Bridging developmental systems theory and evolutionary psychology using dynamic optimization

Authors

  • Willem E. Frankenhuis,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands and Cognitive Development Center, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
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  • Karthik Panchanathan,

    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri, USA
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  • H. Clark Barrett

    1. Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, UCLA Department of Anthropology, and FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
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Address for correspondence: Willem E. Frankenhuis, Department of Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, PO Box 9104, 6500 HE, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; e-mail: wfrankenhuis@gmail.com

Abstract

Interactions between evolutionary psychologists and developmental systems theorists have been largely antagonistic. This is unfortunate because potential synergies between the two approaches remain unexplored. This article presents a method that may help to bridge the divide, and that has proven fruitful in biology: dynamic optimization. Dynamic optimization integrates developmental systems theorists’ focus on dynamics and contingency with the ‘design stance’ of evolutionary psychology. It provides a theoretical framework as well as a set of tools for exploring the properties of developmental systems that natural selection might favor, given particular evolutionary ecologies. We also discuss limitations of the approach.

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