Heuristic Evolutionary Psychology

  • Armin W. Schulz
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 282)


Evolutionary psychologists are frequently accused of merely presenting evidentially unsupported speculations about the way our minds work, and of thus not being able to make compelling contributions to the science of psychology. In response, they tend to offer one of two arguments: they either claim that they do have this evidence (so that the above criticism understates the empirical support the program really has), or that they do not need this evidence, as they are using evolutionary theory merely as a heuristic device. In this paper, I critically assess the second of these responses. Specifically, I argue that, on the one hand, most examples of evolutionary psychological research – including classic ones such as Cosmides & Tooby’s work on cheater detection – do not show that there are fruitful heuristic uses of evolutionary theory in psychology. On the other hand, though, I also argue that Gergely and Csibra’s recent work on the psychology of pedagogy does show this. In this way, I make clear that the heuristic defence of evolutionary psychology, while plausible in particular cases, is not as universally compelling as is commonly supposed.


Evolutionary Theory Social Exchange Evolutionary Perspective Evolutionary Psychology Evolutionary Hypothesis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific MethodLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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