EP and Modular Mind

Evolutionary Psychology and the
Modular Mind
James A. Van Slyke
Evolutionary Psychology (EP)
• Various physical adaptations evolved to serve
some function
– Heart = pump blood
– Eyes = vision
– Sexual Organs = reproduction
• EP argues that some adaptations are cognitive
programs that solved adaptive problems
John Tooby &
Leda Cosmides
Both Psychologists
Started the EP movement in the early 1990’s
The Adopted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology
and the Generation of Culture (1992)
Steven Pinker
• Harvard University
• The Language Instinct (1994)
– Language comes from an innate cognitive module
that contains general rules for grammar
• The Blank Slate (2002)
– Mind is composed of several innate cognitive
Environment of Evolutionary
Adaptedness (EEA)
• Human cognition primarily evolved during the
Pleistocene era (2.5 mil to 12,000 years ago)
• Adaptive problems faced during this huntergatherer age are the primary factors involved
in the evolution of human cognition
– Reproduction
– Survival & Hunting
– Living in Groups
Standard Social Science Model (SSSM)
• Social Science assumes that the human mind is
a “blank slate”
• Culture specifies important values
– Gender Roles; Morals; Religion, etc.
• Most things are learned
• Human mind is like a sponge
• Rather than a sponge, cognition functions
through different adaptive tools or modules
– Cognitive programs that solved different adaptive
– Environmental stimuli triggers different tools
• Mate selection
• Group coordination (Hunting)
• Cheater detection
Swiss Army
Knife Cognition
Modular Mind
• Human Cognition is composed of different
“modules” or “tools”
– Domain specific cognitive programs
– Work below the level of conscious awareness
– Automatically activated in the right context
– Human mind is composed of thousands if not

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