Current mate choices evolved in the environment of evolutionary adaptation (EEA) and were adaptive for our survival as a species. An example of such bias is the human attraction to more symmetrical faces. Little & Hancock suggested that we are attracted to symmetrical faces because they indicate “averageness”, equating to good genetic health which would have been beneficial for the survival of our offspring. Additionally, it’s suggested that males have developed larger foreheads, as these were attractive to females because it suggests a larger brain capacity equated with intelligence, so would have been able to gather more resources and find better shelter thus increasing the chances of offspring survival. In comparison, males are more attracted to women with big eyes and a more curvaceous body, as this would be an indicator of good fertility again enabling the males offspring a better chance at surviving birth and being healthy.
There is significant support for this theory of sexual selection. Buss’ analysis of lonely-hearts columns across 37 countries found that men seek fertility and attractiveness, whereas women seek resources and protection. Buss’ findings are in line with theories of sexual selection, in addition, a strong cross-cultural agreement implies that these preferences were evolved during the EEA, rather than being learned preferences. However there are problems with this study, the use of personal ads in lonely-hearts columns compromises the reliability of the findings, as they may be unrepresentative. This is because it’s possible that these individuals lied or exaggerated their preferences, in order to be in line with cultural norms. It’s therefore not an overly reliable study.
This theory could also be used to explain why some young boys are attracted to older women instead of women their own age. It’s suggested that the older women are perceived to be more fertile than the younger, and therefore evolutionary theories would suggest that this makes them more attractive. However, as this study used surveys, like Buss’ study, it is likely the individuals used may have answered false, because of social desirability bias; this once again reduces the reliability of the study. As well as this, the use of surveys may not be a reliable measuring tool, as they are likely to have leading questions, making individuals lean towards a certain answer.
However using the study above may also why many women are attracted to older men, as they are more fully developed, they are perceived as more intelligent (better for finding resources and shelter) as well as stronger (better for protecting the female and potential offspring). This suggests that human attraction to older members of the opposite sex may be adaptive for survival and have developed in the EEA.
However, the evolutionary approach does raise alarming ethical concerns. This is because sexual selection theory justifies male infidelity and dismisses sexual assault and rape to be evolved and adaptive behaviors that were needed for reproductive success.
In addition, in can also be viewed that sexual selection theories are very reductive, as they focus solely on human attraction for the purpose of offspring, which means that it doesn’t account for homosexuals (who cannot produce a child biologically related to both parents), as well as couples who choose to have no children or choose to adopt instead. Evolutionary theory does not suggest why these couples would be attracted to each other, as a child is not the end product of the attraction.
As well as this, sexual selection theories place much of the emphasis on physical appearance in attraction, when it is clear attraction is also tied to personalities as well. Moreover, evolutionary theories suggests that the traits, which make someone ‘attractive’, are universally agreeable, when it’s clear that not everyone finds the same people attractive. Therefore sexual selection theory offers no explanation into individual mate preferences, showing that free will is an important aspect in attraction.