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Evolutionary Psychology, Necessary Complexity, and the Null Hypothesis

There is a tendency in discussing evolutionary psychology toward confusion over what should be the proper null hypothesis. To put it simply, what do we assume* in the absence of evidence for an hypothesis?

This confusion is not specific to evolutionary psychology. It is a problem whenever we talk about studying topics in which many of us already consider ourselves experts. Being human, we are, of course, all experts on what that means. Or we think we are. So we think we know what base assumptions about humanity we should use absent any evidence to the contrary.

Picture of graffito by Banksy: caveman with fast food burger, fries, and shake

Detail of photo by Lord Jim of Banksy’s caveman. Some rights reserved.

The fact of the matter is, however, that we are not experts, not most of us. We haven’t studied the huge bodies of literature coming out of anthropology, psychology, and sociology that would be required to have to the first clue what kind of assumptions are warranted. Our assumptions are based on “Everybody knows” and some very simplified understanding of biology and living in a world in which variability is to a large degree defined as dysfunction. They are rarely nuanced or complex.

This means that when we hear someone arguing against a particular interpretation of data, when we hear someone say that a hypothesis was not supported, we tend to think that person is arguing for a null hypothesis that is…well, somewhat out there. Someone tells us that the data is insufficient to determine whether a particular difference observed between two groups is genetic, and far too many of us hear that person assert that there is no genetic influence on behavior. Genetic influence is treated as an all-or-nothing proposition.

I know. When I put it like that, it sounds a bit silly, but it happens with amazing regularity.

Greg Laden put a post up today that should help people think about what the null hypothesis is when it comes to evolutionary psychology and what differences need to be teased apart between that and experimental hypotheses in order for evolutionary psychology to make claims about the selection of particular behaviors:

In both cases, one could say that there is a “mental module” … a neural structure in the brain that is good at doing some thing. In both cases one could say that the module emerged as part of the evolutionary process. Indeed, I regard the result of this and similar experience as very strong evidence that there are modules in human brains that are really good at doing certain things, and that are sufficiently specialized that they are also bad at doing similar but in some sense “unnatural” versions of the same thing. In an Evolutionary Psychology version, the module was mostly built neurologically because of genetically specified development. In a more general Darwinian Psychology, brains are selected (though evolutionary process) to be good at learning how to do this sort of thing.

That–that difference between a brain that has evolved to produce particular specific, detailed behaviors and a brain that has evolved to be rather flexible in how it learns to accomplish much broader tasks–that is the battle that is happening. The question isn’t absolute freedom versus determinism. The questions are “To what specificity are our behavioral capacities and tendencies determined?” How complex a system of modules do we need to posit to describe these human behavioral capacities and tendencies? (This is, of course, before we get to the question of whether those modules are adaptive, a discussion I can’t deal in the generalities of.)

Given that human beings have an exceptionally long childhood (i.e., period of dependence on others) that we spend sucking up cultural practices like little sponges, this is a very hard question to answer. Good research, research that can address that difference, is hard to come by–harder in an age of increasingly global culture. Think about the spread of musical styles in the last couple of decades if you want some idea of the cultural “contamination” a researcher has to deal with.

There are ways to get at the differences. Greg gives an example of a study that is fairly clever and nicely suggestive of a broader trait, one observed in other species with much less apparent cultural influences, being translated through culture. Or translating culture. It’s kind of cool.

Other research in evolutionary psychology is, simply put, much less sophisticated. It uses single-culture samples. It uses measurement tools that, rather than trying to distinguish between individual behaviors and underlying motivation or traits, as would be necessary to differentiate these sorts of hypotheses from the null hypothesis, treat the behaviors as a proxy for what is being tested.

Not all evolutionary psychology research does this sort of thing, of course, but much of it does, and much of that research produces “sexy” results. Literally, these results often have to do with sex and the controversies that surround it. This research gets media attention for providing simple answers to questions we find interesting and important.

The methodological shortcomings mean that there will be critiques of these studies. The controversial nature of the topics studied mean those critiques will get attention. The fact that this kind of research keeps being done means that those critiques will be repeated and often won’t be presented in full each time.

This makes straw-manning the critiques fairly easy, either intentionally by those with an interest in creating a positive perception of the research or unintentionally because of our individual perceptions of expertise where we have none. It is easy to say, “How can you reject that? Do you think genes have no effect on our brains and behavior?”

The answer is, as I hope is clear by now, “Don’t be silly.”

Okay, a more full answer is that of course we recognize that genes have a direct effect on the brain. Without genes, we wouldn’t have brains. However, that isn’t what it means when we reject the idea, based on lack of discriminatory data, that a particular behavior is driven by our genes.

It means that, given just how flexible our brains are, the body of research produced so far has failed to prove that this particular behavior, at this particular level of granularity, is determined by our genes. The null hypothesis, that our genes are responsible more generally for the organization of our brains and behavior, still stands.

*I’m using the word “assume” in a slightly unorthodox manner here. I mean to hold preliminary conclusions that could be contradicted by further data, not make baseless or unexamined guesses. However, if you think about it, that’s really what we generally mean by the word.

Comments

  1. Stein says

    It is interesting to say that if something can be learned there is no need for an evolutionary explanation but learning (a sophisticated adaptation) is very resource intensive and not terribly fast, so many members of a species probably could not learn all the needed information to reproduce in a lifetime, especially if they were in isolated or scattered populations. Also one can learn or assume a mistaken reproductive behaviour or strategy. It would be catastrophic if all members of a species were subject to the perils of mistakes and omissions in the process of learning how to reproduce.

    Consider also that all animal species (many of which have very short life spans and are not intelligent) have distinct mating rituals that help them choose or setup the right environment conditions, find the best possible sex partners and follow all the steps to raise offspring. It is not possible to attribute all these behaviours to culture and learning.

    Here’s an example:

    “…Consider a heavily researched topic in evolutionary psychology: male mate preferences. Evolutionary psychologists have proposed that human males prefer, all else equal, to establish long-term mateships with younger (sexually mature) females. The reason this preference evolved is that males who married younger women had more offspring on average, over evolutionary time. Considerable research has demonstrated that a sexual preference for younger women is a male universal (teenage males tend to prefer women who are slightly older than themselves, and thus fertile, but these women are still young). How could an organism learn this type of information? It would have to very carefully observe lifetime reproductive outcomes for many different mateships, controlling for other variables like health, access to resources, etc. This is obviously impossible. Life is just too short to learn this kind of information, yet men have precisely the preferences predicted by evolutionary theory. These preferences must have evolved.”

    http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/projects/human/epfaq/evpsychfaq_full.html#learning

    It is evident that feminists have a problem with EP because it conflicts with gender theory as it’s findings point to the conclusion that many gender traits and behaviours are gender specific by natural selection thus invalidating the idea that gender is a social construct.

  2. says

    It is interesting to say that if something can be learned there is no need for an evolutionary explanation but learning (a sophisticated adaptation) is very resource intensive and not terribly fast, so many members of a species probably could not learn all the needed information to reproduce in a lifetime, especially if they were in isolated or scattered populations.

    I’m going to assume you don’t actually mean “reproduce” here. That part’s not terribly complicated.

    Assuming you do mean successfully raising offspring instead, how much learning is required at what point in human development? You speak as though nuclear families isolated from kin and other parent-supportive social groups is the norm. It isn’t. It’s something of a modern aberration and one that has led an industry in teaching and otherwise supporting new parents. Where it doesn’t exist, you find multi-generational child rearing.

    Consider also that all animal species (many of which have very short life spans and are not intelligent) have distinct mating rituals that help them choose or setup the right environment conditions, find the best possible sex partners and follow all the steps to raise offspring. It is not possible to attribute all these behaviours to culture and learning.

    We don’t attribute all of them to culture or learning. However, the extent to which non-human mating behavior is comparable to human sexuality is an open question. Almost no non-human animals have recreational sex. None of them appear to have, for example, kink that is comparable to what we find in humans. Humans have quite a bit of specialized behavior surrounding sex. And when the research question is, as it is in evolutionary psychology, how much of that is directly attributable to genes and adaptations, you can’t start by assuming your conclusion. You have to prove it. So even though the basic impulse to reproduce may be both genetic and adaptive (essentially a tautology), that doesn’t tell you anything about the behavior in which we dress it up.

    It is evident that feminists have a problem with EP because it conflicts with gender theory as it’s findings point to the conclusion that many gender traits and behaviours are gender specific by natural selection thus invalidating the idea that gender is a social construct.

    Actually, what is evident is that you keep attributing motives to feminists despite not having any demonstrated capacity for reading minds. That doesn’t make your attributions true. It doesn’t even make them evident to anyone other than you.

  3. says

    Also, you have a ‘nym. Stick with it. Others will not be allowed through, and if you keep trying to use them, you may just annoy me enough to ban you altogether.

  4. LeftSidePositive says

    Is Stein proposing that there were lifelong “marriages” in the Pleistocene?! From whence does he come to this conclusion that an ancestral man would be looking for a single partner? Is he forgetting that high maternal mortality tends to mean that in pre-1900ish societies, one couldn’t predict who would have decades of reproduction left in them? Is he forgetting that poor neonatal outcomes generally tend to cluster around BOTH extremes of maternal age (old and young)? Is he forgetting that in most primates, first-time mothers tend to do worse for their offspring than those who have more experience? Why wouldn’t evolution select for men who seek women whose mothers are alive, since a living grandmother is a well-established advantage for infant survival?

    Also, another pet peeve with EvoPsych–it’s not enough just to provide evidence for your pet theory; you also have to show that the observed outcome is MORE likely with your pet theory as opposed to other possible explanations. So, when you say “this is hypothetically adaptive” (while ignoring a lot of ways that it actually probably isn’t!) you can’t just say “it must have evolved!” It could be that cultures adopted it independently and taught it through cultural practices (this isn’t even getting into cultural constructs like our obsession with virginity, etc.). Maybe those cultures did better for that reason, or maybe for other reasons…but there are plenty of ways a trait that is hypothetically adaptive could be taught rather than inherited. And, no, a given individual does not have to conduct several cohort studies in order to learn how to find a mating partner–like most behaviors of a social species, we do what we see our peers doing, and we tell each other how to do things. Learning doesn’t have to be exclusively independent trial-and-error!

  5. Stein says

    Seems that my last comment really got you mad. I’m using a variation of my nickname because the other one is not working, maybe it’s already banned. I just added a couple of numbers on the end.

    I think I’m just a message away from being banned anyway. I hope you publish the other two comments I made on the Headlines post.

    “Assuming you do mean successfully raising offspring instead, how much learning is required at what point in human development?”

    Well, the example I gave you shows that to justify universal male preference for young women as a learned preference it would require in modern times the universally available knowledge of “lifetime reproductive outcomes for many different mateships, controlling for other variables like health, access to resources, etc.” to reach the conclusion that young women are preferable, and even if this knowledge was universal it would have to be internalized and accepted by every man.

    Here we are talking only about a single isolated aspect of reproductive behaviour, we would have to go trhough a simililar process to justify the almost universal preference of women for hypergamy (mating with higher status males), the most frequent human preference for monogamy, etc.

    The fact that it is not possible to link specific adaptations to genes with available technology and knowledge doesn’t invalidate the study of such adaptations as long as they can be observed to be universal to a species and proven to solve a reproductive problem in an specific context over a reasonable evolutionary time. Psychological adaptations are functions of the nervous system and are not different in essence from purely physiological adaptations.

    That is how you prove an EP hypothesis. Of course many EP hypothesis wind up to be mistaken as it happens in any other scientific field, I don’t see the need to demonize EP for doing what all other sciences are doing: testing hypothesis.

    It was a nice try to back up RW with a better constructed argument but trying to challenge an established and already scrutinized scientific field with light observations is most probably unproductive.

  6. Stein says

    Lef Side positive, please point to the place where I proposed “that there were lifelong “marriages” in the Pleistocene?! ”

    ” And, no, a given individual does not have to conduct several cohort studies in order to learn how to find a mating partner–like most behaviors of a social species, we do what we see our peers doing, and we tell each other how to do things.”

    Well, where do our peers got the information that young females were best mating partners? Who spread the idea? How could possibly hearing this from a friend could make me get excited from the view of a young woman and not from the view of an elder one? Isn’t it a bad strategy to share a knowledge that could potentially make me the reproductively most successful man in my generation?

  7. Stein says

    “Why wouldn’t evolution select for men who seek women whose mothers are alive, since a living grandmother is a well-established advantage for infant survival?”

    Because the health and willingness of a grandmother is a very unreliable state of reality. Youth an beauty are evident to simple eye sight. Now, the fact that men don’t need to know the tiniest bit of the existance or state of the mother of a woman (and the fact that they rather would prefer not to know anything about her) in order to be compelled to mate with her is because most possibly the existance, health and willingness of a grandmother didn’t provide significant reproductive advantages for our ancestors in the Pleistocene.

  8. LeftSidePositive says

    1) You brought up marriage in your quoted comment.

    2) You have not yet established that young females actually ARE the best mating partners, nor have you addressed the reasons I already gave for why they might not be.

    3) Cultures observe things informally over time and gather that up in folk knowledge–stuff like “if you run the corn through lye, it seems to be more nutritious…” and “it seems we should let the fields lie fallow every now and then, because they don’t seem to be as good at growing stuff…”

    4) You are failing to address the extraordinary cultural influence on sexual desirability. Look at what various different cultures have found attractive through the ages. There is *quite* a difference in a lot of things that seem so natural to be arousing from someone in that culture. And, no, you don’t get hot for something just because one person tells you it will benefit you–but the cumulative effect of seeing certain persons celebrated, depicted in art, receiving more resources and esteem from one’s culture, etc., shapes one’s desires.

    5) For one thing, parents have a strong incentive to teach their offspring helpful knowledge.

    6) For another, societies are generally fairly cooperative, and competing *against* one’s social group for resources will generally get you shunned. People in social groupings do things that help the reproductive fitness of those not genetically related to them ALL THE TIME (for a simplistic example, think of the “wingman” phenom) and without that, we wouldn’t have societies in the first place.

    7) You seem to be assuming that our Pleistocene ancestors were consciously planning to help or hinder each other’s reproductive fitness, and I highly doubt that is the case. Cooperative societies share useful information with each other–that is how they flourish. Why would sex be any different?

  9. says

    Seems that my last comment really got you mad.

    Actually, having to clean up the multiple copies you’ve posted of most of your comments while I was busy “got me mad”. The fact that you tried to repost a comment that had already gone through was particularly silly. If you want your comments posted, use the same email and ‘nym you used for the ones that have gone through. I’m not cleaning up your messes for you.

    Well, the example I gave you shows that to justify universal male preference for young women as a learned preference it would require in modern times the universally available knowledge of “lifetime reproductive outcomes for many different mateships, controlling for other variables like health, access to resources, etc.” to reach the conclusion that young women are preferable, and even if this knowledge was universal it would have to be internalized and accepted by every man.

    This has nothing to do with child-rearing, so I’m forced to conclude you are actually trying to tell me that people can’t reproduce unless they reproduce somehow “optimally”. This is absurd.

    Additionally, youth uber alles is a bad mating strategy. Women in full adulthood–as U.S. culture describes it–ovulate more regularly and have more successful pregnancies than younger post-pubescent women. The best strategy for finding a mate that is fertile is to find one with children. That, however, isn’t how we reproduce.

    Here we are talking only about a single isolated aspect of reproductive behaviour, we would have to go trhough a simililar process to justify the almost universal preference of women for hypergamy (mating with higher status males), the most frequent human preference for monogamy, etc.

    Actually, you would first have to establish those as facts.

    The fact that it is not possible to link specific adaptations to genes with available technology and knowledge doesn’t invalidate the study of such adaptations as long as they can be observed to be universal to a species and proven to solve a reproductive problem in an specific context over a reasonable evolutionary time.

    No. Neither does it prove them or obviate the responsibility of presenting findings as not proven while the null hypothesis is not falsified.

    I don’t see the need to demonize EP for doing what all other sciences are doing: testing hypothesis.

    Actually, we’re “demonizing” evo psych for failing to test hypotheses. That’s a rather important difference.

    It was a nice try to back up RW with a better constructed argument but trying to challenge an established and already scrutinized scientific field with light observations is most probably unproductive.

    Once again, you fail at reading minds. I’ve been writing about evo psych for much longer than this little dustup has been going on. This provides an opportunity to talk about some important concepts and methodological requirements while people are paying attention.

  10. says

    Because the health and willingness of a grandmother is a very unreliable state of reality. Youth an beauty are evident to simple eye sight.

    These are both absurd statements.

  11. LeftSidePositive says

    You’ve taken a conclusion and worked backwards for it. You’ve just assumed that because you don’t see sexual preferences for women with living grandmothers then it couldn’t be adaptive. Have you considered that maybe evolution isn’t perfect and that maybe it does confer a survival advantage but no heritable traits emerged for it to be selected for?

    Oh, and nice going inserting a transparently culturally-based mother-in-law joke in a comment purporting to be about hard-wired evolutionary phenomena! Yeah, that’s gonna make us take you seriously!

  12. Tito says

    #12 Stephany: “Youth an beauty are evident to simple eye sight.” You said this was an “absurd statement”.

    Really? Are you saying that humans are unable to identify youth by sight, generally? And that “beauty”
    is not a roughly quantifiable attribute? Please elaborate, because I think there are papers showing these.

  13. Stein says

    Stephanie, a mature adult woman (by modern standards) would have less offspring production potential than a young woman because she probably would be battered and close to death age in those times. Mating with a woman who already has children is not preferable because that would imply spending resources on another man’s reproductive success instead of yours. That doesn’t mean some men wind up doing it, but that certainly is not preferred by those who can choose.

    You are right about the need to establish facts before jumping to conclusions but since we are all speculating on this thread I thought I had the same freedom that other commenters enjoy when they establish the grandmother hypothesis.

    Your stance that evolutionary adaptations can’t be accepted as proven until they are linked to specific genetic material or hard proof would invalidate mostly all evolutionary studies, not only psychological evolution studies. This would also invalidate evolutionary advantage as the basis of atheist morality and altruism.

  14. says

    Stephanie, a mature adult woman (by modern standards) would have less offspring production potential than a young woman because she probably would be battered and close to death age in those times.

    How long do modern hunter-gatherers live? What is the life expectancy of such a person who survives to adulthood? What are the main causes of mortality?

    Mating with a woman who already has children is not preferable because that would imply spending resources on another man’s reproductive success instead of yours. That doesn’t mean some men wind up doing it, but that certainly is not preferred by those who can choose.

    Funny how the assumptions of male promiscuity and lack of parental investment go out the door when they’re not useful to the argument, eh?

    You are right about the need to establish facts before jumping to conclusions but since we are all speculating on this thread I thought I had the same freedom that other commenters enjoy when they establish the grandmother hypothesis.

    If you think LSP is asserting something without basis, ask for the references. You’ll get them.

    Your stance that evolutionary adaptations can’t be accepted as proven until they are linked to specific genetic material or hard proof would invalidate mostly all evolutionary studies, not only psychological evolution studies. This would also invalidate evolutionary advantage as the basis of atheist morality and altruism.

    Do you know what the null hypothesis is? Do you understand its role in science? Did you read this post?

  15. says

    Tito, how accurate are visual estimates of age? Do we, for example, consider them reliable enough to be a basis for admission to any age-limited behaviors?

    What factors reliably determine beauty? How much of beauty ratings do they account for, and how much do these ratings vary across cultures, phenotypes, and time?

  16. Stein says

    I know what a null hypothesis is, and I read that you reject the idea that an adaptation can be presented as proven by current methodology, that means the evolutionary basis for morality and altruism, key parts of modern atheist mainstream philosophy, are at stake as well.

    The life of actual hunter gatherers is irrelevant. Life expectancy before industrial revolution averaged 30.

    Male promiscuity and lack of parental investment are strategies that take advantage of other man’s or familie’s investments, that is why they are socially opposed. A woman that already has a child from another man before mating makes this disadvantage obvious to the eye.

  17. khms says

    The life of actual hunter gatherers is irrelevant.

    Why?

    Life expectancy before industrial revolution averaged 30.

    What about life expectancy of young adults?

  18. mildlymagnificent says

    Male promiscuity and lack of parental investment are strategies that take advantage of other man’s or familie’s investments, that is why they are socially opposed. A woman that already has a child from another man before mating makes this disadvantage obvious to the eye.

    Nonsense. If a woman already has a child, that proves firstly that she’s fertile – a big issue in societies where food shortages can affect development, secondly that she’s fit for reproduction having already survived that first childbirth and successfully raised that infant. Big, biiiig considerations if marriage is oriented around successful reproduction.

    And a distaste for women who’ve already had children is a distinct disadvantage in groups where death can occur early. Women and men who have been widowed need to find others who can help raise the children they already have. Small societies do not set up orphanages for children who lose a parent. A new marriage is the most frequent mechanism for finding suitable homes for children who have lost a parent along with transferring children to a grandparent’s or sibling’s family.

    This practical, hard-headed approach to marriage and child rearing is quite common. One of my great-grandmothers was raised in a household where there were, eventually, children of six marriages. Each of her father’s 3 wives had children with him, and each of the two widows he married after his first and second wives died brought with them the children of their now-deceased earlier husbands.

  19. says

    I read that you reject the idea that an adaptation can be presented as proven by current methodology, that means the evolutionary basis for morality and altruism, key parts of modern atheist mainstream philosophy, are at stake as well.

    Actually, I pointed out that Greg gave an example of a good study. I called it highly suggestive rather than “proof”, but you don’t really want to be talking about proof when you’re talking about science. You want talk about evidence. The study Greg cited gave some pretty good evidence, although it is, of course, possible that someone will come along with an explanation that fits that evidence better. If more evo psych studies were designed to be able to provide evidence with the power to discriminate between the null and experimental hypotheses, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    The life of actual hunter gatherers is irrelevant.

    Now that it isn’t telling you what you want to hear, much like male promiscuity.

    Life expectancy before industrial revolution averaged 30.

    You appear not to understand what average means. Someone who made it past puberty in those societies are estimated to have had an expected life span of around 55. Plenty of time to get a child past puberty. Someone who made it to their 20s or 30s had an even longer life expectancy.

    You also don’t seem to understand the causes of death that led to shorter life expectancies. Life expectancy was that low at that point due, in a very large part, to infant mortality. Following that, you had death in childbirth and sanitation issues (availability of clean water, food spoilage, infection following trauma) and diseases against which we now vaccinate. The important thing to notice about those is that they are generally acute. They don’t kill you by cumulative damage, making you less healthy over time until you “wear out”, as you suggest happened to women then. They don’t cap maximum life span, just shorten the average life span.

    In fact, an argument could be made that survival to a riper age implies a healthier immune system, more likely to fight off those acute challenges. There is definitely an argument to be made that surviving one childbirth demonstrates pelvic sufficiency for more, again placing higher value on a woman who has already given birth.

  20. BradC says

    Good article, Stephanie. I think Greg’s focus on “Is this behavior innate or learned?” helps bring some focus on the nature of the good research (the poorest pop research/reporting does a bad job of even answering that question). But I’m not sure it really addresses the main problem that a lot of people have with Evolutionary Psychology as a whole.

    The problem, as I see it, is the follow-up assumption that evolutionary psychology seems to make, something like “our research shows that Characteristic X is not a learned behavior, therefore it must have been selected for by evolution”. (And then they go on to discuss/speculate about the evolutionary pressures that must therefore have influenced the development of that mental module.)

    I think this is the essence of PZ’s objection in his latest αEP article, that there are a variety of valid evolutionary explanations for why a certain mental module might exist:

    1. Mental module X held a selective advantage that was strong enough to be acted upon by natural selection.

    2. Mental module X was propagated through the population through genetic drift, since the evolutionary advantage (or disadvantage) wasn’t significant enough for natural selection to act upon (PZ’s example of color blindness).

    3. Mental module X was a side-effect of a different change in the brain (Mental module Y) that was strong enough to be selected for. (PZ didn’t mention this one, but I don’t see any easy way to rule it out.)

    PZ talked about why explanation 2 is more likely than explanation 1. I tossed in 3 just because that’s an option that occurred to me, and I don’t see any easy way to rule that out as a valid hypothesis.

    So I’m willing to be persuaded here, does evolutionary psychology take (1) as a premise, or are there ways it can actually support this view against the alternatives?

  21. says

    Why wouldn’t evolution select for men who seek women whose mothers are alive, since a living grandmother is a well-established advantage for infant survival?

    That’s why MTV ran those “date my mum” series. Evolution in action!
    Checkmate!
    I only forget for whom.

    But really, Stein not understanding what life-expectancy means but using it as an argument is priceless

  22. Martha says

    Stephanie, thanks for continuing to write on this topic even when it means slogging through comments leading to the same arguments you had last week. If EvoPsych’s defenders think they’re making a good impression on those of us who know little about the field, they couldn’t be more wrong. Nonetheless, I’m still learning a lot from you and the more knowledgeable participants in these discussions.

  23. says

    BradC, that’s a good question. It’s pretty easy to observe that evo psych generally uses (1) as a framework for deciding what to study. That makes it either implicit or part of the experimental hypothesis, depending on how the research is designed. I don’t know that it has to be, though. I don’t see why there couldn’t be incidental universals in how our behavior is determined, except perhaps as flexibility of behavior could be so adaptive as for there to be strong selection against it.

    All just musings on my part.

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