Origins of the Social Mind

Evolutionary Psychology and Child Development

Edited by Bruce J. Ellis and David F. Bjorklund

November 22, 2004
ISBN 9781593851033
Price: $76.00 $64.60
540 Pages
Size: 6⅛" x 9¼"

Until now, evolutionary psychologists have focused largely on understanding adult behavior, giving little sustained attention to childhood. Developmental psychologists, for their part, have been wary of the perceived genetic determinism of evolutionary thinking. This important volume brings together an array of prominent developmental scientists whose work is explicitly driven by evolutionary concerns. Presenting sophisticated new models for understanding gene-environment interactions, the authors demonstrate how evolutionary knowledge can enhance our understanding of key aspects of cognitive, social, and personality development. Tightly edited chapters examine how different developmental mechanisms have evolved and what role they play in children's functioning and their adaptation to adult life. Essential topics covered include parent-child relationships, aggression, puberty, infant perception and cognition, memory, language, and more.

“An admirable illustration of the fertility of an evolutionary perspective to study human development. Many of the chapters are excellent and replete of new, stimulating ideas. It also brings together numerous viewpoints on a large number of topics of interest to developmentalists. I highly recommend this book to developmental psychologists and, more generally, to psychologists interested in an evolutionary approach to the mind.”

Infant and Child Development

“The contributors to this text have excellent credentials, and Ellis and Bjorklund have done a thorough job editing the text. I was impressed with how incredibly well referenced the chapters are in the book....This is a novel text with many excellent contributing writers....The book is a landmark in the field because it applies evolutionary theory to child development and adds to the nature-nurture debate.”


“This is a timely and impressive volume from many of today’s leading scholars in the field of evolutionary developmental psychology, a perspective that is much misunderstood by mainstream developmental psychologists. The volume includes a nice mix of broad theoretical overviews of the discipline and detailed analyses of a wide range of social and cognitive phenomena. As such, it serves both to introduce the perspective to scholars and students who are unfamiliar with it and to illustrate the ways in which evolutionary thinking can inform the study of numerous aspects of development. It would make a marvelous textbook for instructors in search of something to stimulate and challenge the thinking of advanced undergraduate or graduate students interested in child development. Indeed, the next time I teach an advanced course in developmental psychology, I likely will build my syllabus around this book.”

—Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Department of Psychology, Temple University

“A cornucopia of new ideas on human development, Origins of the Social Mind is required reading for developmental psychologists.”

—Steven Pinker, PhD, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

“This volume represents the cutting edge of transdisciplinary scholarship. Relying on the theories and methods of evolutionary psychology, it broadens the reach of this emerging discipline to the field of child development. Particularly provocative are integrative, novel theories by Ellis and Belsky on topics of relevance to scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and parents. There is something here for everyone.”

—Kenneth A. Dodge, PhD, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University

Table of Contents

I. Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Developmental Psychology: Core Issues and Approaches

1. Evolutionary Psychology and Child Development: An Emerging Synthesis,

David F. Bjorklund and Bruce J. Ellis

2. Ontogeny and Evolution of the Social Child, Mark V. Flinn and Carol V. Ward

3. The Role of Developmental Plasticity in the Evolution of Human Cognition: Evidence from Enculturated, Juvenile Great Apes, David F. Bjorklund and Justin S. Rosenberg

4. Early Stress: Perspectives from Developmental Evolutionary Ecology, James S. Chisholm,

Victoria K. Burbank, David A. Coall, and Frank Gemmiti

5. Developmental Behavioral Genetics and Evolutionary Psychology: Tying the Theoretical and Empirical Threads, Nancy L. Segal and Elizabeth M. Hill

II. Personality and Social Development

6. Differential Susceptibility to Rearing Influence: An Evolutionary Hypothesis and Some Evidence, Jay Belsky

7. Determinants of Pubertal Timing: An Evolutionary Developmental Approach,

Bruce J. Ellis

8. Some Functional Aspects of Human Adolescence, Glenn E. Weisfeld and Heather C. Janisse

9. Sex Differences in Competitive and Aggressive Behavior: A View from Sexual Selection Theory, Anthony D. Pellegrini and John Archer

10. Social Behavior and Personality Development: The Role of Experiences with Siblings and with Peers, Judith Rich Harris

11. Play: Types and Functions in Human Development, Peter K. Smith

12. Evolutionary Origins and Ontogenetic Development of Incest Avoidance, Irwin Silverman and Irene Bevc

III. Cognitive Development

13. Infant Perception and Cognition: An Evolutionary Perspective on Early Learning,

David H. Rakison

14. Evolution and Development of Human Memory Systems, Katherine Nelson

15. Language Evolution and Human Development, Brian MacWhinney

16. The Evolutionary History of an Illusion: Religious Causal Beliefs in Children and Adults, Jesse M. Bering

17. Cognitive Development and the Understanding of Animal Behavior, H. Clark Barrett

18. The Empathizing System: A Revision of the 1994 Model of the Mindreading System,

Simon Baron-Cohen

19. Folk Knowledge and Academic Learning, David C. Geary

About the Editors

Bruce J. Ellis, PhD, spent the early years of his career at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand before taking up his current position as an Associate Professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona. He completed his doctoral work in evolutionary psychology at the University of Michigan and his postdoctoral work in the National Institute of Mental Health's Developmental Psychopathology Training Program at Vanderbilt University. The major focus of his research is on testing conditional adaptation models of the effects of early family environments on the timing of pubertal development and first sexual and reproductive activity. Dr. Ellis received the 1999 John F. Kennedy Center Young Scientist Award and has served on the editorial boards of Developmental Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Review, and Personal Relationships.

David F. Bjorklund, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University, where he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in developmental psychology since 1976. His research has focused primarily on children's cognitive development, particularly memory and strategy development. More recent interests include the adaptive nature of immaturity, deferred imitation in juvenile great apes, and evolutionary developmental psychology. Dr. Bjorklund is the author of several books, including The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology (with Anthony D. Pellegrini). He is a former Associate Editor of Child Development and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Journal of Cognition and Development, Developmental Review, Educational Psychology Review, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Development, and School Psychology Quarterly.


John Archer, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom

Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD, Autism Research Centre, Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom

H. Clark Barrett , PhD, Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture; Center for Culture, Brain, and Development; and Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA

Jay Belsky, PhD, Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck University of London, United Kingdom

Jesse M. Bering, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Irene Bevc, PhD, Hincks-Dellcrest Treatment Center, Toronto, Canada

David F. Bjorklund, PhD, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL

Victoria K. Burbank, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

James S. Chisholm, PhD, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

David A. Coall, PhD candidate, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

Bruce J. Ellis, PhD, Division of Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Mark V. Flinn, PhD, Departments of Anthropology and Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Frank Gemmiti, PhD candidate, School of Anatomy and Human Biology and Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

David C. Geary, PhD, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Judith Rich Harris, MA, Middletown, NJ

Elizabeth M. Hill, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Detroit-Mercy, Detroit, MI

Heather C. Janisse, PhD, Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Brian MacWhinney, PhD, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Katherine Nelson, PhD, PhD Program in Psychology, City University of New York Graduate School, New York, NY

Anthony D. Pellegrini, PhD, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

David H. Rakison, PhD, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Justin S. Rosenberg, PhD candidate, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL

Nancy L. Segal, PhD, Department of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton, CA

Irwin Silverman, PhD, Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Canada

Peter K. Smith, PhD, Unit for School and Family Studies, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, United Kingdom

Carol V. Ward, PhD, Departments of Anthropology and Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Glenn E. Weisfeld, PhD, Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI


Researchers, instructors, and students in developmental, social, and evolutionary psychology.

Course Use

May serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses.