Buss, D.M. 1994. The Strategies of Human Mating. American
Scientist . 82: 238-249
McGraw, K. J. 2002. Environmental predictors of geographic variation
in human mating preferences. Ethology 108:303-317.
Otta E, Queiroz RDS, Campos LDS, da Silva MWD, Silveira MT. 1999.
Age differences between spouses in a Brazilian
marriage sample Evolution and Human Behaviour
. 20: 99-103.
Introduction for students
Today we will be using personal ads from local papers to test hypotheses
concerning mate choice and sexual selection in humans.
Males and females of most species have different priorities when it comes
to choosing mates, primarily because of a differential investment in gamete
production and offspring rearing. This differential investment of energy
in reproduction usually results in females being more "choosy" in their mate
selection than males, although there are many species in which the opposite
is true, and in others when males and females are equally choosy. How do
humans approach mate selection. Try to formulate your hypotheses based on
sound biological predictions from theories about sexual selection!
1. Write up your own personal "personal ad", seeking a mate (with
a view to marriage) before reading this week's reading!
2. Then read Lonely Hearts paper and answer the following questions:
- What is Bateman's principle?
- List two lines of evidence for its operation in plant or animal
- The authors of the paper make predictions based on "evolutionary"
theory which they "test" using data based on lonely hearts ads..
- What studies might you undertake to confirm that the human
behaviors are driven by evolutionary (i.e. biological fitness) advantages
rather than social/cultural advantages?
- What are some advantages/disadvantages of using loneley
hearts ads to investigate human mating preferences?
Pose a hypothesis related to human mating preferences that is predicted
by sexual selection theory and use lonely hearts ads (in a local paper
or on the web) to test the hypothesis. Prepare to present your results
to the class.
Possible hypotheses to investigate using lonely hearts ads:
- Estimate role of skin color/race in mate choice in humans
- Are your results consistent with the view that humans consist
of several species or sub-species?
- Examine preferences for relationship duration according to
- Do males prefer short-term and females long-term relationships?
- Examine preferences for age categories according to sex.
- Discuss results in reference to female reproductive
- Compare ads for heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
- Does the sex of target audience affect the ads? How?
Other possible exercises
Marriage Announcements: Look at the New York Times wedding
annnouncements and other papers from different cities - What trends can
be observed about assortative mating, according to age, education level
(as a proxy for earning potential?), race (if pictures permit), etc. Compare
the results from the wedding announcements with those from the lonely hearts
ads - are the results the same (i.e. do patterns of dating closely follow
patterns of mating?). If there are differences between mating and dating,
suggest some possible explanations.
Observational studies of humans on college campuses.
Students form groups and pose a hypothesis that can be answered by observing
human behavior on campus. Instructors should check with their Research
Conduct offices to determine whether special permission to use human subjects
is necessary, however, encourage students to observe people in public areas
without direct interference. Ideas: assortative mating according to height,
BACK TO TOP