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The instinct debate and the standard social science model

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In light of the claim that evolutionary psychology is a 'new paradigm', a 'new science of the mind' (e.g., Buss 1995; Cosmides and Tooby 2001), this paper reviews the lengthy and intense effort made in the late nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth century to establish the concept of instinct in psychology and the social sciences. Whilst a single definition of the term 'instinct' was not settled upon, attempts at a definition never lost grounding in Darwinian theory and most proponents explicitly invoked Darwin to support their case. The instinct debate suggests that evolutionary psychology is not new and the 'Standard Social Science Model' thesis it deploys to substantiate the claim is incorrect. I conclude by suggesting that Boring's 1929 analysis of The Psychology of Controversy may be usefully drawn upon by evolutionary psychology if it is to avoid the fate of its predecessor.
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Keywords: Evolutionary Psychology; Standard Social Science Model; instincts

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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