You are on page 1of 26

Jealousy, lust, and love: Evolutionary Perspective on Heterosexual Partner Selection &

Relationship Maintenance
J. Elizabeth Hunt
Queens University of Charlotte
Evolutionary psychology explains the way that human beings fall in love, stay in love, and
respond to betrayal of love through two of its theoretical pillars. Buss and Schmitts (1993) SST
proposes that humans use two separate mate-attraction strategies depending on whether they are
seeking a long- or short-term relationship with a particular mate. This claim is based on
Trivers (1972) PIT that the minimum investment a man must make in order to produce offspring
is a one-time instance of sexual intercourse, while the minimum investment a woman must make
in order to produce offspring is nine months of pregnancy. From these two principals which are
largely motivated by jealousy, come explanations of why particular physical features are innately
attractive to men and women, what motivates flirting, why womens behavior varies so greatly
during ovulation, why partners remain faithful to one another, and why they may be unfaithful to
one another. Evolutionary psychology faces many criticisms for being too reductionist,
deterministic, and anecdotal. By incorporating additional ideas from the psychological
community, evolutionary psychology could be better able to function as a theory.
Keywords: evolutionary psychology, sex differences, jealousy, Parental Investment
Theory, Sexual Strategies Theory, flirting, ovulation
Jealousy, Lust, and Love: Evolutionary Perspective on Heterosexual Partner Selection &
Relationship Maintenance
Spark. Chemistry. Magnetic. Fireworks. When the right man meets the right woman, the
je ne sais quoi of clicking with someone may not be easily described, but it remains undeniable.
What some romantics have coined as love at first sight, evolutionary psychologists could more
accurately describe as lust at first sight. For psychologists in this field of study, the laws of
attraction, flirting tactics, and the pledging of eternal love can be explained by the need to
procreate successfully. Evolutionary perspective synthesizes psychological, biological, and social
cognition perspectives with empirical evidence that attraction occurs at a deep
psychophysiological level and supports theories that our ancient human ancestors adapted to
survive in a primitive environment (Symons, 1979). These mostly subconscious mechanisms
stimulate attraction to prompt our attention toward mates who are genetically fit, acquire their
attention, and form relationships with them of either short- or long-term, depending on sex,
ovulatory status, and desired level of investment.
As most people have learned through personal experience, men and women have different
motivations and maneuvers for performing these functions that lead to securing and keeping a
partner. Those notions are supported by evolutionary psychologists extensive research and
identification of sexually dimorphic evolutionary mechanisms, which often fit into the
frameworks of the Parental Investment Theory (PIT; Trivers, 1972) and the Sexual Strategies
Theory (SST; Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Men and women desire different physical, superficial, and
personality characteristics in mates due to these mechanisms that presumably developed in order
to find a mate who could co-create and support offspring in a social community.
After accounting for such differences, there remains a common thread that runs through
the tapestry of human love: jealousy. Major elements of PIT and SST hinge on the importance of
jealousys role in relationship formation and its even more crucial role in partner fidelity.
Jealousy can drive intrasex competition for a particular mate and it can foster fidelity that
protects resource investment for men and survival for women, speaking in evolutionary terms.
Men and women are sensitive to differing types of jealousy spawned from either emotional or
sexual infidelity, a dichotomy explained by PIT.
The purpose of this paper is to explain the way that human beings fall in love, stay in
love, and respond to betrayal of love through the evolutionary perspective, or more specifically,
two of its theoretical pillars. Buss and Schmitts (1993) SST proposes that humans use two
separate mate-attraction strategies depending on whether they are seeking a long- or short-term
relationship with a particular mate. This claim is based on Trivers (1972) PIT that the minimum
investment a man must make in order to produce offspring is a one-time instance of sexual
intercourse, while the minimum investment a woman must make in order to produce offspring is
nine months of pregnancy. Additionally, PIT states that partnership is sought as a means to aid in
producing and raising a child successfully.
Partner Selection: What Men and Women Want
Initial Attraction
If asked to imagine an attractive man or an attractive woman, various images may come
to the mind. Depending upon their sex, perhaps these imagined people would have broad
shoulders, a well-defined jaw, and strong arms or an hour-glass figure, large breasts, and full lips.
The reason such features are often thought of as attractive in men and women relates to their
reproductive prowess. Mens and womens physical appearances are the preliminary cues
signifying their respective levels of fertility (Gallup & Frederick, 2010). According to
evolutionary psychology, body and facial features that are commonly thought of as attractive are
not the product of socialization, but are rather an innately understood silent communication of
hormonal levels and ability to conceive a child. For instance, women with low waist-to-hip ratios
(WHRs) ovulate more frequently, have more regular menstrual cycles, and are more fertile
(Jasienska, Ziomkiewicz, Ellison, Lipson, & Thune, 2004; Van Hoof et al., 2000; Zaadstra et al.,
1993), and broad hips indicate the possibility of childbirth without complications (Hughes &
Gallup, 2003). In response to viewing women with low WHRs, a specific reward center in the
male brain is stimulated, which is a supposed evolutionary function (Platek & Singh, 2010). Men
are therefore motivated to pursue women that are physically better capable of becoming pregnant
and successfully carrying a pregnancy to term.
Beyond body configurations, facial appearance also plays a dominant role in attraction.
Fink and Penton-Voak (2002) have extensively studied these facial characteristics. The
researchers have found that people tend to rate human faces similarly in attractiveness cross-
culturally, including in tribal types of communities, suggesting that there are underlying
psychological and biological mechanisms driving attraction. For both men and women, facial
symmetry is thought to indicate quality fetal development and resilience to threatening
environmental factors during development, which would make a mate less likely to pass on
defective genes. Masculine faces, such as a strong mandible and brow bone, indicate high
testosterone levels which increase mate competition and pursuit of female mates. Despite the
advantages given to males with high testosterone levels, high testosterone levels also suppresses
the immune system; a male thriving despite his suppressed immune system would indicate a
resilience to disease regardless of immune system strength.
Physical appearance visually communicates pertinent information about potential
partners and assists in facilitating the next stages of the relationship. Once someone has
identified another person as being fertile based off of their physical appearance, flirtation is used
as a means to increase interest, attraction, communication, and sexual opportunities between a
sender and a receiver (Downy & Damhave, 1991; Downy & Vitulli, 1987; Greer & Buss, 1994;
Abrahams, 1994; Hennigsen 2004) and directs the possibility of further interaction with another
person whether it is successful or unsuccessful (Clark et al., 2004). Men and women have
different derogation and attraction methods as evolved mechanisms, with women trying to
appear more physically attractive and men trying to appear as if they have a greater number of
resources (Buss, 1988; Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Frisby and Dillow (2011) conducted research on
sex differences in flirting styles, flirting motivations, and perception of flirting tactics by having
participants rate the attractiveness of a confederates picture and then watch a flirting interaction
between the confederate and someone else. Participants were asked to rate social attraction,
affiliativeness, dominance, and conversational effectiveness based off of the video they viewed.
Overall, both male and female participants rated the confederates attractiveness significantly
differently after watching the flirting video, so flirting is a behavior that impacts perception. The
researchers; results were consistent with constructs of the PIT. Men preferred women who were
flirtatious, particularly those that were flirting with sexual motives, presumably because it is
easier for men to obtain sexual favors from these women and therefore may require less resource
and time investment. Women who were rated by men as more affiliative were also rated as being
more physically, socially, and communicatively attractive; according to PIT, affiliation skills
would increase the ability to create social connections beneficial to child-rearing. Women rated
men who flirted with only sexual motives low in attractiveness, perhaps because women
typically seek long-term relationships and flirting for fun does not demonstrate a desire to
commit to a long-term relationship.
Effects of ovulation on female flirting style
Due to hormonal shifts during ovulation, women exhibit different flirting behaviors
during this time of their menstrual cycles. Ovulation occurs around day 15 of a womans
menstrual cycle and is defined as the release of an egg from the ovary to make its way toward the
uterus. It is during this time that a woman is most fertile (Wilcox, Weinberg, & Baird, 1995). To
stimulate the release of the egg from the ovary, the pituitary gland and the ovaries efflux a
significantly larger amount of estrogen into the blood stream as per usual. The elevated estrogen
level causes both behavioral changes and physical changes in a women; her breasts and lips
become fuller, her waist-to-hip ratio increases, her vocal pitch becomes higher, her skin tone
becomes more even, and the characteristics she prefers in a mate change (Kirchengast & Gartner,
2002; Manning et al., 1996; Pipitone & Gallup, 2008; Roberts et al., 2004). Women are more
likely to desire to be in situations that have potential to offer a new romantic partner, have a
greater degree of self-presentation, and have a heightened sense of sexuality in the days leading
up to ovulation (Miller & Maner, 2011). In our modern age, the shift is visible through wearing
more provocative clothing, more risk-taking behavior, and greater response to men flirting with
sexual motivations. A woman may exhibit more aggressive flirting styles motivated by the desire
to find a mate when she is most likely to conceive because the window of heightened fertility
ovulation creates is only about 48-72 hours.
Relationship Length Preference
Sex differences in partner relationship length preference and preference for number of
partners is stable across cultures (Schmitt & the International Sexuality Description Project,
2003) and over time (Hyde, 2005; Oliver & Hyde, 1993), suggesting that it is an evolutionary
function. Compared to women, men desire more sexual partners, consider intercourse earlier in
relationships with new partners, and are more likely to seek short-term relationships (Buss &
Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt et al., 2003). Within the evolutionary framework, this is explained by the
need to pass along genetic material and produce as many offspring as possible. Returning to the
PIT, because women intrinsically must make a larger commitment than men in order to produce
offspring, women are typically more likely to pursue long-term relationships and have different
sexual attitudes than men. With a consistent partner, a woman in the ancient age secured a
resource for providing food, shelter, and protection from danger; in the modern age, a woman
secures additional financial income to subsidize the cost of supporting a child.
Effect of ovulation on relationship length preference
The necessary emphasis on women typically seeking long-term partners is due to the
major change in preferences and behaviors that women display during the ovulation phase of the
menstrual cycle. Whereas she would prefer a long-term mate during most of her cycle, a woman
prefers short-term, more masculine-looking mates during ovulation.
What becomes more attractive about strong masculinity during ovulation? The heritable
fitness of a partner is only valuable to a woman when she is likely to conceive. According to the
evolutionary perspective, a womans preferences for a mate should vary across the ovulatory
cycle to best allocate resources, that is, egg, sperm, and energy to mate (Penton-Voak et al.,
1999). Increased masculine behaviors and physical characteristics are the result of higher
testosterone levels, a hormone that increases male-to-male competition fore mates and also
increases male effort to find a mate (Ellison, 2001). Gangstad, Garver-Apgar, and Simpson
(2007) focused on measuring these behaviors and characteristics of men to determine women
found more attractive during ovulation. Women were asked to evaluate the attractiveness of men
as short- or long-term mates in video interviews where the men described themselves or
commented on another man who might be in competition with him for attracting the same female
partner. Men were asked to complete personality assessment surveys and give a report of sexual
partners during the lifetime. Women reported preferences for short-term mate qualities of
arrogance, confrontativeness, muscularity, physical attractiveness, and lower faithfulness, each of
which is associated with higher testosterone levels. In long-term mates, women preferred
faithfulness, intelligence, potential for financial success, potential to be a good father, and
warmth. The researchers results support the theory that women who are looking for short-term
mates during ovulation prefer more masculine, testosterone-driven men.
Pheromonal Cues
Beyond the visible and behavioral changes, there are chemical changes that also occur
during ovulation that cannot be consciously detected. A womans body puts off a different scent
when ovulating that contains pheromones signaling men of her ovulatory status. A mans
testosterone level can increase in response to this scent (Miller & Maner, 2010), so not only does
ovulation direct women, but also directs men. In an experiment measuring the potency of this
effect, Miller and Maner (2011) asked male participants in a study to perform a word completion
task containing several sexual words. Before beginning, each were asked to smell a shirt slept in
by a woman with regular, normal periods and not on hormonal contraceptives. The women slept
in the shirt during either ovulation or the luteal phase (menstruation), and there was a control
shirt that was not slept in. The researchers hypothesized that the fertility cue of scent influences
mating primes by increasing accessibility to sexual concepts for men. To control for individual
differences, all men were given the Chemical Sensitivity Scale post-test to evaluate their
sensitivity to odors and no significant variation was found.
As predicted, men who smelled the shirts worn by women during ovulation completed
significantly more sexual words in the word completion task than those men who smelled the
shirt worn by women during the luteal phase or men in the control group. Men who smelled the
scent of a woman who was ovulating were more easily able to access sexual concepts, so it can
be assumed that accessing those concepts directs goal-oriented behavior toward mating (Holland
et al., 2005). Based on the evidence in this study, there are evolutionarily rooted connections
between olfactory stimulation and human response in many areas, including in motivation to
seek a romantic partner for mating. The pheromones act as chemical signals to men that a women
is ready to mate and likely to conceive, a combination making her irresistible. Such a mechanism
serves the evolutionary purpose of motivating mating during a time when pregnancy is most
probable, thus multiplying the population.
Relationship Maintenance: Does Love Keep Us Together?
Let us imagine that two people have acquired each to the others attention and have
determined that they will begin a long-term relationship together. If humans are subjected to
constant unconscious direction toward the opposite sex through evolutionary mechanisms with
the motive of mating, how is it then possible for people to remain faithful to one another in
relationships? The evolutionary perspective poses the response that jealousy based on the need to
continue personal and species survival, not love, keeps us together.
Jealousys Role in Fidelity
Mens feelings of sexual jealousy and the behaviors motivated by that jealousy keep
women faithful to their partners. Men pursue sexual intercourse with their partners through
sexual coercion tactics, such as being romantic, to make sure that if fertilization occurs, the
resulting offspring is genetically theirs, not an extrapair partners. McKibbin, Starratt,
Shakelford, and Goetz (2011) describe the risk of fathering a child who does not genetically
belong to a man as cuckoldry. The researchers found a strong and positive correlation between
time spent apart since last in-pair copulation and mens use of partner-directed sexual coercion
tactics, particularly by men who perceived a significant risk of Female Extrapair Copulation
(EPC). Couples who spent more time apart between copulations were more likely to perceive
EPC risk, which was a predictor of the use of sexually coercive behaviors. Burchell and Ward
(2011) identified sexual gratification as an important part of romantic relationships for men due
to a higher sex drive than woman, and losing sexual gratification more stressful for men because
of the fear of possible partner infidelity. It is an evolutionary adaptation to make sure that a man
is not investing resources into offspring he is not responsible for having generated.
On the opposite side, women are more affected by emotional jealousy than men are (Buss
& Schmitt, 1993). Trivers PIT suggests this is due to the ancestral fear of a male partner
investing his resources in an alternative source. Emotional infidelity in our modern age would be
demonstrated by the formation of deep emotional connections with other women, buying other
women gifts, or helping other women pay for bills. In this survival motivated light, it is the
mutual exchange of fidelity between men and women that grants confidence in appropriate
resource investment and encourages long-term relationships.
Burchell and Ward (2011) researched if there were predictors of romantic jealousy
beyond sex differences. Woman who had higher sex drives scored higher and women who were
in relationships scored lower on a sexual jealousy scale, but these factors accounted for only 30%
of variance in sexual jealousy for women. Variables accounted for 70% of variance in sexual
jealousy for men, with previously being the victim of infidelity and having characteristics of
attachment avoidance being predictors of higher scores on the sexual jealousy scale. Perhaps
womens innate desire for longer-term relationships due to the larger investment they make in
creating a child is the cause of weaker reactions to jealousy than men.
What Makes a Partner Unfaithful?
Fertility as evidenced by physical attractiveness and partner disposition are both
important factors in mate selection, and they remain important in relationship maintenance.
Shackelford, Schmitt, and Buss (2005) investigated how preferences for these characteristics
vary across the duration of marriage. Newlywed couples were asked to complete surveys
periodically across four years to rank marriage satisfaction and which characteristics they found
most desirable in a mate. The researchers hypothesized that the initial factors that contribute to
mate attraction diminish over time and a positive, supportive personality becomes more
important over time. The researchers found mixed support for their hypotheses. Among the
couples in their study, partner physical attractiveness remained at the same level of importance
for women and became significantly more important to men in the fourth year survey compared
to the first year survey. The importance of having a pleasing disposition also significantly
increased in importance during the fourth year of marriage for both men and women. Overall,
mate preferences remained stable overtime, with the exception of pleasing disposition becoming
more important for both males and females and physical attractiveness becoming more important
for males. Beyond these significant findings, Shackelford, Schmitt, and Buss found approaching
significance an increase in desire for potential for financial income for both men and women, an
increase in mens desire for a partner with dependable character, and an increase in womens
desire for a partner with emotional stability and maturity.
The implications of this studys results can be used to identify what are perhaps some
evolutionary mechanisms leading to infidelity. Evolutionarily speaking, men remain motivated to
find the most fertile mates, and as women age, their fertility, or attractiveness, decreases. For this
reason, a husband may be motivated to engage in sexual infidelity. For both men and women,
infidelity may stem from the need to access resources, which can be described in modern society
as making money. Money, or the comforts, luxuries, and security it can buy, is evolutionarily
necessary for survival, an idea that fits within the model of the PIT. Also within this framework,
a husbands increased desire for a wife to have consistent character could be related to the
evolutionary need to have a partner who will be a good caretaker and nurturer of a child. In the
same vein, a wifes increased desire for a husband to behave emotionally stable and mature could
be related to the evolutionary need to have a partner who will consistently provide for a child.
Criticisms: Can Human Behavior Be So Reduced?
To hear love described in a formulaic fashion can be something that makes logical sense,
especially when those statements are supported with empirical research evidence. Despite
whatever supportive logic and data evolutionary psychology offers, it can also remain somehow
unsettling and unreal to essentially eliminate most variation of human behavior in romantic
relationships. Evolutionary psychology is also criticized as being too reductionist and
deterministic since it endorses a fairly exclusive paradigm that attributes all things toward a
single causality- perpetuation of the species.
Nuances in Behavior
To illustrate this weakness within evolutionary psychology, Confer, et al. (2010) argue
that Sexual Strategies Theory, which states that all psychological functioning must serve survival
and reproduction, does not explain two nuances of human behavior: homosexuality or suicide.
Neither homosexuality nor suicide can physiologically result in procreation and therefore neither
serves a purpose according to SST, so neither should occur in human behavior (and clearly, both
do occur). Tate and Ledbetter (2010) counter this claim in saying evolution does not select for
traits, it selects against traits, and homosexuality is more of a benign feature of human behavior
than a weakness to be eliminated. Tate and Ledbetter make the recommendation of incorporating
cultural difference, personality, and evolutionary mechanisms into a stepwise model that better
accounts for variation.
Creativity and Flexibility of Mind
The massive modularity hypothesis, a concept of evolutionary psychology, suggests that
there are many modules within the brain that have slowly evolved to serve just one function each
without influencing other modules. Peter Carruthers argues in The Architecture of the Mind
(2006) the hypothesis can coexist with abstract flexibilities of the human mind to be creative,
think scientifically, and to reason for three main reasons: our thoughts are not dependent upon
our surroundings, we can combine different concepts to create one larger concept, and we can
change our thinking patterns. Although this is Carruthers attempt to bring ideas together, there is
still not consensus that can be reached on the subject. Machery (2008) argues that content
flexibility as an argument is not compatible with the core principals of individualized modularity.
If a module serves just one purpose, than it should not be able to connect a concept to another
concept; there would have to be some kind of connecting module that has a sole purpose of
connecting concepts. In terms of changing thinking patterns, Machery states that if a module can
evolve so that it can process any information, than there is no specificity of modulation because
there is not a limit to the connections that could be made or the types of information a module
could process. Massive Modularity continues to offer divided support for evolutionary
Assumptions and Manipulating Application of Data
Bueller (2008) supports a common argument against evolutionary psychology: it takes
objective empirical evidence and applies it to anecdotal, subjective concepts. Because
evolutionary mechanisms take hundreds of years to develop, it can be assumed that observing
these changes may be as reasonable as replicating the evolution of an animal species to prove
Darwinian evolution; it is not a possibility, so logical assumptions can be made and empirical
evidence can support the structure of those assumptions, but that just makes them assumptions
that data could somehow be related to. Even evolutionary psychologists responses to criticisms
such as this are put into molds of their deterministic beliefs- it is in itself a defensive
evolutionary mechanism and therefore is invalid.
Expanding Evolutionary Psychology Theory
Certain researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology have begun to create a more
rounded and inclusive view of evolutionary mechanisms by researching environmental and
cognitive processes that traditionally have challenged evolutionary theory and therefore have
been disregarded (Lickliter & Honeycutt, 2003; Bueller, 2008; Brinkmann, 2011).
Moderators of Sexual Attitudes
One criticism of the Sexual Strategies Theory is that it acknowledges but does not offer
explanation for individual differences within the sexes that are the result of developmental and
cultural experiences (Njus & Bane, 2009). For example, level of religiosity affects attitudes
toward premarital sex, types of sexual activities, and preference for long- or short-term sexual
strategies; there is a positive correlation between negative religious attitudes toward sex and
conservative sexual attitudes (Lefkowitz et al., 2004). Rowatt and Schmitt (2003) found that
highly religious people will have less positive views of having multiple sexual partners. Njus and
Bane (2009) found sex differences in religiosity as moderators of sexual attitudes. They found
that men high in religiosity showed significantly less desire for short-term partners than men low
in religiosity, but that women low in religiosity did not show significantly greater desire for
short-term partners than women high in religiosity. In terms of desired sexual partners, men were
found to desire significantly more partners than woman, but men high in religiosity desired
significantly fewer partners than low religiosity men, and there was no significant difference in
desired number of sexual partners between women high or low in religiosity. The researchers
attributed both of these sex differences to the Parental Investment Theory because women,
regardless of religiosity level, are at an evolved place of desire for long-term mates and fewer
partners (Trivers, 1972), however, religiosity as a moderator for sexual attitudes is not
explainable through an evolutionary perspective.
Attentional Adhesion
A concept that connects evolutionary theory with cognitive perspectives is that of
attentional adhesion. The posterior attention system is responsible for directing attention from
one stimulus to another by disengaging attention from that particular stimuli, orienting attention
toward a second stimulus, and engaging the second stimulus (Posner & Peterson, 1990).
Motivational states guide the posterior attention system and lead it to focus on motivationally
relevant stimuli (Fox, Russo, & Dutton, 2002) and evolutionary theories imply that situationally
activated motivational states can shape adaptive social cognitive processes, such as seeking a
mate (Kirkpatrick, Waugh, Valencia, & Webster, 2002; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995;
Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1997). It is assumable that attentional adhesion, or having
difficulty not thinking about another person (Derryberry & Reed, 1994; Fox et al., 2001), occurs
when encountering an attractive member of the opposite sex because motives for mating are
Maner, Gailliot, Rouby, and Miller (2007) performed a study on attentional adhesion to
mates and rivals. Participants were primed with either a sexual arousal condition or a happiness
control condition, or primed with a hypothetical partner infidelity situation by thinking about a
time when they experienced whichever was applicable to the group they were randomly assigned
to. Participants viewed four types of target photographs of color photos of attractive men,
attractive women, average looking men, and average looking women on a portion of a computer
screen for 500 milliseconds before it disappeared. After the face disappeared, a circle or square
appeared on a different portion of the computer screen and the participant had to indicate what
shape it was with a key on a keyboard. An attention shift was required to look from the face on
one location of the screen to look at the shape on another location on the screen; response latency
would indicate slower shift of attention.
Maner et al. (2007) found that mate-search prime of thinking about sexual arousal
increased attentional adhesion to physically attractive members of the opposite sex primarily
among individuals with an unrestricted mating strategy. The researchers also found an even
greater significance toward the mate-guarding prime of thinking about a partner being unfaithful;
it increased attentional adhesion to physically attractive members of ones own sex primarily
among participants who were concerned with threats posed by intrasexual competitors, but not
among those less concerned about such threats. People were less efficient at shifting their
attention from threatening stimuli, an evolutionary mechanism designed to create vigilance to
protect the potential for passing genes, partner investment, or social association.
Cognitive perspectives can and should be integrated into evolutionary perspectives
because of the cognitive perspectives ability to empirically research concepts that are more
abstract in evolutionary psychology. It would help alleviate criticism of making unfounded
assumptions in evolutionary psychology.
Concluding Thoughts
Perhaps attributing love to biological forces beyond our conscious control and pointing
toward jealousy as a positive means of protecting our best interests is too stringent and too carnal
a view on an institution that has produced so much beauty and transcendental value in life. The
strong reactions some critics have to evolutionary psychology may stem from the discomfort
caused by essentially comparing human behavior to animal behavior, blurring the line of
separation between our mammalian heritage and our ability to be creative, make rational
decisions, and find deeper meaning in life. It can certainly be unsettling to those that want to
believe in free will and the spirit of humanity as special and unique among other members of the
animal kingdom. Perhaps it is for the sake of parsimony that evolutionary psychologists continue
to push toward a totally inclusive and explanatory theory and reject whatever data do not fit into
that model.
After accounting for its faults, evolutionary psychology continues to be a fascinating and
growing field of study that has become publicly accessible through the media. In order to best
respond to increased attention on this area of the psychological community, evolution theory
should be more integrative of cognitive psychology and less reductionist. Incorporating other
theories does not weaken evolutionary psychology, but rather strengthens it by offering
explanations to variations in behavior that would otherwise be dismissed, unexplained, and
unresolved. Evolutionary psychology could also benefit from relying less on anecdotal
assumptions about the ancestral environment and behaviors conducted within it, focusing instead
on ways to make causal statements based on research. Research in evolutionary psychology is
very strong and points clearly to patterns of human behavior, regardless of whether or not those
behaviors are a reflection of an ancient and primitive world. There is no defeat in changing some
of the semantics of evolutionary psychology; in fact, it may be essential for greater acceptance
among the scientific and greater public communities.
Abrahams, M.F. (1994). Perceiving flirtatious communication: An exploration of the perceptual
dimensions underlying judgements of flirtatiousness. Journal of Sex Research, 31,
Brinkmann, S. (2011). Can we save Darwin from evolutionary psychology? Nordic Psychology
2011, 63, 50-67. doi: 10.1027/1901-2276/z000039
Buller, D.J. (2008). Speculation disguised as results. Ethology, 114, 934-936. doi:
Burchell, J.L. & Ward, J. (2011) Sex drive, attachment style, relationship status and pervious
infidelity as predictors of sex differences in romantic jealousy. Personality and Individual
Differences, 51, 657-661. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2001.06.002
Buss, D.M. (1988). The evolution of human intrasexual competition: Tactics of mate attraction.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 616-628.
Buss, D.M. & Schmitt, D.P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on
human mating. Psychology Review, 100, 204-232. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204
Carruthers, P. 2006: The Architecture of the Mind: Massive Modularity and the Flexibility of
Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Clark, R.A., Dockum, M., Hazeu, H., Huang, M., Luo, N., Ramsey, J., et al. (2004). Initial
encounters of young men and women: Impressions and disclosure estimates. Sex Roles,
50, 699-709.
Confer, J.C., Easton, J.A., Fleishman, D.S., Goetz, C.D., Lewis, D.M.G., Perilloux, C., & Buss,
D.M. (2010). Evolutionary psychology: Controversies, questions, prospects, and
limitations. American Psychologist, 65, 110-126. doi: 10.1037/a0018413
Derryberry, D. & Reed, M.A. (1994). Temperament and attention: Originating toward and away
from positive and negative signals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66,
Downy, J.L. & Damhave, K.W. (1991). The effects of place, type of comment, and effort
expended on the perception of flirtation. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6,
Downy, J.L. & Vitulli, W.F. (1987). Self-report measures of behavioral attributions related to
interpersonal flirtation situations. Psychological Reports, 61, 899-904.
Ellison, P.T. (2001). On fertile ground: A natural history of reproduction. Cambridge, MA;
Harvard University Press.
Fink, B. & Penton-Voak, I. (2002). Evolutionary psychology of facial attractiveness.
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 154-158. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00190
Fox, E., Russo, R., Bowles, R., & Dutton, K. (2001). Do threatening stimuli draw or hold visual
attention in subclinical anxiety? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130,
Fox, E., Russo, R., & Dutton, K. (2002). Attentional bias for threat: Evidence for delayed
disengagement from emotional faces. Cognition and Emotion, 16, 355-379.
Frisby, B.N. & Dillow, M.R. (2011). Flirtatious communication: An experimental examination
of perceptions of social-sexual communication motivated by evolutionary forces. Sex
Roles, 64, 682-694. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9864-5
Gallup, G.G. & Frederick, D.A. (2010). The science of sex appeal: An evolutionary approach.
Review of General Psychology, 17, 240-250. doi: 10.1037/a0020451
Gangestad, S.W., Garver-Apgar, C.E., & Simpson, J.A. (2007). Changes in womens mate
preferences across the ovulatory cycle. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92,
151-163. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.151
Greer, A.E. & Buss, D.M. (1994). Tactics for promoting sexual encounters. Journal of Sex
Research, 31, 185-201.
Hennigsen, D.D. (2004). Flirting with meaning: An examination of miscommunication in flirting
interactions. Sex Roles, 50, 481-489.
Holland, R.W., Hendriks, M., & Aarts, H. (2005). Smells like clean spirit: Nonconscious effects
of scent on cognition and behavior. Psychological Science, 16, 689-693. doi:
10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005. 01597.x
Hughes, S.M. & Gallup, G.G., Jr. (2003). Sex differences in morphological predictors of sexual
behavior: Should to hip and waist to hip ratios. Human Behavior and Evolution, 24,
Hyde, J.S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581-592.
Jasienska, G., Ziomkiewicz, A., Ellison, P., Lipson, S.F., & Thune, I. (2004). Large breasts and
narrow waists indicate high reproductive potential. Preceedings of the Royal Society of
London, Series B, Biological Sciences, 271, 1213-1217.
Kirchengast, S. & Gartner, M. (2002). Changes in fat distribution (WHR) and body weight
across the menstrual cycle. Collegium Antropologicum, 26, 47-57.
Kirkpatrick, L.E., Waugh, C.E., Valencia, A., & Webster, G. (2002). The functional domain
specificity of self-esteem and the differential prediction of aggression. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 756-767.
Leary, M.R., Tambor, E.S., Terdal, S.K., & Downs, D.L. (1995). Self-esteem as an interpersonal
monitor: The sociometer hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81,
Lefkowitz, E.S. Gillen, M.M., Shearer, C.L. & Boone, T.L. (2004). Religiosity, sexual behaviors,
and sexual attitudes during emerging adulthood. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 150-159.
Lickliter, R. & Honeycutt, H. (2003). Developmental dynamics: Toward a biologically plausible
evolutionary psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 819-835.
Maner, J.K., Gailliot, M.T., Rouby, A., & Miller, S.L. (2007). Cant take my eyes off of you:
Attentional adhesion to mates and rivals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
93, 389-401. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.3.389
Machery, E. (2008). Massive modularity and the flexibility of human cognition. Mind &
Language, 23, 263-272. doi: 10.1111/j1468-0017.2008.00341.x
Manning, J.T., Scutt, D., Whitehouse, G.H., Leinster, S.J., & Walton, J.M. (1996). Asymmetry
and the menstrual cycle in women. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17, 129-143. doi:
Miller, SL. & Maner, J.K. (2010) Scent of a woman: Mens testosterone responses to olfactory
ovulation cues. Psychological Science, 21, 276-283. doi: 10.1177/09567997609357733
Miller, S.L. & Maner, J.K. (2011). Ovulation as a male mating prime: Subtle signs of womens
fertility influence mens mating cognition and behavior. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 100, 295-308. doi: 10.1037/a0020930
McKibbin, W.F., Starratt, V.G., Shackelford, T.K., & Goetz, A.T. (2011). Perceived risk of female
infidelity moderates the relationships between objective risk of female infidelity and
sexual coercion in humans. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 125, 370-373. doi:
Njus, D.M. & Bane, C.M.H. (2009). Religious identification as a moderator of evolved sexual
strategies of men and women. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 546-557. doi:
Oliver, M.B. & Hyde, J.S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis.
Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29-51.
Penton-Voak, I.S., Perrett, D.L., Castles, D., Burt, M., Koyabashi, T., & Murray, L.K. (1999).
Female preference for male faces changes cyclically. Nature, 399, 741-742.
Pipiton, R.N. & Gallup, G.G. (2008). Womens voice attractiveness varies across the menstrual
cycle. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 268-274. doi: 10.1016/
Platek, S.M. & Singh, D. (2010). Optimal waist-to-hip ratios in women activate neural reward
centers in men. PLoS ONE, 5, e9042.
Posner, T. & Peterson, S.E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of
Neuroscience, 13, 25-42.
Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (1997). Why do we need what we need? A terror
management perspective on the roots of human social motivation. Psychological Inquiry,
8, 1-20.
Roberts, S.C., Little, A.C., Gosling, L.M., Perret, D.I., Carter, V., Jones, B.C., . . . Petrie, M.
(2005). MHC-heterozygosity and human facial attractiveness. Evolution and Human
Behavior, 26, 213-216.
Rowatt, W.C. & Schmitt, D.P. (2003). Association between religious orientation and varieties of
sexual experience. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 455-465.
Shackelford, T.K., Schmitt, D.P., & Buss, D.M. (2005). Mate preferences of married persons in
the newlywed year and three years later. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 1262-1270. United
Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. doi: 10.1080/02699930500215249
Schmitt, D.P., & the International Sexuality Description Project. (2003). Universal sex difference
in the desire for sexual variety; Tests from 52 nations, 6 continents, and 13 islands.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 85-104.
Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Tate, C. & Ledbetter, J.N. (2010). Oversimplifying evolutionary psychology leads to explanatory
gaps. American Psychologist, 65, 929-930. doi: 10.1037/a0021024
Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual
selection and the descent of man (pp. 136-179). Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.
Van Hoof, M.H., Voorhorst, F.J., Kaptein, M.B., Hirasing, R.A., Koppenaal, C., & Schoemaker,
J. (2000). Insulin, androgen, and gonadotropin concentration, body mass index, and
waist-to-hip ratio in the first years after menarche in girls with regular menstrual cycle,
irregular menstrual cycles, or oligomenorrhea. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and
Metabolism, 85, 1394-1400.
Wilcox, A.J., Weinber, C.R.R, & Baird, D.D. (1995). Timing of sexual intercourse in relation to
ovulation: Effects on the probability of conception, survival of the pregnancy and sex of
the baby. New England Journal of Medicine, 333, 1517-1521. doi: 10.1056/
Zaadstra, B.M., Seidell, J.C., Van Noord, P.A.H., Te Velde, E.R., Habbema, J.D.F., Vrieswijk, B.,
& Karbaat, J. (1993). Fat and female fecundity: Prospective study of body fat distribution
in conception rates. British Medical Journal, 306, 484-487.