How to Become an Evolutionary Psychologist

Overview

The profession of an evolutionary psychologist is one that revolves around the study of human behavior and sometimes even animals. In this branch of psychology, the characters that people display are directly attributed to the processes of internal evolutions that people go through. The law of natural selection is responsible for this process, hence is touted as the reason for the tendencies that people exhibit in their lives. It uses a biological approach in understanding such tendencies. Usually, since behavior is a common way of handling psychology, this profession can virtually work in every place where the expertise of a psychologist is needed.

What Does an Evolutionary Psychologist Do?

Evolutionary psychology is a very specialized niche of psychology, looking to study aspects of human behavior as biological evolutionary adaptations. Individuals working in this field believe that most human behavior can be explained by understanding psychological processes; that the behaviors we exhibit today are a result of the evolutionary pressures faced by our ancestors. Individuals displaying such psychological characteristics historically had a benefit in terms of survival and reproduction, leading in turn to the natural selection of these traits within the population as a whole.

The viewpoint of individuals within the field of evolutionary psychology can be broken down as follows:

  • The brain is used to gather information from the environment, it has been impacted by natural selection.
  • Behavior is generated in response to the information gathered. To understand the behavior we need to understand the process that interprets the gathered information and reacts.
  • The processes generating this reaction are adaptions – certain reactions in our ancestors were an advantage to survival and reproduction.
  • This leads to the brain being seen as a collection of specialist processes.
  • Describing these processes allows greater understanding of cultural and social norms.

Psychologists in this field may consider areas such as ethics, beliefs, religion, interpretation of information. Understanding these areas helps to better understand human interactions. They will often look for patterns in behavior with a goal to predicting how people may act under certain circumstances or to understand why someone acts the way they do under certain stressors. Research is often done by gathering information from the public (via surveys or interviews etc.) in a bid to spot these patterns.

Evolutionary psychologists believe that by understanding the way the brain has adapted over time – by understanding which psychological traits have been ‘selected’ over time – we can better make sense of the action we see in mankind today.

Real world uses of evolutionary psychology have been suggested in fields such as law and consumer behavior. Several philosophers have also taken an interest in the study but the area can be a little contentious and not all scientists agree with their assertions as proof for many of their theories can be difficult to show. Those undertaking the study of evolutionary psychology often work in research to further the field and in teaching and writing of its principles.

Why Do We Need Evolutionary Psychologists?

Evolutionary psychologists are members of a relatively new field of psychology. The research they are conducting is providing a new and interesting perspective on why people take the actions they do, and the potential evolutionary reasons behind human behavior. Their focus on trying to explain behaviors and actions in this way may provide innovate interventions for people who have tried other types of psychological intervention.

By looking at mental processes as a result of evolutionary pressure on the survival of the individual, evolutionary psychologists offer a new perspective on all aspects of human behavior – from learning and development, to social interactions and even religious belief. Evolutionary psychologists are trying to answer questions such as: Why are humans altruistic? Why do humans have such proportionately large brains? and Why do some people have a religious faith and other not? A better understanding of areas such as these may offer further insight into society more generally and an individual’s role within it.

Further work in evolutionary psychology will not only progress that field, but may have significant impacts upon other areas of psychology – such as behavioral or cognitive psychology – and alter treatment options to patients seeking psychological help.

What are the Education Requirements to Become an Evolutionary Psychologist?

There are a number of disciplines that students need to take up in college if they are to be able to practice as an evolutionary psychologist. Definitely, one will have to do a bachelor’s degree in a field that is closely related to psychology. After this, the student needs to enroll for a doctoral program in psychology, leaning towards evolutionary psychology. Obviously there are a number of subjects that have to be learnt and one will take close to six or five years to come out academically prepared for the profession. The disciplines that will be learnt in this doctoral program include evolution of human beings in terms of their behavior and intellect. Such subjects as anthropology and biology form part of the instruction and so does sociology. Lots of research is done and a dissertation report is usually expected of the learner in the end.

The other option would be to go for a doctoral in Evolutionary Psychology and Ethology. This one takes a more in depth biological and evolutionary approach. Thus, the student can expect to be taught genetic structures of human beings, physiology, cognitive behavior, the laws of natural selection, human learning stages as well neurological sciences. Here too students can expect lots of research and a dissertation report in the end.

To gain admission into a doctoral degree program that will pave the way for career in evolutionary psychology, one needs a bachelor’s degree and generally a good score in the GRE test.

Where Does an Evolutionary Psychologist Work?

Education

In many schools and colleges, there is a need to have proper understanding of students’ behavior. Usually, tutors or instructors may have to deal with unruly behavior and other student emotional problems. Most of these institutions have an evolutionary psychologist who helps bridge the gap of understanding between the administration and students. Also, the process and efficacy of learning has been strengthened simply with the help of this professional who is able to propose measures that will be more agreeable in the learning process.

Medicine

The core function of this sector is to diagnose diseases and treat people. There are some diseases that come about as a result of the tendency by the body to adapt to new changes. Thus, evolutionary psychologists are also very instrumental in the treatment of such disorders especially as they may be related to mental health.

Research

Like the other branches of psychology, this particular type also has a strong need for research. Thus, an evolutionary psychologist may be expected to carry out studies concerning several aspects of human behavior. One may be contracted by learning institutions, hospitals or various other bodies that have a crucial need to know the origin and causes of certain behaviors in the people it deals with.

What is the Salary for an Evolutionary Psychologist?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specifically identify evolutionary psychology as a separate field, however, the American Psychological Association places the annual yearly salary for experimental psychology – a closely related field – at a range of $76,090-$116,343.

The experience of the professional is also a factor in the pay that is earned. Some of these professionals apply for sponsorship to conduct researches and hence this is also a factor in the amount they can earn.

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