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Sexual Selection and Human Reproductive behaviour

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PYA4 - Evolutionary Explanations of Human Behaviour Sexual Selection and human reproductive behaviour (mate choice) Putting it all together: Writing a model answer Darwins' theory of natural selection suggested that all species were motivated by ensuring their survival. From this idea, came the concept of 'survival' of the fittest, through which only 'adaptive' traits and/or characteristics would be 'naturally selected'. Darwin came to believe that human reproductive behaviour could be explained through a similar process - sexual selection. Sexual selection represents a 'special' case of natural selection, introduced by Darwin to resolve the problem that some traits/characteristics continue to be naturally selected, despite not offering any advantage in terms of survival. The basic motivation behind sexual selection is that, rather than ensuring our ultimate survival (which is futile as we will surely all die), we are motivated to maximise our chances of reproductive success - in doing this, our DNA will pass on and so indirectly we survive through our offspring. In other words, some behaviours, traits and characteristics continued to be reproduced, even though they made the survival of that species LESS likely. An example of this might be the peacock's tail, which has evolved over time to become lengthy and beautiful. ...read more.


the female has evolved to become the choosier of the sexes, since she has more to lose. However, the male, in attempting to maximise his reproductive success must also safeguard his investment (time, effort, resources, etc) by selecting a female who can give him what he needs - beautiful and healthy children who will survive to reproduce themselves. However, reproduction is not the sole motivator for relationships because some couples may not want to have children and in some other relationships (gay and lesbian relationships) it is physically impossible to have offspring naturally, also couples that have children from previous relationships may not want to have any more children, therefore the theories can not be applied in this situation. INTER-SEXUAL selection may also be used to explain human mate choice and gender specific preferences, whereby each sex has evolved 'success' criteria for the opposite sex, based on what they need from one another. From here, both males and females accept or reject a potential mate, i.e. since females have evolved to become choosier, males might be motivated to display such characteristics, whilst females must also indicate their 'viability' as a potential mate to ensure her own reproductive success. ...read more.


It is proposed that the moderately bigger male may have evolved, again through intra-sexual selection, since bigger males might have been favoured by females, perhaps as they would indicate better provision and protection. Furthermore facial preferences are thought to have evolved through the evolutionary pressures to maximise reproductive success. For example, for both sexes, symmetrical faces are preferred - this may be because they indicate 'good genes' in line with the good genes hypothesis, which states that 'averageness' would be more attractive, due to the apparent lack of genetic mutation - a trait we wish to pass on to our offspring. Langlois et al. (1987) suggested that the preference for attractive faces is more likely to be an evolved response than a learned behaviour. Penton - Voak et al (1999) suggested that women's preferences for attractive faces are not static, but change according to their position in the menstrual cycle. Found evidence that women are attracted to more masculine looking men during the most fertile time of their menstrual cycle and showed a preference for more feminine looking faces during less fertile times. Sex differences with regard to facial features can also be observed. Men are shown to prefer childlike features, such as big eyes, small nose and full lips, whilst women are documented to prefer a strong jaw and cheekbones. ...read more.

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