#088 – Evolutionary Psychology

The League of Nerds

This week on TLONs Myles and James are joined by David a evolutionary psychologist. Recently evolutionary psychology has been misinterpreted and painted in a negative light. Evolutionary psychology uses what we have learnt from the theory of Evolution and applies it to human psychology. On the face of it this should not have attracted much scorn yet today a number of people are happy to criticsise the field due to political belief.

David had a few notes he wanted to add.
Pill and mate choice: there were a few things that need to be explained that may not have been clear. Firstly, there is a long-help theory that that women experience “a nuanced pattern of relationship context-dependent cycle shifts in their preferences for certain characteristics in men” (Gildersleeve et al, 2014)1. In very simplistic terms, at peak fertility women will find traits in males that suggest “good genes” – masculine face, dominance, symmetry, genetic dissimilarity (mhc) – highly attractive. I.e. traits that may make the baby genetically ‘better’, but do not necessarily indicate the male would be a good father or long-term partner. This is often described as “Cad Vs Dad”. Such a shift in preference is especially noticeable for short-term mating opportunities.
Secondly, as the pill tricks the body into thinking it is not fertile, there has been a suggestion that this could lead to relationship problems when a women changes her birth control method as their partner may no longer seems attractive on an implicit level at times of higher fertility, and this may affect the relationship (see Roberts et al, 2014)2.
The reason I’m writing this addendum is because a) I didn’t feel I described why the effect of fertility and the pill was interesting in an evolutionary psychology context, and b) since I last really studied this effect there has been quite a bit of controversy about the fertility/preference data, as ably described by Rob Brooks3, and want to make sure you, dear listeners, have all the facts.

1Gildersleeve, K., Haselton, M. G., & Fales, M. R. (2014). Do women’s mate preferences change across the ovulatory cycle? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1205.

2Roberts, S. C., Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Cobey, K. D., Klapilová, K., Havlíček, J., . . . Petrie, M. (2014). Partner Choice, Relationship Satisfaction, and Oral Contraception The Congruency Hypothesis. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1497-1503.
3Brooks (2015). Round 2: Ovulatory Cycles and Shifting Preferences, http://theconversation.com/round-2-ov…

Also mentioned:
Infanticide: Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1998). The truth about Cinderella: A Darwinian view of parental love: Yale University Press.
Evolution of personality: Nettle, D. (2006). The evolution of personality variation in humans and other animals. American Psychologist, 61(6), 622.
Trivers-Willard Hypothesis: Trivers, R. L., & Willard, D. E. (1973). Natural selection of parental ability to vary the sex ratio of offspring. Science, 179(4068), 90-92
Animal morality: Brosnan, S. F. (2011). An evolutionary perspective on morality. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 77(1), 23-10

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About Myles Power (629 Articles)
My name is Myles Power, and I run the educational YouTube channel, powerm1985. I spend what little free time I have sharing my love of SCIENCE! through home experiments, visiting sites of scientific interest, and angrily ranting at pseudoscience proponents. I am also one of the founding members of the podcast 'The League of Nerds' - which I co-host with James from 'The History of Infection'.

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