Half a century ago the biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote that, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Since Dobzhansky’s time, evolutionary thinking has made its way into the human sciences to the extent that, I think it’s fair to say, many social and behavioral scientists today would feel comfortable saying that “nothing in psychology, anthropology, sociology, child development, education, public policy, culture, medicine, and mental health makes sense except in the light of evolution.” This is not to say that all scholars, practitioners, and public policymakers are on board with an evolutionary approach. Rather, evolutionary thinking now has a solid foothold in nearly all of the social and behavioral sciences, and not only does an evolutionary approach benefit scholars trying to understand all levels of human functioning, but it also can be applied to important real-world social issues. An important contribution that an evolutionary perspective can offer is the analysis and solution of practical and societal problems. An evolutionary perspective provides better guidance to the design and functioning of institutions because it has a more realistic micro-foundation – assumptions about how humans function – than other approaches to institutional design. 

To this end, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new series sponsored by the Evolution Institute and published by Cambridge University Press: Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science. The series will be a collection of authoritative literature reviews of applied topics in Evolutionary Science. Many reviews will include findings from programs that have produced positive educational, social, economic, or behavioral benefits. Contributions to the Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science series will aim to be both forward-looking as well as descriptive of recent developments in their given topic. Specifically, they will in one part introduce readers to the primary currents of research and in the other present an original perspective on or contribution to the field. While these “survey” articles will represent the bulk of the series’ publishing, there will also be room for select Elements on cutting-edge topics as well as on tutorials appropriate for graduate teaching and applications for various types of practitioners (e.g., educators, social workers, community organizers) and public policymakers. Taken together, the series will present an advanced introduction to both the foundational and emerging topics in Applied Evolutionary Science.

At 20,000-30,000 words (40 to 75 pages), individual contributions will be significantly longer than a journal article but shorter than a typical book. This hybrid format is in part a response to the frustration of authors in the social sciences with journal-article requirements that do not allow space to adequately contextualize and present research. By allowing greater freedom in word and page counts, the series will enable authors to publish their work at its natural length.

Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science has enlisted a cadre of distinguished, diverse, international Editorial Board members who will suggest topics, vet contributors, provide critiques, and hopefully themselves contribute to Elements. Each Editorial Board member, listed below, is an experienced scholar in his or her own right.

Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science Board Members

  • David Buss, University of Texas, Austin
  • David Geary, University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Mhairi Gibson, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Patricia Hawley, Texas Tech University
  • David Lancy, Utah State University
  • Jerome Lieberman, Evolution Institute
  • Todd Shackelford, Oakland University
  • Viviana Weeks-Shackelford, Oakland University
  • David Sloan Wilson, SUNY Binghamton
  • Nina Witoszek, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Rafael Wittek, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science will aim for broad coverage of all major topics within the field, including topics in: Child Development and Education; Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health; Inequality; Marriage, Family, and Mating; Public Policy; Group/Social Relations. The first three Elements for the series are currently under contract:

  1. Rafael Wittek (University of Groningen) and Francesca Giardini (University of Groningen), “The Evolutionary Foundations of Gossip and Reputation”
  2. Joe Brewer (Center for Applied Cultural Evolution), “Runaway Cultural Evolution and the Future of Humanity”
  3. Emily H. Emmott (University College London, UCL), “Improving Breastfeeding Rates: Insights from an Evolutionary Perspective”

The aim of Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science is to become a leading reference publication in the field. This aim will be achieved through five key distinguishing features of the series. First, the authors selected will be interna­tional experts renowned and well-respected for their cutting-edge thinking and research and for their engaging style and clarity of prose. Second, contributions to the series will offer original, comprehensive, and topical treatments of major areas of Applied Evolutionary Science. Third, the series will take full advantage of a format that is dynamic for authors, offering fast publication. Fourth, the publishing model promises to be accessible to research, professional, and lay audiences at low cost and in wide distribution. Elements will be available on-line as well as in print at an affordable price (£15.00, or $20, for a paperback copy). Cambridge University Press will also offer free downloads of each Element for the first two weeks after publication. Finally, research and reviews will be presented in ways that are engaging for readers. As a whole Cambridge Elements in Applied Evolutionary Science will furnish inclusive evolutionary perspectives on issues of societal import. Together, Elements in this series will faithfully represent the current status of scholarly efforts in all aspects Applied Evolutionary Science and be an ideal source for anyone wishing to be up to date about Applied Evolutionary Science.

Published On: October 28, 2021

David F. Bjorklund

David F. Bjorklund

David F. Bjorklund is a Professor of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University where teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in developmental and evolutionary psychology. He served as Associate Editor of Child Development (1997-2001) and is currently serving as Editor of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (since 2007). His books include The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology (with Anthony Pellegrini); Origins of the Social Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and Child Development (edited with Bruce Ellis); Why Youth is Not Wasted on the Young; How Children Invented Humanity; and Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences, now in its sixth edition. His current research interests include children’s cognitive development and evolutionary developmental psychology.


  • Alvaro Ramos-Castro says:

    Excellent. The coverage of the theory of evolution in social science and of the mind is a huge void.

  • MARK REINERS says:

    Yes, I ‘second’ the note by Alvaro above. Well conceived, and something I look forward to with real enthusiasm and excitement because of the importance I assign to the ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’. Very important, growing body of work.

  • Mark Kaufman says:

    I fully agree with each of the two comments, so far. I admire The Evolution Institute and Cambridge University Press for cooperating in this extraordinarily important project. When I got to the end of Dr. Bjorklund’s very interesting description of this project, I was hoping to perhaps see a way to “sign up” to order, pay for, and receive ongoing copies of these publications. I didn’t see anything. Perhaps I missed something? Or, perhaps this is just an “FYI,” with more information to come.
    Mark Kaufman
    Prairie Village, Kansas
    Professor Emeritus of Social Work
    Washburn University

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