Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

Synopsis

The field of evolutionary cognitive psychology has stimulated considerable interest and debate among cognitive psychologists and those working in related areas. In this collection, leading experts evaluate the status of this new field, providing a critical analysis of its most controversial hypotheses. These hypotheses have far reaching implications for cognition, including a modular view of the mind, which rejects, in its extreme form, any general learning or reasoning abilities. Some evolutionary psychologists have also proposed content-dependent accounts of conditional reasoning and probability judgements, which in turn have significant, and equally controversial, implications about the nature of human reasoning and decision making. The contributions range from those that are highly critical of the hypotheses to those that support and develop them. The result is a uniquely balanced, cutting-edge evaluation of the field that will be of interest to psychologists, philosophers and those in related subjects who wish to find out what evolutionary considerations can, and cannot, tell us about the human mind.

Excerpt

Barkow, Cosmides, and Tooby (1992, p. 3) defined evolutionary psychology, in the collection of papers that did much to help launch the new subject, in the following terms:

Evolutionary psychology is simply the psychology that is informed by the additional knowledge that evolutionary biology has to offer, in the expectation that understanding the process that designed the human mind will advance the discovery of its architecture. It unites modern evolutionary biology with the cognitive revolution in a way that has the potential to draw together all of the disparate branches of psychology into a single organised system of knowledge.

This definition gave little portent of the vigorous debate, sometimes with unproductive heat, that would flare up over evolutionary psychology (Archer, 2001a, 2001b; Buss, 2001; Campbell, 2001; Dunbar, 2001; Rose & Rose, 2001; Segal, 2001). Leading up to this debate were great advances in evolutionary biology, of obvious relevance to psychology, particularly in the study of the evolution of social behaviour (Hamilton, 1964a, 1964b) and of reciprocal altruism (Trivers, 1971). It is true that sociobiology had appeared before evolutionary psychology and been heavily criticized for its “vaulting ambition” (Kitcher, 1985). Sociobiology primed the critics, but it should have been clear that evolutionary psychology advanced beyond its forerunner, if only in not bypassing the human mind by trying to go straight from biology to human society and culture. (For introductions to the subject at a range of

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