Evolutionary psychology is an approach to explaining cognitive functioning and behavior through the lens of evolutionary theory. This approach assumes that human behaviors are the result of a lengthy natural selection process during which only “the best-adapted individuals survive to leave the most offspring” (Santrock, 2010, p. 52). The offspring inherited the most effective and adaptive characteristics and behaviors that ensured better chances of survival.
Hence, it is assumed that the way modern people behave, think, and organize their lives is merely the result of evolutionary processes and continuously granted more adopted individuals a better chance for reproduction. Evolutionary psychology “emphasizes the importance of adaptation, reproduction, and “survival of the fittest” in shaping behavior” (Santrock, 2010, p. 53). In other words, this approach stresses that it is an instinct of survival and reproduction that is the most important factor in determining our behavior with cultural and social forces playing only a secondary role in regulating human behavior and the way of living.
Applying the principles of evolutionary psychology to developmental psychology leads to conclusions that the key objective of human development is mastering the most adaptive and effective behaviors and modes of interaction with others. Because society and culture humans function have become very complex, it takes longer for human children to grow the appropriate brain size and to develop the skills and understandings necessary for being effective is this complex environment. Hence, human children go through the longest period of dependence on adults before they can develop the necessary level of cultural and social competence and reach reproductive maturity and can care for their own offspring.
However, as of now, evolutionary psychology remains merely a theoretical approach and psychologists believe that while evolution has shaped our bodies and biological functions, it does not determine our behavior which is now mainly influenced by social and cultural processes.