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Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631202899.1996.x


This is the application of Darwin's principle of natural selection to explaining the origins and maintenance of social behavior. It became identifiable as a specific approach with the publication of the book Sociobiology: The new synthesis , by E. O. Wilson (1975) , in which he sought to provide a theoretical framework, based on natural selection, for both the biological and social sciences. Although mostly concerned with animal societies, it was Wilson's recommendations that the human social sciences be swallowed up by Darwinian biology, together with his single chapter on human behavior, that provoked controversy and in some cases outrage. The term sociobiology therefore covers both animal and human societies. In the former case (where it is often replaced by, or overlaps with, the term behavioral ecology), it has provided the impetus for a large body of theory and research on the adaptive significance of behavior, arising from a synthesis of social ethology , ecology, and population biology ( see Archer, 1992 ). Applying the principle of natural selection to human behavior raises a number of problems (outlined at the end of this entry). These have been ignored by enthusiastic advocates of sociobiology and used by critics to deny that the enterprise has any merit at all. Sociobiology has now come to exert a wide influence on the social sciences, notably in anthropology and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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