Evolved Psychological Mechanisms and Its Properties

We, human beings, have moved up from the ape lineage to be such functional entities that it sometimes becomes impossible to imagine our roots back to that age. The journey has been full of ups and downs, modifications and changes, and acquainted with the environmental context. The quest to find answers and argue tenets have waged war since immemorial and on infinite subjects. The focus on developing the critical assets of evolved psychological systems is innumerable.

Essential Properties of Evolved Psychological Mechanisms

Functionality is the primary nonarbitrary way to identify, explain, and comprehend psychological mechanisms. Adaptive issues are specialized and require specific solutions, such as avoiding being attacked by snakes, choosing a setting with access to water and spaces, avoiding toxic foods, choosing a fruitful spouse, etc. To successfully tackle these selection issues, we require precise choice requirements that are a component of our selection methods. Errors provide an example of how specific processes are.

Offer Objective Standards

A fundamental tenet of evolutionary psychology is that articulating the functionalities of psychological mechanisms—the specific adaptive issues that natural selection created to address—is the primary nonarbitrary way to identify, explain, and comprehend psychological mechanisms. Think about the human body. In theory, there are an unlimited array of methods to explain how the body works. Why do anatomists classify the liver, heart, hand, and fingers as different mechanisms?

The function is the solution. It is understood that the liver is a system that carries out tasks distinct from those carried out by the pulse or the arm. While adjacent, the nose and eyes have diverse functions and respond to different signals. It would be absurd for an anatomist to combine the nose and the eyes into one group. Identifying function is necessary to comprehend the individual body parts. A nonarbitrary method for understanding these constituent elements is through function.

According to evolutionary psychologists, similar ideas should be applied to comprehend the workings of the mind. Although endless ways exist to partition the mind, most will be haphazard. An examination of the human mind based on functionality is practical and nonarbitrary. While they might have fascinating interactions with one another, two parts of the mind can be considered different systems if they carry out distinct tasks.

Focus on a Particular Issue

Consider offering somebody guidelines for traveling to a particular street location. A vague instruction like "go west" could lead someone astray. The person would not consistently reach the proper state using the general direction. Let us assume that the individual did arrive in the proper state. The direction of "head west" would be essentially worthless. We must furnish more excellent detailed instructions to direct the individual to the right area, town, road, and position on that street. There are numerous ways to travel to a specific street address, but some will be far faster and more effective than others.

Avoid being attacked by that snake, choose a setting with access to water and spaces to escape, refrain from eating toxic foods, choose a fruitful spouse, and so on. These are examples of specific adaptive challenges, like street addresses. The term "global adaptive issue" does not exist. Because adaptive issues are specialized, so too are their solutions. Similar to how general directions do not go to the appropriate place, generic fixes do not lead to the best adaptive fixes. Consider two adaptation challenges: choosing the right things to eat (a survival issue) and choosing a suitable partner to produce offspring (a reproduction problem).

The "working prototype" criteria vary significantly between the two issues. Finding foods with calories, specific vitamins and minerals, and no dangerous chemicals is necessary for making a successful food decision. Finding a reproductive spouse who will be an excellent parent is one crucial component of practical mate choice. The phrase "choose the first item that comes up" could be a generic answer. It may result in eating deadly plants or marrying an infertile individual, which would be devastating. In human development, no one who attempted to solve these adaptive challenges comprehensively would have derived from us. One would require more detailed information regarding the crucial characteristics of foods and partners to handle these selection dilemmas rationally.

For instance, fruit that appears ripe and crisp will indicate higher nutritional value than fruit that appears rotten. On average, women who appear young and healthy will have more children than women who appear elderly and sick. To successfully tackle these selection issues, we require precise choice requirements that are a component of our selection methods. Errors provide another example of how specific processes are.

Problem precision of adaptive responses tends to be preferred above generalization because

  • General remedies don’t lead the lifeform to the proper adaptive workarounds

  • Even though they may work, they result in too many inconsistencies and therefore expensive to the organism

  • Summary remedies cease to direct the species to the appropriate responsive remedies

  • The definition of a "successful solution" varies depending on the issue at hand.

In conclusion, to adequately address adaptive problems, adaptive solutions, in brief, have specialized processes and content-sensitive components.

Adaptive Psychological Mechanisms

Like other organisms, humans struggle with a variety of adaptation issues. The issues with thermoregulation, evading predators and pathogens, consuming foods that support life, and other issues with survivability merely exceed in the thousands. Then there are mating-related issues like choosing, luring, and retaining a good partner while evicting a poor one. Parenting issues include breastfeeding, weaning, socialization, meeting the differing requirements of various children, and others. Other issues include investing in family, such as siblings, sisters, nephews, and nieces, resolving social conflicts, protecting oneself from hostile groups, and coping with the social structure.

Many unique issues will need numerous distinct solutions because specialized issues require specific solutions. According to this theory, the mind must likewise have a multitude of different pathways, much like our bodies do, which number in the thousands. The human mind must consist of various developed psychological processes since a few mechanisms cannot resolve various adaptive issues.

Presence of Behavioural Flexibility of Evolved Psychological Mechanisms

The concept of a psychological process, which stresses the essential elements of input, decision-making processes, and output, explains why adaptations are not fixed "instincts" that manifest themselves in behavior without fail. The environment's contextual input determines how the mechanisms are activated.

Another significant difference between psychological systems and inflexible instincts is the decision-making processes. The "if, then" method of decision-making is used in phrases like "if the snake hisses, flee for your safety" and "if the person I am drawn to expresses an interest, then grin and close the distance." These decision rules allow for at least a few alternative responses for most processes.

There will typically be more alternatives for reaction, the more complicated the mechanism is. A creature can perform a new function with each additional mechanism introduced to its thinking. A bird's beak allows it to crack apart the husks of grains and nuts and access the tasty interior. With each additional mechanism introduced, the bird can perform a new challenge that it could not before.

The ability to walk and fly is provided by the bird's toes as well as its feathers. This results in an answer that goes against what most people believe to be accurate based on human intuition, which believes that having many natural systems makes behavior rigid. In actuality, the exact reverse is true. We can engage in a wider variety of actions due to having more processes, increasing our behavior's versatility.

Beyond Mental Processes that Are Domain-Specific

Each assertion suggests that humans must have various highly specialized psychological systems to resolve a particular adaptive challenge. This result, which forms the basis of evolutionary perspectives on all species, is widely accepted in evolutionary psychology. The concept that a single universal material can see deeply operate the hands, lure a partner, raise offspring, evade predation, outwitting victims, and so forth, well without specialization, is not plausible, according to one evolutionary psychologist.

It would be no wiser to assert that the mind resolves these issues by wizardry than to claim that its 'plasticity' is the source of its solutions. Nevertheless, some evolutionary psychologists have proposed that humans have developed several domain-general procedures with these particular ones. General intelligence, concept creation, analogical thinking, verbal memory, and conditioning are a few instances of postulated generic mechanisms.

Nevertheless, humans frequently devise unique solutions to age-old adaptation issues; for instance, we can procure meals from a dispenser or find partners online. Everyone acknowledges that humans have managed to thrive in a setting considerably dissimilar to the one we developed. Some claim that many data structures throughout human evolution were highly changeable, which may have favored the development of more universal psychological processes susceptible to experience.

These theories contend that domain-general procedures would be required to deal with novelty, unpredictable behavior, and variability. It is noteworthy that Kanazawa uses a similar justification but contends that "universal intelligence" is essentially a domain-specific adjustment created to address a specific category of issues—those that are developmentally unique.

Several evolutionary psychologists are still dubious about the possibility of the emergence of genuinely domain-general mechanisms. The ability to conduct novel evolutionary actions like driving a car or using the internet does not imply that the modifications that enable us to do these activities are inherently domain-general.


Humans may have superior systems that control inferior ones. Undoubtedly, psychological mechanisms that have evolved interact in complex ways. They are switched in and out in a variety of ways that are not entirely clear. Further research is needed to determine whether humans have evolved superordinate regulating mechanisms.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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