Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 57–78 | Cite as

Adaptive and Genomic Explanations of Human Behaviour: Might Evolutionary Psychology Contribute to Behavioural Genomics?



Evolutionary psychology and behavioural genomics are both approaches to explain human behaviour from a genetic point of view. Nonetheless, thus far the development of these disciplines is anything but interdependent. This paper examines the question whether evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomics. Firstly, a possible inconsistency between the two approaches is reviewed, viz. that evolutionary psychology focuses on the universal human nature and disregards the genetic variation studied by behavioural genomics. Secondly, we will discuss the structure of biological explanations. Some philosophers rightly acknowledge that explanations do not involve laws which are exceptionless and universal. Instead, generalisations that are invariant suffice for successful explanation as long as two other stipulations are recognised: the domain within which the generalisation has no exceptions as well as the distribution of the mechanism described by the generalisation should both be specified. It is argued that evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomic explanations by accounting for these two specifications.


adaptationism behavioural genomics evolutionary psychology explanation generalisation human behaviour invariance universality 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Almasy, L., Blangero, J. 2001Endophenotypes as Quantitative Risk Factors for Psychiatric Disease: Rationale and Study DesignAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics)1054244Google Scholar
  2. Axelrod, R. 1984The Evolution of CooperationBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Badcock, C. 2000Evolutionary Psychology: A Critical IntroductionPolity PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey, J.M. 1998

    Can Behavior Genetics Contribute to Evolutionary Behavior Science

    Crawford, C.Krebs, D.L. eds. Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology; Ideas, Issues, and ApplicationsLawrenceNew Jersey211233
    Google Scholar
  5. Barendregt, M. 2003aGenetic Explanation in PsychologyThe Journal of Mind and Behavior246790Google Scholar
  6. Barendregt, M. 2003b

    Interlevel Relations and the Prospects for an Evolutionary Psychology

    Stephenson, N.Radtke, H.L.Jorna, R.Stam, H.J. eds. Theoretical PsychologyCritical ContributionsCaptus, Concord396404
    Google Scholar
  7. Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J. 1992The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of CultureOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Beatty, J. 1997Why Do Biologists Argue like They DoPhilosophy of Science64S432S443Google Scholar
  9. Bechtel, W., Richardson, R.C. 1993Discovering Complexity Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific ResearchPrinceton University PressPrincetonGoogle Scholar
  10. Bishop, D.T. 1999BRCA1 and BRCA2 and Breast Cancer Incidence: A ReviewAnnals of Oncology10S113S119Google Scholar
  11. Boomsma, D., Busjahn, A., Peltonen, L. 2002Classical Twin Studies and BeyondNature Reviews Genetics3872882PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Brandon, R.N. 1997Does Biology Have Any Laws?; The Experimental EvidencePhilosophy of Science64S444S457Google Scholar
  13. Brodie, E.D. 1989Genetic Correlations Between Morphology and Antipredator Behaviour in Natural Populations of the Garter Snake Thamnophis OrdinoidesNature342542543PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Buller, D.J., Hardcastle, V.G. 2000Evolutionary Psychology, Meet Developmental Neurobiology: Against Promiscuous Modularity’Brain and Mind1307325Google Scholar
  15. Buss, D.M. 1995Evolutionary Psychology: A New Paradigm for Psychological Science’Psychological Inquiry6149Google Scholar
  16. Buss, D.M. 1999Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the MindAllyn and BaconBostonGoogle Scholar
  17. Buss, D.M., Greiling, H. 1999Adaptive Individual DifferencesJournal of Personality67209243Google Scholar
  18. Caramazza, A., Shelton, J.R. 1998Domain-Specific Knowledge Systems in the Brain: The Animate-Inanimate Distinction’Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience10113PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Cartwright, J. 2000Evolution and Human Behavior: Darwinian Perspectives on Human NatureThe MIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Chomsky, N. 2000New Horizons in the Study of Language and MindCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Cosmides, L. 1989The Logic of Social Exchange; Has Natural Selection Shaped How Humans Reason? Studies with the Wason Selection Task’Cognition31187276CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Cosmides, L., Tooby, J. 1994Beyond Intuition and Instinct Blindness: Toward an Evolutionary Rigorous Cognitive ScienceCognition504177CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Cosmides, L., Tooby, J. 1995

    From Evolution to Adaptations to Behavior: Toward an Integrated Evolutionary Psychology

    Wong, R. eds. Biological Perspectives on Motivated ActivitiesAblex,Norwood1174
    Google Scholar
  24. Cosmides, L., Tooby, J. (1997). Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer. http://www. Scholar
  25. Crawford, C.B., Anderson, J.L. 1989Sociobiology: An Environmentalist Discipline?American Psychologist4414491459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Cziko, G. 1995Without MiraclesMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  27. Darden, L. 1996Generalizations in BiologyStudies in History and Philosophy of Science27409419CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. DeArmond, S.J., Bouzamondo, E. 2002Fundamentals of Prion Biology and DiseasesToxicology181–182919CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Dick, D.M., Rose, R.J. 2002Behavior Genetics: What’s New? What’s Next?Current Directions in Psychological Science117074CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Donald, M. 1995The Neurobiology of Human Consciousness: An Evolutionary ApproachNeuropsychologia3310871102CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Duchaine, B., Cosmides., L., Tooby, J. 2001Evolutionary Psychology and the BrainCurrent Opinion in Neurobiology11225230CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Garcia, J., Kimmeldorf, D., Koelling, R. 1955A Conditioned Aversion Towards Saccharin Resulting from Exposure to Gamma RadiationScience122157158PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Garcia, J. 1981Tilting at the Papermills of AcademeAmerican Psychologist36149158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Garcia, J., Koelling, R. 1966Relation of Cue to Consequence in Avoidance LearningPsychonomic Science4123124Google Scholar
  35. Garcia, J., Rusiniak, K.W., Brett, L.P. 1977

    Conditioned Food-Illness Aversions in Wild Animals: Caveat Canonici

    Hurwitz, H.M. eds. Operant-Pavlovian Interactions,ErlbaumHillsdale273316
    Google Scholar
  36. de Geus, E.J.C. 2002Introducing Genetic PsychophysiologyBiological Psychology61110CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. de Geus, E.J.C., Boomsma, D.I. 2001A Genetic Neuroscience Approach to Human CognitionEuropean Psychologist6241253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gigerenzer, G. 2001

    The Adaptive Toolbox

    Selten, R. eds. Bounded Rationality; The Adaptive Toolbox,MIT PressCambridge3550
    Google Scholar
  39. Gigerenzer, G., Hug, K. 1992Domain-Specific Reasoning: Social Contracts, Cheating, and Perspective ChangeCognition43127171CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Gigerenzer, G., Todd, B. 1999

    Fast and Frugal Heuristics: The Adaptive Toolbox

    Group, A.R. eds. Simple Heuristics that Make Us SmartOxford University PressOxford334
    Google Scholar
  41. Gold, I., Stoljar, D. 1999A Neuron Doctrine in the Philosophy of NeuroscienceBehavioral and Brain Sciences22809869CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Haan de, E.H.F. 2001

    Face Perception and Recognition

    Rapp, B. eds. The Handbook of Cognitive Neuropsychology: What Deficits Reveal about the Human MindPsychology PressPhiladelphia7599
    Google Scholar
  43. Hempel, C.G., Oppenheim, P. 1948Studies in the Logic of ExplanationPhilosophy of Science15135175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hezewijk van, R. 2003

    Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology; Causal Analysis, Evidence, and Nomothetic Laws

    Stephenson, N.Radtke, H.L.Jorna, RStam, H.J. eds. Theoretical Psychology:Critical Contributions, CaptusConcord405415
    Google Scholar
  45. Hull, D.L. 1974Philosophy of Biological SciencePrentice-HallEnglewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  46. Hull, D.L., Langman, R.E., Glenn, S.S. 2001A General Account of Selection: Biology, Immunology, and BehaviorBehavioral and Brain Sciences24511573CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Jackendoff, R. 2002Foundations of Language; Brain, Meaning, Grammar, EvolutionOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Kaplan, J.M. 2002Historical Evidence and Human AdaptationsPhilosophy of Science69S294304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Keen, J.C., Davidson, N.E. 2003The Biology of Breast CarcinomaCancer97825833CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Kitcher, P. 19841953 and All That: A Tale of Two SciencesPhilosophical Review93335373PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Lakatos, I. 1970

    Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes

    Lakatos, I.Musgrave, A. eds. Criticism and the Growth of KnowledgeCambridge University PressCambridge91196
    Google Scholar
  52. Lang, C., Sober, E., Strien, K. 2002Are Human Beings Part of the Rest of Nature?Biology and Philosophy17661671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lewontin, R.C. 1998

    The Evolution of Cognition: Questions We Will Never Answer

    Scarborough, D.Sternberg, S. eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Volume 4: Methods, Models and Conceptual IssuesMIT PressCambridge107132
    Google Scholar
  54. Looren de Jong, H., Steen van der, W.J. 1998Biological Thinking in Evolutionary Psychology: Rockbottom or Quicksand?Philosophical Psychology11183205Google Scholar
  55. Machamer, P., Darden, L., Craver, C.F. 2000Thinking about MechanismsPhilosophy of Science67125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Maudlin, T. 1996On the Unification of PhysicsThe Journal of Philosophy93129144Google Scholar
  57. Maynard Smith, J. 2000The Concept of Information in BiologyPhilosophy of Science67177194CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  58. McGuffin, P., Riley, B., Plomin, R. 2001Toward Behavioral GenomicsScience29112321249PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Mill, J.S. 1970A System of Logic: Ratiocinative and InductiveLongmanLondon(Original work published 1872).Google Scholar
  60. Miller, G.F., Todd, P.M. 1998Mate Choice Turns CognitiveTrends on Cognitive Sciences2190198Google Scholar
  61. Mitchell, S.D. 2000Dimensions of Scientific LawPhilosophy of Science67242265Google Scholar
  62. Morrison, M. 2000Unifying Scientific Theories: Physical Concepts and Mathematical StructuresCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  63. Nagel, E. 1961The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation, HarcourtBrace and WorldNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  64. Passingham, R.E. 1982The Human PrimateFreemanNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  65. Pinker, S. 1994The Language InstinctMarrowNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  66. Pinker, S. 1995

    Language Acquisition

    Gleitman, L.R.Liberman, M. eds. An Invitation to Cognitieve Science: Vol. 1, LanguageMIT PressCambridge135182
    Google Scholar
  67. Pinker, S. 1999Words and Rules; The Ingredients of LanguageBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  68. Plomin, R. 2002Individual Differences Research in a Postgenomic EraPersonality and Individual Differences33909920Google Scholar
  69. Plomin, R., Colledge, E. 2001Genetics and Psychology: Beyond HeritabilityEuropean Psychologist6229240Google Scholar
  70. Plomin, R., Crabbe, J. 2000DNAPsychological Bulletin:126126, 806828Google Scholar
  71. Plomin, R., Petrill, S.A. 1997Genetics and Intelligence: Whats New?Intelligence245377Google Scholar
  72. Plotkin, H. 1997Evolution in MindAllan LaneLondonGoogle Scholar
  73. Rodgers, J.L., Hughes, K., Kohler, H.-P., Christensen, K., Doughty, D., Rowe, D.C., Miller, W.B. 2001Genetic Influence Helps Explain Variation in Human Fertility: Evidence from Recent Behavioral and Molecular Genetic StudiesCurrent Directions in Psychological Science10184188Google Scholar
  74. Rosenberg, A. 1997Reductionism Redux: Computing the EmbryoBiology and Philosophy12445470Google Scholar
  75. Rozin, P., Fallon, A.E. 1987A Perspective on DisgustPsychological Review:9494, 2341Google Scholar
  76. Rozin, P., Haidt, J., McCauley, C.R. 1993


    Haviland, J.M. eds. Handbook of EmotionsGuilford PressNew York575594
    Google Scholar
  77. Rozin, P., Millman, L., Nemeroff, C.J. 1986Operation of the Laws of Sympathetic Magic in Disgust and other DomainsJournal of Personality and Social Psychology50703712Google Scholar
  78. Schaffner, K.F. 1993Discovery and Explanation in Biology and MedicineThe University of Chicago PressChicagoGoogle Scholar
  79. Sober, E. 1997Two Outbreaks of Lawlessness in Recent Philosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Science64S458S467Google Scholar
  80. Sober, E. 1999The Multiple Realizability Argument against ReductionismPhilosophy of Science66542564Google Scholar
  81. Spector, T. D. 2000

    The History of Twin and Sibling-Pair Studies

    Spector, T.D.Snieder, H.MacGregor, A.J. eds. Advances in Twin and Sib-Pair AnalysisGreenwich Medical MediaLondon19
    Google Scholar
  82. Steen van der, W.J., Kamminga, H. 1991Laws and Natural History in BiologyBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science42445467Google Scholar
  83. Tooby, J., Cosmides, L. 1990On the Universality of Human Nature and the Uniqueness of the Individual: The Role of Genetics and AdaptationJournal of Personality581767PubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Waters, C.K. 1998Causal Regularities in the Biological World of Contingent DistributionsBiology and Philosophy13536Google Scholar
  85. Wilson, D.S. 1994Adaptive Genetic Variation and Human Evolutionary PsychologyEthology and Sociobiology15219235Google Scholar
  86. Wimsatt, W. 1986

    Developmental Constraints, Generative Entrenchment, and the Innate- Acquired Distinction

    Bechtel, W. eds. Integrating Scientific disciplinesMartinus NijhoffDordrecht185208
    Google Scholar
  87. Wimsatt, W. 1999

    Generativity, Entrenchment, Evolution, and Innateness: Philosophy, Evolutionary Biology, and Conceptual Foundations of Science

    Hardcastle, V.G. eds. Where Biology Meets Psychology; Philosophical EssaysMIT PressCambridge
    Google Scholar
  88. Woodward, J. 2000Explanation and Invariance in the Special SciencesBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science51197254Google Scholar
  89. Woodward, J. 2001Law and Explanation in Biology: Invariance is the Kind of Stability that Matters’Philosophy of Science68120Google Scholar
  90. Woolf, L.I. 1986The Heterozygous Advantage in PhenylketonuriaThe American Journal of Human Genetics38773775Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit AmsterdamDepartment of Theoretical PsychologyAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Open University of the NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations