• Are cognitive processes affected by evolutionary precepts? Iconic memory and mating strategies

      Earl, Nathan B. (2013)
      Evolutionary psychologists criticize cognitive psychology for using arbitrary stimuli that ignore presumed evolutionary constraints on cognition. In two experiments, we explored how the Sperling paradigm in iconic memory was influenced by factors often stressed in evolutionary psychology: facial attractiveness and gender of visual targets, as well as gender of the participants. Ancillary measures used by some evolutionary psychologists studying mating strategies, scores on Sociosexuality and Jealousy scales, were also taken. In Experiment I, pictures of human faces were superimposed over letter matrices: 10 each of attractive males, attractive females, average males and average females. All faces used in both studies had been used in previously published reports of evolutionary influences on cognitive processing. In Experiment I, the Sperling effect was replicated, with Partial Report superior to Whole Report; no other factors affected performance. In Experiment II, the saliency of the factors related to evolutionary psychology was increased by using only one attractive female face and one attractive male face, repeatedly. Controls included the standard Original, blank background, and a non-facial object, a Flower. While the overall Sperling effect was replicated again, there was some disruption of the Sperling effect, with females showing no Partial advantage. Males retained the Partial advantage for both attractive pictures, but they, like the female participants, showed no Partial advantage for the Flower. Aside from one minor correlation, the Sociosexuality and Jealousy scales were not predictive of performance in either study. In sum, in rapid cognitive processing, precepts of evolutionary psychology did not have a differential effect on cognition. Results are discussed in terms of procedural differences between this traditional cognitive task and those devised by evolutionary psychologists.