A natural history of mind: the role of evolutionary explanations in psychology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Evolutionary theory has been employed to explain psychological and social phenomena for over a hundred years. However, despite various claims that evolutionary theory should be considered the dominant theoretical framework for psychology, mainstream psychologists have resisted the widespread use of evolutionary explanations in their domain. This thesis aims to clarify the role of evolutionary explanations in psychology. In particular, I demonstrate that a clearer understanding of the role of evolutionary explanations in psychology is obtained by drawing on some recent literature in the philosophy of science. Evolutionary theory, I argue offers a coherent, unifying, explanatory framework for psychology, and evolutionary explanations should have a more prominent role in psychological science than they have had in the past. However, mainstream psychological theory will not be entirely replaced by theories drawn from the evolutionary research programme. The relationship between evolutionary explanations and other sorts of explanations in psychology is clarified, and some suggestions as to what evolutionary theory offers the future of psychology are forwarded.