Please update your browser

You're using a version of Internet Explorer that isn't supported by Questia.
To get a better experience, go to one of these sites and get the latest
version of your preferred browser:

Darwinian Functionalism: A Cognitive Science Paradigm

By Knight, Mike | The Psychological Record, Spring 1994 | Go to article overview

Darwinian Functionalism: A Cognitive Science Paradigm


Knight, Mike, The Psychological Record


Anderson (1990) has argued that cognitive science is in need of a shift in emphasis away from modeling mental architecture in favor of an evolutionary or "adaptionist" perspective on human cognition. The implication is that cognitive psychology's neostructuralist research paradigm is giving way to a neofunctionalist one. It is also a signal that cognitivism has progressed through what Kuhn (1970) labeled normal science and is currently experiencing a crisis of nonconfidence. A shift in emphasis is necessary because cognitivism is in danger of degenerating into a kind of mentalism where unconstrained model building leads to an ever increasing need for new models to account for the anomalies resulting from new data (Amsel, 1989; Knight, 1990). Ultimately an unrestrained emphasis on explanation will overwhelm a discipline with more answers than there were questions to begin with. What is needed is not more answers in the form of more models, but better questions.

If psychological theory is fragmented and incoherent it is because we have not been asking good (well-formed) questions. We have not been asking good questions because we have not had a theoretical basis from which to deduce expectancies. A return to functionalism, in the form of evolutionary psychology, has the potential for providing a hypothetico-deductive theoretical base that achieves prediction, explanation through meaningful organization, and in addition has an aesthetic quality that has historically characterized successful theorizing in science. What follows is an exposition of Darwinian functionalism as the elusive paradigm required to achieve Thomas Kuhn's criterion for a science--to achieve psychology as science.

Arnold Buss (1973) suggested that advances in genetics, evolutionary theory, and ethology had made possible a comprehensive theory which for the first time could effectively organize all of psychology around it. The missing ingredient seems to have been supplied by cognitive science with its unique perspective on the brain as a thinking machine. The functioning of cognitive mechanisms supplied the common ground for rapprochement. As James (1890) said in his Principles of Psychology, "the only thing which psychology has a right to postulate at the outset is the fact of thinking itself". The last 20 years of cognitive science research have been spent developing a viable language for the description of mental modeling. Cosmides and Tooby (1987) were in a position to declare that, "there is emerging a new method, here called evolutionary psychology, which is made possible by the simultaneous maturation of evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, and cognitive psychology".

Darwinian Functionalism

Even if all the hawks in the world were to vanish, their image would still sleep in the soul of the chick. Joseph Campbell.

At the heart of evolutionary psychology is the question of function. It makes little sense to question an organism's structure without a consideration of how it functions. In like manner a consideration of how something functions can only be understood within the context of what it was designed to do. The functionalism of James and Dewey emphasized the importance of defining something in terms of what it does. Darwinian functionalism goes a step further and recognizes the inseparability of function and design. Understanding design makes it possible to ask meaningful questions regarding function and guides the study of structure. The internal mechanics of a telephone and the ways in which it can be used are meaningless apart from the knowledge that humans are a socially intelligent species with a need for information. The logical deduction from this knowledge is that an enhanced ability to communicate will be selected for and as a consequence will form an integral part of any social ecology.

Evolutionary design provides the knowledge base from which theoretical constructs, in the form of cognitive mechanisms, can be deduced (Anderson, 1990; Cosmides & Tooby, 1987).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Darwinian Functionalism: A Cognitive Science Paradigm
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.