| The manifesto of evolutionary psychology was written by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby [Barkow et al]. It is as follows. Much of human behaviour was hard-wired into our nervous systems over the hundreds of thousands of years in which our species were hunter-gatherers. We are thus equipped with many modules which ensure that we will make appropriate responses to various stimuli in order to ensure our survival as a species. Some of those modules ensure that we avoid things which are dangerous - some are specific (e.g. snake module) and some are more general (e.g. warning module). As hunter-gatherers, we lived in a world with other animals which were larger and stronger, faster and fiercer than us. We thus had to stay in groups to hunt animals which we ate and to be warned of animals which ate us. Thus other modules ensure that we behave appropriately with respect to other people - some specific (e.g. facial-recognition module) and some more general (e.g. cheating-detection module).|
Noam Chomsky struck an early blow to the SSSM in his devastating review of Verbal Behaviour by B. F. Skinner, in which Skinner had "explained" verbal behaviour in terms of instrumental conditioning [Chomsky 1959]. His proposal for an alternative was that verbal behaviour was better explained as the unfolding of a language-acquisition device (LAD) from the inside out rather than conditioning from the outside in [Chomsky 1966]. However, the outside-in influence is still important. The child does not grow in a vacuum. S/he must live in a language community to acquire a language. Jerome Bruner calls this the language-acquisition support system (LASS) [Bruner]. In short then, every LAD needs a LASS.
The shift proposed by evolutionary psychologists may be superficially seen as a shift to an emphasis on nature over nurture in the nature-nurture debate. However, they have made it clear that this is a false dichotomy. Human nature is perhaps better described as human nature-nurture. The focus should not be on the LAD (nature) or on the LASS (nurture) but on the dance of the LAD-LASS couple. Evolutionary psychologists argue that the primary process is the unfolding of the genetic potential from the inside out and the secondary process is the influence of the environment from the outside in - the LAD leads and they are beginning to hear the tune they are dancing to.
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