Evolutionary theory should be a fundamental guide for neuroscientists. This would seem a trivial statement, but I believe that taking it seriously is more complicated than it appears to be, as I argue in this article. Elsewhere, I proposed the notion of “bounded functionality” As a way to describe the constraints that should be considered when trying to understand the evolution of the brain. There are two bounded-functionality constraints that are essential to any evolution-minded approach to cognitive neuroscience. The first constraint, the bricoleur constraint, describes the evolutionary pressure for any adaptive solution to re-use any relevant resources available to the system before the selection situation appeared. The second constraint, the satisficing constraint, describes the fact that a trait only needs to behave more advantageously than its competitors in order to be selected. In this paper I describe how bounded-functionality can inform an evolutionary-minded approach to cognitive neuroscience. In order to do so, I resort to Nikolaas Tinbergen’s four questions about how to understand behavior, namely: function, causation, development and evolution. The bottom line of assuming Tinbergen’s questions is that any approach to cognitive neuroscience is intrinsically tentative, slow, and messy.
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