chapter  15
18 Pages

Proximate and Ultimate Origins of a Bias for Prototypical Faces: An Evolutionary Social Cognitive Account: Jamin Halberstadt

T he use of evolutionary reasoning has been sometimes fruitful, andequally often controversial. Skeptics rightly criticize sometimes-sloppyor seemingly unfalsifiable adaptive stories that are all-too-easy to muster as support for otherwise weak theoretical positions. Meanwhile evolutionary psychologists tout the field as the critical link between psychology and the natural sciences, sometimes condemning the unconvinced as unscientific, or even intellectually backward (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). Ketelaar and Ellis (2000) have argued that evolutionary psychology itself is not a theory subject to falsification, but a “metatheory” to be judged on its success in organizing empirical findings. This perspective echoes similar arguments for the primacy of ultimate explanations based on their ability to constrain research: evolutionary theory defines the space of plausible proximate psychological mechanisms, and therefore must be considered before exploring those mechanisms. Evolutionary psychologists ask, in effect: How can we understand how a psychological process works without knowing what it is designed to do? Thus, there exists a tension between a belief, fostered by evolutionary psychologists, that an evolutionary approach is necessary

to scientific psychological progress, and the often legitimate sense that particular evolutionary accounts of psychological phenomena are untested and untestable.