Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Individual Differences & Evolutionary Psychology

The IDEP Area at the University of Texas offers a Ph.D. in psychology.  We provide advanced research training in a broad range of topics, particularly behavioral-genetic and evolutionary processes. In addition to their research with faculty members in the IDEP area, IDEP graduate students are encouraged to collaborate with other faculty members both in the Department of Psychology and in other departments throughout the university (e.g. Biology, Sociology, Human Development). In addition, the IDEP Area offers opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in research. Training and research in the IDEP area falls within two overlapping spheres: Individual Differences Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology.

Individual Differences Psychology                                                             

Faculty conducting Individual Differences research within the IDEP area study numerous topics, including intelligence and achievement, personality, developmental psychopathology, antisocial behavior, sexual risk taking, and substance use. Individual differences psychology aims to understand how life experiences combine and interact with genes to influence person-to-person variation in the development of behavioral tendencies, cognitive capacities, and associated health, economic, and social outcomes. Individual differences psychology integrates themes from behavioral genetics, human ecology, developmental psychology, personality psychology, sociology, psychometrics, and evolutionary genetics. Central to graduate training in individual differences psychology is an emphasis on multivariate quantitative methods, including structural equation modeling, growth curve modeling, and factor analysis.  There is also a strong emphasis on behavioral-genetic research, which is particularly concerned with the role of genes in shaping individual differences.

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology draws insights from modern evolutionary theory, biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science, and paleoarchaeology. The discipline rests on a foundation of core premises:

  1. Manifest behavior depends on underlying psychological mechanisms, information processing devices housed in the brain, in conjunction with the external and internal inputs that trigger their activation.
  2. Evolution by selection is the primary causal process responsible for creating such complex functional mechanisms.
  3. Evolved psychological mechanisms are functionally specialized to solve adaptive problems that recurred for humans over deep evolutionary time.
  4. Selection designed the information processing of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be adaptively influenced by specific classes of information from the environment.
  5. Human psychology consists of a number of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms, each sensitive to particular forms of contextual input, that get combined, coordinated, and integrated with each other to produce manifest behavior.

Evolutionary psychology research conducted within the IDEP area includes: mating strategies, sexuality, attractiveness, homicide, stalking, conflict between the sexes, the evolution of social conflict, strategies for preventing sexual victimization, status and social reputation, jealousy, envy, love, and other social emotions.

David Buss
David Buss
IDEP Area Chair


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  • Department of Psychology

    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043