Evolutionary and cultural explanations of relationships

a set of cards outlining each approach and the AO2 studies that are for an against them!

  • Created by: lauren
  • Created on: 07-01-13 20:08

Evolutionary explanation - AO1

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, survival of the fittest, romantic relationships are influenced by evolutionary traits of survival.

Intersexual selection - one member of one sex (usually female) carefully selects a member from the opposite sex (male) who can provide best resources. Females look for older, richer men.

Males look for young, attractive females for indicators of fertility. Singh (1993) suggested that a thin waist and wide hips is the optimum attractive feature in women.

Physical attractiveness is extremely important, Langlois et al (1987) found that 12 month old babies watch faces that are rated attractive for longer, suggesting they have an innate preference for attractiveness.

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Evolutionary explantion - AO2 For

Buss (1989) 37 samples -> 6 continents + 5 islands. Men rated good looks more important in a partner than women, women rated financial prospects more important in a partner.
supports evolutionary explanation as it shows men do rate good looks more important within a partner as they need this for an indicator of fertility. women rate financial prospects as they need men to provide resources - these qualities are considered important in different cultures and therefore must be evolutionary needs.
AO3: Large sample size 10,000! BUT not equally representative of each country 

Waynforth and Dunbar (1995) content analysis of personal ads. Women were twice as likely to advertise physical attractiveness, and demanded wealth in a partner 4.5 times more often than men.
supports evolutionary explanation as it shows women advertise phsyical attractiveness understanding that men find this extremely important, and shows that women consider financial security more important in a partner 

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Evolutionary explanation - AO2 against

Strassberg and Holly (2003) found that the most popular female-seeking-male ad had been one in which the female advertised herself as 'independent, successful and ambitious' and the second most popular ad had been the one which she described herself as 'lovely, attractive and slim'
contradicts the evolutionary explanation of romantic relationships at is shows men have a preference for women who show financial security and who have ambitious personalities, compared to the second ad which according to evolution should be the most popular.

LeVine et al (1993) found that 49% of Indians would marry for reasons other than love, compared to 3.5% of Americans and 7% of English.
contradicts the evolutionary explanation of romantic relationships as it shows the differences between cultures on basis' of forming romantic relationships. this suggests cultures do have an impact on the choices behind relationships, and it cannot be innate.

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Evolutinary explanation, AO2 IDA

you must include an IDA in your answer! for the evolutionary explanation, the easiest and most relevant IDA would be the nature/nurture debate. your paragraph should look like this....

As the evolutionary explanation states that romantic relationships are formed as a result of innate biological factors that have emerged through the process of evolution, it is only considering nature's influence on romantic relationships. It is therefore ignoring the impact nurture can have on relationships, such as cultural influences. There is clearly evidence of differences between relationships across cultures, for example the practice of polygamy where a man can have two or more spouses at once, or polyandry where a woman can have more than two husbands. This shows that romantic relationships cannot be explained by nature alone, and that the evolutionary explanation fails to be a complete explanation of why romantic relationships are formed.

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Cultural explanation - AO1

Smith and Bond (1998) say that cross-cultural psychology studies vairability in behaviour among societies and social groups around the world. If there is variability in relationships, then culture does have an influence on relationships.

Western cultures - individualist, voluntary and temporary (divorce possible and casual) relationships

Non-western cultures - collectivist (self is an extension of in group), involuntary (what benefits the group most) and permanent (divorce is not as accepted). They also value vertical relationships (parent-child) over horizontal (spouse-spouse), so in conflict the vertical relationship takes priority.

Polygamy is allowed in 84% of known cultures - man has 2+ wives

Polyandry features in Tibet and the Himilayan areas - women have 2+ husbands when resources are scarce

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Cultural explanation - AO2 For

LeVine et al (1993) young people from 11 countries if they would marry someone they do not love. 49% of Indians said yes, compared to 3.5% of Americans and 7% of English.
supports cultural influence on romantic relationships as it shows the difference of viewpoints between western cultures (England + USA) who would marry for their own benefits and non-western cultures (India) who would marry for 'other' reasons to benefit their group, such as money. Western cultures have a lower 'yes' response as they are more likely to make their own decision.
AO3: only young people, not generalisable to adults! large selection of countries however which is generalisable to many cultures

Gupta and Singh (1982) studied 100 marraiged within India. 50 were love marriages, and 50 were arranged. The afffection within love marriages (temporary) declined over time, whilst the affection within the arranged (permanent) grew and exceeded that of love marraiges.
supports cultural influence as it shows the differences between cultures, and that involuntary, arranged marraiges are permanent whilst voluntary marraiges can be temporary.

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Cultural explanation - AO1 against

Singh (1993) studied beauty contest winners and ******* centrefolds over the past 50 years and across cultures, finding a consistent waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7
contradicts cultural influence of romantic relationships as it shows that there is a consistency within cultures of what influences attraction and subsequently romantic relationships, suggesting that attraction and therfore relationships are innate and biological.

Use Buss's (1989) study that supports the evolutionary explanation to argue against the cultural explanation - try this yourself!

Further AO2: Moghaddam et al (1993) states that American researchers apply their research and theories to people in general as if culture makes no difference. This means that much of the reserarch on relationships has an anglocentric or eurocentric bias, reducing validity.

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Cultural explanation - A02 IDA

yes once again you need to include an IDA in your essay! however, if you paid attention to the IDA I wrote for you for the nature/nurture debate in the evolutionary explanation, this should be easy. Culture falls on the nurture side of the debate, so use my previous IDA to write an IDA explaining why culture is limited. Remember, IDAs should work out to award you three marks, so ensure you've 'top and taled' it and included key words...

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