Outline and Evaluate the Relationship Between Sexual Selection and Human Reproductive Behaviour
Outline and evaluate the relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour (8+16 marks) Evolutionary theory states that all animals are motivated by the desire to ensure that their genes make it into the gene pool of the next generation. Natural selection is the tendency of individuals best adapted to their environment to survive and pass on their genes. Sexual selection is the probability of passing on our genes depends partly on any chances of survival but also on ability to attract a mate.
Those who have genes for features which make them attractive are most likely to reproduce and pass all their genes on. This could be supported by Darwin’s suggestion that the peacock’s bright colouring was there to attract the peahen. Sexual selection is important for us as humans as some physical characteristics may not have developed to increase our survival rate, but simply to make us more sexually desirable. An example of this is eye/hair colour and distribution of muscle. Our sexual behaviour can be influenced genes, and this is similar no matter what culture you come from.
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They are also similar in terms of physical characteristics. This is a significant factor because it is a demonstration of the universal Ridley says that in the past 100,000 years the human species has hardly evolved, therefore our psychology is similar to when we were hunter gatherers. This means that males have to find ways to ensure their reproductive success, and a way to attract females is to show that they have the right characteristics and traits. Some examples of characteristics are wealth, intelligence and strength. They can show wealth by having expensive items like cars and watches and phones.
Intelligence can be shown by having a good job, and strength can be shown by going to the gym, or performing manly tasks. Women are driven to secure the best genes possible, and want to be protected by a powerful man so their children have the highest chance of surviving. Buss (1989) wanted to test the hypothesis that factors affecting mate chance in men and women are consistent across a range of cultures. They took a large population, and gave them questionnaires measuring importance of factors in mate choice, it was found that men and women prioritized different features in a mate.
Woman emphasised a good financial prospect apart from in Spain, where women only fractionally placed more importance on money than men 29 out of 37 of cultures women placed more emphasis on ambitions, industriousness than did men however all 37 men rated the ideal age of a mate as younger than themselves, looks were more important to men in all 37. From this study we can conclude that although there were some anomalies, most findings supported the idea that men and women differ consistently in the characteristics they find attractive in a potential mate.
Schmitt surveyed more than 16,000 people from 53 countries and found men wanted sex with more people than women did. Strength of this research is large sample size, so it means it increases population validity. A possible problem with this and the buss research is because they used questionnaires, there is an issue with social desirability bias. Griskevicius, cialdani and Kendrick invited participants into labs in small groups and they were asked to write a story, establishing a baseline for creativity.
They were then sexually primed to respond to photographs of highly attractive people from a dating website. They were then asked to write a story about their perfect first date with one of the people from the photo of their choice. The participants in the control condition were asked to write their perfect date without using photos. They found out short stories from females were rated slightly higher than the male stories however following the photos, the creativity of male stories shot up to 4. 5 as opposed to 3. 7. Women stayed at the average of 3. 8 throughout.
It concluded that men as opposed to women are inspired to display authority in response to sexual queues. This supports sexual selection. In order for the theory of sexual selection to be valid it follows that there must some broad agreement on what makes someone physically attractive. Physical characteristics are biological, directly controlled by our genetic make-up. If there isn’t evidence for sexual selection in the development of physical characteristics then it is less likely that it is a factor in reproductive behaviour, but research has found a lot of agreement in physical attractiveness.
Waist-hip ratio is fairly reliable in indicating how attractive people will be rated, it is interesting as the ratio is also a reliable indicator of fertility. Streeter and Burney showed male participants photo-shopped pictures of women in which the waist hip had been manipulated so the same women could be evaluated for attractiveness with the entire spectrum of possible waist hip ratios. Generally the agreement was that a waist-hip ratio of 0. 7 was attractive. It suggests we used waist hip ratio as an indicator of fertility in sexual selection.
I think nature overrules nurture in this explanation because it talks about evolution and that is how we grow and develop and become more equipped to handle our environment as genes are passed on over time. I also think this explanation explains the relationship as determined rather than free will, as it is what we have been primed to do for a long period of time, it does not insinuate to us that there is much choice involved, however in some aspects, it does talk about what people are most likely to choose, showing there may be some aspects of choice there.