[ExI] Something to keep in mind regarding EP prognostications

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 05:13:25 UTC 2009

The illusion of a universe in our own back yard

Science News covers a revealing new study on the Hadza people of
Tanzania that has the potential shake up some of the rusty thinking in
evolutionary psychology.

A common line of argument in this field is to suggest that sexual
preferences for certain body types exist because we've evolved these
desires to maximise our chances of mating with the most fertile or
healthiest partner.

For example, studies have interpreted the fact that taller men are
more likely to attract mates and reproduce in terms of evolutionary
pressures on sexual desire. But most of these and similar studies have
been completed on Western samples, while the authors draw conclusions
about the 'universal' nature of these 'evolutionary' pressures.

To test how universal these body preferences really are,
anthropologists Rebecca Sear and Frank Marlowe looked at whether
similar preferences existed in the Hadza people, a hunter-gather tribe
from Tanzania.

It turns out, these supposedly 'universal preferences' don't exist in
the Hadza. You can read the full text of the paper online as a pdf,
but this is taken from the Science News write-up:

    Hadza marriages don’t tend to consist of individuals with similar
heights, weights, body mass indexes, body-fat percentages or grip
strengths... Neither do Hadza couples feature a disproportionate
percentage of husbands taller than their wives, as has been documented
in some Western nations, the researchers report in the Oct. 23 Biology

    Almost no Hadza individuals mention height or size when asked to
explain what makes for an attractive mate, Sear and Marlowe add.

    People everywhere seek healthy, fertile marriage partners, Sear
proposes. “But I suspect there may not be a preference for one
particular signal of health in mates across every population,” she

    Sear and Marlowe criticize evolutionary psychologists who have
argued that physical size influences mating decisions in all
societies. That argument rests largely on self-reports of Western
college students and analyses of personal advertisements in U.S.
newspapers for dating partners, they say.

The problems with relying on Western college students as participants
in psychology studies is also addressed by a new paper just released
by Behavioural and Brain Sciences which you can read online as a pdf.

The article reviews data from psychology experiments and argues that
not only are college students a very restricted subset of society, but
they are actually wildly atypical in comparison to the rest of the
world's population.

In fact, the authors state that "The findings suggest that members of
WEIRD [Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic]
societies, including young children, are among the least
representative populations one could find for generalizing about


http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
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