Evolutionary Psychology

Ben Jeffares and Kim Sterelny

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195309799
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Evolutionary Psychology

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The article presents several models of evolutionary psychology. Nativist evolutionary psychology is built around a most important insight that ordinary human decision-making has a high cognitive load. Evolutionary nativists defend a modular solution to the problem of information load on human decision-making. Human minds comprises of special purpose cognitive devices or modules. One of the modules is a language module, a module for interpreting the thoughts and intentions of others, another is a ‘naive physics’ module for causal reasoning about sticks, stones, and similar inanimate objects, a natural history module for ecological decisions, and a social exchange module for monitoring economic interactions with peers. These modules evolved in response to the distinctive, independent, and recurring problems faced by the ancestors. Domain specific modules handle information about human language, human minds, inanimate causal interactions, the biological world, and other constant adaptive demands faced by human ancestors. Nativist evolutionary psychologists have turned to moral decision making, arguing that cross-cultural moral judgments are invariant in an unexpected way. Natural selection can build and equip a special purpose module only if the information an agent needs to know is stable over evolutionary time. Automatized skills are an alternative means of coping with high-load problems. These skills are phenomenologically rather like modules, but they have very different developmental and evolutionary histories.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology; cognitive evolution; human cognition; nativist evolutionary psychology

Article.  10867 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Science

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