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The evolution of human mate choice

Evolutionary Psychology

Adam Putz

on 14 March 2015

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Transcript of The evolution of human mate choice

The evolution of human mate choice
The science of...
What do men and women want...
Be attractive!
Good looking
Emotionally stable
Wants kids
Age preferences
Why do ...
men prefer younger women?
women prefer older men?
Reproductive value
= the number of children that a person of a given age and sex is likely to have in the future.
Women have a limited period of fertility
Older men have higher social status (more resources)
The evolution of human mate choice
Today's foraging societies
Primate relatives
(common ancestor)
Cross-cultural studies
Differences between primates and humans
Cryptic oestrus
Size of testes
Sexual dimorphism
Primates are largely
Meat-eating ancestors
The provisioning hypothesis
man = hunter
woman = gatherer
sex in exchange for meat
women prefer the most prolific hunters
evidence from extant foraging societies
e.g. Swaziland (South Africa)
clear sign of fertility in primate females
lack of an oestrus swelling in women
to confuse the males in their paternity
the forming of strong pair bonds
Attracting males
Primate females
Oestrus swelling
Swollen breasts during oestrus
Permanently swollen breasts
False oestrus signal
permanently sexually attractive to men
Cryptic oestrus
narrowing of the pelvic girdle
human infants are delivered in a relatively immature and helpless state
require constant attention
of both parents!
High male parental investment (MPI)
Humans are moderately polygynous
= the degree to which the sexes differ in physical characteristics
usually males are bigger than females
Rule of thumb
The greater the increase in male size relative to females...
... the greater is the competition between males for access to groups of females.
Small differences
between sexes
Large differences
between sexes
Small differences
among males
Strong hierarchy among males
How does it work?
Energy spent on fighting other males
Energy spent on courtship behaviour
High MPI
So what's the deal with humans?
moderate level of sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Size of testes
Gorillas have relatively small testes
Chimpanzees have extremely large ones
= amount of sperm produced
What can you say about their sexual dimorphism?
High SD
Low SD
Alpha males defend a harem of females
No need for sperm competition
High ranking males do not monopolize a group of females
males attempt to pair off with every female
Females' reproductive tract will often contain sperm from more than one male
Those males able to produce the largest quantities of sperm are most likely to inseminate a female and thereby pass on their genes
Sperm competition
What about us?
Human mating strategies
mate choice preferences
mate choice preferences
Cross-cultural studies of
David Buss
Men and women have similar preferences
place a greater emphasis on
physical attractiveness
place a premium on signals of
wealth and status
Why is attractiveness so important for men?
Women have a limited period of fertility
attractiveness signals youthfulness
high reproductive value
related topics: anti-aging cosmetics, plastic surgeries, etc.
Why do women care so much about wealth?
Females invest a great deal of effort in their offspring
(see Trivers' theory)
They need a partner who can (and is willing to) provide resources for her and her offspring
Men with high occupational status attract and marry the most beautiful women
The Hugh Hefner syndrome
= old men with young women
What's in it for males?
What's in it for females?
Males increase their reproductive success (number of offspring) by increasing the number of partners they copulate with
Importance of the cue "Good financial prospect" in the case of potential partners for males and females in 5 cultures
Demand for attractiveness as a function of status
Number of sexual partners desired by males and females over various periods of time
Likelihood of intercourse depending on the length of relationship in males and females
High investment in offspring
high risk of causal liaisons
Benefits for women
a) Material
b) Genetic
By having causal affairs women may derive resources (such as food or money) from more than one partner
Resource extraction
The extreme form of RE is ...
"You can't have it both ways", can you?
women want their partner to be...
caring fathers
good looking (have good genes)
Unfortunately in most of the cases this means two (or more) guys...
"Hunting for good genes"
Step 1: collect the good genes from a sexy macho!
Step 2: find a caring (and rich) father for your kid!
You may laugh, but ...
genetic testing
Baker and Bellis (1995) have found that
about one in five children
could not be the offspring of their supposed fathers.
Context dependent strategies of women
the availability of men with resources
the age and attractiveness of a woman
a woman's ability to gain resources herself
SES (socioeconomic status)
presence or absence of the father during the childhood
Absence of the father during childhood
girls whose father is absent during development
begin to menstruate
at an
age than those who have a father present
(Draper and Belsky, 1990)
these girls are more likely to engage in
casual sexual affairs
during development,
assess their future prospects of getting mates
by inferring from the cues of their social- and economical environment
if the
seems to be
(e.g. father is absent) girls will adjust to
short-term strategies
Self-perceived attractiveness
Who are more likely to engage in casual sexual relationships: attractive or less attractive women?
Robert Trivers
women who perceive themselves as less attractive might be more likely to engage in sexual liaisons.
attractive women
can afford to
"hold out" for a high-status male
from which they are likely to gain a high level of investment
"market value"
Men are less context dependent...
What did you say?
Human conversational behavior
The Cyrano effect
The Scheherazade effect
men tend to speak more
at the beginning
of a relationship than later on
and women let them...
assessing men's mental qualities
(e.g. sense of humor)
sign of genetic quality
women tend to speak more
later on
in a relationship
in order to keep up their partner's interest
by doing so women aim to secure the resources provided by their mate (unconsciously!)
Thanks for your attention.
both sexes are playing an active role in mate choice
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