MH@H Book Reviews

Book Review: Introducing Evolutionary Psychology: A Graphic Guide

book cover: Introducing Evolutionary Psychology: A Graphic Guide

Introducing Evolutionary Psychology: A Graphic Guide by Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate offers an easy-to-read intro to the human mind’s evolution over time. The book manages to cram some substantial subject matter into simple explanations and ultra-short chapters, all accompanied by fun illustrations.

The book begins with some foundational concepts like heredity, evolution, and natural selection. To give an idea of the time scale on which evolution operates, the authors explained that the 100,000 or so years since humans began spreading out of Africa is essentially nothing at all; it’s far too short a time span to see any substantial evolutionary changes. That’s why I mentioned in the post about gender, biology, and social construction that our biology hasn’t changed, so if other things have changed, something else is going on.

I liked the book’s simple, no frills explanations, such as “Genes cannot get themselves passed on to the next generation if their owner is eaten.” Fair enough.

The book also explained why it was more useful back in the African savannah days to have a predator detection system that was fast, even if that sacrifices accuracy. Another book I recently reviewed, Rewire Your OCD Brain, explained how that feeds into OCD. Thanks, evolution. Similarly, we are basically the same humans that wanted the fat and sugar that were so rarely available way back when. Those things are everywhere now, but our brains haven’t caught onto that quite yet.

After the background material on evolution, the book moves on to some of the “mental modules” that have become ingrained into the human mind. One important mental module is mind-reading. This isn’t in the ESP or cognitive distortion sense, but rather the idea that both our and others’ behaviours stem from mental processes like beliefs and desires. That may seem self-obvious, but that’s only because of that particular mental module. My guinea pigs don’t know, nor do they care, about my beliefs and desires; all they care about is if I’m doing the behaviours and making the sounds that result in food coming their way.

There were some interesting chapters related to mate selection, including differences between the sexes in short-term mating strategies, and why women prefer older men and men prefer younger women. The evolutionary psychology angle adds a twist to biological differences between the sexes, and while there’s probably a social element as well, humans (on a species level) share the drive to procreate with many other species.

The final section of the book addresses some of the criticisms of evolutionary psychology. I found this interesting, as the reader is unlikely to be familiar with the arguments that the authors are refuting, so it’s like a one-sided argument against a Steven Pinker cartoon. And yes, there are a number of illustrations of my academic crush Steven Pinker sprinkled throughout that last section. I recognized the cartoons by the hair before I saw the name written, and from the photo below, you can probably guess why.

Steven Pinker with grey cur
Steven Pinker – Rose Lincoln /Harvard Staff Photographer

This book was a perfect fit for my lousy concentration. I find the whole idea of evolutionary psychology to be quite fascinating, and this was a quick and easy way to learn more about it.

Introducing Evolutionary Psychology: A Graphic Guide is available on Amazon. It’s free through Amazon Prime Reading (or at least it is in Canada).

You can find my other reviews on the book review index on MH@H or on Goodreads. I’ve also reviewed another book in this series, Book Review: Introducing Psychology: A Graphic Guide

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24 thoughts on “Book Review: Introducing Evolutionary Psychology: A Graphic Guide”

    1. Wikipedia says “Australopithecus afarensis lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago, and is considered one of the earliest hominins.” Crazy to think about that kind of time scale.

            1. Good article. It’s probably mental gymnastics to a degree, but I see the Bible as more metaphorical than anything else. Too much shit in there that is wicked and downright fowl to have any literal meaning. Just my two cents. As for the mental gymnastics part… I’m really not sure how that fits in. Like I said… I view things as metaphorical so… yeah. 🙂

            2. There is. Like a third of the world or something similar. I think religion does more damage than it does good. I find that people use it to manipulate and abuse others. It’s terrible in that sense. I suppose having mental illness allows some of us to think more critically of it. Me being one of them. (Even though I find limited value in it… as mentioned the other day… it’s more of a psychological “soothing,” as I don’t remember what you referred to it as.)

            3. If elements of a book gives comfort and inspiration, that’s a good thing. If fundamentalists are using it to bash others over the head with, that’s a problem.

            4. You don’t want to know about this then. Maybe you already know. But, there are (I can’t find it now via google) atheists who feel that religion is abusive and that it should be put to a stop. I’m not sure how I feel, but it’s like you said. If a book gives comfort and inspiration, then that is good.

            5. I think organized religion can be abusive in the sense that the people who organize and practice it can be abusive. But that’s the people, not the religions themselves.

  1. Wow, someone has a smokin’ hot academic crush! Woof!! 😮

    “Genes cannot get themselves passed on to the next generation if their owner is eaten.” This is hilarious. And profound.

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading this book, and that it was easy to focus on!!

    I’ve never been interested in evolutionary psychology, but maybe I should be! It does seem to shed light on modern-day pyschological issues and problems. Huh.

  2. It’s available for free via Kindle Unlimited so I downloaded it. Some lunch reading. I hope it’s better than the book I downloaded yesterday for lunch reading – (which I downloaded because of a review I saw on a blog. I have to stop reading blog book reviews in the morning…)

  3. As you say it is an easy quick read, the graphics are lost on me because I was reading it on an iPad mini and after a few times of stopping to expand the graphic and then close it, I found they weren’t worth the effort but don’t you find it is rather high school level? Haven’t you already covered all of this material, in greater detail, in various biology, anthropology, psychology and sociology classes? So for me – boring. For someone else it may be new information. Interesting information, no question, but not new to me. It is well done and I would recommend it to someone new to this general area of study.

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