Evolution of Human Mate Choice
Geary, David C., Vigil, Jacob, Byrd-Craven, Jennifer, The Journal of Sex Research
The study of human sexual behavior and human sex differences has been approached from many vantage points (Davidson & Moore, 2001; McGillicuddy-De Lisi & De Lisi, 2002) and in recent years has been viewed through the lens of evolutionary theory (Buss, 1994; Campbell, 2002; Geary, 1998; Low, 2000; Symons, 1979). However, many psychologists, social scientists, and social critics are reluctant and sometimes vigorously opposed to understanding human behavior in general and human sexuality in particular from an evolutionary perspective (Segerstrale, 2000), or at the very least argue that social influences are predominant (Wood & Eagly, 2002). Our goal is not to address the attendant philosophical or social issues, but rather to provide an introduction to the theory and empirical research generated from the evolutionary perspective. In particular, we focus on women's and men's preferences and Choices of mates and marriage partners, and invite the reader to judge for himself or herself the utility of this approach.
In the first section, we provide an introduction to the theoretical and empirical literatures on mate choices in other species (Andersson, 1994; Darwin, 1871) and the framework for appreciating the advantages of this approach for understanding human mate choices. In the second and third respective sections, we provide overviews of evolutionary research on women' and men's mate choices. In the final section, we describe how human mate choices are moderated by social and ecological conditions.
MATE CHOICE IN NONHUMAN SPECIES
Darwin and Wallace (1858) independently discovered the primary mechanisms--natural selection--that drive evolutionary change within species and result in the origin of new species. Darwin also discovered another group of mechanisms that operate within species and are principle factors in the evolution of sex differences (Darwin, 1871). These mechanisms are called sexual selection and involve competition with members of the same sex over mates (intrasexual competition) and discriminative choice of mating partners (intersexual choice). The most common mating dynamic involves male-male competition over access to mates and female choice of mating partners (Andersson, 1994). In the first section, we describe why this dynamic is so common and when exceptions (e.g., male choice) are predicted to evolve. In the second section, we describe intersexual choice in nonhuman species.
Compete or Choose?
Darwin (1871) defined sexual selection, but did not determine why males tend to compete over mates and why females are the choosier of the sexes (see Cronin, 1991). About 100 years later, Williams (1966) and Trivers (1972) determined that any sex difference in the tendency to compete or choose largely but not exclusively turns on the degree of each sexes' investment in parenting. The sex that provides more than his or her share of parental investment becomes, in effect, an important reproductive resource for members of the opposite sex (Dawkins, 1989; Trivers, 1972). One result is competition among members of the lower investing sex (typically males) over the parental investment of members of the higher investing sex (typically females). Members of the higher investing sex are thus in demand, and can be choosy when it comes to mates. Clutton-Brock and Vincent (1991) determined that any sex difference in the tendency to parent is linked to a sex difference in the potential rate of reproduction. As we describe in the next sections, the potential rate of reproduction interacts with social conditions, in particular the operational sex ratio (OSR), to create mating dynamics.
Sex Differences in Rate of Reproduction
The basic issue is the biological limit on how many offspring males and females can potentially produce in their lifetime. The upper limit is determined by how fast the individual can potentially reproduce (Clutton-Brock & Vincent, 1991). …