Monday, January 14, 2008

What is EP? Evolutionary Psychology defined.

Every once in a while when I meet someone new, they ask me what I do. Almost everyone wants to know what evolutionary psychology, or EP, is. Rather than define it, this time I'll share a favorite quote from a book I have assigned numerous times to my students - The Evolution of Desire, by David Buss, one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology. The quote conveys the subject matter and rationale of EP.

Those in our evolutionary past who failed to mate successfully failed to become our ancestors. All of us descend from a long and unbroken line of ancestors who competed successfully for desirable mates, attracted mates who were reproductively valuable, retained mates long enough to reproduce, fended off interested rivals, and solved the problems that could have impeded reproductive success. We carry in us the sexual legacy of those success stories.

Evolutionary psychologists study what people do to make themselves more "valuable" as mates, how they derogate same-sex rivals, and also behaviors that promote pair-bonding - among many, many other things. It's a sexy field to say the least, and is not without flaws.

Anyone who wants a highly accessible crash course in the sexier parts of the field should start with The Evolution of Desire.

7 comments:

Leslie Hahn said...

Thank you for the compliment...You made my night!

DancingFish said...

I will have to check that out of the library. My knowledge of where primates fit into these sorts of topics is severely lacking.

Field Notes said...

If you're looking for a great book on where primates fit into EP and EvoBio, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's book Mother Nature is the best. I am in awe of her storytelling ability, her depth, and her breadth. She's the primatologist who unlocked the mystery of infanticide.

Sami said...

ooo interesting reading! I ALWAYS get that blank stare when I say I'm studying art therapy counseling. It's nice to know that there are others out there who are educating others every time you are asked "so...what do you do?"

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Cool! I feel so informed. :)

Dharma Designs said...

As always - I'm lovin' your blog! :-) P.S. Baby Russ the 2nd was a huge hit!!!!

DancingFish said...

Cool. I know the name Hrdy and have read articles by her before. Thanks for the recommendation.