Essays to Consider for PSY 363–Evolutionary Psychology

The exams will be comprised of multiple-choice questions that tap the ideas that relate to these essay exercises as well as a few essay questions from below (possibly with choice). Having prepared strong responses to these essays will be the best way to prepare for the exams in this class. I’ll be more than glad to help you with this process by meeting during office hours and going over your work, answering questions, etc.

Note that these all come from the textbook for this course and are used for educational purposes here; Geher, G. (2014). Evolutionary Psychology 101. New York: Springer.


* Explain the idea of mismatch theory in terms of evolution. In your answer, explain the idea of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA).  In your response, give examples of how modern human contexts mismatch ancestral contexts in important ways.

* Describe the notions of adaptations, natural selection, and reproductive success – including a discussion of the inter-relatedness of these concepts. Also, describe the idea of a spandrel – and address how this concept serves as an important idea to consider in thinking about adaptations in evolutionary psychology.

* Explain the distinction between organic evolution and cultural evolution. In your answer, discuss how these concepts share similarities and differences. Also, provide at least one example of each kind of evolutionary process.

*Briefly describe Dawkins’ (1976) notion of The Selfish Gene. In your answer, give an example of one kind of behavior – in any species – that explicates this concept. Finally, address the points of longevity, fidelity, and fecundity as they relate to the idea of gene replication.


* Describe Volk and Atkinson’s (2008) basic premise regarding infant mortality. In your answer, describe the basic patterns of data that these authors document – and explain how the data demonstrate a cross-cultural and cross-historical perspective. Finally, describe the implications of this research for the psychology of parenting (including, in particular, parental reactions to death and injury of children).

* Describe Gray’s (2011) ideas on modern educational systems and evolutionary psychology. In your answer, address how education takes place under non-Westernized conditions. Also, be sure to address the idea of scaffolding. Finally, briefly describe implications of this work for modern educational contexts.

* Briefly describe Hrdy’s (2009) work on parenting in pre-Westernized contexts. In your answer, address the concept of alloparenting – and briefly comment on how her work implies that there is a mismatch between ancestral parenting structures versus modern, Westernized structures.


* Gangestad and Simpson (2000) argue for the idea of strategic pluralism in human mating. What is this basic idea – and what does it imply regarding the characterization of evolutionary psychology as an immutable doctrine on human nature? Finally, what are some male and female-specific mating adapatations that they describe – and how can these be understood from an evolutionary perspective?

* Describe parental investment theory as it pertains to understanding reproductive systems that characterize particular species as well as how this theory helps us understand sex-differentiated mating strategies within species.

* Describe features of female-specific mating strategies in humans – and address how David Buss explains these strategies in terms of parental investment theory. Also, describe several specific research findings that support this evolutionary perspective on female mating.

* Describe features of male-specific mating strategies in humans – and address how David Buss explains these strategies in terms of parental investment theory. Also, describe several specific research findings that support this evolutionary perspective on male mating.

* Describe the basic ideas of Geoffrey Miller’s (2000) theory of mental fitness indicators. In your answer, address the importance of traits which are (a) partly heritable, (b) conspicuously observable, (c) highly variable across individuals, (d) without clear survival value, and (e) manifest across cultures. Be sure to address the role that sexual selection is posited to have in shaping these traits.


* Briefly describe Gallup et al.’s (2003) idea of the human penis a semen-displacement mechanism. In your answer, address how the findings from this research explicate the “selfish gene” view of evolution.

* Miller et al.’s (2007) research argues against the idea of “concealed ovulation.” What evidence do they present to argue against this idea? How does non-concealed ovulation make sense from an evolutionary perspective?

* Ovulation has been found to have effects on both male and female behaviors. Briefly describe at least two examples of each of these kinds of effects (two for males and two for females). Finally, briefly describe how these effects have been explained from an evolutionary perspective.

* Briefly describe perspectives on sexual coercion that relate to evolutionary psychology. In your answer, address how Wilson et al. (2003) discuss this topic and how they conceptualize sexual coercion in a broader social context from an evolutionary perspective.


* Briefly describe how evolutionary psychologists explain the experience of love. Be sure to set your answer in the context of monogamy and pairbonding. Also, relate your answer to issues of parental investment.

* Describe how infidelity is thought to be an adaptive hurdle in the mating domain. Also, address how research has shown that men and women seem to experience different adaptive hurdles in regard to infidelity – and how men and women seem to respond differently to infidelity as a result.

* Describe the notion of cuckoldry and how this relates to paternal assurance tactics. In your answer, describe at least three different paternal assurance tactics that seem to have evolved to address the issue of cuckoldry.

* Briefly describe the concept of mating intelligence. In your answer, be sure to describe the concepts of courtship display mechanisms along with mating mechanisms. Finally, describe the idea of mating success address how mating intelligence is thought to relate to this important variable.


* Briefly describe “the altruism problem” as it relates to evolution. Next describe kin-selection theory and how this theory – and its correlate “inclusive fitness” – addresses how evolution can account for altruism.

* Describe Trivers’ (1971) theory of reciprocal altruism. In your answer, describe the three basic characteristics of a species that must exist for reciprocal altruism to characterize that species. Finally, describe Trivers’ speculative idea that mathematical reasoning has its roots in issues surrounding reciprocal altruism.

* Describe Cosmides and Tooby’s (1992) basic methodological paradigm regarding cheater-detection. Explain how this research is rooted in Trivers’ ideas of reciprocal altruism and Dunbar’s ideas on our ancestors having small social groups. In your answer, describe basic findings from Cosmides and Tooby’s work that supports the idea of a “specialized cheater-detection module.”

* Describe Miller’s (2000) idea that altruism serves a courtship-related function. In your answer, describe what he has to say on the idea of altruism being sexy. Finally, describe one example he raises (conceptual or research-based) that speaks to this idea of altruism being an effective courtship display mechanism.

* Describe Wilson’s (2007) summary of religion. In your explanation, describe what he means by the “horizontal” and “vertical” dimensions of religion. Further, explain how he describes each of these dimensions in serving as a basis for a “successful” religion. Finally, describe what Wilson means by a “successful” religion – particularly in terms of his idea of multi-level selection.


* Describe the idea of game theory and how an analysis of “hawk versus dove” strategies can help us understand the evolution of aggressive behavior. Make sure to include a discussion of costs and benefits of aggressive acts in your answer.

* Explain the existence of male physical aggression in terms of intrasexual selection/competition. In your discussion, be sure to discuss the relevance of sexual dimorphism. Finally, address how, according to Buss (2005), homicide and murder may be thought to have adaptive benefits and may be related to intrasexual competition.

* Describe David Livingstone Smith’s (2008) evolutionarily informed theory of war. In your answer, explain what Smith means by the idea the people are both fascinated and repulsed by war. Finally, describe three specific evolutionarily informed mechanisms of dehumanization that Smith raises as it relates to human warfare.

* Briefly describe Bingham and Souza’s (2009) idea of low costs associated with killing abilities in our hominid ancestors as key in helping understand human uniqueness. In your answer, address how their theory accounts for the democratization of humans as it relates to stone-throwing ability.


* Briefly describe the mission of Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society (AEPS) along with specific areas of inquiry that it is trying to enhance. In your answer, be sure to describe the distinction between “basic” and “applied” research. Finally, describe one specific example (theoretically or documented) of the kind of applied evolutionary psychology that this society (AEPS) tries to foster.

* Describe how sexual selection theory has been used to help us understand the nature of art (Miller, 2000). In your discussion, briefly describe some research addressing specifically how art may be conceptualized as a courtship device.

* Briefly describe the interface of evolution and medicine. In your answer, address different areas of human health that are being elucidated by the application of an evolutionary perspective.

* Describe mental disorders from an evolutionary perspective. In your answer, address some specific disorders that have been studied from an evolutionary perspective along with the specific ideas from evolutionary psychology that have been applied to help elucidate these phenomena.


* Describe the basic idea of evolved behavioral sex differences. In your answer, briefly describe how Geher’s  (2006) article in Entelechy uses metaphors regarding differences between dogs and cats to explore the academic issues at hand. Be sure to address how evolutionary psychologists and social constructionists differentially address issues of how and why males and females behave differently from one another.

* Describe the idea of genetic determinism – and address how the concepts of strategic pluralism and conditional strategies relate to this issue. In your answer, address how evolutionary psychologists address this issue addressing their particular approach to situationism.

* Ketelaar and Ellis (2000) argue that evolutionary psychology provides a coherent meta-theory for understanding all of psychology. Explain how these authors argue that evolutionary psychology is “progressive,” leads to novel research questions, and is able to “digest anomalies” in a way that other field in the behavioral sciences don’t.

* Schmitt and Pilcher (2004) provide a clear sense how we can document evidence for an evolutionary adaptation.  Discuss several of the forms of evidence that they describe – and be able to address how research by Profet on pregnancy sickness provides a strong model of how to document an evolutionary adaptation within evolutionary psychology.


* Briefly describe issues regarding degree of interest in evolutionary psychology among students, the media, and professors. In your description, address points of conflict of interest, and discuss how this conflict of interest relates to the future of evolutionary psychology.

* Describe Glass, Wilson, and Geher’s (2012) work on training related to evolutionary psychology. In your answer, describe evidence relating to how far advanced evolutionary psychology is – along with hurdles that exist regarding the training of future evolutionary psychologists.

* Describe the idea of interdisciplinarity along with modern trends in interdisciplinarity in higher education. Related to this point, address the issue of “evolutionary psychology’s relatively interdisciplinary nature.” Finally, address how, taken together, these points make a case for a positive future for evolutionary psychology within modern academia.