Overhead 2
Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer

Leda Cosmides & John Tooby Co-Directors
Center for Evolutionary Psychology University of California, Santa Barbara

Principle 1. The brain is a physical system. It functions as a computer. Its circuits are designed to generate behavior that is appropriate to your environmental circumstances.

Principle 2. Our neural circuits were designed by natural selection to solve problems that our ancestors faced during our species' evolutionary history.

Principle 3. Consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg; most of what goes on in your mind is hidden from you. As a result, your conscious experience can mislead you into thinking that our circuitry is simpler that it really is. Most problems that you experience as easy to solve are very difficult to solve -- they require very complicated neural circuitry.

Principle 4. Different neural circuits are specialized for solving different adaptive problems.
        A basic engineering principle is that the same machine is rarely capable of solving two different problems equally well. We have both screw drivers and saws because each solves a particular problem better than the other. Just imagine trying to cut planks of wood with a screw driver or to turn screws with a saw. (Elsewhere they say the mind is a Swiss Army knife)  

Principle 5. Our modern skulls house a stone age mind.
        The environment that humans -- and, therefore, human minds -- evolved in was very different from our modern environment. Our ancestors spent well over 99% of our species' evolutionary history living in hunter-gatherer societies. ...this way of life endured for most of the last 10 million years.

The Standard Social Science Model
Both before and after Darwin, a common view among philosophers and scientists has been that the human mind resembles a blank slate
.... the central tenet of these Empiricist views has remained the same. Indeed, it has become the reigning orthodoxy in mainstream anthropology, sociology, and most areas of psychology. According to this orthodoxy, all of the specific content of the human mind originally derives from the "outside" -- from the environment and the social world -- and the evolved architecture of the mind consists solely or predominantly of a small number of general purpose mechanisms that are content-independent, and which sail under names such as "learning," "induction," "intelligence," "imitation," "rationality," "the capacity for culture," or simply "culture."
..mechanisms that govern reasoning, learning, and memory are assumed to operate uniformly, according to unchanging principles, regardless of the content they are operating on or the larger category or domain involved. (For this reason, they are described as content-independent or domain-general.)
According to this familiar view -- what we have elsewhere called the Standard Social Science Model -- the contents of human minds are primarily (or entirely) free social constructions, and the social sciences are autonomous and disconnected from any evolutionary or psychological foundation (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992).