Charles Crawford

October 08, 2002

What Daddy Did in the War

I came to Simon Fraser University in the fall of 1966 to teach differential psychology, data analysis, and measurement, as well as to do research in one or more of these areas. I taught our introductory course in data analysis, as well as undergraduate courses in individual differences, psychological measurement, personality, cognition, and the history of psychology, and took a small part in the turmoil of the fist decade of Simon Fraser. My primary area of research was on applying theories of scientific parsimony to the rotation and the determination of the number of factors in factor analysis. I also did some research on the relationship between intelligence and creativity. Some of the results of my efforts were published in Psychometrika, the British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, the Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Multivariate Behavioral Research, the Canadian Journal Psychology, the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, and the American Psychologist. Occasionally, I see a reference to some of these old papers.

After about a dozen years on the job I realized that I had done pretty well all that I could do on factor analysis and decided to look for new areas in which to teach and do research. I chose behaviour genetics for several reasons. First, I had had a long time interest in genetics. Second, the models of quantitative genetics are similar to those of classical psychological test theory and I hoped for some positive transfer of training. Third, I had developed the theory that those who were high in creativity would be high in “innate” intelligence and low in “learned” aspects of intelligence. I thought that knowledge of behaviour genetics might help me estimate the innate intelligence of individuals so that I might have some hope of testing my theory.

I learned a lot about quantitative behaviour genetics on a year’s sabbatical at the Institute of Behavior Genetics at the University of Colorado. However, I was disappointed in the power of genetics to give deep expiations of behaviour. It seemed to me that heritabilities, and even finding genes for traits, did not provide a satisfying explanation for their existence and function. The fellow in the next office was a fish biologist on sabbatical leave from the University of Hawaii. He introduced me to evolutionary behavioural biology and sociobiology and it changed my life.

I decided to recycle myself as a sociobiologist. I became associate chair of the department in the early 1980s and facilitated my metamorphosis by assigning myself animal behaviour courses to teach. My enthusiasm for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, my attraction to theoretical and methodological issues in psychology, the promotional and entrepreneurial side of my character, and my physical limitations shaped my research and teaching activities for the last 20 years. I began the development of research in animal and human sociobiology and became involved in promoting, first, sociobiology, and, later, evolutionary psychology at Simon Fraser University.

Members of my lab group have done research: on sex-biased parental investment in animals and humans; the impact of kinship and reproductive value on behaviour; fluctuating body asymmetry and personality, and health; waist-to-hip ratio and attractiveness; perceptions of the costs and benefits of helping; and the reproductive suppression model of anorexic behaviour. Some of the articles that came out of this research are cited in relevant places and figures from them are reprinted in some texts and academic books. However, I was never able to obtain the financial and intellectual resources necessary to turn any of these areas of research into a highly productive endeavour.

My integrative-theoretical efforts resulted in several articles in well-known journals and two edited books. My favourite articles are my two American Psychologist articles: “George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Arthur Jensen: Are they compatible” and “Sociobiology: An environmentalist discipline.” Crawford, Smith, & Krebs (1987) Sociobiology and psychology: Ideas, issues, and applications, Erlbaum, was one of the first books attempting to bring modern evolutionary theory and psychology together. Sandra Scarr, a well known developmental psychologist, gave it a major review in Contemporary Psychology titled “Sociobiology: The psychology of sex, violence, and oppression.” It resulted in an exchange of letters between Scarr and me in the journal. I believe I came out on top, but others may disagree.

Crawford & Krebs (1998) Handbook of evolutionary psychology: Ideas, issues, and application, Erlbaum, came out eleven years later. Contemporary Psychology again gave it a major review. I was hoping the editor would choose Sandra Scarr as the reviewer because I wanted to see if she had changed her mind on evolutionary psychology, and to have another go with her if she hadn’t. However, it was not to be. The handbook received a positive, though I thought innocuous, review by someone who I did not know.

I became involved in promoting evolutionary psychology at Simon Fraser for two reasons: my enthusiasm for promotional activities and my belief that it was one of the few avenues for the department to rise above the several hundred similar departments of psychology that exist in the English-speaking world. (I am not sure which was the most important motivator.) The senior administration was sympathetic to my efforts and over the last 20 years provided funds to bring a variety of well known evolutionary scientists, such as Jane Goodall, Edward O. Wilson, John Maynard-Smith, Martin Daly and David Buss to Simon Fraser for public lectures and research colloquia. Their lectures made it possible for me to produce the two edited books and gave evolutionary psychology at Simon Fraser a presence that it would not otherwise have achieved.

Of all my promotional activities my favourites were bringing Jane Goodall and Edward O. Wilson to Simon Fraser. Fifteen hundred people came to the Jane Goodall lecture even although there was a bus strike and getting to the top of the hill wasn’t easy. After Ed. Wilson received his honorary degree he packed the Images Theatre twice: once for a lecture on evolution and human behaviour and once for a lecture on insect social behaviour. He then gave another talk arguing that cognitive, evolutionary, neuroscience had great promise for the future of psychology.

To the extent that I did anything in the teaching area worth mentioning, it was the development of Psyc 385, Evolution and Social Behaviour. When I began teaching the course it was titled “Animal Behaviour,” and enrolled less than 20 students per year. In its most successful year (2000-2001), when the Distance Education version was still operating, it enrolled around 450 students. Moreover, it was a technically rigorous course, yet it had only Psyc 201 and 210 as prerequisites. I believe that more undergraduate students took a rigorous evolutionary psychology course at Simon Fraser than at any other university in the world.

After 2002

Dr. Catherine Salmon, my Michael Smith Foundation Post doctoral Fellow, and I will be doing research on the reproduction suppression model of anorexic behaviour until the fall of 2003. We have also signed a contract with Erlbaum Associates for an edited book titled Evolutionary psychology: Public policy and personal decisions that grew out of a lecture series we organized at Harbour Centre a couple of years ago. The publishers have agreed to bring out both hard and soft cover versions for the fall of 2003. I have been carrying on a battle with the Psychological Bulletin over an article titled “Adaptations, environments, and behaviour: Then and now” that I am not yet ready to give up on.

I have material for another Psychological Bulletin type article titled “Psychopathology: Genetic and evolutionary perspectives” that I would also like to complete. Maria Janicki and I developed a 250-page course guide for the Distance Education version of Psyc 385. If Maria gets a full time job in the next year, we may turn it into a more sophisticated text on evolutionary psychology than is now available. My editor at Erlbaum says he would like to do another edition of the handbook of evolutionary psychology. I will do it if he agrees to two volumes and a hard and soft cover edition published at the same time.

As I see it, the science of differential psychology is concerned with the psychological, biological, and sociological basis of individual differences in personality, intelligence, and social behaviour, as well as the methodology for their study. I have been doing it for the past 40 years and I plan to do it for a few more.