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what is a pseudo science?

a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method


what is the goal of EP?

The goal of EP is to study human behaviour as the product of evolved psychological mechanisms.


what has happened over the past 20 years or so?

Over the past 20 or so years evolutionary psychology has emerged as a major theoretical perspective, generating an increasing volume of empirical studies and assuming a larger presence within psychological science


but what has EP generated

At the same time is has generated many critiques and remains controversial among some psychologists.


what issues covered in essay about cons

Five principle issues will be covered
- the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA), massive modularity and EP’s politically incorrect claims, spandrels and concerns of falsifiability


what will essay on this attempt to identify?

This essay will attempt to identify some of the most common concerns and attempt to elucidate EP’s stance to pertaining them and cover the limitations as well of the benefits of applying an evolutionary framework to studying human psychology and behaviours.


quote on EEA and pseudo-science

‘The pseudo-science of Evolutionary psychology purports to explain human behaviours by reference to an ancestral environment’ -Tattersall 2001


what does the EEA refer to?

The environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) refers to those aspects of the ancestral environment that were relevant to the evolution, development and functioning of an organism’s adaptations- roughly, the environment in which a species evolved and to which it is adapted.


who first proposed the EEA?

First proposed by Bowlby (1969) it is an essential and logically necessary aspect of the theory of natural selection.


what has the EEA been?

As the content of EP is almost entirely to be found in the structure of the ancestral environment it is clearly important yet it has been a lightning rod for criticism.


who gave a bad definition of the EEA

• T&C (1990) definition of the EEA:
– “The EEA is a statistical composite of the adaptation relevant properties of the ancestral environments encountered by members of ancestral populations.”

this is too vague to actually be of use


when is the EEA assumed in literature to be?

– Assumed often in literature that the EEA is roughly about 250,000 to 10,000 years ago, sometime in the Pleistocene.


researchers who gave typical controversial opinion of the EEA.

• "the human brain may have difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment, roughly the African savanna during the Pleistocene Epoch.“
Li & Kanazawa (2016)- evidence of how the EEA is typically seen.


what is the issue of the EEA

False idea of statis since Pleistocene

We didn’t have one area of where we lived there was no one direct environment thus psychologists who seem to claim that this is the case are inherently wrong. - Homo erectus lived from the south of Africa to the north, southern Europe, southern Asia- a huge global expanse

Homo-erectus interbred with homo-sapiens so their evolutionary adaptations would have influenced ours.

Clearly we are missing something- homo erectus – know they cared for people who were injured so they were engaging in complex human like behaviours and living in a wide area of ecological conditions.


Skeptics that past is knowable

). Yet when it comes to the selection pressures that shaped the brain, some are skeptical that the past is knowable (e.g., Ahouse and Berwick 1998).


support for using the EEA and who argued

Hargen (1998)- argues that too much emphasis has been placed on the differences between the EEA and our current environment- or the differences that have occurred. He argues that if a species diverges too rapidly and too far from its EEA then quite simply it will go extinct. The human species is clearly not going extinct; hence the common belief that EP claims humans currently live in an entirely novel environment is incorrect. Most aspects of the modern environment closely resemble our EEA. Pain, illness, friendship, status, mating, parenting, pregnancy all work in modern society- evidence that we have not diverged from the EEA quite as much as some would say.

No one would dispute that our lungs evolved in an oxygen atmosphere (the lung EEA) nor that our immune system evolved in response to pathogens (the immune system EEA).


what is a common misconception about the EEA

It is a common misconception that the EEA refers to aspects of the past that differ from the present, when it actually refers the aspects of the past whether or not they correspond to aspects of the present.


what do we know about the EEA

We know that in the EEA women got pregnant and men did not. This single fact is the basis for perhaps three-quarters or more of all EP research.

The past, however, was much like the present. Physics was the same. Chemistry was the same. Geography, at an abstract level, was much the same—there were rivers, lakes, hills, valleys, cliffs, and caves. Ecology, at an abstract level, was also much the same—there were plants, animals, pathogens, trees, forests, predators, prey, insects, birds, spiders, and snakes. Virtually all biological facts were the same. There were two sexes, parents, children, brothers, sisters, people of all ages, and close and distant relatives


what should EP remain cautious of in terms of the EEA

The fact remains that EP needs to remain highly cautious not to assume that the EEA was in one place at one time- and perhaps move away from the definition of the EEA as such- instead- it may be better to focus on a list of known evolutionary histories that we know we’re occurrences for all humans and make sure to point out that other issues such as what culture was like or what food humans ate is very unknown.


what don't we possess about the EEA

Don’t possess records of mullions of past years that would reveal in precise detail all of the selective events over millions of years that have led to the current design of the human body and mind.


what other ways can we know about the EEA

Evolutionary psychologists also use evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, comparative biology and ethology to elucidate some aspects of an otherwise scientifically uncertain ancestral past.
Can use many sources of evidence e.g. human remans and cave paintings- which as cumulative findings yield reasonable inferences about our ancestral past that we can be relatively sure about (Buss, 2008)


what will EP always be limited in in terms of knowledge about past selection pressures?

Although convergent evidence from independent data sources yields especially reasonable inferences about some past selection pressures, evolutionary psychology and indeed the entire field of psychology will always be limited by an incomplete knowledge of past selection pressures.

(or until the advent of time tra


what may the EEA uncertainties also have led to?

Unwarranted reliance on hunter-gathered models


what is important to remember about HG groups?

• Modern HG are not in a time capsule- can’t say that Hazda for example are the same as early homo-sapiens because they are not.
• What’s so strange about HG groups now…? In most cases to be a HG you have to be isolated to begin with or would have been pulled into historical transformations. Also some have gone back to hunter-gathering so haven’t always been hunter gatherers.
• They are not homogenous


what is a gap that fills the space between two necessary things?



who came up with the name spandrels and how

Gould and Lewontin (1979) observed that many organism ‘traits’ are not adaptations but simply incidental by products of other structures terming them spandrels.


what is the idea behind spandrels?

The idea that an organism’s traits may be erroneously identified as adaptations. If spandrels and adaptations were difficult or impossible to distinguish , this would undermine claims that true adaptations have been found.

• Basic assumption that we shouldn’t assume everything is adaptive is valid.


who argued that many things we see are just side effects and what e.g.'s did they use

• Gould argued that we think many things have evolved but really they are just the way they are e.g. bones are made of calcium them being white is just a side efect. g. Argued the female orgasm was a spandrel. Selection of male orgasm across many species as essential component of reproduction argued that female orgasm is non-functional and has evolved because the structure is needed to make a male orgasm happen (don’t agree lots of work on benefits of female orgasm)


evidence that spandrels exist

Can get behaviours that look adaptive and useful that still aren’t adaptations- if you put live and dead ants in a petri dish- then live ants move dead ants into piles called “corpse aggregation”- clears out nest supprosdly but....
Pfeiffer, 1996- can create the same outcome in a very different way- robot with two sensors front left and front right telling it where things are like an ant cant see well straight ahead of them- rule is to avoid obsticles- means that anything in middle gets pushed around- set them going and the same outcome happens as ants where blocks are moved into piles. Can get exactly the same behavioral outcome using a very simple set of decision rules that have no direct link to the supposed outcome that has been put forward as to why we see the pattern in ants.


whose criticisms mimic the issues of the ant and robot findings, what did they compare ET to and what other criticism did they make?

Gould & Lewontin who postured that the explanations that adaptionists gave for traits were analogous to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories (outlandish explanations as to why the elephant got its trunk). Criticised the acceptance of stories without sufficient empirical evidence.
They made two important epistemological criticisms of the story telling of adaptationists:
1) often use inappropriate evidentiary standards for identifying adaptations and their functions.
2) Often fail to consider alternative hypotheses to adaption.