Evolutionary Explanation of Human Reproduction

The Relationship between Sexual Selection and Human Reproduction

Gender differences in parental investment.

AO1, AO2, IDA points for all.

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  • Evolutionary Explanations for Human Reproduction
    • Sex differences & parental investment
      • Parental Investment Theory - Trivers. Suggests gender differences in sexual behaviour evolve due to differing amounts of parental investment by males / females
        • Male investment is small. Always fertile, infinite sperm. Can impregnate many women, genes spread to as many healthy women as possible.
        • Female investment huge - limited eggs, fertile only 30 years. 9 months growing foetus, shares nourishment. Pain of birth, would have had to breast feed for 2 years. Wants best possible mate - make it worth the effort
      • AO1
      • AO2
        • Supported by Buss. Asked male and female students to imagine their partner sleeping with, and in love with, with somebody else, whilst measuring stress response.
          • Males became more distressed at sexual unfaithfulness, women more at emotional unfaithfulness.
            • Unfaithful woman means that man invests in a child that's not his. Unfaithful nan means resources directed away from her and her family.
        • Has real applications - can be used to explain sexual violence.
          • Thumhill suggests men without resources are still programmed to reproduce so cannot control sexual needs.
            • However, feminists feel this is an attempt to justify rape.
    • IDA
      • Naturist. The theory is caused by evolution, so ignores environmental factors.
      • Deterministic. The evolutionary basis suggests that we don't have free will over actions, it's caused by a natural desire to reproduce
        • Does not consider factors such as choosing to not be in a relationship or asexuality
      • Reductionist - complex nature of choosing a partner reduced down to simple stage of evolution
        • Does not consider factors such as personal relationship experiences (a bad relationship may put you off a certain type of person)
    • SEXUAL SELECTION - the process by which characteristics are selected because they are attractive to the opposite sex. Genes for these characteristics are passed into offspring
      • Features attractive in women
        • Features associated with young children - large eyes, small noses, small chins
          • Sexually selected for youthful features - more likely to be fertile and be able to increase offspring's chance of survival.
            • STUDY - Manipulated faces of each gender (Cunningham for females, Waynforth for males) and asked to rate for attractiveness.
              • Features associated with strength. Strong males can provide for offspring, increasing survival.
        • Features of maturity as well - prominent cheekbones, wide hips, narrow cheeks
          • Sexually selected for youthful features - more likely to be fertile and be able to increase offspring's chance of survival.
            • STUDY - Manipulated faces of each gender (Cunningham for females, Waynforth for males) and asked to rate for attractiveness.
              • Features associated with strength. Strong males can provide for offspring, increasing survival.
      • Features attracttive in men
        • Masculine features - square jaw, ridged eyebrows, small eyes, symmetrical face
      • Sexual Selection
        • AO1
        • AO2
          • Culture bias in these studies - different features can be found attractive in different cultures - cannot be generalised
            • However, Longlois found there was considerable agreement within and between cultures as to attractiveness in a meta-analysis of 919 studies. Suggests some generalisability
          • Support - Waynforth & Dunbar analysed 900 personal ads in 4 USA newspapers. 42% males requested youthful matte, compared tto 22% females.
            • Women also sought physical attraction, and likely to mention power and status. Men more likely to mention physical attractiveness.
              • Suggests that women find potential in partner more important than physical attraction. Supports evolutionary theory, as men want fertile women and women want a strong male with resources.

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