Document Type

Article - postprint


Psychology (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Evolution, Development, Evolutionary psychology, Quantitative genetics, Developmental biology


Research programs in quantitative behavior genetics and evolutionary psychology have contributed to the widespread belief that some psychological characteristics can be “inherited” via genetic mechanisms. In fact, molecular and developmental biologists have concluded that while genetic factors contribute to the development of all of our traits, non-genetic factors always do too, and in ways that make them no less important than genetic factors. This insight demands a reworking of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, a theory that defined evolution as a process involving changes in the frequencies of genes in populations, and that envisioned no role for experiential factors now known to play essential roles in adaptive trait development. Furthermore, since evolution has been taken to be strictly a population-level phenomenon while development affects individuals, the two have been understood to require different levels of analysis; this understanding has given rise to incompatible research programs. This state of affairs is untenable because development and evolution mutually influence one another in fundamental ways, several of which are detailed in this article. The balance of this paper considers the conceptual problem that has arisen because understandings generated by developmental scientists cannot be enhanced by studies designed merely to account for variation across populations. Because the theoretical conceptions and methodological tools used to study development and evolution have produced non-corresponding sets of information about these closely related and mutually influential biological processes, these conceptions and tools are interfering with the establishment of a unified theory of biology that encompasses both phenomena.


The content of this open-access post-print article is the same as that contained in the published article with the following reference:

Moore, D. S. (2008). Individuals and populations: How biology's theory and data have interfered with the integration of development and evolution. New Ideas in Psychology, 26, 370 – 386.

Rights Information

© 2008 Elsevier