The purpose of this graduate program is to train students in the integration of the biological, behavioral, and social sciences through the unifying principles of evolutionary theory. This integration is being actively fostered by the emergence of an Evolutionary Psychology built upon and consistent with the principles of evolutionary biology. In Evolutionary Psychology, the individual is viewed as having both a cultural and an evolutionary history. Through the shaping force of Natural Selection, the mind has evolved sophisticated behaviorally-related learning devices for solving adaptive problems that recurred throughout its evolutionary history. Hence, genetic influences are acknowledged in both the universal structure of the mind and in behavioral differences among individuals. Evolutionary Psychology can enrich research on many topics in the social and behavioral sciences, including language development, aggression, altruism, cognition, and the cultural transmission of traits. The systematic application of evolutionary theory can also assist the progress of neuroscience by providing better theoretical foundations for an understanding of the adaptive design and functional requirements of evolved brain structures and neural architecture.
The Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology (EEP) Program also offers a graduate minor with an interdisciplinary emphasis. The required core course for the EEP major as well as the EEP minor, The Design of the Mind: Genes, Adaptation, and Behavior, is cross-listed in both Psychology and Family Studies and Human Development. Approved elective courses for this minor are taught by colleagues from Anthropology, Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neuroscience (ARLDN), Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Family Studies, and Psychology. The EEP group focuses on the emerging multidisciplinary convergence occasioned by the complementary needs of substantively related fields that are traditionally compartmentalized within separate disciplines. For example, ethologists and behavioral ecologists within the biological sciences, at least since the time of Tinbergen, have been interested in the proximate as well as the ultimate causation of behavior to complete a truly comprehensive approach to the research program of behavioral biology. Many behavioral ecologists, unsatisfied with "black box" approaches to behavior, adapt the intellectual and methodological tools developed within the traditional psychological sciences for detailed analyses of behavioral mechanisms, including attention to the adaptive significance of individual differences than is typical within Evolutionary Psychology. Similarly, the application of systematic observational techniques to the quantitative ethology of both human and nonhuman animals continues to play a strong role within our program. Preference is given to graduate applicants with a background in the natural sciences.
Because the major focus of the Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology Program is research, graduate students are expected to spend most of their time on research. New students are not required to work directly on projects currently underway, though most find it helpful to start this way.