Evolutionary psychology

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Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach within psychology that examines psychological traits — such as memory, perception, or language — from a Darwinian evolutionary perspective. It seeks to explain how many human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is originates as psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.[1]

Other adaptations, according to EP, might include the abilities to infer others' emotions, to discern kin from non-kin, to identify and prefer healthier mates, to cooperate with others, and so on. Consistent with the theory of natural selection, evolutionary psychology sees organisms as often in conflict with others of their species, including mates and relatives. For example, mother mammals and their young offspring sometimes struggle over weaning, which benefits the mother more than the child. Humans, however, have a marked capacity for cooperation under certain conditions as well.

Evolutionary psychologists see those behaviors and emotions that are nearly universal, such as fear of spiders and snakes, as more likely to reflect evolved adaptations. Evolved psychological adaptations (such as the ability to learn a language) interact with cultural inputs to produce specific behaviors (e.g., the specific language learned). This view is contrary to the idea that human mental faculties are general-purpose learning mechanisms.


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