Tag Archives: Evolution

“Does a taller husband make his wife happier?”

23 Dec

A paper published in Personality and Individual Differences. Here is the abstract:

“Although it has been known that women prefer tall men in mating for evolutionary reasons, no study has investigated whether a taller husband makes his wife happier. We analyzed two datasets (N = 7850) that are, together, representative of the Indonesian population to determine whether this is true. A greater height difference in a couple was positively related to the wife’s happiness. This relationship gradually weakened over time and entirely dissipated by 18 years of marital duration. The husband’s resourcefulness was a minor mediator in the relationship. We thus argue that the husband’s height and its correlates made his wife initially happy, but their influence waned over time. Nevertheless, the long period of the dissipation indicates a powerful impact of male height on women’s psychology, probably prepared by evolution.”


Gender equality and evolutionary psychology can co-exist

29 May

I was perplexed by this post in Slate: “Sorry, Evo Psych Fans. Our Caveman Ancestors Probably Practiced Gender Equality.” The first Paragraph reads:

“It’s a sad week for evolutionary psychology buffs. A new paper out in Science, by a group of scientists led by University College London anthropologist Mark Dyble, suggests that despite widespread claims to the contrary, early hunter-gatherer societies likely practiced equality between the sexes.”

Why does author Amanda Marcotte assume that evolutionary psychologists would be upset by these findings?

Evolutionary psychology is based on the assertion that human cognition is shaped by the same forces of natural selection that shapes our anatomy and physiology. This seems so obviously true to me.  A lot of attention is paid to the work of evolutionary psychologists on how human sexual behavior is shaped by selection, but this hardly exhausts the field. For example, as a developmental and educational psychologist I am very interested in why speaking a language comes easy to children, while learning to read is much more difficult. Or take the question of obesity, isn’t it plausible that there is a mismatch between our evolutionary propensity to seek high calorie foods and the food abundant environment that we now inhabit?

Moreover, there seems to be an epistemic-values confusion here. Gender equality is worthwhile goal and it should not be tied to any particular scientific finding. Suppose the findings Marcotte cites were overturned by later investigations? Would we then be required to abandon the struggle for gender equality? Of course not. We should strongly resist the is – ought fallacy.



Snakes and ladders: The myth of the reptilian brain

4 Sep

The claim that we have a reptilian brain lurking below our mammalian cortex is now well established in the popular imagination.


However, this triune brain hypotheses is almost certainly false. Here is an excerpt from the abstract to a paper I read at a meeting of the American Educational Research Association:

“MacLean’s triune brain model of brain evolution continues to be controversial. This paper argues that, while MacLean made a real contribution in his effort to link brain anatomy, behavior, and evolution, his model assumes a progressive ladder like process that is inconsistent with modern understandings of evolutionary change. Rather we should see brain evolution as process of niche adaptation built on a mosaic of conserved and derived neurological structures.”

A draft of the entire paper is available as a pdf here.

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