Evolutionary theory of Gender

  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 28-04-15 10:35

Parental investment: Care

Parental care


  • Limited parental care needed
  • Many babies at once, so less invested time and resources into each one.


  • Minimum of 9 months of investment.
  • Usually one child at a time
  • Can be sure it is their child
  • So much more investment
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Parental Investment: Mate Selection

Mate Selection


  • Mates should be young and fertile, as they have better chance of successful pregnancy
  • attractive (symmetrical) - good genes and little disease/infections.
  • These allow children to be more successful in turn.


  • Mates should have status and strength-better protection for them and child.
  • Resources- child can be provided for
  • Young- genes are strong and have a long time ahead of them to provide.
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Parental Investment: Sexual Jealousy

Sexual Jealousy


  • Paternity question means mates should be faithful
  • Therefore show more sexual jealousy.


  • No maternity question so less sexual jealousy
  • However, still want/need as many resources as possible.
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Parental Investment: IDA

Socially sensitive

  • It claims that that the roles men and women play in society are actually innate.
  • The suggestion that woman look for rich men, and are naturally inclined to look after children, may prevent movements towards equality in work and home.
  • It also says that men are more likely to cheat on woman, and base their partners on looks only, suggesting they are shallow. This also supports stereotypes, and could offend many men.

This makes the theory potentially damaging, and since it has very little evidence with is scientifically valid, the theory should not be used lightly.

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Parental investment: Buss

  • Surveyed 37 cultures
  • More than 10,000 particpants
  • Questionnaires were completed
  • Respondents rated a number of factors such as age, intelligence and sociability on according to importance in a partner.
  • Men valued physical attractiveness  more than women.
  • Women preffered good earning power and high occupational status.
  • In all cultures women preffered the man to be older.

This supports the parental investment theory because women look for older males with more resources and power, therefore ensuring better security, resources and proetction for their offspring. This would be a selective advantage in the gene pool.

Men look for youth and attractiveness, improving their fertility, and pregnancy success.

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Parental investment: Buss evaluation



  • Large population sample- 10,000 participants


  • Self-report techniques are very open to demand characterstics and social desirability bias, leading to internal validity problems for the study.
  • The questions may also have a western bias, as they were written by a western researcher. This could mean the study has imposed etic, and so all cultures seem to have similar gender roles to the West.
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Parental Investment theory: Wider Evaluation

Lack of practical applications

  • The theory is very deterministic, and says that men and women have evolved to carry out these roles.
  • It doesn't attempt to describe gender dysphoria or transexuality.
  • This makes it less useful.

Lack of scientific validity

  • The evolutionary theory is impossible to test empirically as it takes so long to carry out.
  • Therefore, cause and effect cannot be established, and we cannot postively justfiy the theory.
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Empathising and systemising theory: AO1

Female brain:

  • predominantly hardwired to empathy (identifying emotions and throughts for appropraite response.)
  • e.g. left brain is more language and empathy based and studies show women use this side more than men.
  • This gives them a mothering advantage, as they can assess the need sof children.
  • This means their chidlren would have a better chance at surving, and passing on these alleles.

Male brain:

  • predominatly hardwired for systemizing.
  • This is working out , designing and using a system which follows a set of rules (which could be a tool, a team or a machine.)
  • This allows mean to be better hunters and users of tools.
  • Autism is associated with extreme male mind, perhaps explaining why the diagnosis is more common in men.
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Determinist and socially sensitive

It suggests that women will always be better at caring and personability than men, who should be better at systemizing, numbers and logic.

This could determine job roles, resulting in gender prejudice. Some men may want to be carers of eldery or chidlren, and some women prefer science/maths based careers. However the theory says they will never be as good their gender counterpart.

This could cause oppression and reduce progression in creating more equality within jobs.

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E&S research: Connellan and Batki

Connellan and Batki

Two hypotheses

  • One day old baby girls will spend more time looking at a human face than a mechanical object.
  • One day old baby boys will spend more time looking at a mechanical object than a human face.
  • The babies saw Connellan's face and a mobile toy over their crib. Connellan was not told the gender of the baby.
  • The babies were filmed and the hypotheses were supported by the results recorded.

The results support the theory as male babies were predominantly interested in a systematic toy, whereas girls preffered an emotive human face.This must be an instinctive difference, as the babies were so young they could not have been socialised yet.

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E&S research: Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright

 Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright

  • Developed questionnaires to assess peoples empathizing quotient and their Systemizing quoteint (Their EQ and SQ)
  • Males consistently score higher on the SQ  and females on the EQ.
  • However, some males do score higher on the EQ, and women on the SQ.

This study partially supports the theory, as men generally have greater systemizing ability than empathizing abilities, and vice versa for women.

However, the individual differences suggest that the theory is not as determinsitic or has as much predictive validity. These differences could be explained by social factors or even pre-natal hormonal imbalances.

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E&S wider evaluation 3

Few practical applications

  • Deterministic nature suggests that women and men will always have varied abilities.
  • There is little flexibility in this sugegsting that efforrts shoudln't be made to try and increase female engineers or male carers.
  • However, it ha sbeen observed that empowerment and educaton of women leadss to much more socially and economically stable societies.

Cannot actually be observed

  • The nature of evolutionary theory means it is impossible to test empirically.
  • All cultural studies may have an element of imposed etic.


  • Social learning theory would suggest that these differences in EP/SQ could be down to social influences- men are encouraged to be more logical/ problem-solving whereas women more empathetic and caring.
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E&S research evaluation

Connelan and Batki

  • Generalisability- Research studies are both carrid out in the west- western babies loking at a womans face, and the EQ and SQ result could be resulted from western education. Not very generalisable- which is especially bad for an evolutionary theory. ETHNOCENTRIC BIAS.
  • Artificial the babies may react differently to their parents faces, which are the primary faces seen by babies at such an early age. Therefore, this could be measure of repsonse to a stranger.
  • Reliability- Very scientific- EQ/SQ are not susceptible to demand characteristics andthe babies are so young little social factors could influence the result.
  • Validity the SQ/EQ cannot be purely assessing the biological tendencies of people, so may not be fully testing the evolutionary theory. Connellans babies are acting entirely instinctively, so high validity. Howver, low face- the babies preferences cannot be used to say they will definitely be more systemizing/empathizing as adult, NOT LONGITUDINAL
  • Mixture of qualitative and quantitative data, gives us a wide range of supporting evidence which is good for the theory.
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