Summary of Evolutionary Educational Psychology


1.) Natural selection has resulted in an evolved motivational disposition to attempt to gain access to and control of the resources that have co varied with survival and reproductive outcomes during human evolution.

2.) These resources fall into three broad categories: social, biological, and physical which correspond to the respective domains of folk psychology, folk biology, and folk physics.

3.) Attentional, perceptual, and cognitive systems, including inferential and attributional biases, have evolved to process information in these folk domains and to guide control-related behavioral strategies. These systems process restricted classes of information associated with these folk domains.

4.) To cope with variation in social, ecological, or climatic conditions, systems that enabled the mental generation of these potential future conditions and enabled rehearsals of behaviors to cope with this variation evolved and the supporting attentional and cognitive mechanisms are known as general fluid intelligence and everyday reasoning.

5.) Children are biologically biased to engage in activities that recreate the ecologies of human evolution; these are manifested as social play, and exploration of the environment and objects. The accompanying experiences interact with the inherent but skeletal folk systems and flesh out these systems such that they are adapted to the local social group and ecology.


1.) Scientific, technological, and academic advances initially emerged from the cognitive and motivational systems that support folk psychology, folk biology, and folk physics. Innovations that enabled better control of ecologies or social dynamics or resulted in a coherent (though not necessarily scientifically accurate) understanding of these dynamics are likely to be retained across generations as cultural artifacts (e.g., books) and traditions (e.g. apprenticeships). These advances result in an ever growing gap between folk knowledge and the theories and knowledge base of the associated sciences and other disciplines (e.g., literature).

2.) Schools emerge in societies in which scientific, technological, and intellectual advances result in a gap between folk knowledge and the competencies needed for living in the society.

3.) The function of schools is to organize the activities of children such that they acquire the biologically secondary competencies that close the gap between folk knowledge and the occupational and social demands of the society.

4.) Biologically secondary competencies are built from primary folk systems and the components of fluid intelligence that evolved to enable individuals to cope with variation and novelty.

5.) Children's inherent motivational bias to engage in activities that will adapt folk knowledge to local conditions will often conflict with the need to engage in activities that will result in secondary learning.

6.) The need for explicit instruction will be a direct function of the degree to which the secondary competency differs from the supporting primary systems.