Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Adaptationist Program, The

  • Max KrasnowEmail author
  • Danielle Truxaw
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1858-1



An approach to testing theories about species-typical traits that focusses on the fit between an organism’s traits and relevant features of that species’ ancestral ecology.


How do birds know when to fly south? How do they find their way? How do people learn to speak and read? When are they generous? When are they cruel?

When studying these and other questions about the nature of naturally selected organisms, one can gain a distinct advantage by considering the ecology in which the organism’s ancestors evolved and what problems they faced. The adaptationist program offers a framework and approach for testing theories about naturally selected organisms.

The Adaptationist Framework

An adaptationist does not assume or purport that all (or even most) features of organisms are adaptations. An organism, or the “nature” of a species (e.g., “human nature”), can be dissected into an infinite number of features (e.g., having...

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  1. Gould, S. J., & Lewontin, R. C. (1979). The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 205(1161), 581–598.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992). The psychological foundations of culture. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 19–136). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Tooby, J., & DeVore, I. (1987). The reconstruction of hominid behavioral evolution through strategic modeling. In W. G. Kinzey (Ed.), The evolution of human behavior: Primate models (pp. 187–237). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  4. Williams, G. C. (1966). Adaptation and natural selection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gary L Brase
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA