Evolutionary Psychology

The brain as a maze. Getty/PASIEKA


Evolutionary psychology is a relatively new scientific discipline that looks at how human nature has evolved over time as a series of built up psychological adaptations. Many evolutionary biologists and other scientists are still reluctant to recognize evolutionary psychology as a valid science.

Much like Charles Darwin's ideas about natural selection, evolutionary psychology focuses on how favorable adaptations of human nature are selected for over less favorable adaptations.

In the scope of psychology, these adaptations could be in the form of emotions or problem solving skills.

Evolutionary psychology is related to both macroevolution in the sense that it looks at how the human species, especially the brain, has changed over time, and it is also rooted in the ideas attributed to microevolution. These microevolutionary topics include changes at the gene level of DNA.

Attempting to link the discipline of psychology to the theory of evolution via biological evolution is the aim of evolutionary psychology. In particular, evolutionary psychologists study how the human brain has evolved. The different regions of the brain control different parts of human nature and the physiology of the body. Evolutionary psychologists believe that the brain evolved in response to solving very specific problems.

The Six Core Principles of Evolutionary Psychology

The discipline of Evolutionary Psychology was founded on six core principles that combine traditional understanding of psychology along with evolutionary biology ideas of how the brain functions.

These principles are as follows:


  1. The human brain's purpose is to process information, and in doing so, it produces responses to both external and internal stimuli.
  2. The human brain adapted and has undergone both natural and sexual selection.
  3. The parts of the human brain are specialized to solve problems that occurred over evolutionary time.
  1. Modern humans have brains that evolved after problems recurred time and time again over long periods of time.
  2. Most of the human brain's functions are done unconsciously. Even problems that seem easy to solve take very intricate neural responses at an unconscious level.
  3. Many very specialized mechanisms make up the whole of human psychology. All of these mechanisms together create human nature.


Areas of Evolutionary Psychology Research

The theory of evolution lends itself to several areas where psychological adaptations must occur in order for species to develop. The first is basic survival skills like consciousness, responding to stimuli, learning and motivation. Emotions and personality also fall into this category, although their evolution is much more complex than basic instinctual survival skills. The use of language is also linked as a survival skill on the evolutionary scale within psychology.

Another major area of evolutionary psychology research is the propagation of the species, or mating. Based on observations of other species in their natural environments, the evolutionary psychology of human mating tends to lean toward the idea that females are more selective in their partners than males.

Since males are instinctively wired spread their seed to any available female, the male human brain has evolved to be less selective than that of the female.

The last major area of evolutionary psychology research centers on human interaction with other humans. This large research area includes research into parenting, interactions within families and relations, interactions with people that are not related and the combination of similar ideas to establish a culture. Emotions and language greatly influence these interactions, as does geography. Interactions occur more frequently between people living in the same area, which eventually leads to the creation of a specific culture that evolves based on immigration and emigration in the area.