Critically discuss the relationship between human reproductive behaviour and sexual selection (24 marks)
The sociobiological theory applies principles of evolution to understand relationships; it believes that both males and females are seeking to produce the healthiest offspring possible in order for their genes to survive into the next generation. Sexual partners will be sought who can produce and provide for health children, meaning that characteristics differ in what males and females look for in the opposite sex – makes focus more on sex, get straight to the point, and decide whether they want sex with the person or not almost initially whilst women want the ‘happy ending’ so focus more on loving and the tiny details, gossip about these details whilst overanalysing, are quite materialistic, sometimes tend to be clingy, insecure, and more mature. Darwin says that we evolve through sexual selection, so therefore this is where to survival comes into play – the two types of selection are based upon survival – as natural selection is survival of the fittest whilst sexual selection is survival of the sexiest. There are also two types of sexual selection which are intra and inter – the pressure of this has led to a number of consequences for physical characteristics and behaviour, some being: facial preferences, gender differences in attractiveness, gender differences in jealousy, body symmetry and body shape, and sexual enthusiasm.
The first consequences of intra and inter sexual selection is facial preferences as humans tend to be attracted to physically attractive people as these types of people are seen to have good, healthy genes and this is what people want in a partner as they will produce a similarly good looking and healthy offspring with this individual. Humans may have an innate preference for an attractive face, though, as a study from Langlois et al (1987) found that when babies under 12 months are shown faces that adults consider attractive or unattractive, they spent longer amounts of time looking at the former face showing that they prefer them – however, they have not yet learned cultural standards of beauty as they are too young, supporting the innate idea. Research has shown that certain characteristics are seen as universally attractive: males – square jaw-line, small eyes and thin lips as these portray masculinity, and women – wide eyes, small nose, full lips and high cheekbones because this shows youth, indicating fertility and good looking children.
Gender differences in attractiveness are also affected as research suggests that physical attractiveness is more important to males than for females as males use physical attractiveness as an indicator of reproductive fitness to a much greater extent to what women do as they are more interested in fertility whilst women prefer to go for men who are mature and resourceful – such as money, wealth, ambition, high status, and power. A cross-cultural study carried out by Buss (1989) in 37 countries, involving 100,000 people, showed that men seem to give a universally higher priority to good looks in their female partners whilst the situation is reversed when it comes to good financial prospect and good earning capacity. However this study has some flaws because of the fact that it was alpha biased as it hugely exaggerates the gender differences, whilst there may be an alternative reason for women going for resourceful men – women traditionally had to be dependent on the men because of the fact that they didn’t work, so because women still don’t tend to earn as much as males do, they may want to have the male there for support when bringing up their offspring. Although, there are some strengths of this study including the fact that it was done in 37 different cultures around the world and therefore can be applied to everyone as its findings were universal – because of all the different cultures there had to be 100,000 people to be accurate in their...
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