Evolutionary Psychology Bingo

// 24 August 2009

bingoevo.gifVia Morrígan Reborn, comes this fantastic ‘Evolutionary Psychology Bingo’ game.

As well as the square to the right, one of my other favourite squares is “‘Natural’ is always good, unless the evolutionary psychologist needs glasses”.

See also: Antifeminist Bingo

Antifeminist Bingo 2

Fat Hate Bingo

Anti-feminist Comics Bingo

Racist Bingo

More Racist Bingo

Anti-gay Bingo

Anti-choice Bingo

No racism in fantasy/sf Bingo

Sexual Assault Bingo

Cis Privilege Bingo

Anti-breastfeeding Bingo

Breastfeeding Bingo

I’m sure there must be more I’ve missed… [list has been updated with links from comments below, but see below for more!]

Comments From You

Kath // Posted 24 August 2009 at 6:58 pm

Yeah, yeah very funny. Except evolutionary psychology is not everything it is parodied to be here. The problem is the few scientists who make spurious claims like females are programmed to like pink and be crap at driving or whatever. Also the media who report such nonsense and mis-report the better research. All the examples on this bingo card are things you hear but not usually from proper scientists. The field is really much broader and less controversial than this.

Baz // Posted 24 August 2009 at 7:04 pm

By knocking Evolutionary Psychology you only make yourself look stupid. Yes there are some bad evolutionary explanations but there are also some good ones. Just because you don’t like something it doesn’t make it not true and just because our evolutionary history is nasty, it doesn’t mean that we should still live our lives by it. Science has built the modern world and you abandon it at your peril.

Kirsty // Posted 24 August 2009 at 7:21 pm

Is there a copy hosted anywhere else? I’m in Syria for the next few months, where anything hosted at Blogspot is censored, and I could do with a good laugh.

Aimee // Posted 24 August 2009 at 8:01 pm

Oh god! ‘It’s not natural’…! This makes me furious. I tell you what else isn’t ‘natural’… how about, boxer shorts, living in houses, tap water, antibiotics. Unless you live in a tree and shun all modern conveniences you can piss right off with your ‘it’s not natural’… Grrr.

I hate the evolutionary psychology argument. I also hate that evolutionary psychologists seem to think that they can evaluate how our ancestors might have behaved from nothing more than circumstantial evidence and ethnography. That’s not science. That’s assumption.

Sam // Posted 24 August 2009 at 11:04 pm

When it comes to EP, for once Chomsky is right on the money: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_controversy#.22Just-So_Stories.22

Catherine Redfern // Posted 24 August 2009 at 11:19 pm

This is a great article on bad science and evo psych: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/mad-science

Mór Rígan // Posted 24 August 2009 at 11:55 pm

Actually, I just reposted it from reddit. It’s by Aerik.

JenniferRuth // Posted 25 August 2009 at 9:12 am

Baz – some people would say that evolutionary psychology is not based on sound scientific principles. Perhaps people knock it precisely because it is often used in such a thoroughly unscientific way. Some of these people actually are scientists.

There are a number of criticisms that can be leveled at evolutionary psychology (will now be abbreviating this to EP). The fact is that we don’t know that much about the evolutionary context that humans developed from so EP does not have a solid foundation from which to build hypothesis from. Often the hypothesis put forward are based upon what we know about humans now and then applied to the distant human past in a retrograde fashion. Therefore they often only tell us more about the internal logic of current humans and not that of our ancestors.

EP is often Eurocentric – the hypothesis are based upon the culture of the modern western world with little regard paid to the differences in other cultures (which are either not mentioned or described as an exception). EP science is ruled by a white mindset.

EP also often assumes that it is our biology that informs our psychology, rather than the context of the culture and environment that surround us. One might argue that humans have done so well in the evolutionary stakes because we are able to analysis our situation and make decisions that are removed from our base needs and desires. Because in EP a conclusion can be formed before a hypothesis nearly any EP hypothesis can be argued against by using EP thinking itself!

These are only a few of the criticisms leveled at EP. I am sure that there are scientists working in EP who do good, interesting work with rigorous standards and peer review. However, EP is often used as political justification for the status quo – I would be hesitant to say that this is the fault of the evolutionary psychologists themselves. Often it is the media who gets hold of a tiny, non-peer reviewed paper with a small sample and hazy logic then presents it to the public at large as fact. This is a problem that plagues more of science than just EP. Regardless, there are many reasons to be critical of EP so I would be extremely hesitant to call people who question the “results” stupid. Perhaps they have thought about it more than you think.

Steph // Posted 25 August 2009 at 10:05 am

Baz: why not point us to some examples of evo psych theory that are actually grounded in some scientific fact rather than just being born out of heterosexist, male privileged ideology?

George // Posted 25 August 2009 at 11:57 am


I am sure the various professors of history and philosophy of science with whom I have studied would really take you to town on being called ‘stupid’.

Evolutionary psychology and its recent ancestors, such as sociobiology, are notoriously dodgy (by which I mean teleological arguments that barely conceal their strong ideologies). Moreover, we don’t have to look very far to see *extremely* racist and sexist theories being propated under the banner of scientific neutrality – can I draw your attention to phrenology as the most studied example?

Please don’t assume that we’re getting our knickers in a twist over EP because we’re just a bit daft and ‘don’t like the facts’. Some of us actually spend a long time thinking, writing and researching about this sort of stuff. Ta.

HarpyMarx // Posted 25 August 2009 at 12:11 pm

Baz , to repeat the question, give us some examples of the positives of evolutionary psychology.

One name symbolic to evolutionary psychology is the misogynist and Nazis supporting Konrad Lorenz. Indeed he had political and ideological axes to grind that propped up his so-called scientific evidence.

There are many feminist texts refuting the offensive evolutionary psychology and also the excellent bk Alas, Poor Darwin is well worth reading.

Caroline // Posted 25 August 2009 at 1:31 pm

Cisgender privileged discussing trans issues bingo – http://arionhunter.insanejournal.com/6918.html

Tamasine // Posted 25 August 2009 at 1:47 pm

Childfree bingo


Please note i find the term ‘breeder’ derogatory, but this one does manage to combine evolutionary and feminist issues!

Sam2 // Posted 25 August 2009 at 3:51 pm


the problem with your assertions is that they are themselves choses axioms, not falsifiable, at least in that respect, feminism and EP have a lot in common, particularly in public discourse.


“EP also often assumes that it is our biology that informs our psychology, rather than the context of the culture and environment that surround us.”

There are obviously tons of variables. But I find absurd to believe in a blank slate scenario, as is so often assumed by sociologists (among which I count feminists). It’s like they’re afraid that “nature” will roll back social progress and female empowerment if someone were to conclusively point out how and why and to which extent sexual preferences are based on evolutionary heritage. To deny that is essentially the claim that evolution is bollocks and heterosexuality is, in essence, a form of socialized fetish. If you don’t buy that assertion, it’s hard to argue against the core assumption of EP, that the human psychology is partly a result of human biology and that basic mating strategies are still very influential variables in human behaviour. From that point on, there’s a lot of stuff to be rightly criticized, partly even ridiculed. But so are many of the sociological assumptions about how and why socialisation works.

I say stop antagonizing, let’s get to the bottom of the thing by looking at all, not just politically convenient variables.

Gemma // Posted 26 August 2009 at 5:44 am

A lot of male and female, feminist and non- feminist scientists seem to look down on evolutionary psychology, Sam2. My Oxford tutor certainly does in his research and doesn’t have any political motivation.

I think it’s more ‘it isn’t nature’ – evo- psychology lovers who have a political agenda. Everyone else just wants evidence to back what we call science up.

ThisGirl // Posted 26 August 2009 at 1:48 pm

I’m afraid, for the first time ever as a loyal reader, I’m going to have to state that this post is a load of rubbish. It’s not funny and it doesn’t really address the science behind evolutionary psychology; it’s more ‘what would a misogynist say if they were going to make a vaguely evolution based joke?’ bingo.

As an earlier poster stated, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not true. If only, then there’d be no patriarchy/privilege/queues at the cashpoint ;-)

The point everyone seems to be missing here is that even if all the ‘bingo’ points were supported by peer-reviewed scientific research (which they aren’t), that doesn’t mean that the scientists behind the research therefore feel that society ought to therefore be constructed along such parameters.

When a (real) Ev. Psych. says something like ‘People are generally likely, in terms of evolution, to attracted to symmetrical features’ they aren’t arguing that people SHOULD be attracted to symmetrical features or that non-symmetrical features are ugly, they are simply stating a piece of scientific evidence. I’m not saying that science doesn’t get mishandled and moralised, because it does by both the scientific establishment and the media, but it’s ignorant and insulting to assume that every scientist is a) male and a misogynist, and b) incapable of expressing a scientific theory without also believing it to be a moral yardstick to be imposed upon others.

I’m a scientist – I know all about sociopathy and some of the reasons why and how it occurs, both environmental and genetic. This doesn’t mean I believe that people aren’t responsible for their own behaviour. I don’t say “Oh, she’s predisposed to sociopathy, might as well leave her to get on with it”. In the same way, EPs (real ones, not the media) don’t say “Symmetrical faces are most attractive, so everyone with a different face may as well give up now”.

To pretend that there are no evolutionary differences between the biological sexes is simply incorrect. It undermines feminism because it leaves us open to accusations of bad science.

What we should really be doing is demontrating that there is more the the human (feminist) animal than genes.

Come on F-Word, you’re better than this! No lazy journalism please :)

(ok, science rant over….and relaaaaaaaaaaax)

George // Posted 26 August 2009 at 2:36 pm


“I find absurd to believe in a blank slate scenario, as is so often assumed by sociologists (among which I count feminists).”

I think the most interesting ‘sociological’ theses that are produced nowadays have a huge investment in the material and the bodily. Moreover, I don’t think *anyone* (sociologist or otherwise) has ever really bought into the claim that we are somehow ‘completely social’, and this involves some sort of up-in-the-air ‘social’ meandering without the material and the body being necessarily involved.

Also, I’m not a sociologist, I’m a sodding philosopher of science.

“It’s like they’re afraid that “nature” will roll back social progress and female empowerment if someone were to conclusively point out how and why and to which extent sexual preferences are based on evolutionary heritage.”

Well, if the arguments do reify male promiscuity, or the nuclear family, or heterosexuality, then I think a lot of people don’t really agree that they ‘naturally’ (eurgh) want part of any of this. And, you have to wonder why it is always the sexual/lifestyle preferences of Western straight men which magically come out on top…

“To deny that is essentially the claim that evolution is bollocks and heterosexuality is, in essence, a form of socialized fetish.”

No-one is saying that evolution is bollocks – they are denying that evolution can be used as a convincing explanation for the breadth and complexity of human desire, culture and thought.

With respect to heterosexuality, again, considering the breadth of sexual preference (men, women … latex?), it is both unconvincing as well as downright homophobic to insist that heterosexuality is the only proper sexual choice, as chosen by Evolution (read: normal), and thus homosexuals are Doing it Wrong (read: abnormal, deviant, pathological…).

“If you don’t buy that assertion, it’s hard to argue against the core assumption of EP, that the human psychology is partly a result of human biology and that basic mating strategies are still very influential variables in human behaviour.”

Human biology and human psychology and human culture all influence my behaviour. I have no idea what part of my behaviour would be influenced by my need to breed – and I am especially confused as to how this need fits with my complete lack of desire to have children, and the sexual acts that I perform. Now, I’m sure that one would be able to concoct an EP explanation, but as Popper so rightly pointed out, if a particular theory can be used to explain every problem in a domain, it explains nothing at all.

JenniferRuth // Posted 26 August 2009 at 4:16 pm

@ Sam2

“But I find absurd to believe in a blank slate scenario, as is so often assumed by sociologists (among which I count feminists)…To deny that is essentially the claim that evolution is bollocks and heterosexuality is, in essence, a form of socialized fetish.”

Hmmm…yes, but I didn’t say that. In fact, I just pointed out some flaws in EP and followed up with saying that there is a lot of good work done in EP but the bad work is often exploited by people or the media to support a political agenda.

I don’t think that the EP Bingo card is specifically attacking EP – it is attacking those that misuse EP to advance their own theories.

You say “There are obviously tons of variables.” and I tend to agree. Which is why I think that the conclusions EP reaches are sometimes extremely stretched.

Shea // Posted 27 August 2009 at 2:33 am

It seems a lot of people have misunderstood the point of this post. It is not a critique of science itself or of scientists or a rejection of scientific methodology or evolution. It is a valid criticism of the misuse and misunderstanding of a scientific theory (Evolution) for poltical capital.

I love the way people just jump on these posts “you don’t understand the science/ you reject the science because you don’t like it”. Bullshit.

Anyone working in any scientific environment knows that whilst the science never lies the interpretation is often very far from objective. Can I point the doubters to the debates on climate change/ genetically modified maize etc ?

What I and many others object to is the extrapolation of dodgy conclusions, pre-hypothesis to serve apolitical agenda.

Lets take the above quoted example: Symmetrical faces. People are “generally likely” (what does this mean?) “in terms of evolution” (again what do you mean? For the purpose of sexual intercourse/ to mate with/ for companionship?) ” to be attracted to symmetrical features” ( can I point out that 1) symmetry in nature is very rare, 2) this contradicts other findings that a symmetrical face is perceived as “cold” and 3) Evolution doesn’t compel us to do anything, that is a fatal misunderstanding of the theory.)

I think there is a certain amount of arrogance in assuming that scientists themselves are not prone to be influenced by their own biases and prejudices.

My favourite example of the EP crap is the myth of female monogamy. The fact that men produce thousands of sperm at a time and women only one ovum is held to mean that men are innately promiscious and women monogamous. But in nature generally, when a large amount of anything (seeds/ pollen etc) is produced it is because there is a lot of competition. If women are supposedly monogamous- why the need for so many gametes on the male side? Because women are NOT innately monogamous as supposed. Further evidence from primates shows that up to 40 % of the offspring in any given group of chimpanzees (who share 98% of our DNA) do not belong to the dominant male.

But try bringing that out as a justification for female promiscuity and you’ll find the staunchest defenders of EP go notoriously quiet.

Gemma // Posted 27 August 2009 at 11:50 am

Evolutionary science and evolutionary psychology are two different things – one is absolute bull.

Ev. psych is a ‘science’ of jumping logic, i.e, baboons seem to like pink bums = why men like red lipstick.

Even facial symmetry can’t be proved with substantial enough evidence to be an evolutionary instinct in attraction. A million other things could explain why we opt for symmetrical faces. Explanations that go beyond the belief we’re in a twisted human monkey land where social instincts never dominate.

We don’t form behaviour from an original ‘blank slate’ – but humans are scarily smart. We can envelope our own conscience, and think of our own behaviour, then thinking of our thoughts on that behaviour and whether those thoughts make us normal. We have a folding- in- on- itself consciousness of our own behaviour. It’s senseless to say we’re monkeys acting on mating instincts when we’re so incredibly self- aware of behaviour!

The degree to which we act on evolutionary instincts compared to social instincts could be negligible – except ev. psych keeps throwing around these theories, that worryingly people seem to cling to to desperately glean what is normal behaviour. For most people the ‘fact’ of what is normal behaviour is the holy grail; and ev. psych throws answers around carelessly. And it’s hardly ever challenged, despite evolutionary instincts having the potential to be instincts only those with a lower caliber of mind have to deal with (actual monkeys). Evolutionary instincts do NOT translate to behaviour as the human mind is far too complex. The evidence just isn’t there with most theories or conclusive – why it offends so many actual scientists.

Evolutionary science, on the other hand, i.e. natural selection, the science of evolution itself, is a- ok with most scientists, sociologists.

Btw any decent psychologist will also shake their head at ev. psych!

In conclusion, it’s complete nonsense!

Gemma // Posted 27 August 2009 at 12:07 pm

Sorry, just to nod my head with Shea’s post – evpsych is renowned for ignoring a vast amount of information the same nature/ evolution presents. It picks and chooses, then wild speculation follows.

My example, the notorious ‘males should chase younger women/ be providers’. Animals in the wild actually opt for stronger, even older females as opposed to the younger weaker females. They choose the better hunters – and dominant female animals are irritated by male attention. Of course you never hear any speculations about this.

Sam2 // Posted 27 August 2009 at 2:01 pm


complete agreement.


“but as Popper so rightly pointed out, if a particular theory can be used to explain every problem in a domain, it explains nothing at all.”

Agreed. Clearly EP doesn’t explain everything, probably not even most. That said, I wonder how you can possibly square Popper and feminist concepts like “privilege”, “oppression”, and “patriarchy”.

ThisGirl // Posted 27 August 2009 at 2:46 pm

@Shea – you point out that ‘EvP doesn’t compel us to do ANYTHING’

I think, if you read my post, you’ll find that’s my point.

Having said that, perhaps I was jumping in a bit (I’m a scientist, so when I see bad science I get riled first, then consider – my bad) without really taking into account the difference between Ev.P and Ev. SCIENCE. On the whole, I’d be inclined to agree that the latter is more valid and less likely to be tied up in moralising disguised as theory.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 27 August 2009 at 3:03 pm

Ok, here’s a prime example that’s just come to my attention:


“Men prefer websites designed by men and women prefer those designed by women, according to a new study from Bucks New University.”

“The differences spring from our caveman ancestors, said Gloria Moss, a specialist in human resources.”


Jess McCabe // Posted 27 August 2009 at 3:08 pm

@Catherine Redfern Hilarious!

Catherine Redfern // Posted 27 August 2009 at 3:15 pm

You know, I just remembered another example of dodgy ‘science’ used to justify existing stereotypes. I was watching a programme about human body language ages ago and at one point the experts were observing the body language of single men and women meeting strangers in a bar.

When the women smiled when they met new people, this was presented as being welcoming, easing the social situation, being kindly and friendly, empathising with the new person, expressing submissiveness, etc.

However, when men smiled, we were told, they were ‘showing their teeth’ in some sort of veiled warning to the other men in the room to back off of their ‘territory’.

Exactly the same action: smiling.

It’s this kind of thing that we’re talking about when we’re talking about bad science as applied to women and men.

Naomi Mc // Posted 28 August 2009 at 12:33 am

Fine, I am willing to evaluate an evolutionary psychology paper on gender, on its merits, if published in a peer-reviewed journal, with full disclosure of methods, as I would another other paper. I don’t deny they exist, I just haven’t seen one.

Instead they tend to resemble Just So Stories.

The theory of biological evolution is based on evidence – that’s the distinction.

Moreover, it is generally any old random researcher (rather than a psychologist or biologist) who wants to get their study in the paper and uses a pseudo-evolutionary fairytale to give it “colour” (as with the website/caveman story in the Telegraph). Yes there’s bad reporting, but there are also a lot of researchers giving them interviews and they can’t be being mis-quoted THAT much.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting // Posted 30 August 2009 at 2:01 pm

I was just going to dig up Mom’s Tin Foil Hat’s Mommy Wars Bingo (which I also linked to on my blog), but I see that Ruth provided you with the link already!

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