About EPAs

+ What is an EPA?

An evolved psychological adaptation (EPA for short) is a species-typical behavioral or cognitive trait which has been shaped by the process of natural selection, because of genetic fitness benefits it conferred to its bearers over the course of evolutionary time. For example, organisms which need to consume water in order to survive may have a set of EPAs which causes them to crave water, approach water sources, drink water, and (possibly) experience the ingestion of water as pleasurable or as relieving an aversive sensation we might call "thirst."

+ Is an EPA the same as a mental/cognitive module?

While there is debate among the scientific community on the role of modularity in our psychological development, PsychTable uses the term EPA to refer to psychological adaptations which may or not be modular. This is to ensure the participation of behavioral scientists from a wide variety of theoretical stances. We especially welcome users who submit concrete multidisciplinary evidence for each EPA.

+ What role do environment and experience play in EPAs?

The defining criterion of an EPA is that it develops similarly in all individuals of a species given a typical developmental environment (Barrett & Kurzban, 2004). Accordingly, it should be noted that the definition of an EPA does not include behavioral inflexibility in the face of personal experience, nor does it specify that EPAs are unchanging throughout the life course. On the contrary, EPAs should be expected to display high levels of responsiveness and variability to different environmental inputs as well as varying expression over different stages of the life course.


About PsychTable

+ How does the classification table work?

A visual table will display the most strongly supported EPAs (calculated based on a number of factors involving the ratings of each citation) using a classification scheme based upon the consensus of expert evolutionary and behavioral scientists. This table will allow easy reference of the basic properties of EPAs and their relationship to each other (including their hierarchical neurocognitive structure).

+ How does the EPA dossier work?

Proposed EPAs will be collected in a searchable and browseable database. The profile of each EPA compiles information on the purported functions, neurobiological underpinnings, eliciting and output systems, etc. of that EPA, as well as a collection of user-submitted citations that support and challenge its existence.

+ How does the rating work?

Curators rate each citation’s ability to support/challenge the EPA along eight different lines of evidence (theoretical, psychological, physiological, genetic, phylogenetic, medical, cross-cultural, and hunter-gatherer). The ratings of each citation will be calculated into a series of scores that will represent how strongly each EPA is supported in the scientific literature.

+ Who is eligible to contribute?

You can join the PsychTable community! Vetted researchers and practitioners can add and edit EPAs in the system and contribute citations for and against each EPA. Level of editorial access is dependent upon user’s experience and status. Anyone can request to become a curator or contributor. For extended curation privileges, you need to supply credentials. A PsychTable team member will then review your request.

+ What is the time commitment for a contributor?

Contributing to PsychTable can be as small or as big a commitment as you wish. It only takes a minute to upload or rate a citation, and you can upload as few or as many as you want at any time.

+ Where can I read peer-reviewed empirical literature about PsychTable?

For in-depth information on PsychTable, please read this article by Balachandran and Glass, published in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach. Niruban Balachandran's 2011 article, "A Proposed Taxonomy of Human Evolved Psychological Adaptations," which appeared in the Journal of Social, Cultural, and Evolutionary Psychology (now Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences) was the original inspiration for PsychTable.org. Click here to read the article.

+ How does PsychTable benefit the scientific community?

PsychTable benefits the scientific research community in three main ways: Firstly, by providing a system to aggregate evidence for and against particular EPAs, PsychTable allows researchers in the behavioral sciences to quickly reference the available support for any given purported EPA; at a glance, researchers can see how much research has been done to support or challenge their EPA of interest and whether it is firmly supported, lacking in empirical data, or somewhere in between.

Secondly, PsychTable provides a system to categorize the EPAs that are strongly supported. Through a dynamic and ever-improving taxonomic scheme, PsychTable provides a service to the evolutionary behavioral sciences by centrally displaying and organizing the current state of knowledge in the field. Scientists can now reference a single, authoritative resource to look up EPAs, rather than wading through the balkanized literature and risk missing important data or findings.

Lastly, in classifying and evaluating the evidence for EPAs, scientists will inevitably encounter gaps in their knowledge which will allow them to develop action plans and to lead new research directions to clarify our current knowledge of EPAs which have not been discovered or investigated yet.