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Conceptual Challenges in Evolutionary Psychology

Ian Pitchford ian.pitchford at scientist.com
Sat Apr 20 05:53:02 EST 2002

The Human Nature Review  2002 Volume 2: 147-152 ( 17 April )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/brase.html

Book Review

Conceptual Challenges in Evolutionary Psychology: Innovative Research
Edited by Harmon R. Holcomb III
Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001

Reviewed by Gary L. Brase, Ph.D., Sunderland Business School, Division of
Psychology, University of Sunderland, Sunderland SR6 0DD, UK

Whether you love it or hate it, the field of evolutionary psychology
(hereafter, EP) seems to have little difficulty arousing people's passions. At
the ripe age of about 15 years, EP even has an orthodox point of view, and now
this orthodoxy officially has its critics. "Conceptual Challenges in
Evolutionary Psychology" seeks to engage in critical assessments of the
"dominating work of Buss, Cosmides and Tooby, Dennett, and Pinker. the narrow
and contentious innatist-adaptationist view of the mind." Unlike some other
recent challenges to EP, this is not an wholesale attack from outside the field
by people who all too often are confused about relatively simple evolutionary
and scientific concepts (e.g., Rose & Rose, 2000, see review by Kurzban, 2002).
This is not an antagonistic, in-your-face attack (which, as social psychology
tells us, is particularly ineffectual in persuading anyone to change their
mind), rather this is designed to be more like a family dinner table argument
with some of the diners questioning the views of those who sit at the head of
the table.

The title of "conceptual challenges" is onerous, as it implies a grasp not only
of the current state of the field but a view of the larger conceptual issues
and an ability to clearly express those issues. The book is divided into three
sections, with the first two sections (7 of the 10 chapters) focussing on
evolutionary research programs within particular topics. These are not as much
conceptual challenges as they are summaries of recent advances in EP, and they
are quite good in that respect. The (sometimes quite minor) aspects of these
chapters that challenge the orthodox EP view are relentlessly emphasized in
lengthy section introductions by the editor. The third section of the book is
very different: emphasizing philosophy of science rather than research, and
actually focussing on conceptual challenges to evolutionary psychology.

Full text

Table of contents

LETTERS TO THE EDITORS should be addressed to review at human-nature.com


Conceptual Challenges in Evolutionary Psychology: Innovative Research
Strategies (Studies in Cognitive Systems, V. 27)
by Harmon R. Holcomb (Editor)
Hardcover - 430 pages (December 1, 2001)
Kluwer Academic Publishers; ISBN: 1402001339

This book offers a multi-disciplinary approach by scientists and philosophers
that reveals the stamp of evolution on everyday life: how kinship unravels
nurture, how family life affects the personalities we acquire, how our minds
develop to negotiate social hierarchies, whether we decide to eat or not, what
qualities we prefer in our sexual and marriage patterns, how we name and raise
our children, how our thoughts and emotions are framed to make adaptive
decisions, and methods for identifying evolved adaptations of the human
life-cycle. It serves as an advanced text for students and scholars that
critiques the dominating work of Buss, Cosmides and Tooby, Dennett, and Pinker.
Taking the field beyond the narrow and contentious innatist-adaptionist view of
the mind, it supplies a much sought-after interactional,
`biopsycho-sociocultural' paradigm using a variety of evidence to converge on
carefully reasoned conclusions.

Introduction. I: Naturally Selected Development of Behavior, Personality, and
Cognition. 1. Kinship: The Tie that Binds (Disciplines); L. Mealey. 2. Birth
Order, Sibling Competition, and Human Behavior; F.J. Sulloway. 3. The Impact of
the Social Environment on the Evolution of Mind; D.D. Cummins. II: Sexually
Selected Decision Making in Mating and Parenting. 4. Sexual Selection, Good
Genes, and Human Mating; S.W. Gangestad. 5. Framing Our Thoughts: Ecological
Rationality as Evolutionary Psychology's Answer to the Frame Problem; T.
Ketelaar, P.M. Todd. 6. Good and Fitness: Is Anorexia About Self-Esteem, Mating
Strategies, or Both?; H.R. Holcomb III. 7. Paternal Investment or Maternal
Investment? A Critique of the Parental Investment Hypothesis in an American
Polygamous Community; W. Jankowiak, C. Woodman. III: Adaptationist Research
Strategies and Evolutionary History. 8. From Adaptive Heuristic to Phylogenetic
Perspective: Some Lessons from the Evolutionary Psychology of Emotion; P.E.
Griffiths. 9. Evolution Without History: Critical Reflections on Evolutionary
Psychology; R.C. Richardson. 10. Evaluating Evolutionary Psychology: Check Your
Lens; H.R. Holcomb III. Index of Names. Index of Subjects.

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