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Four Fallacies of Pop Evolutionary Psychology [Preview]

Some evolutionary psychologists have trumpeted claims about how the human mind evolved that other scholars take issue with. Here is how the evidence shapes up

In Brief

  • Among Charles Darwin's lasting legacies is our knowledge that the human mind evolved by some adaptive process.
  • A major, widely discussed branch of evolutionary psychology—Pop EP—holds that the human brain has many specialized mechanisms that evolved to solve the adaptive problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
  • The author and several other scholars suggest that some assumptions of Pop EP are flawed: that we can know the psychology of our Stone Age ancestors, that we can thereby figure out how distinctively human traits evolved, that our minds have not evolved much since the Stone Age, and that standard psychological questionnaires yield clear evidence of the adaptations.

Definition

As used in this article, pop evolutionary psychology, or Pop EP, refers to a branch of theoretical psychology that employs evolutionary principles to support claims about human nature for popular consumption.

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