Expanding the Boundaries of Evolutionary Psychology: The Context of Domain-Specific Adaptations

By Thiessen, Del | Mankind Quarterly, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Expanding the Boundaries of Evolutionary Psychology: The Context of Domain-Specific Adaptations


Thiessen, Del, Mankind Quarterly


Expanding the Boundaries of Evolutionary Psychology: The Context of Domain-Specific Adaptations

Del Thiessen1

The tide of evolution carries everything before it, thoughts no less than bodies, and persons no less than nations.

George Santayana

Evolutionary psychology relies heavily on domain-specific selection, positing that cognitive and emotional processes are adaptations for solving particular problems of survival and reproduction. This model ordinarily does not consider alternative mechanisms of evolution. It also restricts explanations for the biophilic nature of humans, and limits the appreciation for the profound effects of the environment on the origin and expression of human traits. Drawing heavily on classical and recent concepts of contemporary conditioning theory, a testable model is presented that broadens domain-specific selection to include the co-evolution of contextual stimuli ("contextual evolution"). It incorporates non-specific sensory regulation of evolved behavior, including biophilic regard for certain environments, and suggests what the evolutionary conditions might have been for the emergence of human mental complexity.

Key Words: Sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, domain-specific adaptation, evolutionary theory.

We are witness to a revolution in the understanding of life. From molecules to neurobehavior our system of reductionistic logic and methods of analysis confirm life's evolutionary origins and its genetic character (Boyd & Silk, 1997; Barkow, Comides & Tooby, 1992; Gazzaniga, 1995; Strickberger, 1996).

The reductionistic approach that has worked so well in the understanding of evolution has been embraced by evolutionary psychology in an attempt to elucidate the adaptive significance and species-specificity of human cognition and behavior. The irony of this species-specificity of human cognition and behavior. The irony of this approach is that the broader qualities of the human psyche, such as the awe and fear of nature, the non-specific motivations that often guide behavior, and the feelings of connectedness with the surrounding world and with other species, go unexamined. In exchange for reductionism, science has conjured up a sterile view of humans, one lacking morality, nobility, and principle-a dogged, selfish creature with little to recommend it-a protoplasmic bag of genetic tricks, buffeted back and forth by the environment until its death in an indifferent world. Life is seen as nothing more than DNA molecules racing madly toward reproduction and annihilation. Not a pretty picture.

In my opinion the current emphases within evolutionary psychology on genetic reductionism and reproduction constitute a restricted view of human behavior. It is not that I see evolution as something other than a mechanical process, but that the Darwinian and psychological approach are too narrow, emphasizing the struggle among genes for reproductive gain while forgetting that human evolution was an emergent process of adapting to the vast uniformities and the most basic nature of the surrounding universe (Lykken, McGue, Tellegen, & Bouchard, 1992). There is a larger world of natural selection that is overlooked - a selection by the continuous and cyclical environments (connecting us with the vast universe) - a genetic impression of physical and psychological surroundings into the DNA that imbues life with purpose, provides humans with a kinship to plants and animals, and initiates selfexamination (Kellert & Wilson, 1993).

Modifying the Paradigm of Evolutionary Psychology

I have two goals in this essay. The first is to show the limited value of current notions of natural selection within evolutionary psychology to account for the more general and non-reproductive qualities of humans. The second is to propose a broader view of evolution and natural selection that might account for the distinctive nature of human behavior.

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

Expanding the Boundaries of Evolutionary Psychology: The Context of Domain-Specific Adaptations
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.