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The following quote provides the framework for the following analysis of evolution and human behaviour: "The ultimate objective of an organism, if we can phrase it in these terms, is to contribute as many genes to future generations as it can.

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Introduction

The following quote provides the framework for the following analysis of evolution and human behaviour: "The ultimate objective of an organism, if we can phrase it in these terms, is to contribute as many genes to future generations as it can. In principle, an organism can do this by reproducing itself, or by helping relatives that share the same gene(s) to reproduce more successfully, or by some combination of the two" (Dunbar [1988] in Plotkin [ed]). To make a brief evaluation of theory and research of the central topics of human evolution it is necessary to describe the basic processes of mating behaviour and parental investment, with reference to humans. . Cartwright's statement of the assumptions of his book Evolution and Human Behaviour (2000) provides a concise summary of human evolution: that humans have evolved from ape-like ancestors; that homo sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago and that if the agricultural period began only 10,000 years ago, the genes present previous to this had a much longer time to entrench themselves. Thus, the genes we operate under now are a result of adaptation to the Palaeolithic period rather than modern times. So, it would seem that our genes have been heavily influence by our Paleolithic ancestors and for this reason, evolution of human mating behaviour can be described in terms of costs and benefits to these hunter-gathering ancestors (Cartwright, 2000). ...read more.

Middle

is a feature of the species' life history, it is inextricably tied to the dynamics of reproduction, that is, to sexual selection". The female focus on parental investment in mammals is said to be between 95 to 97%. This is due to the time investment of internal gestation and obligatory postpartum suckling (Clutton-Brock & Vincent, 1991; Trivers, 1972 in Geary, 2000). Thus it can be said that there was almost no paternal involvement in ancestral mammalians. Paternal investment involves trade-offs (and this has been modeled mathematically) between reproductive and survival related costs and benefits (Trivers, 1972; Westneat & Sherman, 1993 in Geary, 2000). Thus for species where offspring will be significantly endangered if the father does not make investment, selection favours individuals who show strong signs of paternal investment. Through evolution this trait will become stronger and eventually the species will show high levels of paternal investment regardless of proximate social and ecological conditions (Westneat & Sherman, 1993 in Geary, 2000). This is the case for humans, evidence for which will be shown below. Ever since Darwin asserted that there was "no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties" (1871, p. 446 in Cartwright, 2000), ethological research has been carried out and generalised to humans. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another correlational analysis has found a relationship between lower infant and child mortality rates and paternal investment. However, it is likely that an underlying factor of "assortative mating" means that higher quality males mate with higher quality females and so offspring have a higher chance of survival (e.g. Geary, 1997; Parker & Simmons, 1996 in Geary, 2000). Studies of hunter-gatherer societies (pre-industrial societies presumably being closer, socially and ecologically to ancestors) have confirmed the hypothesis that higher levels of paternal investment results in lower mortality rates (Geary, 2000). An example of this type of study was a study of the San people of Botswana who were found to have a very high maternal investment and little paternal investment. Though they are hunter-gatherers it must be noted that they have evolved and may not represent the hunter-gathering way of life of progenitors (Plomin, DeFries and McClearn, 1980). Research on how human behaviour has evolved in terms of mating and parenting has seen the gamut of psychological research - from comparative methods to cross-cultural correlational studies. But while research methods have changed, in fact the theories of these factors of behaviour have not - Darwin's theories are still valid. Individuals, through evolution, have been ingrained with genes that benefited their reproductive success. That is, their mating behaviour, mate choice and parental investment have evolved so that individuals are programmed to reproduce effectively. ...read more.

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