Comparative approaches in evolutionary psychology: molecular neuroscience meets the mind.

Jaak Panksepp*, Joseph R. Moskal, Jules B. Panksepp, Roger A. Kroes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Evolutionary psychologists often overlook a wealth of information existing between the proximate genotypic level and the ultimate phenotypic level. This commonly ignored level of biological organization is the ongoing activity of neurobiological systems. In this paper, we extend our previous arguments concerning strategic weaknesses of evolutionary psychology by advocating a foundational view that focuses on similarities in brain, behavior, and various basic psychological features across mammalian species. Such an approach offers the potential to link the emerging discipline of evolutionary psychology to its parent scientific disciplines such as biochemistry, physiology, molecular genetics, developmental biology and the neuroscientific analysis of animal behavior. We detail an example of this through our impending work using gene microarray technology to characterize gene expression patterns in rats during aggressive and playful social interactions. Through a focus on functional homologies and the experimental analysis of conserved, subcortical emotional and motivational brain systems, neuroevolutionary psychobiology can reveal ancient features of the human mind that are still shared with other animals. Claims regarding evolved, uniquely human, psychological constructs should be constrained by the rigorous evidentiary standards that are routine in other sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalNeuro endocrinology letters
Volume23 Suppl 4
StatePublished - Dec 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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