Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology and Genetics


Much of human behaviour, including violence and those activities thought to be characteristic of each sex, has been attributed to the heritage of human evolution. These ideas have stimulated much discussion but have been criticised for playing down the interplay between the developing individual and the environment. In modern times, their clearest expression has been those in the writings of the sociobiologists and the evolutionary psychologists.

Key Concepts

  • The subjects of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology drew attention to the current utilities of behaviour patterns but often confused functions with the historical processes that gave rise to them and did not consider development.
  • The concepts of instinct and innateness have caused much confusion because so many different meanings are attached to them. It is better to state what has been demonstrated or intended than perpetuate the confusion.
  • Plasticity and robustness are often treated as opposites, but the processes that give rise to plasticity are often highly robust and robust behavior is often the product of plasticity during development.

Keywords: development; evolution; adaptation; behavioural ecology; gene regulation


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Further Reading

Laland KN and Brown GR (2011) Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behavior, 2nd edn. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (A sane account of the successes and excesses of biological approaches to human behavior).

Noble D (2006) The Music of Life: Biology beyond the Genome. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (A delightful account of how to re‐assemble the organism after the successes of molecular biology).

Workman L and Reader W (2014) Evolutionary Psychology, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (A good text‐book treatment of the subject).

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Bateson, Patrick(May 2016) Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology and Genetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005855.pub3]