Top Psychology Schools in Georgia

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Psychology Schools in Georgia

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Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology is an approach to the study of the behavior, feelings and thoughts of humans where one assumes that man, like all other species, is a result of evolution. Human nature is therefore believed to be the result of natural and sexual selection.

It is believed that the mind consists of a mosaic of mental mechanisms that result from the evolutionary process. These adaptations constitute human nature. They can be specified and researched on the basis of general selection theory and evolutionary intermediate level theories. An intermediate level theory is a limited theory, derived from a larger scientific theory, that allows original, specific hypotheses and testable predictions to be developed.

Evolutionary psychology is a relatively new direction in general psychology. The area was founded during the 1980-90 years. Gradually, the direction has become part of the main track in psychological research, although there was some resistance to evolutionary approaches in the study of human psychology in the early years. This resistance was partly based on political and ideological resistance, and partly on the expectation that evolutionary psychology meant genetic determinism. In addition, previous evolutionary approaches such as sociobiology had to a small extent been embraced by psychological scientists.

Most of the empirical research on evolutionary psychology takes place within the cognitive – social psychological domain, but one can also consider evolutionary psychology as part of biological psychology.

Founders of evolutionary psychology

Scientific directions are rarely founded at a particular time or place, so there will always be a discretion when defining who founded a research tradition. When it comes to the founders of evolutionary psychology, for example, it can be narrowed down to the five scientists who invited American evolutionary psychologist David Buss to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto to participate in a special project called “Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology”: Leda Cosmides and John Tooby; Margo Wilson and Marin Daly; and David Buss.

Cosmides and Tooby are known for working with mechanisms to detect social cheating and collaboration, and competition in general, including the psychological basis of race perception. Wilson and Daly are known for “Young Male Syndrome,” that young men take greater risks, often with fatal consequences. They have also researched murders from an evolutionary perspective, and have received special attention for the increased likelihood of murder of stepchildren. Bus has researched a variety of themes from jealousy to evolutionary personality psychology, and is particularly known for his theory of sexual strategies with David Schmitt.


Historically, there have been a number of approaches to human psychology, nature and behavior that have had a fundamental evolutionary perspective.

  • Charles Darwin was passionate about human evolution and emotion and wrote an observational study of children for the journal Mind.
  • Sigmund Freud speculated on evolutionary explanations for a number of conditions. Perhaps the most famous, and obviously erroneous, based on a kind of lamarckism, was his assertion that castration anxiety has arisen because the jealous father repeatedly castrated boy children throughout evolutionary history.
  • The connection theory of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth was explicitly Darwinian, although it is to a small extent highlighted by recent association theorists.
  • Within anxiety research, a functional approach to fear was fundamental to understanding anxiety as a defense system against danger.
  • Also Skinner was a pronounced seleksjonist and assumed that behavior could be shaped by evolution by selection.

Interest in evolutionary explanations of behavior, on the other hand, rose sharply beyond the 1970s as theories such as Hamilton’s including fitness theory and Trivers’ theories of parental investment began to be used to explain animal behavior. In addition, two very influential popular science books popularizing the new theories of evolution and behavior were published in the mid-1970s: Richard Dawkins Selfish gene and Edward O. Wilson’s Sociobiology. Wilson’s biological imperialist attitude (everything is really biology) and the mistakenly experienced genetic determinism of these theories led to active political opposition from the radical left in academia, including biology. Biological, genetic and evolutionary approaches to behavior were therefore actively combated, and linked to earlier, undesirable political directions. In particular, opposition was directed at sociobiological research on humans.

While sociobiology had a behavioral basic theory, studied observable behavior and assessed whether it was adapted here and now, evolutionary psychology is based on cognitive theory, studies the results of mental processing and has a focus on the underlying evolved mental adaptations. This has probably led to the evolution of psychology to a greater extent in the field of psychological research.

Evolutionary Psychological Research Method

Evolutionary psychology is both part of the main track in psychological research, but can also be considered as part of the adaptation program in modern evolutionary theory. While evolutionary psychology spans all the general psychological disciplines, so is most of the empirical research within the cognitive-social-psychological domain. Basically, therefore, evolutionary psychology is psychological research, and uses all the usual psychological research methods, including experiment, questionnaire surveys, and registry studies. The only thing that separates evolutionary psychology from other psychological directions is the use of evolutionary theory and possibly knowledge of the past environment or selection forces in the development of the hypotheses being tested.

A typical fallacy is to assume that evolutionary psychology only explains. As in all research, the development of predictions and original hypotheses is the basis for scientific inquiry. Typically, evolutionary mid-level theories, such as Triver’s parent investment theory, are used to develop more specific hypotheses and predictions, such as predictions about specific differences in jealousy in men and women.

In addition to evolutionary mid-level theories, knowledge of previously relevant environment is used. This is referred to in English by Bowlby’s term “Environment of evolutionary adaptedness” or EEA. The assumption that evolution of mental mechanisms takes many generations has the consequence that man today does not necessarily live under the conditions that shaped us. One may be misaligned with modern environment. Knowledge of the EEA is contained in arguments about what probable selection forces shaped human psychology.

Hypothesis generation and testing are the foundation of science. Evolutionary psychology is not primarily an explanatory science that offers as Kipling “just-so” stories of how we became as we became. Evolutionary psychology is a hypothesis-generating and testing science. That does not mean testing evolutionary theory, or as far as intermediate level theories. What is tested is the hypotheses and predictions that are formulated on the basis of theory, and possibly knowledge of selection forces and relevant past environmental conditions. These are tested with data from experiments, surveys, register data or the like, in the same way as other theory-based empirical research. The specific hypotheses and predictions are thus falsifiable and compete with other concrete testable theories in psychology and social science in general.

Evolutionary psychology’s model of the mind

A psychological research program will always benefit from having a clear model of the mind. What does the human psyche or mind consist of; how do the parts work together, or is the psyche just a big, undifferentiated whole? In evolutionary psychology, the human mind consists of a coordinated mosaic of mental mechanisms. There are a whole host of these mental mechanisms, and they are also called modules in literature. This gives the concept of massive modularity; the theory that the human mind consists of a large number of specialized parts. These mechanisms are partially delineated, partially interacting, and thus follow Steven Pinker ‘s definition to a greater extent than the founder of the modular model, Jerry Fodor, his definition.

While a modular approach is somewhat controversial in psychology in general today, it is peculiar to evolutionary psychology that it is assumed that the modules are functional and formed through sexual selection or natural selection, that is, they are evolved adaptations.

These mental adaptations are numerous and have evolved through selection because they solved specific, stable adaptation problems such as reproduction and survival, in the environment that was relevant to our ancestors and ancestors to adapt to throughout evolutionary history. These adaptation problems are solved by translating information according to certain rules and are therefore information specific and context dependent. The sum of the mental mechanisms constitutes the universal and species-specific nature of man.

Rankings Psychology Programs Departments and Schools
1 Emory University
Address: 532 Kilgo Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322
Phone: (404) 727-7438
E-mail: [email protected]
Department of Psychology
2 University of Georgia
Address: Psychology Building, Athens, GA 30602-3013
Phone: (706) 542-2174
E-mail: [email protected]
Department of Psychology
3 Georgia Institute of Technology
Address: 654 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170
Phone: (404) 894-2680
E-mail: [email protected]
School of Psychology
4 Georgia State University
Address: PO Box 5010, Atlanta, GA 30302-5010
Phone: (404) 651-6200
E-mail: [email protected]
Department of Psychology

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