Toward Bridging Gaps: Finding Commonality between Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology

Jennifer Vonk and Todd K. Shackelford

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738182
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Toward Bridging Gaps: Finding Commonality between Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology

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This volume brings together an eclectic and provocative body of work from some of the brightest minds in comparative psychology and evolutionary psychology. The intent of this volume is to highlight the strengths and insights of each field and to bridge the gaps between them. Comparative psychology has sometimes lost the focus that evolutionary psychology wields to shed light on seminal questions in the study of human and nonhuman behavior. Although evolutionary psychology maintains an overarching framework with which to explore questions of ultimate or proximate causation—referring to mechanisms of natural selection, comparative psychologists sometimes study esoteric topics of interest, without placing these studies in a larger theoretical framework. However, the insights of comparative psychologists have often forged new ground, generating new theoretical debates and inspiring nonhuman studies in new directions. For instance, the recent explosion of work in canine cognition has been inspired to a large degree by hypotheses about the importance of domestication in sculpting canine cognitive skills, and these hypothesis have prompted much debate (Dorey, Udell, & Wynne, 2010; Hare, Brown, Williamson & Tomasello, 2002; Hare et al., 2010; Udell, Dorey & Wynne, 2008; Wynne, Udell & Lord; 2008). Bringing together comparative psychology and evolutionary psychology can strengthen the contributions of both. Rather than taking all or none approaches to scientific pursuits, our journey should allow the beacon of truth to guide us forward, even if the path is a middle ground. There need not be a divide between field researchers and laboratory scientists, between those who study humans and nonhumans, between behaviorists and cognitivists, or between comparative psychologists and evolutionary psychologists.

Keywords: comparative psychology; evolutionary psychology; ethology; field research; laboratory research

Article.  10579 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology

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