2 Evolutionary Psychology

Behavioral Neuroscience

  1. Russil Durrant PhD1,
  2. Bruce J. Ellis PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop203002

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Durrant, R. and Ellis, B. J. 2012. Evolutionary Psychology. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 3:2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Victoria University of Wellington, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Wellington, New Zealand

  2. 2

    University of Arizona, Department of Family Studies and Human Development, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Evolutionary psychology is the application of the principles and knowledge of evolutionary biology to psychological theory and research. Evolutionary psychologists typically assume that the human brain is comprised of a large number of specialized mechanisms that were shaped by natural selection over vast periods of time to solve the recurrent information-processing problems faced by our ancestors. In order to address specific research questions, evolutionary psychologists employ multiple levels of explanation ranging from broad metatheoretical assumptions, to more specific middle-level theories, to actual hypotheses and predictions that are tested in research. To illustrate this approach, research on human mate selection derived from good genes sexual selection theory is reviewed. This research demonstrates how specific male traits may have been selected for because of their role in advertising genetic quality to prospective mates. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the future of evolutionary psychology with a focus on key contributions, limitations, and directions for future research.


  • evolutionary psychology;
  • adaptation;
  • good genes sexual selection