For citation purposes: Lerner RM, Overton WF. Epigenetics, evolution, and embodiment: On the conceptual vacuity of evolutionary psychology. OA Genetics 2013 Jun 01;1(1):6.

Critical review

Ethical, Legal & Social Issues

Epigenetics, evolution and embodiment: on the conceptual vacuity of evolutionary psychology

RM Lerner, WF Overton

Authors affiliations

(1) Richard M. Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science, Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, 301 Lincoln Filene Building, Tufts University Medford, MA 02155

(2) Willis F. Overton, Thaddeus L. Bolton Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Psychology Department, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122

* Corresponding author E-mail:



We summarize briefly contemporary scientific advances in evolutionary biology and epigenetics, and discuss their implications for revising scholarly understanding of human development, especially when framed within relational developmental systems theories. We contrast the evidence in support of a relationally-integrated approach to biological and behavioural (psychological and social) processes with claims about links between evolution and human development emanating from an area of social/behavioural science, Evolutionary Psychology. We note the conceptual and empirical problems of Evolutionary Psychologyand, in turn, highlight the empirical utility of integrated biological and developmental science research framed by relational developmental systems theories.


We make recommendations for future, multidisciplinary research framed by relational developmental systems theories, and point to the implications of data derived from such work for applications to social policies and programmes.

Licensee OA Publishing London 2013. Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)