Satoshi Kanazawa Does Not Speak for All of Evolutionary Psychology

May 17, 2011 in Blog

Satoshi Kanazawa’s latest controversy regarding his article (removed from the PT site)  “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” (see Mikhail Lyubanksy’s excellent response “Beauty May Be In Eye of Beholder But Eyes See What Culture Socializes“) has sparked me to make a point I’ve wanted to make for a very long time now:

Satoshi Kanazawa is not the only evolutionary psychologist and by no means speaks for all of evolutionary psychology.

Far from it, in fact.

In a 2010 issue of the very prestigious journal American Psychologist, an article by Kanazawa appeared, which was called  “Evolutionary Psychology and Intelligence Research”. Many of my colleagues and I were very intrigued, since this is an awesome topic, and the reconciliation of these two important fields of psychology is, in my view, one of the most fascinating issues in all of psychology.

However, many of us were appalled to see such poor logic, lack of nuance, and blatant disregard for the totality of the evidence.

To respond, 35 of *the* leading evolutionary psychologists and intelligence researchers of our time including Lars Penke, Denny Borsboom, Steven Pinker, David Buss, Geoffrey Miller, Daniel Nettle, Steven Gangestad, Jelte M. Wicherts, Wendy Johnson, Ian Deary, Linda Gottredson, Rex Jung, and Samuel Gosling submitted a commentary to American Psychologist reacting to Kanazawa’s article.

It was accepted for publication and will be published soon in American Psychologist. The title is Evolutionary psychology and intelligence research cannot be integrated the way Kanazawa (2010) suggests.

An advance copy of the paper can be downloaded here.

Here is the first paragraph of the commentary:

“Evolutionary psychologists search for human universals, differential psychologists for variation around common human themes. So far evolutionary psychology and differential psychology seem somewhat disparate and unconnected, although Kanazawa (2010) is certainly not the first to attempt integrating them (see Penke, 2010, and references therein). Kanazawa uses intelligence to elaborate his view of integration. His evolutionary theory of intelligence is based on two assumptions: 1) General intelligence (g) is both an individual-differences variable and a domain- specific adaptation, and (2) the domain to which general intelligence is adapted is evolutionary novelty. Both claims are erroneous.”

I have never before seen such a unified response but I think in this case it was warranted and the authors make very good points.

Evolutionary psychology is a multi-faceted field with lots of internal dialogue and criticism. While evolutionary psychology is not my primary field, I find many of the findings and thinking from the field immensely useful and informative for my understanding of human intelligence, creativity, and personality. I would hate for an entire field and all the wonderful work going on in that field to be disregarded out of hand because of the writings of one particular researcher within that field.

© 2011 by Scott Barry Kaufman

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