to solve the recurrent information-processing problems faced by our ancestors. These problems include such things as choosing which foods to eat, negotiating social hierarchies, dividing investment among offspring, and selecting mates. A major focus of evolutionary psychology is on identifying these information-processing problems, developing models of the brain-mind mechanisms that may have evolved to solve them, and testing these models in research. At the same time, however, theory and research in evolutionary biology indicate that, in most species, single ‘‘best’’ strategies for survival and reproduction are unlikely to evolve. This is because optimal strategies vary as a function of the physical, economic, and social parameters of one’s specific environment; thus, a strategy that promotes success in some environmental contexts may lead to failure in others. Natural and sexual selection therefore tend to also maintain individual differences, both at the level of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity. Accordingly, a second major focus of evolutionary psychology is on explaining the evolution and development of individual differences in survival and reproductive strategies. In total, the field of evolutionary psychology involves both the study of the species-typical brain-mind mechanisms that underlie universal development of cognitive and behavioral characteristics and the genetic and environmental mechanisms that maintain variation in these characteristics and adapt them to local conditions.

Article.  8994 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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