Evolutionary Theories of Mating Preference

Preference is selected in offspring due to the genetic correlation between preference intensity and quality (good genes). In males, preference genes are preferred due to their correlation with investment and ornamental quality, which together determine the mating success of males. The underlying premise is that the preferred mate choices and associated social cognition and behavior of females and males, as well as that of other species, have evolved to focus on and exploit reproductive potential reproductive investment and assets of members of the opposite sex.

Evolution of Mating Preference

Human mating behavior excites and entertains us, fuels our chatter, and is very troubling. Few areas of human activity produce as much debate, as many rules, or as intricate ceremonies across all civilizations. Nonetheless, the ingredients of human mating appear to defy comprehension. Women and men are occasionally drawn to partners who psychologically and physically abuse them. Attempts to attract mates frequently backfire. Couples fight, which leads to a downward spiral of blame and sorrow. Despite their best intentions and lifelong love vows, half of all married couples divorce.

Sexual Selection in Mating

Many mating behaviors and associated physical traits are thought to have evolved through sexual selection. Most studied are the exaggerated male traits, such as peacock plumage, and the female mating preference for these traits. The theory of sexual selection was first proposed by Darwin, who argued that exaggerated male traits could have evolved if female mating preferences resulted in sexier males, with traits exaggerated having more sex partners and more children. However, he does not explain why these preferences are adaptive. Fisher suggested that the co-evolution of female mating preferences and male traits would result from the genetic correlation of the two; this is known as the "escape process" or the "sexy son hypothesis," in which women who prefer attractive men can produce attractive sons with better physical fitness than less attractive men.

As a result, women's preference for attractive male characteristics is increasing. Females prefer exaggerated males; they will produce better quality offspring; This is the "disability hypothesis." Experimental studies and theoretical models have tested these hypotheses and confirmed that sexual selection may have played an essential role in the evolution of many animal traits.

Two types of selection emerge during mate selection that may be involved in the evolution of reproductive traits known as secondary sex characteristics. These categories are −

  • Intersex selection (mate selection in which individuals of one sex choose mates of the other)

  • Intrasex selection (mate competition among members of the opposite sex) species of the same sex)

Intersex selection is often complicated because mate selection can be based on various visual, auditory, tactile, and chemical cues. An example of sex selection is when female peacocks choose to mate with the male with the brightest plumage. This type of selection often results in traits in the chosen sex that do not enhance survival but are most attractive to the opposite sex (often at the expense of survival).

Sex selection includes courtship and aggressive mating rituals such as head-butting rams; The winner of these battles is the one who can mate. Many of these rituals consume considerable energy but result in selecting the fittest, most assertive, and most dominant individuals for mating.

Researchers have proposed theoretical models of mate selection from many angles. In the early stages of this research, mate selection was often studied from the perspective of evolutionary psychology as a means of reproduction. However, mate selection is both a biological instinct and a result of socialization. For example, positive mating theory, complementarity theory, and social exchange theory construct the relationship between resources and mate selection from the sociological point of view.

In recent years, researchers have proposed to treat mate selection as a type of decision-making in pursuit of an optimization goal. Therefore, a theoretical model that captures the influence of resources on decision-making would be a valuable reference.

Darwin's Theory of Mate Preference

Charles Darwin proposes that all living species descend from a common ancestor. The primary mechanism he proposes to explain this fact is natural selection: organisms better adapted to their environment will have a higher survival rate than those less well-equipped. To do that. However, he noted many examples of complex and non-adaptive sexual characteristics that would not support carrier survival. He suggested that such traits could evolve if they were sexually selected, that is, if they increased the individual's chances of successful reproduction, even at the expense of survival.

Darwin noted that sexual selection depends on the struggle between males to reach females. He recognized two mechanisms of sexual selection: intrasex selection, or competition between members of the same sex (usually men) for access to mates, and intersex selection, in which members of one gender usually female) choose members of the opposite sex. The idea of complex traits evolving to support males competing in aggressive encounters was readily accepted by scientists soon after Darwin's publication.

However, the idea of female companionship was met with ridicule and was not taken seriously until nearly 80 years later. Over the next 40 years, there have been many advances in our understanding of how sexual selection works.

The mutual attraction between the sexes is an essential factor in reproduction. Males and females of many animals are similar in size and shape except for the sex organs and secondary sex features such as breasts in female mammals. However, there are species where the sexes exhibit striking dimorphism (or physical difference). Especially in birds and mammals, males are usually more extensive and more robust, more colorful, or with conspicuous decorations. Darwin knew that natural selection could not favor the evolution of negative traits and devised a solution to the problem.

He proposed that such traits arise from "sex selection" or "sex selection" independent of the struggle for the existence of other organic organisms or other conditions. External events depend on the struggle between individuals of the same sex, usually males, for property rights. Darwin proposed that these traits resulted from a secondary mechanism working with natural selection, which he called "sexual selection." It is a two-part mechanism involving physical adaptation in men and aesthetic consciousness in women, which has played an important role in selection in many cases.

Parental Investment

The idea of parental investment is common in humans and the animal kingdom and stems from the fact that in most species, there is an imbalance in the amount of time each parent invests in their children. Parental investment is a determinant of offspring survival, and access to this investment is essential for genders that do not provide much PI.

This theory asserts that the sex that invests the most time in educating its children is the limit: that sex is pickier in choosing a mate. Therefore, the opposite sex invests most of their time competing and flirting with a partner. Restricted sex selection is more robust because the difference in IP between the sexes is significant. Parental investment is relatively equal in humans, meaning that selectivity is similar.

Masculine investment means that men are selective; therefore, feminine ornaments have evolved to address this issue. Parental investment does not explain the interest in resource availability because parental investment in long-term mating is similar and, therefore, selectivity. Nevertheless, women use signs of male parental investment to gauge whether men are willing to invest in children.


Sex selection can cause males to exert extra effort to demonstrate their ability to be selected by females, producing sexual dimorphism in secondary sex characteristics, such as plumage, ornate birds of paradise and peacocks, or deer antlers. Depending on the species, these rules can be reversed. Charles Darwin proposed that all living species descend from a common ancestor through natural selection.

However, he noted many examples of complex and non-adaptive sexual characteristics that could be sexually selected if they increased the individual's chances of successful reproduction, even at the expense of survival. He recognized two mechanisms of sexual selection: intrasex selection and intersex selection. Sexual selection is a two-part mechanism involving physical adaptation in men and aesthetic consciousness in women, which has played an important role in selection.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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