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Does playing pay? The fitness-effect of free play during childhood

May 27, 2014 Comments off

Does playing pay? The fitness-effect of free play during childhood
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary developmental psychology claims that the sequences and processes of human development, in fact the mere fact of ontogeny itself, have to be viewed as evolutionary products. However, although the functional benefits of childish behavior (child playing) for cognitive and emotional development have been shown repeatedly, claiming evolutionary adaptiveness of playing in childhood suggests that childish play supports evolutionary success in mature stages of development. This hypothesis is tested in a study with N = 134 adults (93 females; age range 20-66 years). Participants were asked to recollect their play experiences during childhood in detail, and to report their current developmental status with respect to several aspects of social success. Results show that the opportunity for and the promotion of free play in childhood significantly predict some indicators of social success. Additional analyses strive to explore mediating processes for this relationship. In particular, the mediating role of individual adaptivity (flexibility of goal adjustment) is investigated. Results suggest that freely playing in childhood promotes developmental resources, in particular individual adaptivity in adulthood, which, in turn, promote developmental success.

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Drinking games as a venue for sexual competition

October 10, 2013 Comments off

Drinking games as a venue for sexual competition
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Based on sexual selection theory, we hypothesized that sex differences in mating effort and social competitiveness—and subsequent sex differences in sexual and competitive motivations for participating in drinking games—are responsible for the well-documented sex differences in college students’ drinking game behaviors. Participants in a cross-sectional study were 351 women and 336 men aged 17 to 26. In a mediation model, we tested sex differences in mating effort, social competitiveness, sexual and competitive motivations for participating in drinking games, drinking game behaviors, and alcohol-related problems. Men participated in drinking games more frequently, consumed more alcohol while participating in drinking games, and experienced more problems associated with drinking. These sex differences appeared to be partially mediated by mating effort, social competitiveness, and sexual and competitive motivations for participating in drinking games. Drinking games are a major venue in which college students engage in heavy episodic drinking, which is a risk factor for college students’ behavioral and health problems. Thus, the functional perspective we used to analyze them here may help to inform public health and university interventions and enable better identification of at-risk students.

Friendship as a relationship infiltration tactic during human mate poaching

October 9, 2013 Comments off

Friendship as a relationship infiltration tactic during human mate poaching
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Previous research has characterized human mate poaching as a prevalent alternative mating strategy that entails risks and costs typically not present during general romantic courtship and attraction. This study is the first to experimentally investigate friendship between a poacher and his/her target as a risk mitigation tactic. Participants (N = 382) read a vignette that differed by whether the poacher was male/female and whether the poacher and poached were friends/acquaintances. Participants assessed the likelihood of the poacher being successful and incurring costs. They also rated the poacher and poached on several personality and mate characteristics. Results revealed that friendship increased the perceived likelihood of success of a mate poaching attempt and decreased the perceived likelihood of several risks typically associated with mate poaching. However, friend-poachers were rated less favorably than acquaintance-poachers across measures of warmth, nurturance, and friendliness. These findings are interpreted using an evolutionary perspective. This study complements and builds upon previous findings and is the first experimental investigation of tactics poachers may use to mitigate risks inherent in mate poaching.

Is there an own-race preference in attractiveness?

August 20, 2013 Comments off

Is there an own-race preference in attractiveness?
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Even in multicultural nations interracial relationships and marriages are quite rare, one reflection of assortative mating. A relatively unexplored factor that could explain part of this effect is that people may find members of their own racial group more attractive than members of other groups. We tested whether there is an own-race preference in attractiveness judgments, and also examined the effect of familiarity by comparing the attractiveness ratings given by participants of different ancestral and geographic origins to faces of European, East Asian and African origin. We did not find a strong own-race bias in attractiveness judgments, but neither were the data consistent with familiarity, suggesting an important role for other factors determining the patterns of assortative mating observed.

Born both ways: The alloparenting hypothesis for sexual fluidity in women

April 26, 2013 Comments off

Born both ways: The alloparenting hypothesis for sexual fluidity in women
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Given the primacy of reproduction, same-sex sexual behavior poses an evolutionary puzzle. Why would selection fashion motivational mechanisms to engage in sexual behaviors with members of the same sex? We propose the alloparenting hypothesis, which posits that sexual fluidity in women is a contingent adaptation that increased ancestral women’s ability to form pair bonds with female alloparents who helped them rear children to reproductive age. Ancestral women recurrently faced the adaptive problems of securing resources and care for their offspring, but were frequently confronted with either a dearth of paternal resources due to their mates’ death, an absence of paternal investment due to rape, or a divestment of paternal resources due to their mates’ extra-pair mating efforts. A fluid sexuality would have helped ancestral women secure resources and care for their offspring by promoting the acquisition of allomothering investment from unrelated women. Under this view, most heterosexual women are born with the capacity to form romantic bonds with both sexes. Sexual fluidity is a conditional reproductive strategy with pursuit of men as the default strategy and same-sex sexual responsiveness triggered when inadequate paternal investment occurs or when women with alloparenting capabilities are encountered. Discussion focuses on (a) evidence for alloparenting and sexual fluidity in humans and other primates; (b) alternative explanations for sexual fluidity in women; and(c) fourteen circumstances predicted to promote same-sex sexual behavior in women.

Redness Enhances Perceived Aggression, Dominance and Attractiveness in Men’s Faces

October 9, 2012 Comments off

Redness Enhances Perceived Aggression, Dominance and Attractiveness in Men’s Faces

Source: Evolutionary Psychology

In a range of non-human primate, bird and fish species, the intensity of red coloration in males is associated with social dominance, testosterone levels and mate selection. In humans too, skin redness is associated with health, but it is not known whether – as in non-human species – it is also associated with dominance and links to attractiveness have not been thoroughly investigated. Here we allow female participants to manipulate the CIELab a* value (red-green axis) of skin to maximize the perceived aggression, dominance and attractiveness of photographs of men’s faces, and make two findings. First, participants increased a* (increasing redness) to enhance each attribute, suggesting that facial redness is perceived as conveying similar information about a male’s qualities in humans as it does in non-human species. Second, there were significant differences between trial types: the highest levels of red were associated with aggression, an intermediate level with dominance, and the least with attractiveness. These differences may reflect a trade-off between the benefits of selecting a healthy, dominant partner and the negative consequences of aggression.

Sex differences in relationship regret: The role of perceived mate characteristics

August 10, 2012 Comments off

Sex differences in relationship regret: The role of perceived mate characteristics

Source: Evolutionary Psychology

The current set of studies examined regret involving action and inaction in the realm of romantic relationships by testing whether such regret is associated with the characteristics of one’s mate. In study 1, 394 participants reported on a previous casual sexual encounter, and in study 2, 358 participants reported on a previous romantic relationship. In both, instances of actual engagement and instances of passing up opportunities were studied. Study 3 was experimental and elicited reactions to hypothetical scenarios from 201 participants. Regret reported by men in both study 1 and study 2 varied as a function of the perceived attractiveness of the participants’ actual and potential mate. Regret reported by women in study 2 varied as a function of the perceived stinginess of the participant’s mate and perceived wealth of the participants’ potential mate. Study 3 found that sex differences in type of regret (with men regretting inaction more than women) occurred only when the mate presented in the scenario was described in ways consistent with mate preferences. Together these findings suggest that regret differs between the sexes in ways consistent with sex differences in mate preferences.

Shifts in color discrimination during early pregnancy

June 13, 2012 Comments off

Shifts in color discrimination during early pregnancy
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

The present study explores two hypotheses: a) women during early pregnancy should experience increased color discrimination ability, and b) women during early pregnancy should experience shifts in subjective preference away from images of foods that appear either unripe or spoiled. Both of these hypotheses derive from an adaptive view of pregnancy sickness that proposes the function of pregnancy sickness is to decrease the likelihood of ingestion of foods with toxins or teratogens. Changes to color discrimination could be part of a network of perceptual and physiological defenses (e.g., changes to olfaction, nausea, vomiting) that support such a function. Participants included 13 pregnant women and 18 non-pregnant women. Pregnant women scored significantly higher than non-pregnant controls on the Farnsworth-Munsell (FM) 100 Hue Test, an objective test of color discrimination, although no difference was found between groups in preferences for food images at different stages of ripeness or spoilage. These results are the first indication that changes to color discrimination may occur during early pregnancy, and is consistent with the view that pregnancy sickness may function as an adaptive defense mechanism.

A multi-informant longitudinal study on the relationship between aggression, peer victimization, and dating status in adolescence

June 10, 2012 Comments off

A multi-informant longitudinal study on the relationship between aggression, peer victimization, and dating status in adolescence
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Adolescent peer-aggression has recently been considered from the evolutionary perspective of intrasexual competition for mates. We tested the hypothesis that peer-nominated physical aggression, indirect aggression, along with self-reported bullying behaviors at Time 1 would predict Time 2 dating status (one year later), and that Time 1 peer- and self-reported peer victimization would negatively predict Time 2 dating status. Participants were 310 adolescents who were in grades 6 through 9 (ages 11-14) at Time 1. Results showed that for both boys and girls, peer-nominated indirect aggression was predictive of dating one year later even when controlling for age, peer-rated attractiveness, and peer-perceived popularity, as well as initial dating status. For both sexes, self-reported peer victimization was negatively related to having a dating partner at Time 2. Findings are discussed within the framework of intrasexual competition.

Between-sex differences in romantic jealousy: Substance or spin? A qualitative analysis

April 11, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Evolutionary Psychology
An influential evolutionary account of romantic jealousy proposes that natural selection shaped a specific sexually-dimorphic psychological mechanism in response to relationship threat. However, this account has faced considerable theoretical and methodological criticism and it remains unclear whether putative sex differences in romantic jealousy actually exist and, if they do, whether they are consistent with its predictions. Given the multidimensional nature of romantic jealousy, the current study employed a qualitative design to examine these issues. We report the results of sixteen semi-structured interviews that were conducted with heterosexual men and women with the purpose of exploring the emotions, cognitions and behaviors that formed their subjective, lived experience in response to relationship threat. Interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed four super-ordinate themes (“threat appraisal”, “emotional episodes”, “sex-specific threat” and “forgive and forget”) and unequivocal sex differences in romantic jealousy consistent with the evolutionary account. Self-esteem, particularly when conceptualized as an index of mate value, emerged as an important proximal mediator for both sexes. However, specific outcomes were dependent upon domains central to the individual’s self concept that were primarily sex-specific. The findings are integrated within the context of existing self-esteem and evolutionary theory and future directions for romantic jealousy research are suggested.

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Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences

July 23, 2011 Comments off

Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences (PDF)
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

This theoretical article views children’s risky play from an evolutionary perspective, addressing specific evolutionary functions and especially the anti-phobic effects of risky play. According to the non-associative theory, a contemporary approach to the etiology of anxiety, children develop fears of certain stimuli (e.g., heights and strangers) that protect them from situations they are not mature enough to cope with, naturally through infancy. Risky play is a set of motivated behaviors that both provide the child with an exhilarating positive emotion and expose the child to the stimuli they previously have feared. As the child’s coping skills improve, these situations and stimuli may be mastered and no longer be feared. Thus fear caused by maturational and age relevant natural inhibition is reduced as the child experiences a motivating thrilling activation, while learning to master age adequate challenges. It is concluded that risky play may have evolved due to this anti-phobic effect in normal child development, and it is suggested that we may observe an increased neuroticism or psychopathology in society if children are hindered from partaking in age adequate risky play.

Grandparental Child Care in Europe: Evidence for Preferential Investment in More Certain Kin

March 12, 2011 Comments off

Grandparental Child Care in Europe: Evidence for Preferential Investment in More Certain Kin (PDF)
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Theories of kin selection and parental investment predict stronger investment in children and grandchildren by women and maternal kin. Due to paternity uncertainty, parental and grandparental investments along paternal lineages are based on less certain genetic relatedness with the children and grandchildren. Additionally, the hypothesis of preferential investment (Laham, Gonsalkorale, and von Hippel, 2005) predicts investment to vary according to available investment options. Two previous studies have tested this hypothesis with small samples and conflicting results. Using the second wave of the large and multinational Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), collected in 2006–07, we study the preferential investment hypothesis in contemporary Europe based on self-reported grandparental provision of child care. We predict that 1) maternal grandmothers provide most care for their grandchildren, followed by maternal grandfathers, paternal grandmothers and last by paternal grandfathers; 2) maternal grandfathers and paternal grandmothers provide equal amounts of care when the latter do not have grandchildren via a daughter; 3) women who have grandchildren via both a daughter and a son will look after the children of the daughter more; and 4) men who have grandchildren via both a daughter and a son will look after the children of the daughter more. Results support all four hypotheses and provide evidence for the continuing effects of paternity uncertainty in contemporary kin behavior.

Questioning the Integrity of the John Templeton Foundation

March 11, 2011 Comments off

Questioning the Integrity of the John Templeton Foundation (PDF)
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

In the last few years, the John Templeton Foundation has garnered substantial attention by advertising in many of the US and UK’s most prestigious scholarly magazines and journals. These advertisements have showcased debates on what the Foundation describes as the “Big Questions,” some of which have a scientific theme. Various scientists, philosophers, and theologians have been paid to offer their answers to these questions.

This pronounced visibility has led many scientists and academics to wonder about the Foundation and how it operates. One of its stated goals is to forge a closer relationship between religion and science. To many scientists, this is anathema. They see religion and science as fundamentally incompatible and, therefore, that any relationship between them could only be built on dishonesty or ignorance. To others, the goal is laudable: Some scientists welcome the assistance as they attempt to reconcile their personal religious beliefs with their scientific understanding. To still others, religious or not, any science funding (part of the work of the Foundation involves providing grants for scientific research), from whatever source, is welcome.

For many who do not have a problem with the science/religion agenda of the Foundation, the issue is then one of integrity. Is the Foundation what it says it is? Are its stated goals and its actual goals the same (as judged by who and what it funds)? Does it operate in a transparent and non-corrupt way?

In this commentary, I consider five issues that suggest that the John Templeton Foundation is not what it represents itself to be:

  1. The Foundation began as an overtly pro-religious organization. It has since changed its stated aims and goals, and their presentation, in a way that seems calculated to make them appear more “open-minded.” Nevertheless, the Foundation’s agenda—based on its actual activities—
    seems to have remained the same.

  2. The Foundation’s organizational structure and the awarding of its prizes appears to be rife with cronyism.
  3. Respondents to the Foundation’s “Big Questions” (at least those questions with clear links to science) are disproportionately Foundation advisors and grantees, and yet it is implied that they represent a balance in responses.
  4. The Foundation finances prestigious external organizations to run its activities, often without making the participants and/or audience aware of who provided the funding.
  5. The Foundation and its current chairman, John (Jack) Marks Templeton, Jr., have a history of funding what could be seen as anti-science activities and groups (particularly concerning climate-change and stem-cell research).

Recognition of Novel Faces After Single Exposure is Enhanced During Pregnancy

February 26, 2011 Comments off

Recognition of Novel Faces After Single Exposure is Enhanced During Pregnancy (PDF)
Source: Evolutionary Psychology

Protective mechanisms in pregnancy include Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy (NVP) (Fessler, 2002; Flaxman and Sherman, 2000), increased sensitivity to health cues (Jones et al., 2005), and increased vigilance to out-group members (Navarette, Fessler, and Eng, 2007). While common perception suggests that pregnancy results in decreased cognitive function, an adaptationist perspective might predict that some aspects of cognition would be enhanced during pregnancy if they help to protect the reproductive investment. We propose that a reallocation of cognitive resources from nonessential to critical areas engenders the cognitive decline observed in some studies. Here, we used a recognition task disguised as a health rating to determine whether pregnancy facilitates face recognition. We found that pregnant women were significantly better at recognizing faces and that this effect was particularly pronounced for own-race male faces. In human evolutionary history, and today, males present a significant threat to females. Thus, enhanced recognition of faces, and especially male faces, during pregnancy may serve a protective function.

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