Theoretical and field issues

Kruger, D.J., Fisher, M.L., Platek, S.M., & Salmon, C. (2012). Survey of evolutionary scholars and students: Perceptions of progress and challenges. Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, 4, 23-51.

We created the first large survey of those involved in the evolutionary approach to human research regarding their perceptions on the state of this approach. Our objective was to assess scholars' perceptions of academic standing, career issues, challenges facing evolutionary scholars, and to gauge the academic strength and productivity of human evolutionary researchers. We did not attempt to gauge the theoretical progress of the approach as a science or its relative representation objectively, though we did collect participants' perceptions of scientific progress and challenges. We compiled a recruitment database of e-mails based on presenters at three iterations of three prominent evolutionary conference (2008-2010) and sent personalized invitations to participate in an on-line survey. Participants (N = 297) gave detailed information on their perceptions, challenges, hopes, and expectations for the future. Overall, participants were optimistic in their views that evolutionary research would become more accepted and prominent, although they tended to believe that growth and advancement of the field would be a gradual process. Participants' strongest concerns and recommendations for those taking an evolutionary approach to human research focused on maintaining theoretical rigor, increasing methodological sophistication, utilizing interdisciplinary approaches with convergent data from multiple methodologies, and testing competing evolutionary hypotheses against each other. Several specifically cited concerns regarding misunderstandings resulting from simplistic accounts of sex differences in mating, whether by researchers or media covering this research. Participants were very positive about the theoretical strengths of the evolutionary approach, yet they were more wary regarding the general lack of knowledge about evolution and resistance based on ideological grounds.

Kruger, D.J. (2011). Evolutionary theory in Public Health and the public health of evolutionary theory. Futures, 43, 762-770.

Considerable advances have been made in the application of evolutionary biology to health issues in recent decades. Evolutionary theory is the most powerful explanatory system in the life sciences and is the only framework that can unify knowledge in otherwise disparate fields of research. Health researchers and practitioners will considerably benefit from an understanding of the basic principles of evolution and how humans have been shaped by natural and sexual selection, even if they are not explicitly testing evolutionary hypotheses. Despite the benefits of an evolutionary framework, the challenges that face those attempting to integrate evolutionary theory into Public Health are perhaps greater than those for the social sciences. Although considerable advancements in the understanding of health issues have already been made, researchers with an evolutionary perspective are very few in number and face constraining disciplinary attributes. The slow but steady integration of evolutionary principles will gradually enhance the effectiveness of health interventions and provide an ultimate explanation for patterns in health outcomes that are otherwise puzzling. The speed to which the field of Public Health adopts a Darwinian framework will depend on its visible utility for addressing the health promotion goals of the field. Advances in medical technology will continue to extend the boundaries of saving lives in danger, however traditional Public Health efforts may be reaching their limit in encouraging health promoting behaviors. Evolutionary Life History Theory is a powerful framework that can be used for examining modern human environments and developing environments that maximize opportunities for positive health outcomes. Many of the recommendations derived from this framework converge with the visions of current public health advocates. Such substantial physical and social restructuring will face many challenges and gradual progress may be enhanced by a strong foundation of evolutionary human science.

Fisher, M.L., Kruger, D.J. & Garcia, J.R. (2011). Understanding and enhancing the role of the mass media in evolutionary psychology education. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 4, 75-82.

Mass media has always been a prominent source of science information for the general public, and more so than academic journals. The diversification of media with specialized online outlets and the participatory nature of the Internet have opened opportunities, as well as challenges, for researchers and educators. This paper represents our attempt to address this issue with respect to human evolutionary behavioral sciences, and suggest ways to successfully navigate interactions with the mass media for effective evolutionary education. We briefly review how one can interact with the mass media for educational purposes, focusing on how best to situate one's research within evolutionary theory. We describe our own experiences and those of other academic colleagues who have received mass media attention, noting both positive and negative results. We also provide specific tips on how to best interact with various forms of media.

Kruger, D. J. (2009). Evolutionary psychology and the evolution of psychology. Psychological Science Agenda, 23.

Invited, peer reviewed article for the special section on Evolutionary Theory and Psychology.

The framework of evolutionary theory will be increasingly adopted as the foundation for a cumulative understanding of psychological science. As the unifying theory of the life sciences, evolution by natural and sexual selection offers an unparalleled ability to integrate currently disparate research areas (Wilson, 1998), creating a powerful framework for understanding the complex patterns of causality in psychological and behavioral phenomena. The evolutionary perspective will grow from its perceived status as a special interest area into an organizing principle that pervades every corner of every field, as well as serve as a bridge across levels of analysis.

Fisher, M.L., Goetz, A.T., Hill, S.E., Kruger, D.J., Michalski, R.L., Osipowicz, K., Platek, S.M., & Salmon, C. (2009). Voices from the field: Current trends and experiences in evolutionary psychology. Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, 1, 11-33.

In 2004, Fisher, Kruger, Platek, and Salmon published an article describing their experiences as recent graduate students and newly hired faculty with strong interests in Evolutionary Psychology. Part of the intent was to offer guidance to students and their supervisors on how to become established in the field. Five years have past since the initial publication. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, and 150 years since the publication of his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, providing a logical opportunity for reflection on the state of the field. We offer an update on our own positions and evaluate the current prospects of the field, as well as add the experiences of three evolutionary psychologists who just recently made the transition to faculty positions, and one current graduate student. Similar to the original article, we offer our insights with the hope that it is instructive for students and educators.

Kruger, D.J. (2008). The importance of multi-level theoretical integration in biopsychosocial research. Psychological Topics, 16, 225-240.

Invited, peer reviewed article for the special issue on the biopsychosocial approach to health and illness.

There is a growing interest in the unification of health research in a biopsychosocial framework. However, increasing specialization and advancement in instrumentation makes it more difficult to bridge understanding across areas. It would be very useful to ground biopsychosocial research in the most powerful explanatory framework in the life sciences, evolution by natural and sexual selection. This would require and explanation of the functional significance of the phenomena related to the area of study, in addition to descriptions of the mechanism. The application of an integrative evolutionary framework will be illustrated with the example of sex differences in human mortality rates, which are related to endocrine, psychological, and socio-environmental factors. The integrative evolutionary model will be contrasted with a theoretical model that acknowledges physiological and social influences, but artificially separates them.

Fisher, M., Kruger, D.J., Platek, S.M., & Salmon, C. (2004). Reflections from The Next Generation: These are the Voyages of Students in Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology, 2, 160-173.

There appears to be a common belief among evolutionary psychologists that academic positions may be difficult to obtain. Similar to many contemporary students involved in Evolutionary Psychology (EP), we were concerned as to our academic job prospects. This worry seems to be frequently shared by academic supervisors, as a training in EP may make a student undesirable for future academic positions. As recent students in EP who now possess academic positions, we have reflected upon our experiences to provide advice as to what students and their supervisors can do to improve their employment prospects. We begin by individually discussing our backgrounds, including the details of our current positions, and then come together in the discussion section to offer some suggestions to students and supervisors.

A Philosophical Analysis of Evolutionary Psychology

This paper will attempt an analysis and evaluation of the meta-theory of evolutionary psychology from the framework of Rychlak's (1990) fundamental dimensions of theoretical orientation. There are some who believe that an evolutionary approach will become a popular paradigm in the social sciences. Some of the implications stemming from the analysis of this theoretical approach will be discussed.

Kruger, D. J. (2002). The deconstruction of Constructivism. American Psychologist, 57, 456-457.

This manuscript concerns Kenneth Gergen's paper on postmodernism, appearing in the October 2001 edition of the American Psychologist. Gergen, possibly unintentionally, provides an enlightening account of postmodernism, dropping several hints to the careful reader as to the true nature of this school of thought. Like many of the recent artistic and literary trends, postmodernism has its roots in the Dada movement of the early 20th century. Postmodernists are interested in philosophical speculation for the sake of intellectual discourse, rather than the pursuit of truth or knowledge. Once aware of this fact, psychologists and other scientists will be better prepared for postmodern dialogue.