Authors: Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa
APA Style Citation
Miller & Kanazawa (2007). Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. Penguin Group: New York, New York.
Many Introductory Psychology classes address the lessons of Evolution with an introduction to the historical work of Charles Darwin and the modern proposals of David Buss. Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters can provide instructors with touch points for evolutionary psychology that can be introduced in each unit throughout the course.
Authors Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa were both initially rational choice sociologists who moved on to the field of evolutionary psychology. They challenge the traditional social science perspective of environmental determinism, and take issue with those who promote the environment as the sole factor driving human behavior. Instead, the book devoted to the ideas of behavioral genetics claiming that this perspective can better help explain human preferences, emotions, values, thinking and behavior. Miller and Kanazawa claim to use logic and evidence in each of the ideas proposed, but make some leaps to conclusions that are consistent with their explanations of behavior. The authors challenge the arguments of social scientists who argue that evolution stops at the neck. While social scientists have acknowledged the existence of changes to appendages and sexual organs attributable to evolution, they have not emphasized the impact of evolution on thoughts and cognition. In order to better understand their perspective, social scientists must accept that people are animals. Humans are unique in some measure because they have adapted to their environment but like other animals, much of their behavior is dictated by inherited behaviors.
Inevitably, reproductive issues are one of the first issues tackled. The authors pose that men are more likely to become jealous than women in relationships because they are less certain about the paternity of their offspring and do not want to waste time and resources on children to whom they are not genetically related. This gives rise to the well-known argument that men are driven to have many children insuring that their genes will be passed to the next generation.
The discussion of mating of course leads to a discussion about attraction. The authors contend that men prefer blonds because with age women`s hair gets darker indicating that their fertility is waning. A low hip-to-waist ratio demonstrates a similar level of fertility and when women are beyond their child bearing years, they tend to move away from the .7 ratio which acts as a visible (if unconscious) indication of fertility. This preference for blue eyes has been more of a mystery, but the authors propose that it is easier to tell when the pupils dilate on someone with blue eyes. Pupil dilation is related to sexual interest and if the pupils have not dilated then this is perhaps an indication that the individual is not interested and one should move on. This is much more difficult to assess in those with darker eyes. This preference for younger, more fertile women is demonstrated in films in which older men often partnered with much younger women but rarely the other way around (The Graduate being the exception).
Men and women often misread signs of interest with men overestimating women`s interest and women underestimating men’s interest. The evolutionary explanation for this may be that women have a much greater investment in offspring, so the ability to mate is limited to the number of children a woman can have over her reproductive cycle women must devote at least nine months to each child. For men, the investment is limited which means they can have many encounters and if they read a signal of interest from a woman incorrectly they may have missed an opportunity. By this same account only 0.47% of societies practice polyandry (a woman having many husbands) while 83.39% of societies practice polygyny (this can exist simultaneously or serially so those societies with lenient divorce rates are considered by the authors to be polygynous). The authors argue that monogamous relationships are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history and actually fight against one`s natural inclinations. They use evidence of earlier female development in polygynous societies in which early development meant more attention from older resource rich men.
Those couples with sons have lower divorce rates than those with daughters. The reasoning from the authors is that a son inherits his wealth from his family and greater wealth for males often leads to more reproductive success regardless of physical appearance. It is important then that parents provide their sons with as much wealth as possible. Parents can do little to improve their daughter`s reproductive success aside from keeping them alive and healthy (although modern surgical techniques may be changing this). The Trivers-Willard hypothesis provides the basis for the books title suggesting that sons from wealthy parents have more access to a large number of women making reproduction more likely but if the poor have beautiful daughters they may achieve the same level of reproductive success by partnering with these resource rich men. The authors argue that women look for a man who is willing to make an investment in their relationship and thus why they argue “Diamonds are a girl`s best friend”. There is no usefulness in a diamond except for a demonstration of commitment to a relationship and commitment in a relationship is more likely to lead to the production of children. The authors also argue that handsome men may make bad husbands because they are more prone to cheat and take advantage of the opportunities they have to mate more frequently.
The Savannah principle explains why are human`s brains are still stuck in the stone age while our environment has changed. In one example, the authors suggest that many people have become obese because our brains cannot yet comprehend that we have supermarkets and food available and we do not have to binge of fats and sweets in order to survive through a time in which food resources may be limited or non-existent. In addition, this is what may explain superior spatio-visual skills in men who thousands of years ago allowed them to follow animals, those with better spatial skills would be better hunters and were more likely to live. Similarly, women who had good object location memory would be more likely to remember where fruit bushes and trees were located and would reap a fuller harvest.
University of Cambridge Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen presented pictures to newborn babies and found that boys gazed at mechanical mobiles longer than girls and girls preferred to look at human faces. Given that these infants were one-day old, this leaves little room for learned differences and may be attributable to genetic gender preferences as opposed to learned differences as the social science model suggests. Vervet monkeys have also demonstrated early preferences for gender typed toys (a soft doll versus a ball) but no difference for gender neutral toys. Baron-Cohen also describes the autism as an example of the extreme male brain. He believes the male dominated careers are a result of brain differences in males and females with men opting for careers that demonstrate their preferences for Visio-spatial tasks such as engineering and science and females opting for careers rich in empathy such as teachers, social workers and caretakers.
Miller and Kanazawa do not claim political correctness and some of the declarations are likely to cause pause for those from a social science background. Some of the conclusions drawn need more substantiated evidence (which may be explained by exploring the many references provided). The authors conclude with a few ongoing questions for evolutionary psychologists demonstrating that this model has not worked for an explanation of all human behavior. Homosexual behavior is one that evolutionary psychologists continue to ponder as well as why soldiers are willing to proudly die for their country leaving virtually no possibility of mating. This book is worth a careful read for social scientists if only examine the origins of human behavior from a perspective that is very different from the lens most social scientists are used to using.
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Psychology Today: Beautiful People Have More Daughters
The Telegraph: Attractive People Have More Daughters
The Telegrpah: Inconvenient Truths about out Evolution
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