Evolutionary psychology

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Evolutionary psychology is a cross between cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology. More precisely, evolutionary psychologists use evolutionary biology to make educated guesses regarding the function of cognitive mechanisms. This framework has proven to be quite controversial since it has been introduced in the late eighties. However, it is more and more influential, and now many psychologists will provide at least a 'just so story' explaining why the cognitive mechanisms their theories postulate are evolutionarily plausible. 

     Adaptive thinking is the drawing of inferences from the function of a mechanism to its structure, or working. This has been instrumental in developing the view of reasoning I subscribe to. According to this view, reasoning has an argumentative function. On evolutionary grounds, a good argument can be made that this function is much more plausible than the function which is generally attributed to reasoning (i.e. improving the epistemic status of our beliefs, making better decisions, dealing with novelty).

Darwin's tree of life, from one of his notebooks.


Mercier, H. (2013) "Using evolutionary thinking to cut across disciplines: the example of the argumentative theory of reasoning". In Zentall, T. & Crowley, P. (Eds.) Comparative Decision Making. Oxford University Press.  

Van der Henst, J-B., & Mercier, H., Eds. (2009) “Darwin en tête! L'évolution et les sciences cognitives". Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.

Noveck, I., Mercier, H. & Van der Henst, J-B. (2007) “Some interpretational difficulties regarding the Social Contract account of the content effect”. In Roberts, M.J. (Ed.) Integrating the Mind. Hove: Psychology Press.

(Introductions, in French)

Van der Henst, J-B. & Mercier, H. (2007) “Psychologie évolutionniste et raisonnement”. In Rossi, S. and Van der Henst, J-B. (Eds.) Psychologies du raisonnement. Bruxelles: DeBoeck.

Mercier, H. & Van der Henst, J-B. (2007) “Psychologie évolutionniste”. In Baudouin, J-Y. (Ed.) Psychologie cognitive – tome 1 : L’adulte. Breal.

Mercier, H. (2008) “Modularité“ et “Psychologie évolutionniste”. In Godelle, B. (Ed.) Manuel de biologie de l'évolution.

Mercier, H. & Van der Henst, J-B. (2009) “La Psychologie évolutionniste”. In Van der Henst, J-B. and Mercier, H. (Eds.) Darwin en tête! L'évolution et les sciences cognitives. Grenoble: PUG.