Social psychology and sociobiology: What can we leave to evolution?

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As a theory of origins, evolutionary theory is important for social psychologists because it assumes that social relations were critical to the story of differential survival and reproductive success of hunter-gatherer ancestors. However, behaviors that evolved as "solutions" to problems in ancestral environments occur, now, in a very different world, undoubtedly serving some similar functions but also playing many other roles and entailing new and perhaps less benign consequences. In the effort to understand the full range of dynamics of current social life, it is important to avoid the minimalist portrait that comes from narrowing of coverage to aspects of daily life with obvious reproductive consequences. It is also important to avoid the language of the "ultimate" that makes the existing seem inevitable and desirable. These pitfalls are not necessary features of an evolutionary analysis, but when they occur they encourage investment in what has evolved, and unnecessary resignation about intervention with, or regulation of, behavior in current or future worlds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-254
Number of pages10
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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