Research involved in evolutionary explanations of human reproductive behaviour

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  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 07-06-15 11:26

Inter and intra sexual selection

Langlois et al:

- Showed infants slides of faces previously rated attractive/unattractive

- Infants 3-6 months

- Infants showed distinct signs of preference for attractive faces

- This shows that a preference for attractiveness is innate

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Inter and intra sexual selection (2)

Grammer and Thornhill:

- Tested the 'parasite' theory of sexual selection

- Hypothesis: men prefer symmetry in women's faces and vice versa

- Generated computer images of men and women's faces

- Both sexes rated each other

- 4 variables: attractive, dominant, **** and healthy

- Men and women consistently chose symmetrical faces

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Inter and intra sexual selection (3)

Cartwright :

- Found that women with symmetrical breasts were more fertile than women with asymmetric breasts

- In general, males and females with symmetrical faces/bodies had more sexual partners

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Criticisms for sexual selection studies

- Most are lab based (lack ecological validity)

- Most are static images of faces (not moving): Morrison found that facial movements (blinking, head tilting etc) in women attract men

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Waist to hip ratio


- Used data from beauty contest winners/Playboy centrefolds over the last 50 years

- A small waist and fuller hips were consistent in amongst women (despite overall physique changing with fashion)

- Typical, healthy WHR = 6-8

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Sex differences in human mate preferences


- Surveyed over 10,000 people

- People from 37 different cultures

- Covered all major religions/racial/ethnic groups

- Explored what males and females look for in a marriage partner

- The main results of the study were:

* Women (more so than men) desired partners who had good financial prospects (resources)

* Men placed more importance on physical attractiveness (reproductive value)

* Men wanted women younger than them

* Both sexes wanted intelligence (parenting skills)

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Differences in reproductive behaviours

Clark and Hatfield:

- Had attractive confederates approach people of the opposite sex on a uni campus and ask 1 of the 3 questions:

a) Would you go out with me tonight?

b) Would you come over to my apartment tonight?

c) Would you go to bed with me tonight?

- Q. A gained a 50% +VE response from both sexes

- Q. B gained a 6% +VE response from females and a 69% +VE response from males

- Q. C gained a 0% +VE response from females and a 75% +VE response from males

- The lower the acceptance by females was due to their fear for safety (although this fear wasn't mentioned in debriefing interviews)

- This study demonstrates that women are more 'fussy' than men when it comes to selecting a mate

- Even when participants were assured of the stranger's trustworthiness, the results were the same

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Differences in reproductive behaviours (2)

Buss and Schmitt:

- Men seem to seek a greater number of sexual partners than women

- Over a lifetime, men wanted an average of 18, whereas women only wanted 4/5

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Differences in reproductive behaviours (3)


- Asked male and female students to imagine their current partner either having sex with someone else/being in love with someone else

- Participants were connected to a stress detector whilst imagining the scenario

- Men were more stressed by imagining their partner having sex with someone else

- Women were more stressed by imagining their partner being in love with someone else

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Differences in reproductive behaviours (4)

Ellis and Symons:

- Found that men are more likely to have sexual dreams than women

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Differences in reproductive behaviours (5)

Penton-Voak et al:

- Female mate choice varies across the menstrual cycle

- In a study, women chose a slightly feminised male face for being most attractive during their menstrual cycle (suggests better parental care)

- During the high conception risk phase of the menstrual cycle, women had the tendency to pick a more masculinised face (higher levels of testosterone, linked to a possible short term relationship)

- This shows that different stages of the menstrual cycle in females affect mate choice

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