Research Topic

Evolutionary Theory: Fringe or Central to Psychological Science

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For the past several decades a meta-theoretical perspective, which views the brain as an information processor that operates on cognitive representations, has dominated psychological theory and research. The “brain-as-a-computer” metaphor is central to modern cognitive psychology and is the dominant ...

For the past several decades a meta-theoretical perspective, which views the brain as an information processor that operates on cognitive representations, has dominated psychological theory and research. The “brain-as-a-computer” metaphor is central to modern cognitive psychology and is the dominant perspective from which brain function is conceptualised and studied. As modern computers fail to emulate cognitive feats (such as face recognition and speech comprehension) which normally functioning (human) brains routinely achieve, and vice versa (brains often fail to reason logically or to produce rational behaviour, for example – acts achievable with relatively simple computational processes), one must question the continued utility of the “brain-as-a-computer” metaphor.

Over a similar time period a relatively new field of psychology, evolutionary psychology, the application of evolutionary theory to understanding human behaviour and cognition, has gained momentum and recognition. Evolutionary Psychology is often viewed as a topic of research within the broader field of Psychology. Unlike other core Psychology topic areas (such as Personality, Learning or Developmental Psychology), however, Evolutionary Psychology is not defined by the subset of psychological phenomena it seeks to describe and understand. It is instead defined by a specific meta-theoretical perspective, from which it seeks to (potentially) explain all psychological phenomena. This over-arching nature provides an opportunity for evolutionary meta-theory to offer an alternative to the information-processing/representational view of brain function.

The following three criteria are suggested as a starting point to assess whether evolutionary psychology is to present a successful alternative to the current information-processing/representational view of brain function:

1. It must present not just an alternative, but also an improvement to the current perspective. This improvement ought to be both in the form of a more sound theoretical basis as well as greater utility in driving empirical research (generating, testing, and rejecting/refining hypotheses).
2. It must prove relevant and appropriate to all core areas of psychological research.
3. It should help to bridge the gap between psychology and other relevant research areas (such as neuroscience, behavioural ecology and medicine) to promote integrative, cross-disciplinary research.

Submissions (including mini-reviews, reviews, and research articles) exploring whether a new meta-perspective is required/appropriate; the extent to which evolutionary psychology meets the above criteria; and also examining how an alternative meta-theory might be achieved, what it would look like and how it would need to be applied to the various areas of modern psychological research are encouraged from all prospective authors.


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