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Although researchers have long been aware that the species-typical architecture of the human mind is the product of our evolutionary history, it has only been in the last three decades that advances in such fields as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and paleoanthropology have made the fact of our evolution illuminating. Converging findings from a variety of disc Although researchers have long been aware that the species-typical architecture of the human mind is the product of our evolutionary history, it has only been in the last three decades that advances in such fields as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and paleoanthropology have made the fact of our evolution illuminating. Converging findings from a variety of disciplines are leading to the emergence of a fundamentally new view of the human mind, and with it a new framework for the behavioral and social sciences. First, with the advent of the cognitive revolution, human nature can finally be defined precisely as the set of universal, species-typical information-processing programs that operate beneath the surface of expressed cultural variability. Second, this collection of cognitive programs evolved in the Pleistocene to solve the adaptive problems regularly faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors--problems such as mate selection, language acquisition, cooperation, and sexual infidelity. Consequently, the traditional view of the mind as a general-purpose computer, tabula rasa, or passive recipient of culture is being replaced by the view that the mind resembles an intricate network of functionally specialized computers, each of which imposes contentful structure on human mental organization and culture. The Adapted Mind explores this new approach--evolutionary psychology--and its implications for a new view of culture.


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Although researchers have long been aware that the species-typical architecture of the human mind is the product of our evolutionary history, it has only been in the last three decades that advances in such fields as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and paleoanthropology have made the fact of our evolution illuminating. Converging findings from a variety of disc Although researchers have long been aware that the species-typical architecture of the human mind is the product of our evolutionary history, it has only been in the last three decades that advances in such fields as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and paleoanthropology have made the fact of our evolution illuminating. Converging findings from a variety of disciplines are leading to the emergence of a fundamentally new view of the human mind, and with it a new framework for the behavioral and social sciences. First, with the advent of the cognitive revolution, human nature can finally be defined precisely as the set of universal, species-typical information-processing programs that operate beneath the surface of expressed cultural variability. Second, this collection of cognitive programs evolved in the Pleistocene to solve the adaptive problems regularly faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors--problems such as mate selection, language acquisition, cooperation, and sexual infidelity. Consequently, the traditional view of the mind as a general-purpose computer, tabula rasa, or passive recipient of culture is being replaced by the view that the mind resembles an intricate network of functionally specialized computers, each of which imposes contentful structure on human mental organization and culture. The Adapted Mind explores this new approach--evolutionary psychology--and its implications for a new view of culture.

30 review for The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nebuchadnezzar

    Cosmides, Tooby, and Barkow laid out the blueprint for the new research paradigm of evolutionary psychology in this volume, often touted as the "Bible" of the field. However, I feel that the book has not aged well and will only be of interest to those with an academic interest in evolutionary psychology. First, I will say the authors have made an insightful and important contribution to psychology as a whole. With the publication of The Adapted Mind, the importance of an evolutionary perspective Cosmides, Tooby, and Barkow laid out the blueprint for the new research paradigm of evolutionary psychology in this volume, often touted as the "Bible" of the field. However, I feel that the book has not aged well and will only be of interest to those with an academic interest in evolutionary psychology. First, I will say the authors have made an insightful and important contribution to psychology as a whole. With the publication of The Adapted Mind, the importance of an evolutionary perspective came into better focus. The authors also corrected the fallacies of sociobiology. In their key essays, Cosmides and Tooby rightly argue that sociobiology ignored the psychological level of behavior, that it was "mind-blind," so to speak. They also correct another mistake of sociobiology by describing humans as "adaptation executers" rather than "fitness maximizers." It's always important to keep in mind that evolution is not an optimizing process and that what is adaptive in one situation may not be so in another. There are a number of trends and directions, though, that this book is responsible for starting that have been just plain bad for evolutionary psychology as a research program: 1. Over-reliance on genic selection. "Selfish gene" logic can be a very useful heuristic, but the so-called "Santa Barbara" or "Cosmides and Tooby school" of evo psych tends to forget that other models of evolutionary theory exist. 2. The straw man of the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM). Cosmides and Tooby seem to have set up this scarecrow to make their own ideas appear more "revolutionary." However, the idea of the SSSM has led to a hostility toward non-evolutionary explanations of behavior when (as the authors do point out) proximate and ultimate (evolutionary in this case) explanations should be complementary, not at odds. The SSSM has become a windmill for more obnoxious presentations of evo psych to tilt at (cf. Pinker's polemic The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature). 3. Assuming massive modularity where it contradicts the structure of the brain as portrayed by mainstream neuroscience. 4. A number of hypotheses that have simply not panned out (such as the much-touted "cheater detection module") but are still held up as robust findings. (Most of these points are covered in detail in David J. Buller's critique of the Cosmides and Tooby paradigm, Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature.) For a much more up-to-date survey of evolutionary psychology, see Laland and Brown's Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour, which also puts evo psych in the context of other approaches such as human behavioral ecology and gene-culture co-evolution.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bria

    This is an old book, and many of the studies and ideas in it have long since disseminated into the world and become commonplace, but it was worth the read for me to have the case for evolutionary psychology laid out so plainly and compellingly in the first few chapters, at least. When I first encountered the idea however many years ago, it just seemed so plainly true. We evolved, our brains evolved, so presumably the way our brains work evolved, maybe we can see evidence of our evolutionary hist This is an old book, and many of the studies and ideas in it have long since disseminated into the world and become commonplace, but it was worth the read for me to have the case for evolutionary psychology laid out so plainly and compellingly in the first few chapters, at least. When I first encountered the idea however many years ago, it just seemed so plainly true. We evolved, our brains evolved, so presumably the way our brains work evolved, maybe we can see evidence of our evolutionary history in universal human behavior, or come to understand how and why we think and act the way we do knowing our evolutionary history. Of course, going from the general concept to particulars is going to be a mess, and that mess has resulted in much skepticism about the entire field in the world at large. As an undergrad, I expressed interest in taking an evo psych class to my advisor, who discouraged me, saying it was all so much just-so stories. While reading this book, I had some discouraging responses to me reading it: one complaining that evo psych tries to force humans into a box, one complaining that evo psych is just fodder for racism and sexism. Yes, it's true, we are trying to put humans in the box of being biological organisms subject to natural law; and yes, similarly it has been decided that genetics is not a valid field of science because eugenicists want to use it (whether they understand it correctly or not) for ill purposes. And yet if you READ the papers, you find that somehow, despite everything, it's still kind of a lot like science. Some studies may be better run than others, or more or less conclusive. At least in this volume, no outrageous claims are made, just modest suggestions that some correlations seem to exist and might support a particular evolutionary hypothesis, that more research is needed. You get sentences like "As in many other areas, sexual stereotypes may act to magnify considerably the effects of such preexisting dispositions." - as if by magic, able to acknowledge the effect of stereotypes while still in line with very basic biological facts (there exist sexual differences! no really!). It's almost as if reading the source is more informative than hearing about it vaguely from the least trustworthy people! There are a wide variety of topics addressed in this volume - some seem more promising than others, some more fruitful or worthwhile, some more trustworthy. I would like to think exposure to the types of things you can think about using the known science of evolutionary biology, as well as the caution and scrupulousness exhibited, might be of interest to people who read an incredibly bad science journalism article once, but I'm probably being too optimistic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This is one of the earliest texts in the field called Evolutionary Psychology (EP). This specialization evolved from what Edward O. Wilson termed "Sociobiology" in the mid-1970s. EP applies the logic of sociobiology to human psychology. That is, how has natural selection shaped how humans think and make decisions? As editors Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and Jerome Barkow put it (page 7): "Evolutionary psychology is psychology informed by the fact that the inherited architecture of the human mind i This is one of the earliest texts in the field called Evolutionary Psychology (EP). This specialization evolved from what Edward O. Wilson termed "Sociobiology" in the mid-1970s. EP applies the logic of sociobiology to human psychology. That is, how has natural selection shaped how humans think and make decisions? As editors Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and Jerome Barkow put it (page 7): "Evolutionary psychology is psychology informed by the fact that the inherited architecture of the human mind is the product of the evolutionary process." The book, in their conceptualization, has two goals (page 3): "The first is to introduce the newly crystallizing field of evolutionary psychology to a wider audience. . .The second goal of this volume is to clarify how this new field. . .supplies the necessary connection between evolutionary biology and the complex, irreducible social and cultural phenomena studied by anthropologists, economists, and historians." They locate their perspective by juxtaposing evolutionary psychology with what the term "the standard social scientific model." The chapter by Tooby and Cosmides (Chapter 1) outlines this model in much more detail. As we know, the SSSM insists that, for all practical purposes, human nature - and thus human behavior - is shaped by culture. Put less laconically, the SSSM rests on three cardinal tenets - two of them explicit, the third usually implicit. These are: (1) that humans have no innate behavioral tendencies; (2) that, consequently, human nature is solely the product of learning and socialization (in short, of "nurture"); from which it follows (3) that human nature (and consequently human behavior) is essentially quite malleable (my rendering of the perspective). Of course, evolutionary psychology moves in a different direction, emphasizing the effects of the evolutionary process on human behavior and thinking. This edited volume includes a series of chapters exploring different aspects of human behavior. The section titles illustrate the variety of topics covered: Section II focuses on cooperation and social exchange, noting that these have evolutionary bases; III examines the psychology of mating and sex; IV looks at parental care and children; V considers perception and language as evolutionary adaptations; VI takes a look at environmental aesthetics (such as evolved responses to landscapes); VII has only one chapter--looking at the evolution of psychodynamic mechanisms. The volume closes with an essay by Jerome Barkow. Not all readers will be convinced by the arguments raised in this volume. However, it serves an important purpose by unapologetically claiming that we cannot understand much of human psychology (and other social behaviors) without considering human evolution. Indeed, it is hard to complain about this overarching perspective. However, readers may well dispute specific applications of the perspective. In the end, this is a rich volume and will prod the reader to think differently about "human nature."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve Dewey

    I never thought I'd finish it. But I did! Possibly the most important part of the book is the first 137 pages -- the manifesto, the call to arms. This section could -- possibly should -- have been a book in itself, and perhaps have been written with a lighter touch. I found myself amenable to its arguments. The rest of the book contains chapters within thematic sections showing how an evolutionary psychological approach could be used to answer, suggest answers to, particular human behaviours or a I never thought I'd finish it. But I did! Possibly the most important part of the book is the first 137 pages -- the manifesto, the call to arms. This section could -- possibly should -- have been a book in itself, and perhaps have been written with a lighter touch. I found myself amenable to its arguments. The rest of the book contains chapters within thematic sections showing how an evolutionary psychological approach could be used to answer, suggest answers to, particular human behaviours or abilities. An evolutionary approach to these areas was extraordinarily controversial only twenty-five years ago -- I bought this book solely because of the number of times I had seen the names Tooby and Cosmides pop up in article and books at that time -- and remains controversial now. Your interest in the entire book will depend on how interested you are in a multitudinous areas of human psychology. My eyes glazed over in several places, certainly (still, I soldiered on). And yet there were other areas that made me sit up (as a hobby photographer with an interest in landscapes, evolved aesthetic reponses to landscape particularly caught my eye -- shame it was so late in the book!). Worth a read, particularly if you are a structured dipper, and have an interest in the social sciences, psychology, social psychology, and the like.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This collection of essays, the first complete text in evolutionary psychology, changed my understanding of the human mind. Brilliant insights from the founders of the discipline and their colleagues offer an alternative to the traditional social science model--attempting to reconfigure psychology in terms of the shared physiological mechanisms that humans have evolved over time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Oh, how the human mind is adapted from millions of years and problem solving and survival of the past...sometimes not adapted to cope with modern problems. It's a great and informative book about human behavior and its influences. Oh, how the human mind is adapted from millions of years and problem solving and survival of the past...sometimes not adapted to cope with modern problems. It's a great and informative book about human behavior and its influences.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Super dense. Some parts of it were really boring. First chapter was awesome. Quotes: "Integrated Causal Model a. the human mind consists of a set of evolved information processing mechanisms instantiated in the human nervous system; b. these mechanisms, and the developmental programs that produce them, are adaptations, produced by natural selection over evolutionary time in ancestral environments; c. many of these mechanisms are functionally specialized to produce behavior that solves particular adap Super dense. Some parts of it were really boring. First chapter was awesome. Quotes: "Integrated Causal Model a. the human mind consists of a set of evolved information processing mechanisms instantiated in the human nervous system; b. these mechanisms, and the developmental programs that produce them, are adaptations, produced by natural selection over evolutionary time in ancestral environments; c. many of these mechanisms are functionally specialized to produce behavior that solves particular adaptive problems, such as mate selection, language acquisition, family relations, and cooperation; d. to be functionally specialized, many of these mechanisms must be richly structured in a content-specific way; e. content-specific information-processing mechanisms generate some of the particular content of human culture, including certain behaviors, artifacts, and linguistically transmitted representations; f. the cultural content generated by these and other mechanisms is then present to be adopted or modified by psychological mechanisms situated in other members of the population; g. this sets up epidemiological and historical population-level processes; and; h. these processes are located in particular ecological, economic, demographic, and intergroup social contexts or environments." "The Standard Social Science Model requires an impossible psychology. Results out of cognitive psychology, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, linguistics, and philosophy converge on the same conclusion: A psychological architecture that consisted of nothing but equipotential, general-purpose, content-independent, or content-free mechanisms could not successfully perform the tasks the human mind is known to perform or solve the adaptive problems humans evolved to solve-from seeing, to learning a language, to recognizing an emotional expression, to selection a mate, to the many disparate activities aggregated under the term "learning culture." It cannot account for the behavior observed, and it is not a type of design that could have evolved." "The behavior of individual organisms is caused by the structure of their adaptations and the environmental input to them; it is not independently governed by the principle of individual fitness maximization. Individual organisms are best thought of adaptation-executors rather than as fitness-maximizers." "Nonpropagating designs are removed from the population, whether they believe in naive realism or that everything is an arbitrary social construction." "Males and females show consistent sex differences in mate preferences across cultures in two major clusters: (a) females prefer mates with resources and attributes that are correlated with resource acquisition more than males do, and (b) males prefer youth and physical attractiveness, two correlates of reproductive capacity, more than females do." "The taller candidate won 80% of U.S. presidential elections between 1904 and 1980." "An adaptionist approach to sex differences is straightforward. When males and females have encountered the same adaptive problem with the same frequency over evolutionary time, their cognitive mechanisms for solving that problem should be exactly the same. Only when the two sexes have encountered adaptive problems that systematically differ over evolutionary time should their mechanisms for solving them differ." "The way preferences feels to the perceiver stands in sharp contrast to the process that underlies it. Preferences is experienced as direct and immediate. There is no hint in consciousness of the complex inferential process that appears to underlie the judgment of preference. Given the range of variables that are being assessed, the underlying process must be carried out with remarkable speed and efficiency." "Culture is not simply human psychology, not even evolutionary psychology, "writ large." We still need the social sciences. But psychology underlies culture and society, and biological evolution underlies psychology. By thinking about all three kinds of explanation at once we build vertically integrated theory, theory that passes the compatibility test of this book's Introduction. More than that, the vertically integrated frame helps us to ask the right questions, as when, as Tooby and Cosmides point out, we think in terms of what kind of psychology might have evolved in response to the adaptive problems of the Pleistocene, or, as does the present chapter, we as what kind of psychology may be permitting evolutionarily unanticipated social forms."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jilany

    to-read wishntref

  9. 4 out of 5

    Levi

    Classic book in EvoPsyc

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Makai

    The Bible of Evolutionary Psychology.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steven Felicelli

    exploding Durkheim's procrustean Standard Social Science Model exploding Durkheim's procrustean Standard Social Science Model

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Bigelow

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Lee

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hamza Kebala

  17. 5 out of 5

    Giselle

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ernie Bornheimer

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jakob Jørgensen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liam Fisher

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shinta Lolitasari

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dave B

  24. 5 out of 5

    William Voorhies

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike M

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  27. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Dwyer

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lee

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan

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