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Evolutionary Theory in Cognitive Neuroscience: A 20-Year Quantitative Review of Publication Trends

Published: 1 July 2007

Abstract: Evolutionary cognitive neuroscience is an emerging and promising new scientific field that combines the meta-theoretical strengths of an evolutionary perspective with the methodological rigor of neuroscience. The purpose of the present research was to quantify and test evolution's influence in neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience journals over time (1987–2006). In Study 1, analyses from a convenience sample of 10 neuroscience journals revealed that the proportion of neuroscience articles mentioning evolution grew significantly over the last 20 years. Moreover, beginning as early as 1990, the average proportion of neuroscience articles mentioning evolution was significantly different from zero. These effects were not moderated by between-journals differences in impact factor (a citation rate index), suggesting that the observed growth was fairly consistent across journals. In Study 2, analyses from a convenience sample of 4 cognitive neuroscience journals revealed that the proportion of cognitive neuroscience articles mentioning evolution neither differed from zero nor grew significantly over time (1987–2006); however, the change-over-time effect size was large. Compared to other research areas, evolution's penetration into cognitive neuroscience articles grew faster than anthropology, economics, and sociology, but not psychology. The implications of evolutionary psychology's increasing role in science in general, and in cognitive neuroscience in particular, are discussed.
Keywords: cognitive neuroscience / journals / proportion / evolutionary / Grew / neuroscience articles / mentioning evolution

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