Evolutionary approaches to relationships

Douglas Kenrick, Melanie R. Trost

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Evolutionary theory is arguably the most powerful set of ideas in the life sciences. No natural scientist studying the wing of a bat or the flipper of a seal or the long neck of a giraffe would ignore Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Likewise for the behaviors of bats or seals or giraffes-obviously the unique bodies of these animals evolved to do something, and evolutionary theory helps to understand the co-evolution of physical morphology and behavior. Neither would many disagree that an evolutionary perspective is essential to understand the human body, with its upright posture, prehensile grasping hands, and large brain capable of producing complex language. Yet many social scientists have not yet realized that an evolutionary perspective is just as essential for a full understanding of human behavior. Just as bats are designed to survive by flying through the night sky, seals by swimming through the ocean depths, and giraffes by walking through the African plains, so human beings are designed to behave in certain ways in certain environments. To a large extent, humans are designed to live in social groups with other humans, and an evolutionary perspective can enhance our understanding of every aspect of personal relationships considered in this volume- including love, interdependence, social support, parent-child relationships, and family conflicts. Indeed, an evolutionary perspective can help us see how all of these different aspects of human relationships are connected with one another and, at the next level, how they are connected with the evolved design of the human body and brain, and ultimately with the fundamental principles that underlie the design of all living creatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationClose Relationships
Subtitle of host publicationKey Readings
PublisherPsychology Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)0863775950, 9780203311851
StatePublished - Jul 18 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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