Individual differences

Daniel Nettle

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Individual differences

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



The enduring differences between individuals have been one of psychology's central concerns over the past one hundred years or more. In the last twenty five years, evolutionary thinking has begun to make a huge impact on psychological explanations, particularly in social and cognitive psychology. However, the integration of evolutionary thinking into the study of individual differences has been more uneven. Evolutionary psychologists were initially more concerned with explaining central tendencies, and species-typical or sex typical patterns of cognition, than they were with the individual variation. Nonetheless, a wave of recent work on humans and other species, including both theory and empirical study, has shed considerable light on how evolution shapes inter-individual variation. This article outlines the key frameworks that we have for explaining distributions of individual differences from an adaptive perspective. The focus is primarily on heritable individual differences, that is, differences underlain by population polymorphisms of particular genes.

Keywords: differences; individuals; cognition; humans; evolution; population; polymorphisms; genes

Article.  7875 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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