ABSTRACT

What has been called “the second Darwinian Revolution,” the application of neo-Darwinian evolutionary analysis to the study of human behavior, has given rise to a scientific search for the “adapted mind,” by which is meant a search for evolved behavioral mechanisms in the human brain that predispose the development of behaviors that were adaptive in ancestral environments. Pursued by both psychologists and other behavioral scientists, as well as a growing cadre of social scientists, the search for evolved mental adaptations for behavior has come to be known generally as “evolutionary psychology.” The notion of the adapted mind is a direct refutation of the tabula rasa principle that has long-dominated models of human nature and human behavior. The evolved mental mechanisms that are said to constitute the adapted mind have been labeled variously as “neural subassemblies,” “evolved psychological programs,” “evolved behavioral predispositions,” and “evolved cognitive algorithms,” among other such terms. They are seen as having evolved in ancestral environments for solving survival and reproductive challenges presented by those environments, and they may or may not produce behaviors that are adaptive in contemporary environments, including social environments. Again, it is with regard to adaptive challenges surrounding competition for mates, the costs and benefits of long-term versus short-term matings, problems of retaining mates, and the qualities that make individuals attractive as potential mates that such evolved mental mechanisms can be expected to be found. However, it is important that attributions of the adaptive value of various mental mechanisms and the behaviors they produce are supported with empirical evidence and not remain mere “just-so stories,” the evolutionary plausibility of which becomes a substitute for evidence adduced by rigorous analysis.