Natural History of the Mind

Term: Fall 2010

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6112

This seminar explores the emerging field of evolutionary psychology. Concerned with the natural history of higher-order cognitive processes, evolutionary psychology approaches the mind as a toolbox of specialized cognitive systems that evolved to meet recurrent problems in the environments inhabited by our ancestors. The seminar pays special attention to those adaptations that enabled human social and cultural life. We will examine a number of questions, including: What was the nature of the physical and social environments in which uniquely human cognitive systems evolved? What continuities are there between human cognition and the cognition of other animals? What contemporary behaviors reveal evolved adaptations? Which do not? What can evolutionary studies tell us about the way our minds are organized? What role does the environment play in the expression of adapted mechanisms? In what ways does evolutionary psychology misuse evolutionary theory?

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