Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking: The Debate

By David E. Over | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

The allocation system: Using signal detection processes to regulate representations in a multimodular mind

Gary L. Brase

University of Sunderland, UK


IMPLICATIONS OF A MULTIMODULAR MIND

An aspect of evolutionary psychology that seems to distress a number of people is the degree of modularization it implies. The concept of a multimodular mind can be difficult to accept. To be more precise, many sensible people readily accept that evolutionary theory is relevant to the study of the mind, and even that the evolutionary process is an important consideration in understanding how the mind was designed, but balk at the implication-drawn by most pre-eminent theorists in evolutionary psychology-that the mind is therefore composed of a large number of relatively specialized cognitive adaptations, or modules (Buss, 1995, 1999; Pinker, 1997; Tooby & Cosmides, 1992).

The reason for positing a large number of specialized mental abilities lies at the very foundations of evolutionary thinking. The evolutionary process must be enabled by a selection pressure-some aspect of the environment that poses a survival or reproductive problem for the species in question. Evolution happens by positive and negative feedback in relation to how well individuals (actually, genes that produce phenotypic traits that exist as part of individuals) solve that problem (assuming there is some variation in problem solutions). Since we are talking about specific problems, the better solutions will be specific and tailored to that problem domain (see Cosmides & Tooby, 1987, 1994); one cannot have a single solution for problems as diverse as finding food, courting mates, learning a language, and bipedal locomotion.

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