AQA A2 Psychology Unit 3 Relationships: The Relationship Between Sexual Selection And Human Reproductive Behaviour Notes

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A2 Psychology Unit 3 Relationships: The Relationship Between Sexual Selection And Human Reproductive Behaviour Notes

What You Need To Know:

  • The relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour

Natural selection suggests that successful animals evolve characteristics which enable them to out-perform rivals, increasing reproductive opportunities. Sexual selection is where individuals advertise both their own requirements in a mate and their own attractive characteristics as a mate.

There are two basic types of sexual selection; inter-sexual selection and intra-sexual selection.

Inter-sexual selection:

Intersexual selection takes place when males compete for the attention of a female. The female plays an active role, choosing her mate.

Buss (1989) Carried out Cross Cultural Research into Intersexual Selection.

Buss (1989) - gender differences in mate selection

Method: Questionnaires were used to collect data from over 10,000 men and women from 37 different cultural groups. The questionnaires covered demographic information such as age, gender and martial status. They also asked about preferences for variables such as marriage, age differences and characteristics in a mate (e.g. intelligence, sociability and financial prospects).

Results: Women valued variables associated with gaining resources (e.g. money, safe environment) more highly than men. Men valued variables associated with reproductive capacity (e.g. youth) more highly than women.

Evaluation: The study supports an evolutionary explanation of gender differences in sexual selection. Similar findings were found across a range of different cultures. However, it wasn't a truly representative study as it was hard to include rural and less educated populations. The study also didn't take social influences on mate selection into account. For example, changes in society mean that women in many cultures are now able to provide for themselves and their offspring, and aren't as dependent on men for resources. Also, homosexual relationships aren't explained, as reproduction isn't a goal in same-sex relationships.

The biological market place - Noe and Hammerstein (1995):

It's unlikely that we will get exactly what we want and so mate choice is a trade-off between individual demands and those of available potential mates. E.g. the more desirable traits we have, the stronger our bargaining position, therefore the more choosy we can be, and vice-versa.

Research with personal adverts has found that women with youth and beauty and men with resources are most in demand.

Waynforth and Dunbar (1995) claimed that courtship in humans is influenced by the same rules that govern sexual selection in non-human animals. They studied 479 adverts placed by men and 402 by women.

Men of 40-49 (maximum personal resources) expressed preferences of physical attractiveness whilst women (especially women in their peak reproductive years 20-39) demanded wealth 4.5 times more often than men did.

Supported by Campos et al (2002) who found as women aged their adverts became less demanding in their mate selection, whilst males became more demanding.

However, Strassberg and Holly (2003) placed `female seeking male` adverts, differing slightly in wording, on personal bulletin boards on the internet. The most popular advert was where the woman described herself as `financially independent, successful and ambitious`,


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