As the archeologist dusted off the dirt and debris from the skeleton, she noticed something strange: The left side of the skull had a large dent, apparently from a ferocious blow, and the rib cage—also on the left side—had the head of a spear lodged in it. Back in the laboratory, scientists determined that the skeleton was that of a Neanderthal man who had died roughly 50,000 years ago, the earliest known homicide victim. His killer, judging from the damage to the skull and rib cage, bore the lethal weapon in his right hand.
The fossil record of injuries to bones reveals two strikingly common patterns (Jurmain et al., 2009; Trinkaus & Zimmerman, 1982; Walker, 1995). First, the skeletons of men contain far more fractures and dents than do the skeletons of women. Second, the injuries are located mainly on the left frontal sides of the skulls and skeletons, suggesting right-handed attackers. The bone record alone cannot tell us with certainty that combat among men was a central feature of human ancestral life. Nor can it tell us with certainty that men evolved to be the more physically aggressive sex. But skeletal remains provide clues that yield a fascinating piece of the puzzle of where we came from, the forces that shaped who we are, and the nature of our minds today.
The huge human brain, approximately 1,350 cubic centimeters, is the most complex organic structure in the known world. Understanding the human mind/brain mechanisms in evolutionary perspective is the goal of the new scientific discipline called evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology focuses on four key questions: (1) Why is the mind designed the way it is—that is, what causal processes created, fashioned, or shaped the human mind into its current form? (2) How is the human mind designed—what are its mechanisms or component parts, and how are they organized? (3) What are the functions of the component parts and their organized structure—that is, what is the mind designed to do? (4) How does input from the current environment interact with the design of the human mind to produce observable behavior? Contemplating the mysteries of the human mind is not new. Ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Plato wrote manifestos on the subject. More recently, theories of the human mind such as the Freudian theory of psychoanalysis, the Skinnerian theory of reinforcement, and connectionism have vied for the attention of psychologists.
1. The Scientific Movements Leading to Evolutionary Psychology
2. The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology
3. Combating the Hostile Forces of Nature: Human Survival Problems
4. Men’s Long-Term Mating Strategies
5. Women’s Long-Term Mating Strategies
6. Short-Term Sexual Strategies
7. Problems of Parenting
8. Problems of Kinship
9. Cooperative Alliances
10. Aggression and Warfare
11. Status, Prestige, and Social Dominance
12. Conflict Between the Sexes
13. Toward a Unified Evolutionary Psychology