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Skepchick Quickies 2.12

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6 Comments

  1. The biggest problem with evo psych is the disconnect with cognitive neuroscience. Genes interact with other genes and the environment to shape synaptic connections and neural networks. Those neural networks interact with other neural networks and moving up the hierarchy, brains interact with other brains. And surmounting all these layers of complexity is whether a behavioral phenotype is adaptive and that trait was selected for in our evolutionary history. This is a tall order that few if not any researchers in the evo psych field deliver.

    I can only think of one example wherein evo psych can make a possible case. Our ability to recognize faces is in part the result of a complex network in the bilateral inferotemporal regions of the cerebral cortex. Hardly being a strict informationally encapsulated module, these regions receive and send out diverse feedback and feedforward connetions to other neural regions. A lesion of these areas (eg. due to stroke) results in inability to recognize faces (ie. prosopagnosia). When scanning the brain in an fMRI while seeing your aunt Betty, those same areas light up. There are reports of those areas being maldeveloped due to a genetic mutation ie. congenital prosopagnosia. One can therefore speculate that in our evolutionary history our ability to recognize and distinguish kin from non-kin had a survival advantage. Face recognition and the corresponding inferotemporal regions were therefore selected for and those genes that partly shape those neural regions were passed down to offspring. Once again, a speculation but a reasonable one based on the neuroscientific evidence.

    Most of evo psych does not have this degree of scientific rigor. Unfortunately the field is dominated by pseudoscientists who claim that our modern day appreciation for golf on a sunny day is due to our evolutionary past adaptation in the warm African savannahs.

  2. Well if you have to have a list, the one in that evo psych article does a good job of suggesting a minimum burden of proof. The point about college students has always bothered me, even in more serious studies.

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