Sexual Selection and formation of relationships

An A grade essay which will be useful for practise

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  • Created on: 10-05-11 23:23
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What is the relationship between sexual selection and
human reproductive behaviour?
Sexual selection is the complementary force in which humans (and animals) compete with each other
in order to mate with the partner of their choice (the ones which poses the most adaptive traits) in
order to pass on their genes, producing healthy offspring. There are two types of sexual selection:
Intersexual selection is where there is competition between the sexes females are choosey because
they have more to loose: Intrasexual selection, this is competition within males as females are scarce
resource for which males compete.
Buss (1989) conducted a crosscultural study (37 different cultures) and 9000 adults. The study was
in the form of a questionnaire/survey. The findings were: females more than male's valued earning
potential (significant in 36/37 cultures), males more than females valued physical attributes (significant
in 34/37 cultures), females more than males valued industriousness and ambition (which are clue to
gain resources), males more than females value chastity, males prefer younger females than
themselves, females prefer older males they will be able to provide care for themselves and their
offspring. What this study shows is that it agrees with what the evolutionary theory says males look
for physical attractiveness as it is the sign of fertility (the female partner will produce healthy
offspring equalling to a higher reproductive value), whereas females look for resources because
resources are signs that the male partner will be able to sustain the needs and requirements.
However, caution must be taken when applying these results because although they support the
theory and link the evolutionary approach with the human reproductive behaviour, the results were
obtained via a questionnaire. The problems with questionnaires are that there is always going to be
social desirable answers as every individual wishes to comply with the social norms. Also the
independent variable is one which cannot be controlled as it is naturally occurring so the only way to
gain validity from this experiment is by applying the theory to the results making them unfalsifiable.
Another study which supports the evolutionary approach and linking it to a biological approach is
one by Pinker. Pinker has suggested that being in a long term romantic relationship is and adaptive
advantage promoting survival, therefore it should be prominent in all cultures. If romantic
relationships are universal there must be a biological explanation suggesting that being in a romantic
relationship is something which has been selected out and evolved into humans. This is what Bartel
and Zeiki (2000) have found. They discovered that when people are in love a certain part of the
brain lights up this was done by using fMRI.
Even though the evolutionary explanation is very accurate in answering why men prefer symmetrical
features such as a symmetrical bust is because they are signs of fertility and why females look for a
man with resources as well as someone who is likely to stay longer the theory ignores social and
cultural explanations (Aranson).
Overall the evolutionary explanation has done well to explain why humans `seek' the traits they do
and why it varies over the sexes. However the evolutionary explanation can be accused of sexism as
it has ignored homosexual relationships in which there is no possible way to pass on genes. Even
thought those in homosexual relationships are unable to pass on their traits they still show the
suggested adaptations e.g. females are less willing to engage in casual sex (Buss & Schmidt 1993)
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