Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

By David E. Over | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

Evolutionary psychology's grain problem and the cognitive neuroscience of reasoning

Anthony P. Atkinson

King Alfred's College, Winchester, UK

Michael Wheeler

University of Dundee, UK


INTRODUCTION

In its most general form, evolutionary psychology is simply psychology that is properly grounded in evolutionary biology. But most research that falls under the banner of evolutionary psychology might be given a more specific gloss, as the Darwinian adaptationist programme applied to the mind/brain. How does this idea work? 1

Viewed through the lens of Darwinian theory, organisms are (for the most part) integrated collections of adaptations, where adaptations are phenotypic traits that are evolved responses to adaptive problems, and where adaptive problems are selection pressures-recurring environmental conditions that influence reproductive success, or fitness, of individual organisms. Adaptations, then, contribute (or once contributed) to the reproductive success of the organisms that have them. Fitness maximization per se is not a goal of individual organisms, however. Organisms cannot seek directly to maximize their fitness, since what counts as fitness-promoting behaviour in one situation or for one individual is not likely to be so in another situation or for another individual (Cosmides & Tooby, 1987; Symons, 1992). Rather, thanks

1It is not our intention here to engage directly with the basic line of reasoning and argument that grounds evolutionary psychology, but what we do wish to do requires that we first briefly summarize its main features (see Atkinson & Wheeler, unpublished; Bloom, 1999; Cummins & Cummins, 1999; Samuels, 1998, 2000; Wheeler & Atkinson, 2001, for reviews and critical analyses).

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