Evolutionary Psychology Definition: Humans, Behavior, And Evolving Norms | BetterHelp (2023)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the evolutionary theory in psychology?

The evolutionary theory of psychology builds on Darwin's theory of biological evolution to study the effects of psychological evolution on human nature.

First, consider the general theory of evolution proposed and studied by Darwin.

There are four main ideas that define Darwin's theory of evolution. They are:

  1. The individuals in any given species are not exactly alike.
  2. Offspring inherit the traits of their parents.
  3. Not all offspring who are born survive to reproduce.

Numbers 3 and 4 in this list describe the process of natural selection, which is a central theme in the theory.

Now, think about how evolutionary psychologists have applied this theory in the field of psychological science.

These are the basic tenets of evolutionary psychology, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

  1. The brain, a type of computer, was developed to get information from the environment. This happened by the process of natural selection.
  2. Any individual's behavior happens because the brain is responding to whatever information it gathers from the environment. To understand human actions, then, you must look at the cognitive processes – or programs – that create that behavior.
  3. These cognitive processes are psychological adaptations. These adaptations exist now because they aided in survival in the past.
  4. Just because a cognitive process helped humans survive long ago, it doesn't mean they will necessarily be adaptive to today's environment.
  5. The brain has many domain specific functions but not just one main domain general system.
  6. Only when you can describe the way the brain has evolved over time to carry on all the needed computations can you understand social and cultural occurrences.

The fact that evolutionary psychologists see the brain as a computer isn't surprising, considering that evolutionary psychology only coalesced in the late 1980s after computers were fairly common in households and businesses. However, this description is an elaboration of earlier ideas that led to the development of evolutionary psychology.

The concept of natural selection does play an important role in evolutionary psychology, but evolutionary psychology sees natural selection in a slightly different way from biological evolution. Instead of natural selection causing direct impacts on behavior, it affects the "computer's" mechanisms, which in turn impacts the behavior.

The tenet of domain specificity is also a critical part of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology sees the brain's computing system as a system of individual modules, each controlling a specific function. This idea has sometimes been compared to a Swiss army knife. Rather than developing to manage all the cognitive processes together, the brain developed into modules, each specializing in one process.

Both Darwin's theory of evolution and evolutionary psychology follow the same general philosophy of science. This philosophy of sciences starts with observations, then hypotheses, and then testing and conclusions. Eventually, if enough evidence confirms the hypothesis, the philosophy of science allows the formation of a theory.

In the case of evolutionary psychology, the testing requirement of the philosophy of science is often carried out by doing an evolutionary analysis. Such an analysis is based on what scientists know about past behavior, the past environment, the past culture, and the biology of people from ancient eras.

The theory of evolution, from Darwin's early perspective, was based on the human form and biological functions. But evolutionary psychology uses that biological basis and builds on it to create a new science that describes the effects of evolution on human nature. At the end of his life, Darwin was beginning to talk about human nature beyond just physical form and function. In fact, he discussed human nature and how psychology was a promising avenue of study in the evolutionary field.

What is an example of evolutionary psychology?

One example of evolutionary psychology is the way anxiety has increased through the course of history. Anxiety is one of the psychological mechanisms that started out as a way for humans to survive and reproduce. When a predator showed up, the human's body and mind would rush to prepare for fight or flight. It was just human nature, and it was rewarded at the time. This physiological response evolved to solve the problem of the physically dangerous environment people lived in during the early days of humanity. Evolutionary psychologists recognize that such psychological adaptations were beneficial at the time.

However, evolutionary psychology also looks at where adaptations go wrong. After ongoing evolutionary analysis, evolutionary psychologists have come to the conclusion that the heightened physical arousal during times of danger no longer serves humans.

You might wonder if anxiety isn't just human nature. Well, in fact, it is. But evolutionary psychologists studying anxiety have proposed evolutionary hypotheses about how people's responses to threatening situations have changed. And the general consensus is that anxiety has always been a part of the human mind. However, it didn't become a problem until more recent times.

As evolutionary history progressed, the fight or flight response was no longer needed as much. Now, people faced different types of threats. In the modern-day world, people most often live with the kind of stress that is more psychological than physical. So, when their fight or flight response kicks in, it doesn't help them deal with the problems they're up against. Instead, their human nature causes them to become tense, their bodies to stay in that state of arousal, and their minds to worry about what will happen later.

One feature of evolutionary psychology is that evolutionary psychologists seek to find out why we didn't evolve in a more beneficial way. When it comes to anxiety, the evolutionary mechanisms didn't prevent the human brain from evolving in a destructive way. So, why did evolutionary psychology let us down? That's questions evolutionary psychologists have studied extensively. Here are their evolutionary hypotheses on this subject.

According to evolutionary psychology, natural selection is the path to evolution. So, in the anxiety example of evolutionary psychology, evolutionary psychology says that it might have happened something like the following. A human who was confronted by a wild animal lacked the ability to go into the fight or flight response. So, the human didn't have increased energy and strength as others did when that response happened. So, the wild animal killed him. He didn't survive and reproduce, so his genes were not selected to move on. Therefore, the natural selection process selected the people who did have the fight or flight feature of the brain.

In the case of increasing anxiety, evolutionary psychology provides an answer. Evolutionary psychology explains that the reason anxiety developed the way it has is that knowledge and industry have advanced at an incredible rate over the years. And the advancement keeps getting faster every year. Human nature can't adapt that fast, so anxiety is an ever-increasing problem in today's society.

Yet, human evolution doesn't happen as fast as our social and physical environment is changing. So, there's a lag between our biology and psychology and our social situation, which causes a problem with our evolutionary psychology called anxiety. And along with anxiety came a change in human nature. Human behavior changed because the threats changed. No longer able to jump into action at any threat; instead, people are too often in fight or flight mode with nowhere to run and no one to fight. Because of this, they often cope in negative ways, such as by drinking or engaging in unnecessarily risky behavior.

But whether the recent changes in human behavior will create advancements in evolutionary psychology is still unclear. Some evolutionary psychologists believe that human nature no longer changes, while other evolutionary psychologists claim that it does and will continue to change as long as humans still live.

How does evolutionary psychology explain human behavior?

Evolutionary psychology explains behavior as arising from adaptations that happen during the course of evolution. In other words, human nature changes as our bodies change over generations through the evolutionary process – and this results in changes in human behavior.

Evolutionary psychology tends to consider human nature as a whole rather than the specific psychology of individuals. So, the focus on evolutionary psychology is to determine how humans have changed during the long span of human history rather than on what has happened to one individual. This is different from a field like cognitive psychology, for instance, which considers each individual based on their own unique personal history.

Because evolutionary psychologists take a whole-humanity approach, they often conduct cross cultural studies. That's because cross cultural studies show them how human nature has changed as a whole as opposed to how one individual culture has evolved. And in today's hyper-connected world, these cross-cultural studies are becoming more and more relevant. As human nature changes in one part of the world, it usually isn't long before it changes worldwide.

Thus, a therapist using cognitive methods would provide treatment to a patient that centered on that person's childhood environment, the personality they've developed, and what they've been through in their lives. Cognitive psychology would explain all these aspects of psychology in terms of cognitive functions. Evolutionary psychologists, however, don't usually work directly with patients. Instead, evolutionary psychologists study human behavior and how it applies to evolutionary theory.

In evolutionary psychology, behavior is seen as a species-wide response to common circumstances based on our evolutionary biology. As our world changes, our bodies change, and both of these changes impact our behavior. But this usually takes a long time to happen – many generations come and go before the majority of humans have made these psychological adaptions. The reason is that the process depends on natural selection.

Natural selection involves survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychologists argue that it also affects human nature psychologically. Behavior changes because people make psychological adaptations to deal with the changes in their environment and their bodies. This happens over generations, according to evolutionary psychology.

So, what if the environment changed during early human history? Suppose several people behaved differently and survived because of their behavior. However, the rest of the people didn't change their behavior, and so they weren't able to meet the challenges of their new environment? Because the first group of people made this change, they lived and grew up to reproduce. Then, they passed their knowledge on to their children. However, the ones that didn't change didn't live or weren't strong enough to reproduce. Therefore, they didn't have any children, and their old behaviors weren't passed on to anyone. This is one of the main ideas of evolutionary psychology.

This is similar to evolutionary biology, which asserts that biological changes happen as a result of natural selection. In both evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, the changes happen to some people and not others. The changes are then passed down to the next generation if the generation that changed lives and has children. The difference between evolutionary psychology and biology is that the first deals with psychological changes, while the second covers the physical changes, specifically in the genetic code. However, evolutionary psychology also assumes that many changes in human behavior may indeed be encoded in our genes eventually rather than just learned.

What is the goal of evolutionary psychology?

The primary goal of evolutionary psychology is to explore and explain language, perception, and other psychological traits in terms of how they arose through natural selection.

A part of this goal of evolutionary psychology is to study cognitive mechanisms. These cognitive functions are seen as domain specific. In other words, the behaviors and thoughts involved in choosing a mate or learning a language or recognizing people you know – each of these is a unique cognitive mechanism. In contrast, the cognitive theory suggests that these activities are all part of one large domain.

For evolutionary psychologists, evolutionary psychology is simply a narrower focus on the theories and philosophy of science. Evolutionary psychologists seek to discover psychological adaptations. Once they find indications that these changes occurred, they present evolutionary hypotheses as to how they might have happened and what caused them.

Another goal of evolutionary psychology is to determine the causes of adaptations to human nature. To do this, evolutionary psychologists find out what changes occurred and how the environment was changing at the time. They also pay attention to how humans were changing physically when their behavior changed. With these two clues, evolutionary psychologists piece together a narrative of how the change took place. Then, in some cases, evolutionary psychologists see an obvious connection between environmental change and the change in human behavior.

One way evolutionary psychologists contribute to other fields of psychology is to relay their evolutionary hypotheses about human nature to researchers and therapists. The researchers, in turn, use these insights to guide their studies. Meanwhile, the therapists can use insights on evolutionary psychology to help their patients. For example, a patient with an anxiety disorder might be comforted to know that the fight or flight response is natural, and there's nothing wrong with them for feeling it. Then, they can make decisions about how best to deal with their stresses based on how their body is likely to respond to the stress. For many therapists, the most important aspects of the philosophy of science are related to how science can benefit humankind.

What is wrong with evolutionary psychology?

Different people have various complaints about evolutionary psychology.

One complaint is that evolutionary psychology deals mostly with the past. How can we know or benefit from guesses about the psychological mechanisms that affected the past? Although some of the insights gained from evolutionary psychology might apply to modern humans, many psychologists feel that research and study should be focused on the here and now of human nature and behavior.

In addition, there are psychologists that feel the evolutionary psychologists would spend their time more productively if they studied behavior in a way that was more helpful to individuals living today. It's very unlikely that many evolutionary psychologists will be found treating patients and helping them with their mental health problems. Instead, evolutionary psychology focuses on its own theories and the philosophy of science. And some therapists see such studies as a waste of time as long as people are suffering.

Another problem many scientists have with evolutionary psychology is that it proposes many evolutionary hypotheses that can't be proven wrong. Because evolutionary psychologists say these things happened so long ago, there's no way to find out if they did or didn't. The truth lies buried in the distant past. This is an important criticism because it goes against the philosophy of science. The philosophy of science demands that researchers test theories to find out if they can be disproven. If there's no way to do that with evolutionary psychology – which is often the case – many scientists claim that evolutionary psychology isn't a science at all but merely an educated guess about human nature at best.

Still another problem is that evolutionary psychology makes hypotheses about things that can't be measured, partly because they're so far in the past. Studying a modern person's brain is one thing – scientists can run tests and take other objective measurements. But studying human behavior millennia after the fact becomes more problematic. What exactly was human behavior like, and what were the mechanisms that caused the adaptations? In many cases, it appears to be anybody's guess.

In addition, some people don't believe that the changes in human nature are even related to psychology. Evolutionary psychology is a sub-field of psychology. And sometimes, people have trouble accepting that the changes in human nature and the mind are anything that can be quantified and studied in the way psychologists do.

Some argue that natural selection no longer applies to human nature. With the advances in modern medicine, people who might once have died due to dysfunctional behavior can now survive, reproduce, and continue their behavior for generations to come. One example of this might be child abuse, which tends to keep going generation after generation unless a mental health professional steps in to help them change. People who once rendered themselves unable to have children now have the benefit of advances in fertility and adoption. And people who become disabled due to their mistakes now have more support than in the past. They can live much longer than in ancient times, and many of them are able to reproduce. This tends to negate the idea of natural selection. After all, if life doesn't kill you or stop you from having children, how does natural selection occur?

Many people find the assumptions of evolutionary psychology to be based too much on matters of race and gender. As the world moves toward inclusiveness, then evolutionary psychology as it is may be counterproductive to that goal.

There's also the danger that evolutionary psychology could be used to excuse bad behavior as understandable human nature. After all, if your behavior is based on an evolutionary process, how can you be held responsible for what you do? This is a serious dilemma for people studying philosophy of science.

Others say that the tenets of evolutionary psychology are too simplistic. After all, human nature and the forces behind human behavior are extremely complex.

Some scientists argue that evolutionary psychology is wrong to focus on domain specific features of the mind. These scientists say that the structure of the brain indicates that the brain is more domain general. When you consider that people who have had brain damage often develop functions in a healthy part of the brain that were once taking place in an injured part of the brain, the domain specific idea of evolutionary psychology seems a bit questionable.

Many people, especially those who practice certain religions, believe that the world is far younger than evolutionary psychologists assume. For this reason, they believe that evolutionary psychology is founded on a false premise.

Finally, many people say that evolutionary psychology is outdated because natural selection is no longer happening. The world is moving too fast for evolutionary adaptations to keep up with it. So, the critics might say, if that's true, how can learning what happened at the dawn of humanity benefit us now?

What are the basic concepts of evolutionary perspective?

The basic concepts of the evolutionary perspective embraced by evolutionary psychologists include that:

  • Individual differences, including personalities, evolved over generations.
  • These differences evolved because the psychological adaptations gave us some advantages.
  • The advantages improved our ability to survive and to go on to reproduce.
  • Evolutionary psychology is an integration of evolutionary biology and psychological theory.
  • The study of evolutionary psychology helps us understand how human behavior, cognition, and traits differ as a result of the evolutionary process.

Evolutionary psychologists often work with archeologists to find out about past human behavior. They also work with anthropologists to find out about human behavior in many environments and cultures, including primitive cultures. As they study these past and worldwide cultures, they look for individual differences in each group and across all groups. In doing so, they seek to understand how human nature changed over the generations – both for individuals and for the broader culture and world.

And in evolutionary psychology, evolutionary theorists start with the assumption that these differences came about through generations of natural selection. As human nature adapted to each era of challenges, individuals psychologically adapted. If the adaptation benefited the individual, it was carried on in later generations. If not, it ended. And, when a human behavior continued to benefit humans, then that behavior was also passed on to later generations.

The evolutionary psychology concept of adaptations improving our survival and our ability to reproduce is a significant one, and it is one that is now being called into question, at least for modern times. Evolutionary psychologists tend to believe that generations only continue to thrive if their human nature adapts and evolves. This concept makes sense, in a way, because those who are flexible and change with the times usually do better in life. But the question is, do people actually die before they can reproduce? If not, natural selection makes less sense, and the entire theory is called into question. However, many evolutionary psychologists focus on thriving rather than dying and failing to reproduce.

The concept of evolutionary psychology being a melding of evolutionary biology and psychology is a basic premise of the field. Evolutionary psychologists approach every problem with an eye to how it fits into both biological evolution and psychological processes.

The final concept of the evolutionary perspective relates to how evolutionary psychology is beneficial today. Evolutionary psychology studies the same psychological mechanisms that many other fields of psychology do, such as memory, perception, and learning.

As they study these psychological mechanisms, evolutionary psychologists notice how different individuals accomplish these mental tasks differently. They see these psychological mechanisms as being domain specific so that each psychological mechanism applies to a specific function of the brain. After studying these domain specific features, they apply that knowledge to evolutionary hypotheses that explain how these individual differences occurred. In the end, the main benefit of evolutionary psychology for today is that, by increasing our understanding of the past, we can gain insights about human nature now and what it might be like in the future as our environment changes.

Who is associated with evolutionary psychology?

The two names most commonly associated with evolutionary psychology are Darwin and Peter Kropotkin, but many other evolutionary psychologists have contributed to evolutionary psychology. Here is a shortlist of some of the people who have played a role in the development of evolutionary psychology:

  • Charles Darwin
  • William James
  • Peter Kropotkin
  • William McDougal
  • David Buller
  • Donald Symons
  • John Tooby
  • Leda Cosmides
  • Jerome Barkow
  • And many more

Evolutionary theory was Darwin's life's work. His theory started as an exploration of how animals changed over time. Later, his focus moved to human evolution, and in the end, he began to explore the idea of evolution as it relates to human nature. Evolutionary psychology – evolutionary in itself – grew naturally from that idea.

In 1890, psychologist William James wrote about the field of psychology, and in his text, he mentioned evolutionary psychology. In this book, he talked about how the sneeze was one of the psychological mechanisms that humans developed through evolution. James noted that the sneeze was an adaptive way to respond to a nasal irritant.

Peter Kropotkin was a Russian anarchist who was involved in many intellectual pursuits. However, he is considered by many as the father of evolutionary psychology. He introduced the idea that humans have instincts that compel them to cooperate and help each other and that this aspect of human nature could be found in Darwin's work on the theory of evolution.

William MacDougal mentioned the term "evolutionary psychology" early on when he published a book on social psychology. MacDougal suggested that a real understanding of psychology would not have been possible without Darwin's work. In this way, he solidified the connection between evolution and human nature even more.

David Buller, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, says that David Buller was the one who proposed the term Evolutionary Psychology – with both words capitalized. His point was that Evolutionary Psychology is different from the other sciences that focus on the biology related to human behavior and human nature.

Donald Symons is also considered one of the founding scientists in the evolutionary psychology movement. Symons used evolutionary psychology as a basis for his work on human sexuality and psychology. Evolutionary concepts guided Symons work in these areas.

John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, and Jerome Barkow were the first to popularize the term evolutionary psychology. Tooby was an anthropologist, and his wife Cosmides was a psychologist. Barkow was also an anthropologist, but he became so fascinated with evolutionary psychology that he got an additional degree in psychology to pursue the new field.

Does evolution explain human behavior?

Possibly. Most scientists agree that evolution explains how humans developed behaviors in the early days of humanity. Many also believe that psychological mechanisms studied in evolutionary psychology are responsible for human behavior and human nature the way it is today. For example, certain instincts evolved long ago. Those instincts might not change much now, but they still impact our human behavior, emotions, and thinking. In short, modern psychological functions are what they are because they evolved all those millennia ago.

However, the question suggests that evolution might be the basis of all human behavior. And many evolutionary psychologists would agree with that premise. At the same time, other evolutionary psychologists differ with that. The reason is that it's true that some human behavior might happen spontaneously and not as a result of evolutionary processes at all. Yet, once that novel human behavior happens, it is either beneficial and accepted by others or not beneficial and abandoned. If it becomes widespread, then human nature changes a little, and the human culture evolves, just as evolutionary psychology claims.

How do you become an evolutionary psychologist?

Usually, evolutionary psychologists need a doctoral degree to gain employment in the field of evolutionary psychology. Some people study all the required subjects within their doctoral program, while others obtain multiple degrees along with their doctorate. Along with their bachelor’s degree, they also need to pass the GRE test with flying colors to be admitted into their doctoral program. After their studies, they need to write a dissertation. Their dissertation would typically be on evolutionary psychology or some area of study related to evolutionary psychology. This formal paper on some aspect of their major, such as evolutionary psychology, is usually their final task before their doctorate is granted. If the goal is to get a degree in evolutionary psychology, the thesis might be on human nature or other aspects of psychology, biology, or evolution – or all of these combined

Evolutionary psychologists need to learn about these fields associated with evolutionary psychology:

  • Philosophy of science
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Psychological science
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Cognitive behavior
  • Natural selection
  • Human learning stages
  • Neurological science
  • Anthropology
  • Ethology

After graduating with a doctoral degree that covers all the bases, you would need to find a position. Evolutionary psychology is a field that is used in many different places. For example, you might put your evolutionary psychology knowledge to work in a school or college to help the administration and staff understand the students' behavior. Or you can use evolutionary psychology in the medical field to help with diagnosis and treatment. Finally, you could go into the research branch of evolutionary psychology to study human nature as it is today and apply evolutionary psychology concepts to what you learn.

Why is evolutionary psychology criticized?

While most evolutionary psychologists are committed to furthering their field, some other scientists dispute its usefulness or methods. Here is a short summary of some of these reasons and the rebuttals evolutionary psychologists might offer.

Criticism: Evolutionary psychology only relates to the past and is not relevant to human nature today.

Rebuttal: The psychological adaptations that happened long ago still impact human nature and the resulting human behavior today, so evolutionary psychology is still relevant.

Criticism: Evolutionary psychology is less useful than fields of psychology that are focused on the here and now.

Rebuttal: Evolutionary psychologists make practical contributions to important fields like education and medicine that impact individuals in today's world.

Criticism: No one can prove any evolutionary psychology hypotheses because they are about things that happened too far in the past. This is also called the "No Time Machine" argument, and it seems to run counter to most researchers' philosophy of science.

Rebuttal: We do know many things about the past environment, our past ancestors, and human behavior in prehistoric times. Evolutionary psychologists can use this knowledge to refute hypotheses that do not fit with what is already known.

Criticism: Natural selection is not as significant to human nature as it was in prehistoric times.

Rebuttal: The forces of natural selection still exist today, and the results of past natural selection still impact human behavior and human nature.

Criticism: Evolutionary psychology focuses too much on race and gender, so it doesn't promote diversity.

Rebuttal: Race and gender has been extremely important in the past and continue to influence human behavior today.

Criticism: The insistence of evolutionary psychology that the brain's functions are domain specific is not backed up by neuroscience. Different parts of the brain can take on different functions when need be.

Rebuttal: Evolutionary psychology assumes that the modules of the brain are like other organs – one organ or module has one function. For example, the heart's only function is to pump blood, and the fight or flight response in the brain has only one purpose – to prepare you for surviving a threat.

What are the three main criticisms of evolutionary psychology?

The following are the three main criticisms of evolutionary psychology:

  1. Hypotheses start with the effect first and work backward to find an explanation.
  2. Evolutionary psychologists fail to recognize the cultural and social influences that also shape human behavior and human nature.
  3. Evolutionary psychology principles could be taken to suggest that humans aren't responsible for their sexual behavior.

Where did evolutionary psychology come from?

Evolutionary psychology began as an offshoot of Darwin's evolutionary theory. In fact, Darwin himself contemplated how evolutionary theory would one day be applied to psychology and human nature. Darwin may not have invented the term evolutionary psychology, but he had already envisioned the field of evolutionary psychology. But Darwin died in 1882. It was not until the 1980s that Evolutionary Psychology finally emerged as a distinct psychological science.

Although the ideas about evolutionary psychology had been brewing for about 100 years, it didn't reach the level of being its own field until the late 1980s. At that point, all the different sociological, psychological, and sociological sciences that contributed to evolutionary psychology came together in a more formal and organized way.

Is evolutionary psychology possible?

Yes. It's extremely likely that human nature, behavior, and cognition evolved over the course of history. In fact, there is very little controversy surrounding the idea that behavior changed to meet the demands of a changing environment.

However, Evolutionary Psychology, as it is presented by evolutionary psychologists, isn't as well accepted as the general idea of evolving psychological mechanisms.

It certainly might be true that many of the hypotheses offered by evolutionary psychologists reflect the way human nature actually evolved. Yet, there are other hypotheses that might not stand up to reality if they could be adequately tested.

And certain tenets of Evolutionary Psychology seem to miss the mark. The domain specific hypothesis, for example, seems to be less reliable now that neurobiologists have learned more about the brain.

All in all, Evolutionary Psychology probably has some lessons to offer for humankind. And Evolutionary Psychology can contribute much to other branches of science. The general idea of evolutionary psychology, however, is almost certainly true.

Where do evolutionary psychologists believe people get their behavior patterns?

Evolutionary psychologists believe behavior patterns are passed down from generation to generation, but with various adaptations that impact human nature.

For example, humans have developed memory systems for many different tasks. These tasks include things like recognizing people and avoiding toxic foods. According to evolutionary psychology, the behaviors related to those tasks evolved over time as new generations approached the tasks differently and got better results.

Evolutionary psychologists see behavior as arising from such adaptations. And, according to evolutionary psychology, just as human anatomy has evolved the same way around the world, human psychology must have evolved to be the same or nearly the same for everyone around the world, too.

And most evolutionary psychology assumes that human nature is based on psychological mechanisms that are both complex and specific to the species. While evolutionary psychologists can recognize other influences on behavior, they certainly believe that behavior patterns are rooted in the evolution of our thinking, feeling, and interacting with others and our environment.

So, what are psychological adaptations? The human nervous system receives and responds to information in its environment. But when the environment presents new problems, the brain can adapt to the new situation, and the human will try a new solution to the problem. If it does solve the problem, that behavior will likely be repeated.

What's more, the new patterns of behavior will likely be passed on to future generations. This is how these adaptations work, as defined by evolutionary psychologists in the field of evolutionary psychology. The mechanism for this evolution is natural selection. Those who change to a more advantageous behavior pattern live, thrive, and have babies. Those who don't make that change either die before they can give birth or some other factor stops them from carrying on their family line.

Natural selection was a major force in early humanity, according to evolutionary theory. And it was long ago when natural selection determined how human nature would evolve. Natural selection may still be happening to some extent, but many of our behaviors still harken back to those prehistoric times, especially behavior patterns rooted in instinct.

What are some differences between sociobiology and evolutionary psychology?

There are several differences between evolutionary psychology and sociobiology. Here are some of the most notable.

Sociobiology came before evolutionary psychology in the history of science, but just slightly.

Sociobiology was introduced in 1975. Evolutionary psychology followed shortly after, in the late 1980s.

Evolutionary psychology added the concept of psychological mechanisms.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, evolutionary psychology drew from sociobiology, but it is different because it features the concept of psychological mechanisms. These psychological mechanisms can be considered as equivalent to instincts or drives. In evolutionary psychology, it is these psychological mechanisms that are selected in natural selection, rather than the behaviors themselves.

Evolutionary psychology focuses more on mind and culture, while sociobiology focuses more on genetic adaptations.

Both evolutionary psychology and its predecessor sociobiology recognize psychological adaptations and their impact on human nature. However, sociobiologists are more concerned with the genetic mechanisms, while evolutionary psychologists are more homed in on the psychological mechanisms.

Evolutionary psychologists contend that humans can behave in ways that are contrary to their genetic programming.

Because sociobiology focuses on the genetic side of adaptation, it sometimes fails to recognize that people can sometimes behave in ways that are unexpected when you consider their genetic code. However, evolutionary psychologists are more interested in psychological mechanisms and adaptations, so they are quicker to see the possibilities. Cultural learning does play an important part in determining behavior, according to evolutionary psychology.

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