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Title: On the plasticity of human mating strategies : experimental evidence for mating strategy change in response to evolutionarily relevant stimuli
Author: Thomas, Andrew G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 4820
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2015
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Evolutionary psychological theory explains the large variance found in humanmating behaviour through the use of a mating strategies perspective. Specifically, both sexes have short-term and long-term mating strategies containing sets of evolved psychological adaptations which guide mating effort. Individuals vary in their mating behaviour due to the differential activation of these two strategies which are thought to be activated conditionally. That is, an individual is hypothesized to engage in a short- term mating strategy over a long-term one in circumstances where, ancestrally, a short- term strategy would have led to the best fitness outcome. Despite a large body of evidence for the existence of mating strategies in humans, evidence for the ability to conditionally switch between strategies is less robust. To date, such evidence is either in the form of correlational studies, or experimental studies which demonstrate changes to behaviours only partly related to mating strategies. The aim of this thesis was to fill the gap in this literature by demonstrating that participants can change their mating strategies in response to evolutionarily relevant stimuli. A novel measure of mating strategies was developed in order to capture a participants’ propensity towards short- and long-term mating before and after exposure to cues hypothesized to have affected the effectiveness of the two mating strategies in the ancestral environment. These included cues related to a skewed local sex-ratio, self-perceived dominance, and environmental danger. Of the ten experimental hypotheses tested, support (or partial support) was found for seven and the experimental effects were typically small-to-medium in size. Thus, moderate support was found that humans are flexible in their mating strategy implementation and respond to evolutionarily relevant cues, although it was concluded that marked changes in an individual’s environment would be required for any lasting effect on their matingbehaviour to occur.
Supervisor: Stewart-Williams, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral