Sexual Selection And Human Reproductive Behaviour

The aim for this sub-topic is that you work very independently in order to master the key ideas and the evidence. We’ll make a start in class and share ideas at the end: the middle phase is up to you.

Getting Started

Use the summary in your resources booklet as a starting point. You can also use this extract from a PBS programme first broadcast in 2001. Please note that some of the ideas for the next sub-topic, parental investment, are also dealt with here.


What is the evidence for the importance of good genes in mate selection in humans?

Use the evidence from Penton-Voak (1999) in your resources booklet. This evidence is dealt with towards the end of the PBS sequence.

Is there evidence for preferences across cultures which existed before humans separated and migrated?

Use the evidence from Langlois et al (2000), Singh (1993) and Buss (1989), all of which are summarised in your resources booklet.

Does sexual selection provide a valid explanation of mating behaviour and the development of traits in non-human animals?

To answer this question, you’ll need to understand the theories of Joan Roughgarden. A good starting point is a TEDx lecture she gave three years ago. You can access an extract here or watch the entire lecture via the TED website. Next, you need to access part of a lecture she gave in Oklahoma earlier this year. Watch the introduction to sexual selection here. You can then see a discussion of some evidence here. You also need to consult the evidence in the articles by Morrell (2008) and Calloway (2011) in your resources booklets.

Can sexual selection theory explain effectively the paradox of the lek?

Roughgarden deals with the paradox of the lek here. It’s quite a difficult idea so you may need to do a bit of web searching to clarify your understanding.

Does it make sense to distinguish between evolutionary and cultural influences?

No direct evidence here but this is a good time to do some revision on what we said about evolution and culture when we were looking at eating behaviour. Look back on what we did on lactase persistence. There’s a tag on this blog which will take you to a post about it from earlier in the year.

This is designed to be an insight into what university study will be like. You are working independently and some of the sources you are using are aimed at an undergraduate audience. The questions are designed to be done in order but you don’t have to stick to the order and you might want to share your work with someone else. Use the comment button to ask questions and offer insights you think are particularly useful so that other people can see what you have found. Good luck and enjoy.

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