Larry Moran summarizes some criticisms of evolutionary psychology. He even cites philosophers who recognize the deep flaws in the field! But then, as a coup de grâce, he carries out the most damaging criticism of all: he quotes an evolutionary psychologist. Dang. That’s low.
Even more cruelly, he quotes the ridiculous Gad Saad, a professor of marketing who has made a career out of peddling poor interpretations of evolution designed to pander to MRAs and other frauds. Saad was asked to provide a list of notable achievements by evolutionary psychology, and he obliged.
- Women alter their preferences for the facial features of men as a function of where they are in their menstrual cycles. When maximally fertile, they prefer men possessing markers of high testosterone.
- Babies display an immediate instinctual preference for symmetric faces (at an age that precedes the capacity for socialization).
- Children who suffer from congenital adrenal hyperplasia display a reversal in their toy preferences. Furthermore, using inter-species comparisons, vervet monkeys display the same sex-specific patterns of play/toy preferences as human infants. This suggests that contrary to the argument made by social constructivists, play has an evolved biological basis.
- Individuals who score high on an empathy scale are more likely to succumb to the contagion effects of yawning. This is indicative that this particular contagion might be linked to mimicry and/or Theory of Mind.
- How provocatively a woman dresses is highly correlated to her menstrual cycle (a form of sexual signaling found across countless Mammalian species).
- Culinary traditions are adaptations to local niches. For example, the extent to which a culture utilizes meat versus vegetables, spices, or salt is a cultural adaptation (this is what behavioral ecologists study).
- Maternal grandmothers and paternal grandfathers invest the most and the least respectively in their grandchildren. Whereas all four grandparents have a genetic relatedness coefficient of 0.25 with their grandchildren, they do not all carry the same level of “parental uncertainty.” In the case of maternal grandmothers, there is no uncertainty whereas in the case of the paternal grandfather, there are two sources of uncertainty. This last fact drives the differential pattern of investment in the grandchildren.
- Good male dancers are symmetric (paper published in Nature). One would expect that some behavioral traits might correlate with phenotypic quality as honest signals of an individual’s desirability on the mating market.
- Self-preference for perfumes is linked to one’s immunogenetic profile (Major Histocompatibility Complex).
- When a baby is born, most family members (especially those of the mother) are likely to state that the baby looks like the father. This phenomenon is found in countless cultures despite the fact that it is objectively impossible to make such a claim of resemblance. The reason for this universally found cultural tradition lies in the need to assuage the fears of paternity uncertainty.
- Environmental stressors (e.g., father absence) and the onset of menarche (first menses) have been shown to be highly linked. In numerous species, the likelihood of a female becoming reproductively viable is affected by environmental contingencies.
- Women are less receptive to mandatory hospital DNA paternity testing (for obvious reasons). In other words, their willingness to adopt a new product/service is fully driven by an evolutionary-based calculus.
- Women can smell the most symmetric men. In other words, women have the capacity to identify men who possess the best phenotypic quality simply via their nose. This is what I have referred to as sensorial convergence.
- Using fMRI, the exposure to ecologically-relevant stimuli (e.g., beautiful faces) yields distinct neural activation patterns in men and women.
- In choosing a mate, humans tend to prefer the smell of others that are maximally dissimilar to them along the MHC. This ensures that offspring possess a greater “defensive coverage” in terms of their immunological system.
That’s a curious mix of dubious pop psychology, random correlations, non-universal cultural biases, and unjustified assumptions that certain behaviors have a genetic, as opposed to psychological, basis. For example, you don’t need a gene for assuming that infidelity exists…you can know how conception works and figure out that women can get pregnant by men who are not their socially defined partner, which may be why there is a certain level of distrust of paternity claims.
There’s also a total inability to recognize that physiological properties are not always adaptive consequences. For instance, evolutionary psychologists seem to be obsessed with ascribing deep evolutionary causes to fluctuations in behavior associated with menstruation. I can certainly believe in hormonally-driven variation in personality and behavior — that’s unexceptional and ordinary — but to then argue that small day-to-day differences in behavior have all been driven by a necessarily intense selection pressure is absurd panadaptationism.
You might also expect a Professor of Marketing to realize that a culture saturated with commercial marketing of stereotypical sexual imagery might develop abnormal response patterns — we are bathed in messaging that is conditioning us to advertisers’ influence, and may not have anything at all to do with our evolutionary history. There’s a circularity to it all. Marketing is all about shaping our preferences in particular directions, and then you get EP marketing professors trying to persuade us that they have no influence at all, they’re just discerning the deep patterns evolution has burned into our brains, so that they can be better able to influence us to buy their cologne and the associated body images with which they advertise it.
Also, and this might just be my personal bias, but marketing is simply the blood-laced, putrefying pus oozing from the suppurating teats of that great Satan, Capitalism, upon which Evolutionary Psychology greedily feeds. It is a potent poison that is not to be trusted.