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Cosmides, Leda, , John Tooby. Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer
1997, Center for Evolutionary Psychology.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: The goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand the design of the human mind.Evolutionary psychology is an approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionarybiology are put to use in research on the structure of the human mind. It is not an area of study, like vision,reasoning, or social behavior. It is a way of thinking about psychology that can be applied to any topic withinit.In this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were designed by natural selection tosolve adaptive problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way of thinking about the brain, mind,and behavior is changing how scientists approach old topics, and opening up new ones. This chapter is aprimer on the concepts and arguments that animate it.

Comment: This is an enjoyable introduction to the influential evolutionary psychology research program. It touches on many issues of longstanding interest to philosophers, such as the roles of nature and nurture and the normativity of abstract reasoning. I have used it in philosophy of biology and philosophy of social science courses. For more advanced students, it can be read together with Elisabeth Lloyd’s paper ‘Evolutionary Psychology: The Burdens of Proof.’

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Dissanayake, Ellen, , . Becoming Homo Aestheticus: Sources of Aesthetic Imagination in Mother-Infant Interactions
2001, Substance 30 (1/2):85.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Along with the vital abilities to cry and to suckle, human neonates are born with remarkable capacities that predispose them for social interaction with others. For example, newborns prefer human faces and human voices to any other sight or sound (Johnson et al. 1991, 11). They can imitate face, mouth, and hand movements and respond appropriately to another person’s emotional expressions of sadness, fear, and surprise. It is perhaps less well known that at birth, infants can also estimate and anticipate intervals of time and temporal sequences (DeCasper and Carstens 1980). They can remember these temporal patterns and categorize them in both time and space, and in terms of affect and arousal (Beebe, Lachman and Jaffe 1997). By six weeks of age, these innate perceptual and cognitive abilities permit normal infants to engage in complex communicative interchanges with adult partners–the playful behavior that is commonly or colloquially called “babytalk.”

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Lavelle, J Suilin, , Kenny Smith. Do our modern skulls house stone-age minds?
2014, in M. Massimi (ed.), Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone. Routledge
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Summary: This is the fifth chapter of the book Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone. The chapter explores scientific interpretations of how our minds evolved, and some of the methodologies used in forming these interpretations. It relates evolutionary debates to a core issue in the philosophy of mind, namely, whether all knowledge comes from experience, or whether we have ‘inborn’ knowledge about certain aspects of our world.

Comment: Good introduction to evolutionary psychology and the debate about nativism for undergraduate students. It looks at examples coming from ecology such as beaver colonies to understand how the human mind might have adapted to solve specific tasks that our ancestors faced. It is the first chapter of the book dedicated to the philosophy of cognitive sciences. Useful in philosophy of science or philosophy of mind courses.

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Lloyd, Elisabeth A., , . Evolutionary Psychology: The Burdens of Proof
1999, Biology and Philosophy 14 (2):211-233.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Carl Hoefer; Patricia Rich

Abstract: I discuss two types of evidential problems with the most widely touted experiments in evolutionary psychology, those performed by Leda Cosmides and interpreted by Cosmides and John Tooby. First, and despite Cosmides and Tooby’s claims to the contrary, these experiments don’t fulfil the standards of evidence of evolutionary biology. Second Cosmides and Tooby claim to have performed a crucial experiment, and to have eliminated rival approaches. Though they claim that their results are consistent with their theory but contradictory to the leading non-evolutionary alternative, Pragmatic Reasoning Schemas theory, I argue that this claim is unsupported. In addition, some of Cosmides and Tooby’s interpretations arise from misguided and simplistic understandings of evolutionary biology. While I endorse the incorporation of evolutionary approaches into psychology, I reject the claims of Cosmides and Tooby that a modular approach is the only one supported by evolutionary biology. Lewontin’s critical examinations of the applications of adaptationist thinking provide a background of evidentiary standards against which to view the currently fashionable claims of evolutionary psychology

Comment: This paper provides important constructive criticism of the influential evolutionary psychology research program. It makes sense to discuss it together with an introduction to that program, for example ‘Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer’

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