Brain and Mind

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 307-325

First online:

Evolutionary Psychology, Meet Developmental Neurobiology: Against Promiscuous Modularity

  • David J. BullerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Northern Illinois University
  • , Valerie HardcastleAffiliated withScience and Technology Studies Program / Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Department of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic and State University

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Evolutionary psychologists claim that the mind contains “hundreds or thousands” of “genetically specified” modules, which are evolutionary adaptations for their cognitive functions. We argue that, while the adult human mind/brain typically contains a degree of modularization, its “modules” are neither genetically specified nor evolutionary adaptations. Rather, they result from the brain's developmental plasticity, which allows environmental task demands a large role in shaping the brain's information-processing structures. The brain's developmental plasticity is our fundamental psychological adaptation, and the “modules” that result from it are adaptive responses to local conditions, not past evolutionary environments. If different individuals share common environments, however, they may develop similar “modules,” and this process can mimic the development of genetically specified modules in the evolutionary psychologist's sense.

adaptation brain development domain specificity evolutionary psychology modularity plasticity