Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness
EP argues that to properly understand the functions of the brain, one must understand the properties of the environment in which the brain evolved. That environment is often referred to as the "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" (EEA).
The term "environment of evolutionary adaptedness" was coined by John Bowlby as part of attachment theory. It refers to the environment to which a particular evolved mechanism is adapted. More specifically, the EEA is defined as the set of historically recurring selection pressures that formed a given adaptation, as well as those aspects of the environment that were necessary for the proper development and functioning of the adaptation.
Humans, comprising the genus Homo, appeared between 1.5 and 2.5 million years ago, a time that roughly coincides with the start of the Pleistocene 1.8 million years ago. Because the Pleistocene ended a mere 12,000 years ago, most human adaptations either newly evolved during the Pleistocene, or were maintained by stabilizing selection during the Pleistocene. Evolutionary psychology therefore proposes that the majority of human psychological mechanisms are adapted to reproductive problems frequently encountered in Pleistocene environments. In broad terms, these problems include those of growth, development, differentiation, maintenance, mating, parenting, and social relationships.
The EEA is significantly different from modern society. Our ancestors lived in smaller groups, had more cohesive cultures, and had more stable and rich contexts for identity and meaning. Researchers look to existing hunter-gatherer societies for clues as to how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. Since hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian, the ancestral population may have been egalitarian as well, a social pattern different from the hierarchies found in chimp bands. Unfortunately, the few surviving hunter-gatherer societies are different from each other, and they have been pushed out of the best land and into harsh environments, so it is not clear how closely they reflect ancestral culture.
Evolutionary psychologists sometimes look to chimpanzees, bonobos, and other great apes for insight into human ancestral behavior. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha argue that evolutionary psychologists have overemphasized our similarity to chimps, which are more violent, while underestimating our similarity to bonobos, which are more peaceful.
Read more about this topic: Evolutionary Psychology
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