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The matching problem for evolutionary psychiatry

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E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/05/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Philosophical Psychology
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date15/05/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Evolutionary psychiatry suggests that mental disorders can be explained in evolutionary terms (a) as failures of psychological mechanisms to produce the adaptive effects for which they were naturally selected, (b) as mismatches between naturally selected psychological mechanisms and contemporary environmental pressures, or (c) as naturally selected psychological mechanisms whose effects continue to be adaptive. In this paper, I present a philosophical critique of evolutionary psychiatry that draws on Subrena Smith’s matching problem for evolutionary psychology. For evolutionary psychiatry hypotheses to be empirically supported, proponents of evolutionary psychiatry must demonstrate (1) that the contemporary psychological mechanisms involved in mental disorders resemble the psychological mechanisms of our evolutionary ancestors, (2) that the contemporary psychological mechanisms are phylogenetically descended from the ancestral psychological mechanisms, and (3) that the ancestral psychological mechanisms were naturally selected because their effects had adaptive benefits. However, for many mental disorders, evolutionary psychiatry lacks the methodological resources to demonstrate these conditions. Therefore, many evolutionary psychiatry hypotheses are empirically untestable and remain indefinitely underdetermined by data.