<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>Introducing Evolutionary Psychology</title><meta name="keywords" content="evolutionary,psychology,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">Introducing Evolutionary Psychology</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "> Can evolution really explain how humans think and behave? A prolific new breed of thinkers has taken centre stage in this debate, championing the attempt to understand our mental faculties in the light of evolutionary processes. Christopher Badcock explains that the insights that the social sciences once had into human behaviour are now defunct. He argues that the burgeoning discipline of evolutionary psychology, with its potentially unique combination of genetics, neuroscience, psychology and other disciplines, is the only realistic path to take toward understanding human nature.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>Can you explain what evolutionary psychology is?</strong></span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><A HREF="1553_500.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1553_Th500.jpg" id="3045" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1553_500.ram"></A></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><B>Christopher Badcock:</B> Evolutionary psychology is nothing more than seeing the human mind and human behaviour as having evolved.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">We are used to doing this in terms of the human body. It is not controversial to say that because the human body evolved the way it did, it might explain certain things, like, for example, our proneness to back problems. Clearly the human backbone was never designed for upright walking. Originally backbones evolved in quadrupedal animals, and we have become upright relatively recently, in evolutionary terms. As a result, we have a lot of back problems. I think that is an obvious insight.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Evolutionary psychology really applies the same principle to the human mind and says that perhaps evolution could provide important insights into the mental sphere in the same way that it has into the physical one.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>So, it is really focussing on the human mind rather than on human behaviour?</strong></span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><B>Badcock:</B> In the twentieth century, there was a tendency to exclude the mind and concentrate on behaviour. That happened in psychology and behaviourism; we were told that the mind was unscientific--you could not talk in mentalistic terms, in terms of desire, belief, consciousness, things like that. But all that is changing, and one thing that is characteristic of evolutionary psychology is that it takes mentalistic description very seriously.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There is now very good evidence that our ability to think mentalistically--in other words, to intuit other people's minds, to attribute beliefs, desires and understanding to them--has an evolutionary and genetic basis. People with autism are notably lacking in the ability to do that, and a study of those kinds of deficits has suggested that our ability to think mentalistically, to understand other people's consciousness and so on, is an evolved attribute and indeed one of our most important adaptations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>What are the traditions and disciplines that evolutionary psychology has developed from?</strong></span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><A HREF="1553_501.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1553_Th501.jpg" id="3046" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1553_501.ram"></A></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><B>Badcock:</B> Evolutionary psychology has drawn mainly from recent developments in psychology, in particular from cognitive psychology. Many people would draw the line there and say that was the tradition--that it was really the unification of the cognitive approach and the evolutionary one.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But this is where I differ with most other people's interests in evolutionary psychology. I have taken a broader view of it and included my own interest and background in psychoanalysis, in a rather wider understanding of psychology than just the cognitive. It is interesting, for instance, that Darwin's principal work on evolutionary psychology, his book <I>The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals</I>, concentrates, as the title says, on emotion and not on cognition. So, to some extent the limitation to cognition rather narrows evolutionary psychology, and one of the things I am trying to do is to make it broader and to include the kind of things Darwin was interested in, namely, the emotions and instincts as well.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>You are a sociologist by training but also a psychologist, and you obviously have an understanding of biology as well. What do you think that kind of interdisciplinary approach can add to an understanding of the human mind?</strong></span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><A HREF="1553_502.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1553_Th502.jpg" id="3047" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1553_502.ram"></A></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><B>Badcock:</B> It seems to me that if you want to explain human behaviour, it has to be an interdisciplinary thing. Human behaviour is complex and has multifarious causes, and if you limit yourself to one particular academic speciality you are likely to have rather limited insights.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">My own belief is that one thing evolutionary psychology can do is synthesise a whole range of interdisciplinary interests in human behaviour--from evolution, genetics, neuroscience, psychology, the social sciences and so on--into some kind of broad explanation of human behaviour, which will do justice to explaining how complicated and multifaceted it is.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>To what extent do you use your sociology now? If you think about sociology in terms of issues like class and distinctions between people, it seems rather less relevant to what you are doing now.</strong></span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><B>Badcock:</B> Something that is characteristic of evolutionary psychology is that it has tended to set itself up in opposition to what is often called the standard social sciences model, which is the belief that human behaviour is explicable mainly in terms of social, political and environmental causes. And I think that failed. It failed catastrophically and disastrously, and there is no point going on with it anymore.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">So, what I have tried to do is to move out into more promising areas of explanation. Interestingly enough, I think the kind of thing that I am doing would have been much more understandable to the first generation of sociologists at the school, going back to the era of Westermark and people like that, when the LSE was founded. They had a great interest in evolution. They saw human behaviour in broader terms, and I think they would understand what we are doing much more than, say, later twentieth-century sociologists might have done.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>