Discuss the relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour. (24 marks)

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Discuss the relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour. (24 marks)
        Jun ‘12

Human reproductive behaviour is an evolutionary approach as it tries to explain behaviour from the point of view of how it has evolved. Sexual selection is the process in which a species changes over time as a result of the passing on of the genes that make one individual more attractive than another. For example, evolutionary psychologists explain the relative hairlessness of humans in terms of sexual selection, as this trait was adaptive in that it enhanced reproductive fitness by indicating hygiene; it has evolved and developed over the centuries as it confers a net benefit.

There are two types of sexual selection: Intra-sexual selection is the competition within males as females are scarce resource for which males compete. Due to intra-sexual selection, men have evolved to have larger, more triangular backs which indicate strength and make them more attractive to females. Females on the other hand have evolved to have a typical hour-glass figure, which indicates health and fertility, making them attractive to male. Inter-sexual selection involves the apparent “choosiness” of females. Females invest highly in their offspring, and as a consequence, seek partners that can provide resources and protect them from predators. As a result of sexual selection, both males and females have evolved certain mate preferences which in turn, has lead to the evolution of certain physical characteristics.

Buss (1989) conducted a cross cultural study (37 cultures) using over 10,000 men and women. The data used to collect the data from the participants covered demographic information, e.g. age, gender, marital status etc. they also asked about preferences for variables such as marriage, age differences and characteristics in a mate. They found that women valued variables associated with gaining resources (e.g. money, safe environment etc), whereas men valued variables associated with reproductive capacity (e.g. youth, physical attractiveness etc).  We can conclude that historically women haven’t been able to provide for themselves so look for men who can. Men on the other hand have been limited to fertile women so have evolved to be attracted to women with a high likelihood of reproducing, so in essence younger women. Therefore most findings supported the idea that men and women differ consistently in the characteristics they find attractive in a potential mate. This shows evidence of intersexual selection as males and females look for different things in a potential mate.

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There are some drawbacks with this study, e.g. the use of questionnaires. There’s always going to be social desirable answers as every individual wishes to comply with the social norms. Also the independent variable is one which cannot be controlled as it is naturally occurring so the only way to gain validity from this experiment is by applying the theory to the results making them unfalsifiable. Buss did not use a representative sample. In his study people living in rural areas were underrepresented as were those individuals who were less educated as the study relied on people completing a questionnaire. ...

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