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Keywords:

  • human evolution;
  • niche construction;
  • human behavioral ecology;
  • evolutionary psychology;
  • adaptive lag

Abstract

Niche construction is the process whereby organisms modify selective environments, thereby affecting evolution. The niche-construction perspective is particularly relevant to researchers using evolutionary methods to interpret human behavior and society. On the basis of niche-construction theory, we argue against the hypothesis that modern humans experience an atypically large adaptive lag. We stress that humans construct their world largely to suit themselves and frequently buffer adaptive lag through cultural niche construction. Where they are unable to do that, natural selection of genes rapidly ensues. Our argument has implications for evolutionary psychology and human behavioral ecology, and suggests that the methods of the latter are potentially applicable to all human societies, even postindustrial ones.