Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy

The field of cognitive psychology is in a state of empirical abundance, and experts now know more about mammalian brain function than ever before. In contrast, psychological problems such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, and depression are on the rise, as are medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Why, in this era of unprecedented scientific self-knowledge, does there seem to be so much uncertainty about what humans need for optimal development? Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs. In this pioneering volume, scientists from a range of disciplines theorize that the rise of problems like depression and obesity is partially attributable to a disparity between the environments and conditions under which our mammalian brains currently develop and those in which the brains of our distant ancestors developed-and evolved to suit. These early environments and conditions have been named the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, or EEA. For example, healthy brain and emotional development depends to a significant extent on caregiver availability and quality of care, which is argued to be in decline by some experts; in addition, practices such as breastfeeding, cosleeping, and parental social support, which have waned in modern society, may be integral to healthy infant development. As the authors argue, without a more informed appreciation of the ideal conditions under which human brains develop and function, human beings will continue to struggle with maintaining mental and physical health, and psychological treatments will not be effective. Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development puts forth a logical, empirically based argument regarding human mammalian needs for optimal development, based on research from anthropology, neurobiology, animal science, and human development. The result is a unique exploration of evolutionary approaches to human behavior that will support the development of new policies, new attitudes toward health, and alterations in childcare practices that will better promote optimal human development. © Oxford University Press 2013. All rights reserved.

The field of cognitive psychology is in a state of empirical abundance, and experts now know more about mammalian brain function than ever before. In contrast, psychological problems such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, and depression are on the rise, as are medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Why, in this era of unprecedented scientific self-knowledge, does there seem to be so much uncertainty about what humans need for optimal development? Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs. In this pioneering volume, scientists from a range of disciplines theorize that the rise of problems like depression and obesity is partially attributable to a disparity between the environments and conditions under which our mammalian brains currently develop and those in which the brains of our distant ancestors developed-and evolved to suit. These early environments and conditions have been named the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, or EEA. For example, healthy brain and emotional development depends to a significant extent on caregiver availability and quality of care, which is argued to be in decline by some experts; in addition, practices such as breastfeeding, cosleeping, and parental social support, which have waned in modern society, may be integral to healthy infant development. As the authors argue, without a more informed appreciation of the ideal conditions under which human brains develop and function, human beings will continue to struggle with maintaining mental and physical health, and psychological treatments will not be effective. Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development puts forth a logical, empirically based argument regarding human mammalian needs for optimal development, based on research from anthropology, neurobiology, animal science, and human development. The result is a unique exploration of evolutionary approaches to human behavior that will support the development of new policies, new attitudes toward health, and alterations in childcare practices that will better promote optimal human development. © Oxford University Press 2013. All rights reserved.

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