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Evolutionary psychology (EP) attempts to explain mental and psychological traits—such as memory, perception, or language—as adaptations, that is, as the functional products of natural selectionor sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about biological mechanisms, such as the immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.Most research in evolutionary psychology focuses on humans.
Evolutionary psychologists see much of human behavior as having foundations in psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrentproblems in human ancestral environments. They hypothesize, for example, that humans have inherited special mental capacities for acquiring speech, making it nearly automatic, while inheriting no suchcapacity for reading and writing. Other adaptations, according to these theories, might include the abilities to read others' emotions, to discern kin from non-kin, to identify and prefer bettermates, to reciprocate help, and so on. Evolutionary psychology describes organisms as in conflict with others of their species, including mates and relatives. For example, mother mammals and their youngoffspring sometimes struggle over weaning, which benefits mother more than the child. Humans, however, have a marked capacity for cooperation as well.
Evolutionary psychologists see those behaviorsor aspects of society that are nearly universal, such as parent-child conflicts, as more likely to reflect evolved adaptations. Evolved psychological adaptations (such a the ability to learn a...