Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 59–75 | Cite as

Neither Adaptive Thinking nor Reverse Engineering: methods in the evolutionary social sciences

  • Catherine Driscoll


In this paper I argue the best examples of the methods in the evolutionary social sciences don’t actually resemble either of the two methods called “Adaptive Thinking” or “Reverse Engineering” described by evolutionary psychologists. Both AT and RE have significant problems. Instead, the best adaptationist work in the ESSs seems to be based on and is aiming at a different method that avoids the problems of AT and RE: it is a behavioral level method that starts with information about both the trait in question and knowledge of the EEA. I describe some examples from the literature, and suggest how a behavioral level ESS might still contribute to the discovery and understanding of human psychology. Finally, I describe some remaining problems for adaptationist reasoning of this kind.


Evolutionary psychology Human behavioral ecology Adaptive Thinking Reverse Engineering Optimality models Adaptationism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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