Essay on The Impact Of Evolutionary Thought On Psychology

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Assess the impact of evolutionary thought on psychology. Illustrate your answer with examples of relevant research.
The notion of evolution, as described by both Lamarck and Darwin in the 1800’s, had such an impact on intellectual life that it has changed the way we study the human mind today. Darwin’s (1859) theory is still widely accepted as what we know as the theory of natural selection, and provides a structure for examining human behaviour. He saw the future of psychology as “based on a new foundation”, and evolutionary psychology is now still emerging and developing. Darwinian evolution means we can ask how each aspect of human nature is adaptive as it allows many approaches to be covered by one theory, and provides a “theoretical framework” about the mind (Dunbar, Barrett, & Lycett, 2007).

In the late 1890’s Herbert Spencer was the first philosopher to apply evolutionary thought to psychology. He explained that “the mind can be understood only by observing how the mind is evolved” and viewed development as a process by which connections between ideas imitate the environment, combining associationism and sensorimotor physiology with Lamarckian evolution (Leahey, 2004). Spencer described how the brain’s innate reflexes are habits learned from the world. This may not be during an individual’s life, but in the life of the species.

Spencer’s view of evolution remained Lamarckian (Freeman, 1974) in that variations happen through intentional actions. Conversely, Darwin…

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