The Evolution Of Desire | David M. Buss

Summary of: The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating
By: David M. Buss


Dive into the fascinating world of human mating as explained in ‘The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating’ by David M. Buss. This book presents a comprehensive analysis of evolutionary psychology and its impact on human mating strategies. Discover how men and women perceive mates based on factors such as age, physical appearance, wealth and status. Understand how our mating preferences are deeply ingrained in our evolutionary history and biological imperatives. Learn about the various tactics men and women use to attract potential partners and secure long-term relationships. This book summary will enlighten you on the complex and often surprising dynamics of human mating, offering insights into our desires and the strategies we employ to find and keep a mate.

The Science Behind Human Mating

The behavior of humans when it comes to mating is perplexing and intriguing. Evolutionary psychology offers insight into this behavior, stating that competition and mate preference are two mechanisms that determine the genes passed on to future generations. Charles Darwin identified these mechanisms, where only the characteristic of the winner in the competition for mate gets passed on, and preference for certain traits in a mate ensured their survival. For instance, a preference for peacocks with beautiful plumage among peahens gave such peacocks a reproductive advantage over less attractive ones.

Women’s Mate Selection Criteria

Women’s approach to mate selection is rooted in their limited capacity to reproduce and invest in the physical process. Therefore, women are inclined towards men who present material ability to support a family. In today’s time, women rank “good financial prospects” as a primary criterion for mate selection based on multiple study results. Women seek clues to potential wealth, such as status, particularly educated and successful men. Social rank is a decisive factor when women choose mates, regardless of culture, race, or religion. Women desire men who are slightly older, ambitious, industrious, dependable, intelligent, compatible, strong, healthy, “high-spirited,” loving, and committed. Women associate age with higher status and resources, but women who marry older men carry the possible threat of widowhood. Women believe that intelligent men solve problems, handle money well, and empathize better. Finally, women tend to choose partners who share their values, intelligence, and group memberships to avoid the costs of conflict.

Men’s Evolutionary Preference in Mates

Evolutionary advantages have enabled men to choose partners based on their reproductive value. A focus on qualities like youth, physical appearance, chastity, and fidelity have emerged as key indicators of a mate’s fertility. Men worldwide tend to prefer young women due to fertility concerns. Physical traits associated with beauty such as smooth skin, lustrous hair, and good muscle tone, are also highly considered by men. Men worldwide also tend to prefer women with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7, the standard for healthy, fertile women. Additionally, to protect procreation, men have developed a preference for “premarital chastity” and “post-marital loyalty.”

Sexuality and Survival: The Evolutionary Psychology behind Women’s Infidelity

Women’s sexual behavior is significantly different from men’s as casual sex does not offer the same reproductive advantage for women. Women are more inclined towards committed relationships as it ensures both partners’ survival and long-term security. However, in some historical contexts, women engaged in casual affairs to gain protection, assess their mating value, and find a substitute husband in case of emergency. In contemporary times, extramarital affairs facilitate “mate switching” and allow women to evaluate their current relationship and self-worth. Although infidelity is negatively perceived and socially discouraged, the phenomenon still persists. Women with “anxious/ambivalent attachment style” are more prone to having affairs, as they seek intimacy but fear it might drive men away. Overall, human mating is a complex and, sometimes, unpleasant topic that requires a better understanding of our evolutionary past and biological predispositions.

The Science of Attraction

In the book, the author explains the tactics that men and women use to attract mates, which are based on the preferences of the other gender. Men tend to flaunt wealth and potential status to show off their athleticism and strength while also displaying bravado and self-confidence. They emphasize their commitment to potential partners by courting them extensively and being understanding and affectionate. Women, on the other hand, modify their appearance to appear younger and healthier, play hard to get to attract men who want long-term relationships, use sexual signals to draw men who want short-term flings, and act submissive, helpless, and even stupid to increase the likelihood of being approached. The author argues that railing against these tactics is like telling meat-eaters not to prefer animal protein or telling men not to become aroused by signs of youth and health. Overall, the book provides insightful and thought-provoking analysis of the science of attraction.

Tactics to Keep Your Mate

Both insects and humans use various tactics to prevent their mates from being lured away by competitors. While insects physically disable their partners or conceal traits that attract rivals, humans employ psychological mechanisms such as jealousy to warn them of external threats to their relationship. Men become jealous of infidelity, while women fear emotional distraction that threatens the family unit. People use strategies such as emotional manipulation, public marking, vigilance, concealing a mate, and even genital mutilation to keep their mates. However, these tactics may have positive or negative outcomes. The article sheds light on how humans have evolved to use similar tactics that initially drew them to their partners.

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