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What is Evolutionary Psychology?

Evolutionary Psychology examines the mind through the lens of Darwinian survival. It suggests our cognitive processes evolved to solve problems faced by our ancestors, influencing behaviors today. This perspective offers intriguing insights into why we think and act as we do. How might this understanding shape your view of human nature? Join us as we unravel the human psyche's evolutionary tapestry.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Evolutionary psychology is an approach to psychology that sees human psychological traits as adaptations for survival in the everyday environment of our ancestors (the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, or EEA). Because 99% of our history as a species consisted of time spent surviving and reproducing on the African savannahs, evolutionary psychologists point out that our cognitive features are distinctly adapted to success in that environment, and not the environment of the present day, which is a relatively recent phenomenon.

According to Darwinian theory, the organisms best at producing surviving offspring which then go on to produce more offspring are the organisms most likely to survive and persist in any earthly environment. This ability is called "inclusive fitness". Mutational variants of a given species which possess the greatest amount of inclusive fitness are bound to pass their genes on to the future at a higher rate of success than variants with traits which provide a lesser degree of inclusive fitness.

Evolutionary psychologist are interested in how cultural activities like art and religion developed.
Evolutionary psychologist are interested in how cultural activities like art and religion developed.

As an example of evolutionary psychology, consider the practically universal reprehension of sibling-sibling romantic relationships in Homo sapiens cultures. Evolutionary psychologists call this the "incest taboo", isolating it as an evolved human reproductive tendency that is adaptive because it significantly lowers the probability of intra-familial copulation. This act constrains genetic diversity and tends to make offspring more susceptible to diseases and genetic defects, especially if the process is iterated over a series of generations. The incest taboo is not a conscious decision that humans reason about in the abstract and then decide upon - it exists because our evolved neurological machinery inserts it into our minds on a subconscious level.

An evolutionary psychologist seeks to explain modern human behaviors by referencing the environmental and social conditions prehistoric hominids, such as Homo erectus, encountered.
An evolutionary psychologist seeks to explain modern human behaviors by referencing the environmental and social conditions prehistoric hominids, such as Homo erectus, encountered.

Evolutionary psychologists have isolated and experimentally verified hundreds of human cognitive adaptions, producing great benefits to a variety of fields that involve the study of human behavior. Evolutionary psychology is not merely a field but a phenomenon, overthrowing classical models of psychology on a broad scale and placing the entire field on a firmer empirical foundation. Evolutionary psychology has broad interdisciplinary appeal, being studied by philosophers, military strategists, politicians, businesspeople, and a wide range of scientists.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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    • Evolutionary psychologist are interested in how cultural activities like art and religion developed.
      By: Bayes Ahmed
      Evolutionary psychologist are interested in how cultural activities like art and religion developed.
    • An evolutionary psychologist seeks to explain modern human behaviors by referencing the environmental and social conditions prehistoric hominids, such as Homo erectus, encountered.
      By: Pedro Bigeriego
      An evolutionary psychologist seeks to explain modern human behaviors by referencing the environmental and social conditions prehistoric hominids, such as Homo erectus, encountered.