When cognitive behavior theories and biological influences on the ways in which the brain works are combined into the study of one field, the result is evolutionary psychology. This branch of medical study connects a number of different science and medical explanations of the interrelationship between psychological functions and natural selection adaptations that result from evolution.
What Evolutionary Psychologists Study
Psychologists who specialize in the evolutionary branch of the field are interested in various functions of the brain. These include memory, language acquisition, perception, emotion, and intelligence. Further, evolutionary psychologists attempt to find the ways in which the nervous system and biological processes influence psycho-related behaviors.
In order to have the background necessary to be able to evaluate, study, and analyze psychology from an evolutionary perspective, professionals in this specialized area benefit from coursework in cognitive psychology, intuitive physics, anthropology, archaeology, history, biology, chemistry, and genetics.
To specialize in evolutionary psychology, it is likely that a candidate will complete a doctorate in psychology with a concentration in an area such as neuroscience, cognitive psychology, or developmental psychology, with other degrees or graduate-level coursework in areas such as molecular biology, sociobiology, or genetics.
Some students will complete a master’s degree in a science-based area, such as biology, prior to continuing on to complete a doctorate. This is beneficial for making the necessary connections between the two different areas of study—biological and psychological.
Doctoral students complete a research or a teaching track in their doctorate program, which typically sets the foundation for a graduate’s career path.
What Evolutionary Psychologists Do
The majority of psychologists in the specialized evolutionary field will work in research or teaching positions. In research positions, evolutionary psychologists conduct tests, develop experiments, and publish findings. In educational settings, trained psychologists with an evolutionary specialty will facilitate courses, oversee curriculum development, and mentor students.
Professionals in this area might also work in private practices to help clients understand their own behaviors and reactions, or possibly to conduct sessions to attempt to redirect specific types of behavior, such as anger management or addiction. Practicing clinical psychologists with an evolutionary specialization might work in private practices, medical facilities such as hospitals or rehabilitation centers, prisons and other penal facilities, or schools.
Professional Associations and Certification
To stay current on the research and education occurring in evolutionary psychology, membership in a professional association can be helpful. It is also beneficial for career advancement through networking and job searching, as well as for identifying research opportunities. The Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society provides information on these topics and more.
The Association for Psychological Science also has information on the evolutionary branch of the field, particularly focused on research. Visitors to the website can also find information on the certifications that are helpful for professional psychologists to obtain.
For people who are interested in both how the brain functions and the effects that natural selection and genetics have on everything from personality to intelligence, completing an education rooted in biology and psychology is the start to a personally rewarding career. With graduate degrees in psychology and other related fields, an evolutionary psychologist is able to continue to identify people’s behavioral patterns and mental function triggers to enhance understanding and further develop treatments.