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When I go near a hill or dune, I feel desire to climb there and have a wider look on the surroundings. I know a lot of people who love mountains and want to climb higher and higher, but never have thought about why… Many people climb high building, restaurants on TV towers are very expensive, but very popular anyway.
I've recently started to think about it. From evolutionary point of view taking higher ground have made a lot of sense. Predators could be seen from larger distance, and in the era of fighting communities, higher grounds such as hills were higher to conquer.
But is such theory scientifically proven? Are there actually any researches on why people want actually to climb higher?
It's an interesting question, I imagine the desire is multifaceted and that it may reflect multiple desires and multiple activities. In particular, I'd distinguish between (a) the desire for a viewing experience and (b) the desire to get to the top and achieve goals.
Desire to Climb
There are many examples of people taking joy in climbing. This can be seen for example in rock climbing, mountain climbing, and hiking.
Obvious motivations include motivation for exercise and a desire to experience nature. Some mountain climbers are seeking thrills (see sensation seeking). Some studies of mountain climbing mention the flow inducing nature of mountain climbing (see MacAloon et al 1983 for an analysis).
Climbing in such cases also has a rather natural goal of reaching the top. Attaining goals can be satisfying (see goal theory for further elaboration). And clear goals may be part of the enjoyment in various related activities such as in sports and games.
Part of these activities is that the process of reaching the top is often a big part of the pleasure independent of the pleasure of the final view.
Desire for a view
There is another broad class of behaviour related to people's desire for a "good view". Houses, apartments, offices, restaurants, and so on with better views are valued by people. Viewing platforms are popular tourist attractions.
Benson et al (1998) provide an empirical analysis of the price added to real estate that is attributable to various view types and quality of views. In their analysis they found that high quality ocean front views added some of the most to house prices.
I imagine a distinction could also be made between people's desire for a once off experience and a daily experience. There is a novelty associated with a viewing platform whereby for that moment you get to see the world from a different perspective. You get to see connections between streets and buildings or mountains and rivers that you otherwise miss when immersed at regular ground level. I wonder whether this desire for a novel experience is somewhat different to a desire for a pleasant view on a daily basis.
Reflections on evolutionary psychology
I'm always a little bit uncomfortable with evolutionary psychology arguments. They often have a "just so" feel about them where it is difficult to prove or disprove them.
For example, I could make up an evolutionary argument. Human ancestors presumably climbed trees and liked to survey the land. Places which provided a good overview of the surrounding land enabled greater identification of both potential benefits (e.g., food, drinking resources, mating opportunities) and threats (e.g., other tribes, predators, scarcity of food and water). Such places would also provide further information on impending weather. Thus, humans and ancestors may have been more likely to survive and reproduce if they experienced pleasure in such circumstances.
However, the above evolutionary argument could also be complete rubbish. The desire to experience a view may be connected to many other rational explanations. Or alternatively, you could look at the nature of aesthetics and how they map on to the beauty of a view.
For further discussion of evolutionary psychology and aesthetics see here
- MacAloon, J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Harris, J. C., & Park, R. J. (1983). Deep play and the flow experience in rock climbing. Play, games and sports in cultural contexts., 361-384.
- Benson, E. D., Hansen, J. L., Schwartz, Jr, A. L., & Smersh, G. T. (1998). Pricing residential amenities: the value of a view. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 16(1), 55-73.
Sensation and Perception
Scientists interested in both physiological aspects of sensory systems as well as in the psychological experience of sensory information work within the area of sensation and perception . As such, sensation and perception research is also quite interdisciplinary. Imagine walking between buildings as you move from one class to another. You are inundated with sights, sounds, touch sensations, and smells. You also experience the temperature of the air around you and maintain your balance as you make your way. These are all factors of interest to someone working in the domain of sensation and perception.
Why Male Psychology matters: an evolutionary perspective
by Dr Rebecca Owens & Dr Helen Driscoll, University of Sunderland, UK.
On August 30 th 2018, there was a revolutionary step forward in psychology: 71.5% of voters supported the creation of a Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS). It is now one of 19 Sections of the BPS (as well as lots of Divisions, Groups etc), alongside the Psychology of Women and Equalities Section, established 30 years ago as the Psychology of Women Section.
In this article we discuss why the new Male Psychology section is so important, and explain the relevance of Male Psychology from an evolutionary perspective.
Why a Male Psychology Section matters
We hear a lot about male privilege – how men supposedly have a status in society which benefits them. Of course there are ways in which this is true, although there are also numerous ways in which society arguably favours women. Both sexes however face particular challenges, which require a gendered approach to effectively understand and address, and which necessitate investment in research. Some of the big issues facing men were discussed at the male psychology conference, and include high suicide rates, mental health issues, and domestic abuse. There is a lack of awareness of the extent to which these issues affect men, and this means that often men have no one who will listen to them and relatively little help or support.
Lack of awareness also means research and understanding is limited, impairing our ability to tackle these issues the development of a Male Psychology Section is crucial to furthering our understanding of issues facing men.
We believe ‘toxic masculinity’ is an unfair and unhelpful term. Whilst there are men who behave in ways that are harmful and some of these behaviours can be linked to some aspects of masculinity, to imply that masculinity is toxic is unfair to men, and deflects us from recognising the many positive aspects of masculinity. We hope that the development of a Male Psychology Section will facilitate research and understanding of the positive aspects of masculinity.
How evolutionary psychology can provide a framework for the study of male psychology
Evolutionary psychologists examine how the brain and behaviours of modern humans have been shaped by our evolutionary history. The environment in which we evolved was largely very stable, which is why we are adapted to it. Since the agricultural revolution, c10,000 years ago, the environment has been very unstable, changing rapidly. But physically and psychologically we have not changed a great deal because human reproduction is a slow process, and evolution is therefore slow too.
Many of the psychological differences between men and women are due to sex-specific selection pressures in our evolutionary history. This is because the keys to successful reproduction (and therefore passing on genes) were different for men and women. Men had the potential to successfully reproduce by acquiring multiple partners and offspring, whereas women, constrained by pregnancy and lactation, reproduced successfully by investing heavily in a smaller number of offspring. This fundamental difference between men and women has profound implications for psychological sex differences.
It is important to note that these evolved sex differences are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – there is no moral judgment on this, it just is.
To fully understand male psychology, we need to understand how the male brain and behaviour have been shaped by sex-specific selection pressures in the human ancestral environment. This does not need to be the focus of all research, but if all research is informed by this understanding, it will result in a more complete and accurate understanding of male psychology.
Many of the issues that affect men more than women are rooted in our evolutionary past – men are more inclined to take risks than women, which often have negative repercussions, such as substance abuse, homelessness and suicide (in contemporary environments). This is not to say that women cannot be affected by these issues – they are – but on average, more men are affected by such issues than women.
We will blog more about the relevance of evolutionary psychology to Male Psychology in the next few weeks.
About the authors
Dr Helen Driscoll is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland. She gained her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree from Newcastle University and PhD in Psychology from Durham University. Helen is a Chartered Psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her PhD examined sex differences in intrasexual aggression and intimate partner violence from an evolutionary perspective. Helen’s current research interests include sexual behaviour and sexuality, male psychology, dark personality and adult play.
Evolution Influences Mate Preferences: What Men And Women Really Want
Men and women have evolved to have different mate preferences, ensuring the likelihood of reproducing. J.K. Califf, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Ask anyone, and they will likely tell you men and women have a very different idea of "the perfect partner." This difference, a new study from the University of Texas at Austin finds, may be rooted in evolution.
To examine how gender influences mating preferences, researchers studied 4,764 men and 5,389 women from 33 different countries and 37 different cultures. They found even in countries promoting gender equality, mating preferences still varied. Study co-author David Buss, a psychology professor, said this rejects the existing idea men and women are identical in their underlying psychology.
"The genders differ strikingly in their evolved mate preferences in some domains,” Buss explained in a press release. “The same holds true in highly sexually egalitarian cultures such as Sweden and Norway as in less egalitarian cultures such as Iran.”
When it comes down to it, researchers discovered that what we want in a mate is linked more to our gender than our individual experiences and preferences. As a result, they found that they could predict a person’s sex with 92.2 percent accuracy purely based on what they said they wanted in a significant other.
“The large overall difference between men's and women's mate preferences tells us that the sexes must have experienced dramatically different challenges in the mating domain throughout human evolution,” said Daniel Conroy, lead author and graduate researcher.
As expected, men have a tendency to look for partners who are younger and more physically attractive, while women look for older and more financially established mates, with higher social status and ambition. These eye roll-inducing gender roles may have evolved with men and women over time.
"Because women bear the cost of pregnancy and lactation, they often faced the adaptive problem of acquiring resources to produce and support offspring, while men faced adaptive problems of identifying fertile partners and sought cues to fertility and future reproductive value," Conroy-Beam said.
The study claims that this is just an example of natural selection at work, in which the sexes each face their own reproductive challenges and must adapt and find mates who will provide healthy children. If we did not evolve to favor these characteristics, the chances of perpetuating the species, so to speak, would not be as high.
This is not to say our individual preferences are meaningless. In fact, men and women still look for and value certain characteristics, like a pleasing disposition, sociability, as well as shared religious and political views. So when it comes down to it, evolution doesn't have teh final say over who we choose to spend our lives with, but it is a big part of it. Basically, researchers concluded, a lot more goes into this decision than we think.
"Few decisions impact reproduction more than mate choice," Conroy-Beam said. "Mate preferences will therefore be a central target and driver of biological evolution. We have found some promising initial results, and we think this holistic approach will help answer a lot of questions in mating research in the future."
Source: Conroy-Beam D, Buss D, Pham M, et al. How sexually dimorphic are human mate preferences? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2015.
What is the Salary for an Evolutionary Psychologist?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specifically identify evolutionary psychology as a separate field, however, the American Psychological Association places the annual yearly salary for experimental psychology – a closely related field – at a range of $76,090-$116,343.
The experience of the professional is also a factor in the pay that is earned. Some of these professionals apply for sponsorship to conduct researches and hence this is also a factor in the amount they can earn.
Back around the 11th of July, I saw a few comments by a guy named Myles Power, a science youtuber, who was quite irate that Rebecca Watson criticized evolutionary psychology five years ago. There were the usual vaguely horrified reactions implying how annoying it was that some mere communications major would criticize an established, credible, true science like EP, and how she was prioritizing entertainment over scientific validity (not all from this Power guy Watson is a magnet for the same tiresome bozos making the same tiresome complaints). So I told him that no, her criticisms were not off-base at all, and then a lot of scientists consider EP to be poor science. I also gave him a few links to consider.
He saw them, and acknowledged it.
@pzmyers This may take me some time to get back to you :)
&mdash Myles Power (@powerm1985) July 11, 2016
@pzmyers This may take me some time to get back to you :)
He did not get back to me. Instead, he came out with a video titled Rebecca Watson’s Dishonest Representation of Evolutionary Psychology . It did not use a single scrap of the information I sent him. Not one bit. Furthermore, he just made this excuse.
@thedxman I am also doing the ground work in organising a google+ debate with PZ and a Prof in EP from a reputable university.
&mdash Myles Power (@powerm1985) July 14, 2016
I am also doing the ground work in organising a google+ debate with PZ and a Prof in EP from a reputable university.
Say what? He wrote that on the 14th. Not once has he contacted me about “organizing” a debate. One would kind of think that contacting both of the principals in this planned debate would be the very first step in organizing it. Do I get to say “no”, are is he just assuming that all he has to do is contact the esteemed EP professor and then I’ll self-evidently fall into line? I’m not at all impressed with Myles Power’s honesty so far.
So then I watched the video.
It does not start well. In the first minute and a half, he talks about the universality of many human facial expressions, like anger or happiness. It’s irrelevant. Critics of EP are not disagreeing with the existence of evolved human traits. Humans evolved, the brain evolved, but that does not imply that every human behavior is the product of natural selection. Some behaviors are, others are not. The problem lies in sorting out which is which, and the assumptions and methodology of evolutionary psychology can’t do that.
Power then presents a summary of the domain of evolutionary psychology.
Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology that attempts to explain useful mental and psychological traits — such as memory, perception, o[r] language — as adaptations, i.e., as the functional products of natural selection.
Does anyone else see the problems with this definition? Myles Power doesn’t. Maybe you can help him out.
The obvious flaw is the assumption that all useful mental traits are adaptations. This is not necessarily true. In fact, the central problem in this version of EP is that it simply sails right past all the difficulties in determining whether a trait is a product of selection. According to EP, it just is, and to question that makes you the equivalent of a creationist. Apparently, only because evolutionary psychologists don’t understand any of the other mechanisms of evolutionary biology. Their shortcut is this naive idea that if a behavior exists, it is necessarily an adaptation.
There’s another flaw in the definition, and it’s one that Power indulged in in his opening: the EP bait-and-switch. They are going to explain evolved human traits, and a core premise of EP, the EEA, or environment of evolutionary adaptation. We were shaped by the environment humans lived in 10,000 and more years ago. But look at that list: Memory? Perception? Invertebrates have those. You’re not going to work out the origins of those by giving questionnaires to undergraduates. Language might be a bit more appropriate, but it’s a bit peculiar to deny the existence of antecedents in non-humans, and to claim that the biological substrate for language reached its completed form 10K years ago.
But then, Power is a chemist. Maybe he’s had no exposure to modern evolutionary biology.
At 1:50, we get another common refrain — the criticisms of EP are all based on accusations that it promotes gender stereotypes, racism, and classism, and they’re all straw men. No. I criticize EP because it is a lazy, invalid discipline built on a fallacious foundation. However, all that keeps it going and popular is because it does validate cultural stereotypes, over and over again. The fact that Rebecca Watson points out the fallacies of EP is treated as reason to call her dishonest.
So he throws in some excerpts from Rebecca’s talk, “How Girls Evolved to Shop”, and the first thing he does is agree with the first part: she uses an example of EP that was commissioned by a shopping center, and Power thinks it is a good example of how the media warp and distort science to sell newspapers . He doesn’t seem to recognize that it is also evidence of a source of pervasive bias, that there is real incentive for scientists to fit data to a cultural stereotypes…which ought to make one more critical of EP, and less likely to accept its conclusions as valid.
But no, Power wants to deny the implication that scientists could be prone to media manipulation. This study doesn’t count, apparently. Widely reported newspaper articles written by evolutionary psychologists about ridiculous conclusions of evolutionary psychology do not count as examples of bad EP — Watson did not plumb the scientific literature sufficiently deeply.
Here’s some unsurprising news for you: neither does Myles Power. He doesn’t address any papers in EP that he would judge worthy.
Then he complains that Watson claims that EP argues that the human brain hasn’t evolved in 10,000 years…which they do, of course. But Power argues that no significant amount of evolution could have possibly occured in the last few millennia. OK, maybe lactose tolerance. Maybe a few nucleotide changes (did I mention that he’s not an evolutionary biologist or population geneticist?), but it wasn’t enough time for anything important to have occurred. Except, you know, agriculture and urbanization and multiple sweeps of disease.
But there’s also another implicit assumption in what he’s saying: that the only changes that count are biological. Perhaps he ought to stop and think about the fact that maybe, what evolved was a general biological substrate for unspecified complex behavior, and that all those details evolutionary psychologists love to spin adaptive scenarios for aren’t genetic at all. Studying something as malleable as human behavior is not a sound foundation for making evolutionary inferences.
He declares that it only took 2 nucleotide changes to generate lactose tolerance, but that really pales in comparison to the amount of changes you would need to change complex behaviors . Do tell. How many does it take? How many were involved in the many behavioral changes that occured in the switch from the hunter/gatherer lifestyle to life as a farmer?
Shouldn’t this tell you right away that all of psychology isn’t determined by your genes, and that maybe the methodology of EP isn’t going to be able to tease apart the causes?
But brace yourself for the most shockingly dishonest part of Watson’s talk , in which she cites VS Ramachandran’s paper, “Why do gentlemen prefer blondes?”, which was published as a satire of evolutionary psychology in the journal Medical Hypotheses. But it was a satire, Power explains, so it wasn’t fair for Watson to discuss it. Except, of course, that Watson plainly states that it was a satirical paper to mock the poor basis in evidence of EP work, and the silliness of their just-so stories. What it’s saying is that these flaws in EP are widely known among scientists, and that even genuinely highly reputable neuroscientists like Ramachandran are acutely aware of the problems. What Power needs to do is stop and think and realize that he’s not just arguing with Rebecca Watson, but with VS Ramachandran…and he’s oblivious to the implications.
Instead, Power claims that Watson is implying that the entire field was taken in by this mockery. Nope. He is basically claiming to have read Rebecca Watson’s mind, and determined that she believed this satire had fooled all evolutionary psychologists. But I know this is not the case — I’ve actually talked with Watson about evolutionary psychology, and understand her position from the evidence of that mundane means of sound and language, rather than telepathy.
Watson explained that about the paper in her talk, and joked about the fact that it got published. Power then explains what Rebecca Watson is really saying: she’s saying that the entire field was taken in by this mockery. She is implying that it got published in a good journal, and she’s basically making evolutionary psychology look bad. That’s an awful lot of mind-reading.
No, again. I’m familiar with the response by evolutionary psychologists to that paper. It was not equivalent to the Sokal hoax (and Watson did not say it was), in which a paper fooled credible reviewers in a field it was open satire of their ideas, and evolutionary psychologists saw it as such (and they didn’t like it). Power then states that to imply as Watson did that this somehow fooled them is incredibly dishonest . Except Watson did not imply that. All the dishonest implications are being drawn by Power.
There are higher numbers of females born blonde than males and retention of blonde hair into adulthood is a sexually selected indicator of fitness in females.4 Caucasian blondes are usually slightly higher in oestrogen than brunettes and are likely to exhibit other infantile sexually selected traits (indicating low levels of testosterone) that are considered desirable by males, for example finer facial features, smaller nose, smaller jaw, pointed chin, narrow shoulders, smooth skin and less body hair, and infantile behaviour such as higher energy levels and playfulness.
Another possible reason for Nordic gentlemen preferring blondes is to assure their paternity. The genes for blue eyes and blonde hair are recessive, meaning both parents must have the genes for them to be expressed in their offspring. So it has been proposed that blue-eyed men prefer blue-eyed women as mates because they have some degree of certainty over fatherhood. A blue-eyed male with a brown-eyed mate would not have the same assurance the resulting brown-eyed infant was his child and therefore worthy of a slice of the mammoth he risked his life trapping and slaughtering and then spent days dragging back across miles of icy tundra.
Power might have a point if this satirical story weren’t also the subject of a great deal of serious evolutionary psychology speculation.
I have to include one more example: this article titled Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? . It’s just more garbage, but what makes it most relevant is that a heck of a lot of Power’s commenters are recommending that he follow up with Gad Saad, author of that article, and a very vocal evolutionary psychologist. Also amusing is how those commenters also demean Rebecca Watson for her communications degree, while ignoring the fact that Saad is a professor of fucking marketing, who knows nothing of biology.
Finally, Power makes another exercise in mind-reading: he claims that the only reason she was having a go at this particular branch of psychology is because it conflicts with her ideology . That’s a clear attempt to smear her motivations, not her evidence, and given that Power could not cite any reasonable studies based on evolutionary psychology, it’s clear that that’s the only tactic he’s got for his emotional defense of bad science.
He’s also annoyed that she was applauded by an audience of skeptics, who are supposed to question everything they hear. Unless it’s evolutionary psychology. True skeptics do not question that, I guess. And once again, he questions Watson’s motivations, that she wanted to produce something that is so anti-science, that blatantly only exists because this branch of science conflicts with their dogmatic view on life. Now that is the dishonest bullshit.
And he goes further to present a pre-emptive defense. The fact that I am a chap, I am white…I am doing rather well financially, and I’m straight…if these are reasons why you think that the things I’ve said in this video should be discredited, you need to stop for a second and have a think about what you are saying, and think is that really a good reason to dismiss what I’m saying.
Poor man. He’s worried that he’ll be persecuted for being a straight white man with a stable job. After all, that’s the only possible reason someone might disagree with what he’s saying. Not because of his rhetorical fallacies, his ignorance of evolutionary biology, his irrational defense of a field he also knows little about, or the fact that he’s pandering to a mob of MRAs who have been hating on Rebecca Watson for years, and are probably thrilled to have another opportunity to throw more slime her way.
I could also point out that I’m a straight white man with a stable job, so I’m not likely to think his color or sex or finances represent insuperable flaws. But it’s not necessary.
I will say that this is the first of his videos I’ve seen, and I’m unlikely to watch any of the others, if this is the quality of his reasoning and the kind of audience he is aspiring to. I’m also pretty damned unlikely to participate in this debate he claims to have been organizing for me.
An Evolutionary Explanation For Why We Crave Sugar
We can blame our sweet tooth on our primate ancestors.
Millions and millions of years ago, apes survived on sugar-rich fruit. These animals evolved to like riper fruit because it had a higher sugar content than unripe fruit and therefore supplied more energy.
"Sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving," said Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University and author of "The Story the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease."
And sugar offers more than just energy — it helps us store fat, too.
When we eat table sugar, our bodies break this down into glucose and fructose. Importantly, fructose appears to activate processes in your body that make you want to hold on to fat, explains Richard Johnson, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Colorado and author of "The Sugar Fix." At a time when food was scarce and meals inconsistent — hunting is significantly less reliable than a drive-through — hanging on to fat was an advantage, not a health risk.
In a forthcoming paper, Johnson postulates that our earliest ancestors went through a period of significant starvation 15 million years ago in a time of global cooling. "During that time," he said, "a mutation occurred" that increased the apelike creatures' sensitivity to fructose so that even small amounts were stored as fat. This adaptation was a survival mechanism: Eat fructose and decrease the likelihood you will starve to death.
The sweet taste was adaptive in other ways as well. In the brain, sugar stimulates the "feel-good" chemical dopamine. This euphoric response makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, since our hunter-gatherer ancestors predisposed to "get hooked" on sugar probably had a better chance of survival (some scientists argue that sugar is an addictive drug).
"Imagine if someone hated sugar in the Paleolithic era," said Lieberman. "Then they wouldn't eat enough sugar or have enough energy and wouldn't have children."
In other words, anything that made people more likely to eat sugar would also make them more likely to survive and pass along their genes.
All the food challenges our prehistoric ancestors faced mean that biologically, we have trained ourselves to crave sweets. The problem today is that humans have too much of the sweet stuff available to them.
"For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare," Lieberman wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. "Apart from honey, most of the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were no sweeter than a carrot. The invention of farming made starchy foods more abundant, but it wasn’t until very recently that technology made pure sugar bountiful."
Weight gain was not a real risk when our instincts meant we might scarf down the nutritional equivalent of a carrot whenever we happened to stumble across one. Drinking soda all day — the contemporary equivalent — is a different story.
Today, the average sugar intake in the U.S. is 22 teaspoons per person per day, which is four times the amount that the World Health Organization suggests is healthy. Eating too much sugar is linked to a laundry list of negative health effects, including diabetes , obesity, and high blood pressure .
"We need to realize that our bodies are not adapted to the amount of sugar that we are pouring into them and it's making us sick," said Lieberman.
Why do we all want to be young and beautiful (and women especially)? From the evolutionary psychological perspective
Within social sciences, the standards of beauty were for a long time considered to be culturally determined, meaning that different people with different life experiences in different cultures acquire different standards of beauty, as captured in the famous sentence "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". However, two groups of findings have challenged this common assumption: first, people in different cultures generally agree on which faces are attractive second, preferences emerge early in life, before cultural standards of beauty are likely to be assimilated. Evolutionary psychology explores the psychological adaptations (evolved psychological mechanisms constructed by natural selection) that constitute human nature. From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, beauty is not a cultural construct and appreciating beauty is not learned but is rather a biological adaptation, a part of universal human nature: the preferences for some physical characteristics reflect adaptations for mate choice because they signal aspects of mate quality. Theory of natural selection explains the adaptations, which help organisms in their tasks of survival. However, an organism can be adapted and survive for many years without passing its qualities to future generations--to pass them it must reproduce. The theory of sexual selection explains the adaptations that have arisen as a consequence of successful mating. In order to gain reproductive success, women and men adopt certain mate selection strategies--integrated sets of adaptations, not necessarily conscious, which organize and guide the individual's reproductive efforts.
David Buss: The “Darwin” of Evolutionary Psychology
In laying the foundation for evolutionary biology in his 1859 book, &ldquoOn the Origin of Species,&rdquo Charles Darwin also prophesied a rise of new scholars that would seek to understand the ancestry of the whole human &mdash body and mind:
"In the distant future, I see open fields for far more important researchers. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."
&ldquoDarwin&rsquos prophesy is now coming to fruition in modern evolutionary psychology,&rdquo says University of Texas at Austin psychology professor David Buss, a trailblazer of the study of evolutionary psychology. &ldquoUnderstanding our evolved psychology is essential for effecting positive change in reducing certain ills of society, such as discrimination and sexual exploitation.&rdquo
In publishing the first and most widely used textbook in the field, &ldquoEvolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind,&rdquo in 1999 &mdash now in its fifth edition &mdash Buss and his colleagues laid the groundwork that helped establish college courses on the subject around the world. His foundational and continued efforts recently earned him a Lifetime Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution from the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
&ldquoI&rsquove always been fascinating by human nature and human motivation,&rdquo Buss continues. &ldquoWhat makes people tick? What makes people get out of bed in the morning? How is the human mind designed? What causal processes created the components of our psychological makeup?&rdquo
At the core of human evolution is, of course, reproduction, Buss says. Inspired by Donald Symons 1979 book, &ldquoThe Evolution of Human Sexuality,&rdquo and inclined to fill a knowledge gap in an area that was &ldquopractically nonexistent,&rdquo Buss took a specific interest in the psychology of human mating strategies.
&ldquoSo much of life revolves around human mating. Our mating psychology is connected to so many important domains &mdash status hierarchies, cooperation and social conflict to name just three,&rdquo says Buss, who has published extensively on the topics of mate selection, attraction and retention, including writing a book, &ldquoThe Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating,&rdquo to explain the powerful forces that shape humans&rsquo most intimate desires.
His work has since shifted focus to &ldquothe darker side of human nature,&rdquo components of the human psyche that have evolved alongside of those for cooperation or altruism, Buss says. This newer work investigates conflict between the sexes: mate poaching infidelity the emotions of jealousy, lust and love and even intimate partner violence and murder.
While he enjoys unpacking the complex domains of the evolved human psychology, Buss&rsquos favorite aspect of his work is sharing this new knowledge with others, namely, his students. Before coming to UT Austin, Buss taught at University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University and the University of Michigan, and he has given talks at universities around the world. He&rsquos supervised 27 Ph.D. students, many of which have gone on to become eminent scholars and continue to work in the field.
&ldquoThat&rsquos hugely gratifying,&rdquo Buss says. &ldquoI greatly enjoy teaching and making new discoveries with graduate students in the area of human mating strategies. I&rsquove been rewarded by the many students who tell me that my classes have changed their worldview.&rdquo
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Evaluation: Issues & Debates
Evolutionary explanations of relationships suffer from evolutionary reductionism, as they argue that strategies for choosing a mate are the result of genetic inheritance and a striving for reproductive success. However, this is not always as straightforward in real life, where individual differences in partner’s choice play a huge part. For example, evolutionary explanations fail to account for homosexual relationships where choice of partner clearly does not result in reproductive success and so doesn't have an evolutionary advantage.
Likewise, evolutionary explanations of relationships also suffer from determinism, as they seem to claim that choice strategies are determined by a person’s gender, and that humans are attracted to people who will have, provide and/or care for offspring.
Furthermore, evolutionary explanations of mate preference also emphasise the differences in what males and females look for in a potential partner. This exaggeration of the differences between the genders is known as an alpha bias, and the differences between males and females may be overstated. It is plausible to argue that males and females actually look for similar characteristics, such as loyalty and kindness, and such characteristics are not reported in the research, which tends to look for clear differences.