Minding Evolution: A Call to Order for Psychology

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Abstract

Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1998, Vol 43(10), 685–686. The reviewer notes that evolutionary theory has not been selected as a dominant feature of contemporary psychology. This could be due to two factors: (a) either evolutionary theory does not contribute to the fitness of psychological explanation and so has not increased the number of adherents, or (b) its relatively recent appearance in psychology has not provided for enough generations to enable the idea to propagate. This book (see record 1997-36774-000) provides a strong case against the former. A refreshing analysis of the causal nature of evolutionary versus alternative, proximal scientific explanations is provided in the first chapter, as well as a motivation for applying evolutionary theory to human behavior. The chapter also presents a fascinating history of psychology's progress from physiological science through structuralism, functionalism, eugenics, instinct theory, behaviorism, and cognitivism to demonstrate an apparent avoidance of evolutionary theory. The subsequent two chapters review the history of psychology's treatment of the nature-nurture problem and its most recent battleground, sociobiology. The domain of cognitive psychology is nicely explicated in Chapter 4's rendering of the classic Chomsky-Skinner debate on language and verbal learning. Arguably one of the books' greater contributions is Chapter 5's unique application of evolution theory to such longstanding and currently compelling issues as the mind-body problem, causal understanding, intentionality, and theory of mind. The penultimate chapter necessarily becomes more speculative than the coverage by previous chapters in its attempt to outline the relationships among psychology, evolutionary theory, and culture. The final chapter attempts to gather the topics left untouched in the rest of the book, including personality, emotion, psychopathology, and consciousness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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