ev. psychology

Rob Quinlan (C611417@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU)
Sun, 7 May 1995 12:32:44 CDT

Long note regarding evolutionary psychology in anthro:

Jerome Barkow has a chapter in P.K. Bock (ed.) _Psychological Anthropology_
(1994 praeger) that gives a skeletal intro to ev. psych. for anthros.
Also, see Barkow's 1989 _Darwin sex and status:biological approaches to
mind and culture_ (U. of Toronto) for a more extended discussion of his
particular take on the subject.

EP is new and many evolution and behavior oriented anthros are just now
getting a handle on it (see Flinn, M. et al "Evolution & culture turf
wars" winter 1995 _J. of anthropological research_ for a comparison of
EP, behavioral ecology, and coevolution approaches).

There are two basic camps in EP. One holds that our mental organ is
divided into domain-specific modules evolved to solve recurrent problems
in the human "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" (EEA) (i.e.,
late pleistocene). This camp claims that there is little reason to
expect that our behavior today is adaptive as our present environments
are so different from the EEA. They use "evolutionary logic" and an
extremely vague notion of what went on in the EEA to make predictions
about what our minds should do. They then use paper and pencil tests
to examine the out-puts of domain-specific modules. Anthropologists
associated with this approach include J. Tooby & D. Symons (UCSB).
There are many psychologists working in this area -- most notably
L. Cosmides (UCSB) and D. Buss (Mich. see also 1994 _The evolution
of desire_).

The other camp holds that psychological modules are relatively domain-
general, hierarchically organized and interactive. They take much
more inspiration from behavioral ecology and assume that many behaviors
are adaptive. The basic assumption of this camp is that our minds
evolved to work in a variety of environments and that the basic features
of most environments (social relationships, status attainment, parenting
etc.) are w/in the scope of our mental abilities. These researchers
look at actual behavior in various contexts to test hypotheses about
what behaviors ought to be adaptive in that particular environment.
Anthropologists in this group include L. Cronk (Tex. A&M), M. Flinn
(Missouri), L. Betzig (Mich) and many others -- however, most of these
folks would be reluctant to call themselves evolutionary
psychological anthros. Psychologists in this school include M. Daly
& M. Wilson (McMaster I think).

Presently, these two camps are butting heads, with people lying all
along the continuum (again see Flinn et al.). For outlines of the
various approaches see D. Buss (in the latest issue of _Psychological
inquiry_), J. Tooby & L. Cosmides and M. Daly & M. Wilson (both in
M. Gazzaniga (ed.) 1994 _The cognitive neurosciences_ MIT press).
IMHO the Tooby/Cosmides and Daly/Wilson papers give a more balanced
account than does Buss although the Gazzaniga book may be difficult
to get a hold of.

IMHO one of the biggest problems w/ EP (Model 1) is that psychs seem
to be clueless about what the EEA might have been about. The only
real discussion of the issue is list of characteristics Tooby &
Cosmides offer in the Gazzaniga book. However, this list applies to
most preindustrial societies and doesn't give us anything on which to
base any specific ideas about domain-SPECIFIC mechanisms. 2nd, EPs
again, mod.1) are reluctant to discuss important issues concerning
cultural context. In their view culture is noise. The best exception
to this is Barkow ('89) (who seems to lie somewhere between camps 1 & 2).
Hence, mod. 1 EP is unlikely ever to be attractive to anthros.
However, mod. 2 seems to provide important clues for improving "black
box" notions of the mind held by behavioral ecologists of the '70s
and '80s.

Dr. Holloway is correct that there isn't a whole helluva lot new in
this approach. What is new is an attention to hierarchial integration
of ecological, social, psychological, and endocrine influences in
generating behavior. I think he is incorrect that the field draws
directly from fields like primatology, anthro etc. The influences
are more indirect. Really, EP is a recasting of sociobiology in more
sophisticated psychological terms. [I should note that mod. 1 is
getting a good deal of media attention (particularly in public radio
and and public TV).] In fact primatological evidence is conspicuously
absent from EP at present despite the fact that one of it's founders
(perhaps coiner is more appropriate) is a primatologist (Symons).
Primatologists working on the evolution of learning etc. are not
in the fray. I assume this has to do EP's (mod.1) carte blanche
rejection of behaviorism and (what Tooby & Cosmides call) the
"standard social science model". Also, conspicuously absent from mod.
1 EP is any meaningful discussion of the ontogeny of behavior.
However, some mod. 2 EPs do address this issue (see K. McDonald
1988 _Social & Personality Development: An Evolutionary Synthesis_

Presently, the EP handbook is _The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary
Psychology and the Generation of Culture_ (Barkow, Cosmides, &
Tooby 1992 Oxford). Unfortunately, the "generation of culture"
aspect of this book is not impressive -- perhaps the 2nd edition
might be more so.

Hopefully, as more anthros get involved, EP will give more serious
attention to culture. Also, archeologists and paleoanths could teach
EPs a great deal about the EEA.

Regarding claims that EP is tautological I don't really know what to
say, except that such criticism are facile and hackneyed responses to
any evolutionary attempts to understand human behavior. They are
commonly offered by uninformed social scientists with a gut reaction
against perceived attempts to "biologise" human behavior.

Hope this helps & sorry for the length of this posting.

Rob Quinlan
grad. student, anthro, U. of Missouri-Columbia