Sexual selection in humans. Aug 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Rob 5 Comments

In this special episode we have an extended interview about sexual selection in humans.

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Are all those muscles going to be more handy for attracting women, or beating up other men? How has sexual selection acted on male physicality?

The articles covered in the show:

Hill, A. K., Hunt, J., Welling, L. L. M., Cárdenas, R. A., Rotella, M. A., Wheatley, J. R., et al. (in press). Quantifying the strength and form of sexual selection on men's traits. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary


  1. I feel like the women in this study may not wish to have sex with the "most attractive" men because they don't wish him to be taken away from her. Meaning, if she chooses the most attractive man then he is the most likely to be chased after and taken by another mate. I personally have never been interested in the most attractive men I have know due to this.

  2. Also, women do actually perform in ways that decrease their attractiveness: Being too thin is something women obsess over, but men prefer women that are a bit round. This is much like how men put on too much muscle, as discussed in the interview.

  3. Thanks for your comments.

    1 - Attractiveness researchers would call this 'matching'. It's something we would expect. People are aware who is most attractive, but tend to prefer people who are equal in attractiveness/
    2 - We would expect women (and men) to behave in ways that they THINK increase their attractiveness. But, of course, it might be that what they think is attractive isn't mirrored in actual preferences. Also, women's appearance is tied to their status, so it is possible that women slim to out compete other women, as well as to attract men.

  4. What has not been explained, is what do women or men consider dominant? What are the specific traits? is it more subjective than objective? Would the frat guy used in this study farewell in a different setting?.. say for example, a ballet troop? It sounds like there are some invariable traits. However the participants could be experiencing group think also? (if they all joined the fraternity for similar reasons and know each other. i feel group think would play a big roll in determining what is considered dominant or preferable vs individual preference)

  5. Sorry if we forgot to describe the traits properly. It has been a while since I listened back to this episode, so I can't recall what we missed out. I try to be clear, but sometimes i take for granted that the listener will know what I mean: especially tough in this instance, as Alex and I worked in the same lab for two years and I was in the room when this study was designed.

    You are probably right that people who choose to join the same group will tend to agree on certain things, and that this agreement might increase over time. However, I suspect that the traits that signal dominance are fairly invariant. A bigger, stronger man is probably going to be seen as more dominance than a small, weak man. Having said that, there is some disagreement among scientists as to what is meant by dominance, which is why some make the distinction between social dominance (being a leader) and physical dominance or formidability (being able to physically coerce others).


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