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Evolutionary psychology

application of evolutionary theory in social and natural sciences

Evolutionary psychology is a branch of psychology which investigates behaviour which has evolved. It is similar in this respect to ethology, which has always used ideas from evolutionary biology.

It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Evolutionary psychology usually focuses on behaviour most people share. Some of the more common areas evolutionary psychology is focused on are sex, and social behaviour.[1][2][3] Events like violent behaviour need explanation in evolutionary terms.[4][5][6]

Evolutionary psychology is related to other fields of science like sociobiology, social psychology, and sociocultural anthropology. Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behaviour is the result of adaptations which evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.[7][8][9][10][11]

The adaptationist approach is steadily increasing as an influence in the general field of psychology.[12][13] Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviours or traits which occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations.[13] This includes our ability to infer others' emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. They report successful tests of theoretical predictions related to such topics as infanticide, intelligence, marriage patterns, promiscuity, perception of beauty, bride price and parental investment.[14]

"The recognition that psychological mechanisms are evolved adaptations connects evolutionary biology to psychology in the strongest possible fashion, allowing everything we know about the study of adaptations to be applied to the study of psychological mechanisms".[11]



  • Barkow, Jerome H; Cosmides, Lena & Tooby, John (eds) 1992. The adapted mind: evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195101072
  • Buss, David 2011. Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind. 4th ed, Pearson. ISBN 0-205-01562-X

Related pagesEdit


  1. Ardrey, Robert 1961. African genesis; a personal investigation into the animal origins and nature of Man. New York: Atheneum. Fontana ISBN 978-0006316121
  2. Morris, Desmond. 1967. The naked ape: a zoologist's study of the human animal. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-043174-4; ISBN 0-385-33430-3
  3. Wright, Robert 1994. The moral animal: why we are the way we are: the new science of evolutionary psychology. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-76399-6
  4. Ardrey, Robert 1966. The territorial imperative: a personal inquiry into the animal origins of property and nations. London: Collins. ISBN 978-0002118194
  5. Lorenz, Konrad 1966. On aggression. London: Methuen. ISBN 978-0-415-28320-5
  6. Wilson E.O. [1978] 2004. On human nature. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01638-6
  7. Confer et al. 2010. Evolutionary psychology American Psychologist
  8. Buss, David M. 2011. Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind. Pearson, Boston.
  9. Durrant R. & Ellis B.J. 2003. Evolutionary psychology. In M. Gallagher & R.J. Nelson (eds) Comprehensive Handbook of Psychology, volume III: Biological psychology, 1–33. New York: Wiley & Sons.
  10. Pinker, Steven 2002. The blank slate: the modern denial of human nature. New York, N.Y: Viking. ISBN 0-670-03151-8
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tooby, John & Leda Cosmides 2005. Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology. In D.M. Buss (ed) The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 5–67). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Full text
  12. Wright, Robert C.M. 1995. The moral animal: evolutionary psychology and everyday life. Introduction: Darwin and us. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-76399-6
  13. 13.0 13.1 Schacter, Daniel L; Daniel Wegner and Daniel Gilbert 2007. Psychology. Worth Publishers.26-27 ISBN 0-7167-5215-8 ISBN 978-0-7167-5215-8
  14. "Despite this difficulty, there have been many careful and informative studies of human social behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. Infanticide, intelligence, marriage patterns, promiscuity, perception of beauty, bride price, altruism, and the allocation of parental care have all been explored by testing predictions derived from the idea that conscious and unconscious behaviours have evolved to maximize inclusive fitness. The findings have been impressive". In 'Social behaviour, animal. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 23 Jan. 2011. [1].

Other websitesEdit

  • Frans de Waal 2012 Moral behavior in animals [2]