To Go Forward, We Must Look Back: The Importance of Evolutionary Psychology for Understanding Modern Politics

Rose McDermott, Peter K. Hatemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


As new waves of populism arise and cause disruption around the globe, there is both great interest in attempting to explain the origin of this dynamic as well as a need to ameliorate its potentially destructive impact. Perhaps the greatest signal of seismic change is the global dismantling of American institutional control of the postwar world following the election of Donald Trump in the United States. In the wake of such dramatic changes, it may seem odd to turn to evolutionary psychology which looks deeply into the past to try to understand current events, but, in fact, modern technology has dramatically changed the shape of political communication in just such a way as to make politics more personal once again, increasing the need to understand and interpret modern politics through an evolutionary lens. In fact, current modern political turmoils demonstrate how important evolutionary themes are and how critical they remain to understand how current forms of populism tape into older tribal sentiments and drives. Modern technology allows for a form of interpretative politics that no longer need to be mediated by political institutions or larger social structures, including enduring ones such as marriage. Indeed, in any ways, as we have technologically advanced, we have also regressed to more immediate, emotional, and personal forms of political communication. And it is only in understanding the nature of that personal political psychology that we can begin to grapple seriously with the challenges of today, including the consequences of global populism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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