is Evolutionary Psychology?
in his 2002 work, "The Blank State"
defined Evolutionary Psychology as...
study of the phylogenetic
history and adaptive functions of the mind." (Pinker, 2002, p. 51)
defines Phylogenetic as "relating to the evolutionary development
There are are 2 assumptions contained within
definition of Evolutionary Psychology.
1. The human mind at birth is not a tabula rasa
(which is latin for a blank state).
Instead humans at birth have
which are structurally 'pre-adapted' with the mental equipment
neccessary for survival within their social, cultural and physical
The human mind is essentially a network of mental modules that
influences the development and mechanism of human nature (as humans
interact with their social, cultural and 'natural' physical
environments). These mental modules can be metaphorically described as
independent computer programs that have 'inbuilt' rules (and core
information) which enable humans
to function in their environment. (Evans & Zarate, 1999, p.148)
While they do not determine the final outcome of human behavior,
they do however influence the way humans interact with their social and
physical environment and ultimately the formation of human nature.
(Pinker, 2002, p. ix)
This is in contrast to the 'blank state' (tabula rasa) approach
(still ascribed to by many in the social sciences) which assumes that
of humans (unlike other animals) are not born with such pre-existing
neural structures. Instead 'information' and 'humanity' is inculcated
in humans through their
sensory experiences (within the phsyical environment and human social
& cultural worlds).
Far from being a blank state
our minds are filled with specific neural structures i.e.
domain-specific modules that influence our development and how we
function as human being. Examples of such modules include face
recognition and language acquisition.
2. The apparent design of
mind is the result of millions of years of
mental modules have been developed through millions of years of human
evolution. In particular scientists believe that the period of human
evolution during the Pleistocene epoch ie
1.8 millions years to 11,000 years BP has been particularly
influential upon the development of these domain-specific modules
within the human brain (Bjorklund, 2003, p.837).
The evolution of modern humans is
to have occurred mostly
within an African savannah-type environment during this
period. The design and structure of the human mind together with the
constituent domain-specific mental modules are the result of
'solutions' to the adaptive problems posed to humans within this
environment (via the evolutionary processes of natural selection).
Evolutionary Psychology: is a new approach...
is an approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles
evolutionary biology are put to use in research on the structure of
the human mind."
(Cosmides & Tooby, 1997)