Is Evolutionary Psychology Possible?

Biological Theory 15 (1):39-49 (2019)
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In this article I argue that evolutionary psychological strategies for making inferences about present-day human psychology are methodologically unsound. Evolutionary psychology is committed to the view that the mind has an architecture that has been conserved since the Pleistocene, and that our psychology can be fruitfully understood in terms of the original, fitness-enhancing functions of these conserved psychological mechanisms. But for evolutionary psychological explanations to succeed, practitioners must be able to show that contemporary cognitive mechanisms correspond to those that were selected for in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, that these present-day cognitive mechanisms are descended from the corresponding ancestral mechanisms, and that they have retained the functions of the ancestral mechanisms from which they are descended. I refer to the problem of demonstrating that these conditions obtain as “the matching problem,” argue that evolutionary psychology does not have the resources to address it, and conclude that evolutionary psychology, as it is currently understood, is therefore impossible.

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Subrena E. Smith
University of New Hampshire, Durham

References found in this work

The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture.Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby - 1992 - Oxford University Press. Edited by Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby.
Rules and representations.Noam Chomsky - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1):1-15.
On cognitive capacity.Noam A. Chomsky - 1975 - In Noam Chomsky (ed.), Reflections On Language. Temple Smith.
Thought in a Hostile World: The Evolution of Human Cognition.Kim Sterelny - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):476-497.

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