Barkow, Jerome H., Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby (eds)
The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture
New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1992
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From the Introduction   Contents
The Adapted Mind is an edited volume of original, commissioned papers centered on the complex, evolved psychological mechanisms that generate human behavior and culture. It has two goals: The first is to introduce the newly crystallizing field of evolutionary psychology to a wider scientific audience.... The second goal of this volume is to clarify how this new field, by focusing on the evolved information-processing mechanisms that comprise the human mind, supplies the necessary connection between evolutionary biology and the complex, irreducible social and cultural phenomena studied by anthropologists, sociologists, economists, and historians.... With The Adapted Mind, we hope to provide a preliminary sketch of what a conceptually integrated approach to the behavioral and social sciences might look like. Contributors were asked to link evolutionary biology to psychology and psychology to culture--a process that naturally entails consistency across fields.... The central premise of The Adapted Mind is that there is a universal human nature, but that this universality exists primarily at the level of evolved psychological mechanisms, not of expressed cultural behaviors.... A second premise is that these evolved psychological mechanisms are adaptations, constructed by natural selection over evolutionary time. A third assumption made by most of the contributors is that the evolved structure of the human mind is adapted to the way of life of Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, and not necessarily to our modern circumstances.

At present, crossing [disciplinary] boundaries is often  met with xenophobia, packaged in the form of such familiar accusations as "intellectual imperialism" or "reductionism". But by  calling for conceptual integration in the behavioral and social  sciences we are neither calling for reductionism nor for the conquest and assimilation of one field or another. Theories of selection  pressures are not theories of psychology; they are theories about  some of the causal forces that produced our psychology. And theories  of psychology are not theories of culture; they are theories about some of the causal mechanisms that shape cultural forms... In fact, not only do the principles of one field not reduce to those of another, but by tracing the relationships between fields, additional principles often appear (12).

Contents  top


Introduction: Evolutionary psychology and conceptual integration. Leda Cosmides, John Tooby and Jerome H. Barkow.

I. The evolutionary and psychological foundations of the social sciences

II. Cooperation III. The psychology of mating and sex IV. Parental care and children V. Perception and language as adaptations VI. Environmental aesthetics VII. Intrapsychic processes VIII. New theoretical approaches to cultural phenomena Author index
Subject index

Chapter Abstracts

Tooby, John and Leda Cosmides. The psychological foundations of culture. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 19-136.

Abstract: we argue the following points: 1. there is a set of assumptions and inferences about humans, their minds, and their collective interaction--the Standard Social Science Model--that has provided the conceptual foundations of the social sciences for nearly a century and has served as the intellectual warrant for the isolationism of the social sciences... 2. although certain assumptions of this model are true, it suffers from a series of major defects that make it a profoundly misleading framework; these defects have been responsible for the chronic difficulties encountered by the social sciences... 3. advances in recent decades in a number of different disciplines, including evolutionary biology, cognitive science, behavioral ecology, psychology, hunter-gatherer studies, social anthropology, biological anthropology, primatology, and neurobiology have made clear for the first time the nature of the phenomena studied by social scientists and the connections of those phenomena to the principles and findings in the rest of science; this allows a new model to be constructed--the Integrated Causal Model--to replace the Standard Social Science Model.

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Symons, Donald. On the use and misuse of Darwinism in the study of human behavior. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 137-159.

Abstract: one of the major aims of this essay is to critically analyze the following hypothesis, which many scholars believe to be entailed by the proposition that human beings are the products of natural selection: human behavior per se can be expected to be adaptive (i.e., reproduction-maximizing), and hence a science of human behavior can be based on analyses of the reproductive consequences of human action... my primary goal in this essay is to convince the reader that because Darwinism is a theory of adaptation it illuminates human behavior only insofar as it illuminates the adaptations that constitute the machinery of behavior; describe the adaptationist program in biology; try to show how this program can be applied fruitfully to human psychological adaptations, using the perception of sexual attractiveness as an example; illustrate how social scientists, whose goal is to illuminate phenomena that are not themselves adaptations, can use evolutionary psychology to guide their research; argue that no approach to human behavior can be simultaneously psychologically agnostic and genuinely Darwinian.

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Cosmides, Leda; Tooby, John. Cognitive adaptations for social exchange. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 163-228.

Abstract: evolutionary biologists have analyzed the conditions under which adaptations for engaging in cooperative behavior can be expected to evolve; these analyses show that cognitive mechanisms for engaging in cooperation can be selected for only if they solve certain complex information-processing problems; to solve these problems efficiently, the cognitive mechanisms involved must have certain specific design features; review experiments that have been conducted to see whether these predicted design features actually exist.

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McGrew, W. C., and Anna T. C. Feistner. Two nonhuman primate models for the evolution of human food sharing: Chimpanzees and callitrichids. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 229-243.

Abstract: summarize briefly current knowledge of food sharing in other primates; focus on the two types of primates who engage in habitual food sharing--chimpanzees and callitrichids (marmosets and tamarins); use Isaac's (1978) 10 features of food sharing to contrast Homo sapiens with our nearest living relations and to contrast chimpanzees and callitrichids; these features will be reordered, modified, corrected, and updated, whenever necessary, in an effort to say whether the human-nonhuman contrasts are ones of kind or only of degree; return to the themes of the social and the technological, in an attempt at synthesis.

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Buss, David M. Mate preference mechanisms: Consequences for partner choice and intrasexual competition. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 249-266.

Abstract: examines four fundamental premises: (a) human mate preference mechanisms are central psychological procedures that affect actual mating decisions, (b) mate preferences exert a powerful selection pressure on human intrasexual competition, (c) there exists a class of acts generated by each preference mechanism, and (d) the evolution of psychological mechanisms cannot be understood fully without identifying the class of acts generated by each psychological mechanism.

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Ellis, Bruce J. The evolution of sexual attraction: Evaluative mechanisms in women. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 267-288.

Abstract: argue ...that general principles guiding female mate preferences can be discerned at the appropriate level of abstraction and that the evolution-based concept of "mate value" (Symons 1987a) provides a useful heuristic in this endeavor; review the psychological literature on male sexual attractiveness in order to see whether women find traits that would have signaled high mate value in our natural environment attractive in men... status (economic status, ornamentation, dispositional characteristics, willingness to invest, structural powerlessness); physical dominance (high-dominance personality, body language, physiognomy, height); mate choice paradox.

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Wilson, Margo and Martin Daly. The man who mistook his wife for a chattel. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 289-322.

Abstract: argue that sexually proprietary male psychologies are evolved solutions to the adaptive problems of male reproductive competition and potential misdirection of paternal investments in species with mistakable paternity; describe the complex interrelated design of mating and paternal decision rules in some well-studied avian examples; consider the peculiarities of the human species in this context; characterize some features of human male sexual proprietariness, contrasting men's versus women's perspectives and actions; review some of the diverse consequences and manifestations of this ubiquitous male mindset.

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Profet, Margie. Pregnancy sickness as adaptation: A deterrent to maternal ingestion of teratogens. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 327-365.

Abstract: expand and refine an earlier argument (Profet, 1988): the food aversions, nausea, and vomiting of pregnancy sickness evolved during the course of human evolution to protect the embryo against maternal ingestion of the wide array of teratogens (toxins that cause birth defects) and abortifacients (toxins that induce abortion) abundant in natural foods; argue that pregnancy sickness represents a lowering of the usual human threshold of tolerance to toxins in order to compensate for the extreme vulnerability of the embryo to toxins during organogenesis (the embryonic period of organ differentiation and maximum vulnerability to teratogens).

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Mann, Janet. Nurturance or negligence: Maternal psychology and behavioral preference among preterm twins. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 367-390.

Abstract: explore some of the psychological mechanisms involved in maternal decisions to care for and invest in high-risk offspring; attempt to integrate psychological and evolutionary approaches to the study of child neglect by examining the relationship among maternal psychology, maternal behavior, and infant health characteristics in detail among a small population of extremely low-birth-weight (ELBW) preterm twins.

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Fernald, Anne. Human maternal vocalizations to infants as biologically relevant signals: An evolutionary perspective. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 391-428.

Abstract: argue that the characteristic vocal melodies of human mothers' speech to infants are biologically relevant signals that have been shaped by natural selection... discuss the current debate about the status of human language as an evolved mechanism, as a way of examining criteria for when it is appropriate to invoke natural selection as a causal explanation for the evolution of human behavior; examine the antiadaptationist argument that language is an "exaptation" and therefore not a product of selection, as well as the argument that adaptive features must be designed for optimal efficiency... the characteristics of mothers' speech to infants are described in some detail, along with research on the communicative functions of intonation in infant-directed speech; examine infant-directed speech in the context of ethological research on vocal communication and maternal behavior in nonhuman primates, in order to identify selection pressure relevant to understanding the adaptive functions of human maternal speech.

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Boulton, Michael J., Peter K. Smith. The social nature of play fighting and play chasing: Mechanisms and strategies underlying cooperation and compromise. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 429-444.

Abstract: suggest that there are important advantages in taking an evolutionary approach to the study of r/t (rough & tumble play); evidence suggests that this form of play may be universal to all human cultures and that, as such, it may have been shaped by natural selection acting on physiological and psychological mechanisms, in order to provide some specific benefits; for humans, there is some evidence ...that the benefits may be related to intraspecific fighting (with hunting and predator avoidance as less likely candidates); other considerations suggest that these and other mechanisms that generate r/t have ensured that it is a cooperative activity in which participants with differing needs are willing to compromise.

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Pinker, Steven and Paul Bloom. Natural language and natural selection. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 451-493.

Abstract: argue that there is every reason to believe that language has been shaped by natural selection as it is understood within the orthodox "synthetic" or "neo-Darwinian" theory of evolution (Mayr, 1982); argue ...that language is no different from other complex abilities such as echolocation or stereopsis and that the only way to explain the origin of such abilities is through the theory of natural selection... examine arguments from evolutionary biology about when it is appropriate to invoke natural selection as an explanation for the evolution of some trait; apply these tests to the case of human language, and conclude that language passes; examine the motivation for the competing nonselectionist position and suggest that they have little to recommend them; refute the arguments that have claimed that an innate specialization for grammar is incompatible with the tenets of a Darwinian account and thus that the two are incompatible.

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Shepard, Roger N. The perceptual organization of colors: An adaptation to regularities of the terrestrial world? Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 495-532.

Abstract: consider some characteristics of the perception and representation of colors that, although not universal in animal vision, do appear to be universal in the normal color vision of humans, prevalent in other primates, and common in a number of other quite different but also highly visual species, including the birds and the bees... questions raised are (a) whether these characteristics of color perception and representation are merely arbitrary design features of these particular species, (b) whether these characteristics arose as specific adaptations to the particular environmental niches in which these species evolved, or (c) whether they may have emerged as advanced adaptations to some properties that prevail throughout the terrestrial environment.

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Silverman, Irwin and Marion Eals. Sex differences in spatial abilities: Evolutionary theory and data. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 533-549.

Abstract: (maintain) that the critical factor in selection for spatial dimorphism in humans was sexual division of labor between hunting and gathering during hominid evolution; extend the premise to propose that if these attributes evolved in males in conjunction with hunting, spatial specializations associated with foraging should have, correspondingly, evolved in females; describe a series of studies exploring these hypothesized female spatial specializations.

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Orians, Gordon H. and Judith H. Heerwagen. Evolved responses to landscapes. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 555-579.

Abstract: discuss evidence relevant to the "savanna hypothesis"--the hypothesis that we have evolved preferences for habitats with features characteristic of a high-quality tropical African savanna, the environment in which the human lineage is thought to have initially evolved; develop a task analysis, or computational theory, specifying what kinds of decisions our ancestors would have had to make in the course of habitat selection and what kinds of environmental cues would have been reliably associated with habitat quality during the Pleistocene... propose that habitat selection proceeds in three stages; each of these stages should be characterized by different cognitive and affective processes.

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Kaplan, Stephen. Environmental preference in a knowledge-seeking, knowledge-using organism. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 581-598.

Abstract: begins with an analysis of the role of information in human evolution; wayfinding is then introduced as an important activity of early humans with interesting informational properties; discussion of an extensive program of research on human environmental preference will serve as a window on the motivational inclinations that encourage the acquisition and utilization of wayfinding information.

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Nesse, Randolph M. and Alan T. Lloyd. The evolution of psychodynamic mechanisms. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 601-624.

Abstract: argue not that psychoanalytic concepts will turn out to exactly match the evolved functional subunits of the mind, but only that they offer the best available starting point; examine a variety of phenomena that are well accepted by psychoanalysts--repression, psychological defenses, intrapsychic conflict, conscience, transference, and childhood sexuality--in order to compare their characteristics to the predictions made by various hypotheses about their possible functions.

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Barkow, Jerome H. Beneath new culture is old psychology: Gossip and social stratification. Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby (1992), pp. 627-637.

Abstract: the concepts of vertical integration and evolutionary psychology ...suggest that there is little human that is really "evolutionarily unanticipated"; the two "biologically unanticipated" social phenomena this chapter deals with are (a) gossip, soap operas, and "celebrities"; and (b) social stratification; I have deliberately chosen disparate examples of evolutionary novelty in order to illustrate how the evolving field of evolutionary psychology permits powerful, vertically integrated explanations of major sociocultural phenomena.

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