Human Nature

In the history of psychology, "grand" theories of personality were proposed about the universal contents of human nature. Sigmund Freud' s theory of psychoanalysis, for example, proposed that humans had the core motives of sex and aggression. Alfred Adler, one of Freud's disciples, proposed that humans had the striving for superiority as a core motive. A more contemporary personality theorist, Robert Hogan, suggests that humans are driven by the desire for status and acceptance by the group—getting ahead and getting along, respectively . Even the most radical behav-iorist, B. F . Skinner, had an implicit theory of human nature, consisting of a few domain-general learning mechanisms. Thus, all personality theories attempt to answer the following question: If humans have a nature that is dif ferent from the nature of gorillas, dogs, rats, or praying mantises, what are its contents and how can we discover them?

The perspective of evolutionary psychology of fers a set of tools for discovering the human nature component of personality . From this perspective, human nature is the primary product of the evolutionary process. Psychological mechanisms that are successful in helping humans survive and reproduce tend to out-replicate those that are less successful. Over evolutionary time, these successful mechanisms spread throughout the population and come to characterize a species. Let' s examine a few evolutionary hypotheses about the contents of human nature.

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