Sociology Index

EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY

Evolutionary psychology is a relatively new paradigm for understanding human social behavior which argues that attributes such as altruism, protection of children, coyness in females, or pair-bonding, have a genetic basis. Discussion of social institutions is incomplete without a grounding in evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology focuses primarily on the "why?" questions, while traditional psychology focuses on the "how?" questions. Gaulin and McBurney 2003. Evolutionary psychology is an approach that views human nature as the product of a universal set of evolved psychological adaptations to recurring problems in the ancestral environment. According to Steven Pinker, evolutionary psychology is "not a single theory but a large set of hypotheses" and a term that "has also come to refer to a particular way of applying evolutionary theory to the mind, with an emphasis on adaptation, gene-level selection, and modularity." 

What is evolutionary psychology? Darwinian evolutionary psychology principles in understanding of human behavior provides insights into human kinship structure, family formation and domestic violence. Evolutionary psychology has experienced a controversial growth in popularity and influence. From psychology there are the primary streams of developmental psychology, Social Psychology and cognitive psychology. Establishing some measure of the relative influence of genetics and environment on behavior has been at the core of behavioral genetics and its variants. Evolutionary psychology has roots in cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology but also draws on behavioral ecology, artificial intelligence, genetics, ethology, anthropology, archaeology, biology, and zoology. 

Evolutionary psychology is closely linked to sociobiology, Schacter et al. 2007, but there are key differences between them including the emphasis on domain-specific rather than domain-general mechanisms, the relevance of measures of current fitness, the importance of mismatch theory, and psychology rather than behavior. Most of what is now labeled as sociobiological research is now confined to the field of behavioral ecology.