Evolutionary Perspectives

Steven W. Gangestad

in The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398991
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Evolutionary Perspectives

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Evolutionary perspectives on human behavior are almost as old as the science of psychology itself. Functionalists such as James, Dewey, and Angell, however, lacked explicit evolutionary theories and methodologies to inspire generative research programs, and their movement dissipated. Today, a new brand of functionalism has emerged, one that draws its inspiration from massive developments in evolutionary biology in the past half-century. This chapter has several aims. First, it offers an overview of evolutionary biology as applied to human psychology. Second, it discusses the concept of an ecological niche, and addresses the critical issue of the nature of the niche that humans entered and defined. This niche has the unusual feature that individuals’ fitness was highly dependent on their ability to attract, form, and maintain cooperative coalitions with others and, hence, to harness the competencies of others to their own competencies. Third, it describes several broad, evolution-inspired proposals about human social behavior, which illustrate how evolutionary perspectives offer integrative understandings of psychological phenomena and generate new research programs. Fourth, it addresses individual differences from an evolutionary perspective. Rather than representing alternatives to social or cultural perspectives, evolutionary perspectives offer means by which to construct a personality and social psychology that is foundationally integrative.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology; adaptationism; human niche; social selection; developmental systems

Article.  23625 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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