Notes on Sex Differences - Psychological Sex Differences...

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Psychological Sex Differences Origins Through Sexual Selection David M. Buss University of Michigan Men and women clearly differ in some psychological do- mains. A. H. Eagly (1995) shows that these differences are not artifactual or unstable. Ideally, the next scientific step is to develop a cogent explanatory framework for un- derstanding why the sexes differ in some psychological domains and not in others and for generating accurate predictions about sex differences as yet undiscovered. This article offers a brief outline of an explanatory framework for psychological sex differences one that is anchored in the new theoretical paradigm of evolutionary psychology. Men and women differ, in this view, in domains in which they have faced different adaptive problems over human evolutionary history. In all other domains, the sexes are predicted to be psychologically similar. Evolutionary psy- chology jettisons the false dichotomy between biology and environment and provides a powerful metatheory of why sex differences exist, where they exist, and in what contexts they are expressed (D. M. Buss, 1995). E volutionary psychology predicts that males and fe- males will be the same or similar in all those do- mains in which the sexes have faced the same or similar adaptive problems. Both sexes have sweat glands because both sexes have faced the adaptive problem of thermal regulation. Both sexes have similar (although not identical) taste preferences for fat, sugar, salt, and partic- ular amino acids because both sexes have faced similar (although not identical) food consumption problems. Both sexes grow callouses when they experience repeated rubbing on their skin because both sexes have faced the adaptive problem of physical damage from environmental friction. In other domains, men and women have faced sub- stantially different adaptive problems throughout human evolutionary history. In the physical realm, for example, women have faced the problem of childbirth; men have not. Women, therefore, have evolved particular adapta- tions that are absent in men, such as a cervix that dilates to 10 centimeters just prior to giving birth, mechanisms for producing labor contractions, and the release of oxy- tocin in the blood stream during childbirth. Men and women have also faced different infor- mation-processing problems in some adaptive domains. Because fertilization occurs internally within the woman, for example, men have faced the adaptive problem of uncertainty of paternity in putative offspring. Men who failed to solve this problem risked investing resources in children who were not their own. All people descend from a long line of ancestral men whose adaptations (i.e., psy- chological mechanisms) led them to behave in ways that increased their likelihood of paternity and decreased the odds of investing in children who were putatively theirs but whose genetic fathers were other men. This does not imply, of course, that men were or are consciously aware of the adaptive problem of compromised paternity.

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