In this article, we present the central ideas of evolutionary psychology, and discuss how their assumptions can help ethnobiologists to understand the dynamic relationship between people and their environments. In this sense, investigating this relationship from an evolutionary perspective can bring new empirical evidence about human evolution, also contributing to both evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethnobiology.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Social-ecological systems represent a product of the interaction between sociocultural systems—the set of beliefs, knowledge and behaviors in human groups—and ecological systems—the biotic and abiotic environment of human groups (Berkes and Folke 2000).
Al-Shawaf, L., Conroy-Beam, D., Asao, K., & Buss, D. M. (2016). Human emotions: An evolutionary psychological perspective. Emotion Review, 8(2), 1–14.
Albuquerque, U. P., & Ferreira Júnior, W. S. (2017). What do we study in evolutionary ethnobiology? Defining the theoretical basis for a research program. Evolutionary Biology, 44(2), 206–215.
Albuquerque, U. P., Medeiros, P. M., & Casas, A. (2015). Evolutionary ethnobiology. In U. P. Albuquerque, P. M. Medeiros, & eA. Casas (Eds.), Evolutionary ethnobiology (pp. 1–5). New York: Springer.
Albuquerque, U. P., Nascimento, A. L. B., Chaves, L. S., Feitosa, I. S., Moura, J. M. B., Gonçalves, P. H. S., et al. (2019). A brief introduction to niche construction theory for ecologists and conservationists. Biological Conservation, 237, 50–56.
Alqahtani, A. S., Yamazaki, k, Alqahtani, W. H., Tashani, M., Heywood, A. E., Booy, R., et al. (2017). Australian Hajj pilgrims’ perception about mass casualty incidents versus emerging infections at Hajj. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 15, 81–83.
Altman, M. N., Khislavsky, A. L., Coverdale, M. E., & Gilger, J. W. (2016). Adaptive attention: How preference for animacy impacts change detection. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 303–314.
Altman, A., & Mesoudi, A. (2019). Understanding agriculture within the frameworks of cumulative cultural evolution, gene-culture co-evolution, and cultural niche construction. Human Ecology, 47, 483–497.
Balling, J. D., & Falk, J. H. (1982). Development of visual preference for natural environments. Environment and Behavior, 14, 5–28.
Barkow, J. H., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (Eds.) (eds.). (1992). The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
Barrett, H. C. (2012). A hierarchical model of the evolution of human brain specializations. PNAS, 109(1), 10733–10740.
Barrett, H. C., & Broesch, J. (2012). Prepared social learning about dangerous animals in children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 499–508.
Barrett, H. C., Peterson, C. D., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2016). Mapping the cultural learnability landscape of danger. Child Development, 87(3), 770–781.
Berkes, F., & Folke, C. (2000). Linking social and ecological systems: Management practices and social mechanisms for building resilience (p. 476). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bolhuis, J. J., Brown, G. R., Richardson, R. C., & Laland, K. N. (2011). Darwin in mind: New opportunities for evolutionary psychology. PLoS Biology, 9, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001109.
Boyer, P., & Bergstrom, B. (2008). Evolutionary perspectives on religion. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37(11), 111–130.
Breyer, T. (Ed.) (eds.). (2015). Epistemological dimensions of evolutionary psychology (p. 241). New York: Springer.
Broesch, J., Barrett, H. C., & Henrich, J. (2014). Adaptive content biases in learning about animals across the fife course. Human Nature, 25(2), 181–199.
Brown, C. (2013). ‘Human nature’, science and international political theory. Journal of International Relations and Development, 16(4), 435–454.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–49.
Buss, D. M. (1990). Evolutionary social psychology: Prospects and pitfalls. Motivation and Emotion, 14(4), 265–286.
Buss, D. M. (1995). Evolutionary psychology: A new paradigm for psychological science. Psychological Inquiry, 6, 1–30.
Buss, D. M., Larsen, R., Westen, D., & Semmelroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psychological Science, 3, 251–255.
Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: A contextual evolutionary analysis of human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204–232.
Bøggild, T., & Laustsen, L. (2016). An intra-group perspective on leader preferences: Different risks of exploitation shape preferences for leader facial dominance. The Leadership Quarterly, 27, 820–837.
Conroy-Beam, D., & Buss, D. M. (2018). Why is age so important in human mating? Evolved age preferences and their influences on multiple mating behaviors. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000127, Advance online publication.
Cosmides, L. (1989). The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason? Studies with the Wason selection task. Cognition, 31, 187–276.
Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1987). From evolution to behavior: Evolutionary psychology as the missing link. In J. Dupre (Ed.), The latest on the best: Essays on evolution and optimaliiy (pp. 277–306). Cambridge: MIT Press.
Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2003). Evolutionary psychology: Theoretical foundations. In L. Nadel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (pp. 54–64). London: Macmillan.
DeLecce, T., Barbaro, N., Mohamedally, D., Pham, M. N., & Shackelford, T. K. (2017). Husband’s reaction to his wife’s sexual rejection is predicted by the time she spends with her male friends, but not her male coworkers. Evolutionary Psychology, 15, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704917705062
Edwards, J. (2003). Evolutionary psychology and politics. Economy and Society, 32(2), 280–298.
Eisend, M. (2018). Explaining the use and effects of humour in advertising: An evolutionary perspective. International Journal of Advertising, 37(4), 526–547.
Ferera, M., Baron, A. S., & Diesendruck, G. (2018). Collaborative and competitive motivations uniquely impact infants' racial categorization. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(5), 511–519.
Fernandes, N. L., Pandeirada, J. N. S., Soares, S. C., & Nairne, J. S. (2017). Adaptive memory: The mnemonic value of contamination. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 451–460.
Ferreira Júnior, W. S., Medeiros, P. M., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2019). Evolutionary ethnobiology. Chichester: eLS. John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470015902.a0028232
Franek, J. (2016). Methodological consilience of evolutionary ethics and cognitive science of religion. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 16(1–2), 144–170.
Gangestad, S. W., & Tybur, J. M. (2016). Editorial overview: Evolutionary psychology. Current Opinion in Psychology, 7, 5–8.
Hagen, E. H., & Bryant, G. A. (2003). Music and dance as a coalition signaling system. Human Nature, 14(1), 21–51.
Hartmann, P., & Apaolaza-Ibáñes, V. (2010). Beyond savanna: An evolutionary and environmental psychology approach to behavioral effects of nature scenery in green advertising. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(1), 119–128.
Hartmann, P., & Apaolaza-Ibáñes, V. (2013). Desert or rain: Standardization of green advertising versus adaptation to the target audience’s natural environment. European Journal of Marketing, 47(5/6), 917–933.
Hasford, J., Kidwell, B., & Lopez-Kidwell, V. (2018). Happy wife, happy life: Food choices in romantic relationships. Journal of Consumer Research, 44(6), 1238–1256.
Hattori, W. T., & Yamamoto, M. E. (2012). Evolution of human behavior: Evolutionary psychology. Estudos de Biologia, Ambiente e Diversidade, 34(83), 101–112.
Hoffman, E., McCabe, K. A., & Smith, V. L. (1998). Behavioral foundations of reciprocity: Experimental economics and evolutionary psychology. Economic Inquiry, 36(3), 335–352.
Holbrook, M. B., & O’shaughnessy, J. (1984). The role of emotion in advertising. Psychology and Marketing, 1, 45–64.
Honing, H., & Ploeger, E. (2012). Cognition and the evolution of music: Pitfalls and prospects. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(4), 513–524.
Jeffery, A. J., Shackelford, T. K., Zeigler-Hill, V., Vonk, J., & McDonald, M. (2018). The evolution of human female sexual orientation. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 5, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-018-0168-2
King, P. E., Barrett, J. L., Greenway, T. S., Schnitker, S. A., & Furrow, J. L. (2018). Mind the gap: Evolutionary psychological perspectives on human thriving. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(4), 336–345.
Klasios, J. (2016). Evolutionizing human nature. New Ideas in Psychology, 40, 103–114.
Kubinskia, J. S., Navarrete, C. D., & Jonason, P. K. (2018). Gender differences in two motivational pathways to political conservatism. Personality and Individual Differences, 125, 145–150.
Laland, K. N., & Brown, G. R. (2006). Niche construction, human behaviour and the adaptive-lag hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology, 15, 95–104.
Laland, K. N., Odling-Smee, J., & Myles, S. (2010). How culture shaped the human genome: Bringing genetics and the human sciences together. Nature Reviews Genetics, 11(2), 137–148.
Lawrence, P. R., & Pirson, M. (2015). Economistic and humanistic narratives of leadership in the age of globality: Toward a renewed Darwinian theory of leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(2), 383–394.
Leathers, C. G., & Raines, J. P. (2014). Veblen’s evolutionary economics of religion and the evolutionary psychology of religion. International Journal of Social Economics, 41(2), 146–161.
Li, N. P., Yong, J. C., Tov, W., Sng, O., Fletcher, G. J., Valentine, K. A., & Balliet, D. (2013). Mate preferences do predict attraction and choices in the early stages of mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(5), 757.
Li, Y. J., Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., & Neuberg, S. L. (2012). Economic decision biases and fundamental motivations: How mating and self-protection alter loss aversion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 550.
Mesoudi, A. (2011). Cultural evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mesoudi, A. (2016). Cultural evolution: Integrating psychology, evolution and culture. Current Opinion in Psychology, 7, 17–22.
Moura, J. M. B., Ferreira Júnior, W. S., Silva, T. C., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2017). Landscapes preferences in the human species: Insights for ethnobiology from evolutionary psychology. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 6(10), 1–7.
Moura, J. M. B., Ferreira Junior, W. S., Silva, T. C., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2018). The influence of the evolutionary past on the mind: An analysis of the preference for landscapes in the human species. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1–13.
Nairne, J. S., & Pandeirada, J. N. S. (2008). Adaptive memory: Is survival processing special? Journal of Memory and Language, 59(3), 377–385.
Nairne, J. S., Pandeirada, J. N. S., Gregory, K. J., & Vanarsdall, J. E. (2009). Adaptive memory: Fitness relevance and the hunter-gatherer mind. Psychological Science, 20(6), 740–746.
Nairne, J. S., Pandeirada, J. N., & Thompson, S. R. (2008). Adaptive memory: The comparative value of survival processing. Psychological Science, 19, 176–180.
Nairne, J. S., Thompson, S. R., & Pandeirada, J. N. S. (2007). Adaptive memory: Survival processing enhances retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(2), 263–273.
Nairne, J. S., Vanarsdall, J. E., & Pandeirada, J. N. S. (2012). Adaptive memory: Enhanced location memory after survival processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38(2), 495–501.
Nouchi, R. (2012). The effect of aging on the memory enhancement of the survival judgment task. Japanese Psychological Research, 54(2), 210–217.
Orians, G. H., & Heerwagen, J. H. (1992). Evolved responses to landscapes. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 555–579). New York: Oxford University Press.
Petersen, M. B. (2018). Reproductive interests and dimensions of political ideology. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(2), 203–211.
Prokop, P., & Fančovičová, J. (2014). Seeing coloured fruits: Utilization of the theory of adaptive memory in teaching botany. Journal of Biological Education, 48(3), 127–132.
Prokop, P., Fančovičová, J., & Fedor, P. (2014). Parasites enhance self-grooming behaviour and information retention in humans. Behavioural Processes, 107, 42–46.
Roberts, C. (2015). Psychology, evolution and the traumatised child: Exploring the neurophysiology of early sexual development. Australian Feminist Studies, 30(86), 377–385.
Roos, L. E., Kim, H. K., Schnabler, S., & Fisher, P. A. (2016). Children’s executive function in a CPS-involved sample: Effects of cumulative adversity and specific types of adversity. Children and Youth Services Review, 71, 184–190.
Ruin, I., Gaillard, J. C., & Lutoff, C. (2007). How to get there? Assessing motorists’ flash flood risk perception on daily itineraries. Environmental Hazards, 7(3), 235–244.
Saad, G., & Gill, T. (2000). Applications of evolutionary psychology in marketing. Psychology and Marketing, 17(12), 1005–1034.
Sachs, M. L., Sporrong, S. K., Colding-Jørgensen, M., Frokjaer, S., Helboe, P., Jelic, K., & Kaae, S. (2017). Risk perceptions in diabetic patients who have experienced adverse events: Implications for patient involvement in regulatory decisions. Pharmaceutical Medicine, 31(4), 245–255.
Sandry, J., Trafimow, D., Marks, M. J., & Rice, S. (2013). Adaptive memory: Evaluating alternative forms of fitness-relevant processing in the survival processing paradigm. PLoS ONE, 8(4), e60868. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0060868
Santoro, F. R., Ferreira Júnior, W. S., Ladio, A. H., Araújo, T. A. S., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2015). Does plant species richness guarantee the resilience of local medical systems? A perspective from utilitarian redundancy. PLoS ONE, 10(3), 1–18.
Santoro, F. R., Santos, G. C., Ferreira-Júnior, W. S., Chaves, L. S., Araújo, T. A. S., Nascimento, A. L. B., et al. (2017). Testing an ethnobiological evolutionary hypothesis on plant-based remedies to treat malaria in Africa. Evolutionary Biology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-016-9400-9
Scheideler, J. K., Taber, J. M., Ferrer, R. A., Grenen, E. G., & Klein, W. M. P. (2017). Heart disease versus cancer: Understanding perceptions of population prevalence and personal risk. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40(5), 839–845.
Schwarz, S., & Hassebrauck, M. (2012). Sex and age differences in mate-selection preferences. Human Nature, 23(4), 447–466.
Seitz, B. M., Polack, C. W., & Miller, R. R. (2018). Adaptive memory: Is there a reproduction-processing effect? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(8), 1167–1179.
Silva, R. H., Ferreira Júnior, W. S., Medeiros, P. M., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2019). Adaptive memory and evolution of the human naturalistic mind: Insights from the use of medicinal plants. PLoS ONE, 14(3), 1–15.
Silva, R. H., Medeiros, P. M., Ferreira Júnior, W. S., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2017). Human mnesic performance in a survival scenario: The application of the adaptive memory concept in ethnobiology. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 9(6), 1–6.
Smail, D. L. (2018). The inner demons of the better angels of our nature. Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, 44(1), 117–127.
Sousa, D. C. P., Soldati, G. T., Monteiro, J. M., Araujo, T. A. S., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2016). Information retrieval during free listing is biased by memory: Evidence from medicinal plants. PLoS ONE, 11(11), e0165838. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165838
Stanford, M. (2019). The cultural evolution of human nature. Acta Biotheoretica. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10441-019-09367-7
Stevenson, R., Oaten, M., Case, T., & Repacholi, B. (2014). Is disgust prepared? A preliminary examination in young children. The Journal of General Psychology, 141(4), 326–347.
Sugiyama, M. S. (1996). On the origins of narrative. Human Nature, 7(4), 403–425.
Sütterlin, C., Schiefenhövel, W., Lehmann, C., Forster, J., & Apfelauer, G. (2014). Art as behaviour—an ethological approach to visual and verbal art, music and architecture. Anthropologischer Anzeiger, 71(1–2), 3–13.
Symons, D. (1987). If we’re all Darwinians, what’s the fuss about. In C. B. Crawford, M. F. Smith, & D. Krebs (Eds.), Sociobiology and psychology (pp. 121–146). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1990). The past explains the present: Emotional adaptations and the structure of ancestral environments. Ethology and Sociobiology, 11(4–5), 375–424.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992). The psychological foundations of culture. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 19–136). New York: Oxford University Press.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2005). Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 5–67). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2015). The theoretical foundations of evolutionary psychology. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (pp. 3–87). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Townsend, J. B., & Barton, S. (2018). The impact of ancient tree form on modern landscape preferences. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 34, 205–216.
Weinstein, J., Bugg, J. M., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). Can the survival recall advantage be explained by basic memory processes? Memory & Cognition, 36(5), 913–919.
Wilke, A., & Todd, P. M. (2018). Studying the evolution of cognition: Toward more methodological diversity in evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 12(3), 133–134.
Wilson, E. O. (1975). Sociobiology: A new synthesis (p. 720). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Wixted, J. T., Goldinger, S. D., Squire, L. R., Kuhn, J. R., Papesh, M. H., Smith, K. A., et al. (2018). Coding of episodic memory in the human hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716443115
Yang, L., Lau, K. P. L., & Truong, L. (2014). The survival effect in memory: Does it hold into old age and non-ancestral scenarios? PLoS ONE, 9(5), 1–9.
Young, S. G., Brown, C. M., & Ambady, N. (2012). Priming a natural or human-made environment directs attention to context-congruent threatening stimuli. Cognition & Emotion,26, 927–933.
This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001. Contribution of the INCT Ethnobiology, Bioprospecting and Nature Conservation, certified by CNPq, with financial support from FACEPE (Foundation for Support to Science and Technology of the State of Pernambuco - Grant Number: APQ-0562-2.01/17). Thanks to CNPq for the productivity grant awarded to UPA. We also acknowledge the CAPES for the grant awarded to JM, and the Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia de Pernambuco (FACEPE) for the grant awarded to RHS. To the anonymous reviewers who improved our paper with their comments.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Moura, J.M.B., da Silva, R.H., Ferreira Júnior, W.S. et al. Theoretical Insights of Evolutionary Psychology: New Opportunities for Studies in Evolutionary Ethnobiology. Evol Biol 47, 6–17 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-020-09491-0
- Adaptive memory
- Hierarchical memory
- Human evolution
- Naturalist mind
- Social-ecological systems