Nick Haslam New School for Social Research
The recent rise in the fortunes of evolutionary approaches to psychology has been especially kind to social psychologists, who find themselves in a vanguard position. Many of the animating concerns of evolutionary psychology overlap the traditional content domains of social psychology, and both disciplines share a methodological commitment to understanding the individual in context. Besides having this basic affinity, the evolutionary perspective offers social psychologists a unifying explanatory framework that often departs intriguingly from folk intuitions, an unaccustomed pleasure. As a result, social psychological questions are now central to the mission of evolutionary psychology.
It is now generally accepted, for instance, that many of the most crucial selective pressures operating over the course of primate and hominid evolution arose from the complexities of group living. The complexity of social organization appears to have increased in tandem with increases in cognitive capacity, and we are more and more willing to grant that the former may have driven the latter ( Humphrey, 1976; Byrne & Whiten, 1988). We have come to see primate and hominid social life as a more demanding arena for problem solving than the technical challenges of subsistence ( Quiatt & Kelso, 1985) and have deduced that social competence must call upon an impressive array of adapted skills and propensities ( Cosmides & Tooby, 1995). Understood in this way, social intelligence fragments into an assemblage of mental modules dedicated to the tasks of face recognition, cooperation, mental state attribution, affect perception, reciprocity, kin recognition, mate choice, deception, cheater detection, and so forth.
Two aspects of this emerging program are particularly important. First, evolutionary social psychology explicitly concerns aspects of human sociality that are
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Publication information: Book title: Evolutionary Social Psychology. Contributors: Jeffry A. Simpson - Editor, Douglas T. Kenrick - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 297.
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