As best I can tell, life evolved to be an endless series of choices. This would be fine if it hadn’t also evolved parents to endlessly criticize those choices. Announce that you’re choosing to become a writer if you don’t believe me. But I really don’t think things would get any better if we could choose our parents. Who would we blame then for our bad choices?
And let’s face it, we all make bad choices. Evolution can only do so much, and it’s already gone out on a limb with us. Bad choices are often the sexy choices, which makes it extra hard on our minds, and our minds are having a hard enough time keeping up with the Kardashians as it is, never mind evolution. I know one look at their TV show is enough to make my mind struggle for survival. So who do we listen to then when it’s time to make one of our most important choices – a life partner? Biologists? Psychologists? Our parents? None are exactly sexy choices, but it’s either them or me. You be the judge. I’ll be the one in the speedo.
Biologists believe we are evolutionarily designed to make our mate choices based on Darwin’s second theory of evolution called ‘Sexual Selection by Mate Choice.’ It’s always good to have a second theory in case your first one makes you look like a monkey. In this theory, the females have evolved to be the principal choosers, and the males have evolved to act like monkeys while they’re trying to get chosen. The theory holds that females are evolutionarily driven to choose mates who display certain traits that advertise their fitness as reproductive partners. Surprisingly, crushing beer cans on their foreheads is not one of them, though there are many females who think otherwise.
Generally speaking, the male traits that females link to fitness involve things like muscular appearance, height, voice pitch, facial shape, and dominant behavior. These are perceived to align with masculinity and be indicators of health and fertility. It’s hard to argue with evolution, though there are plenty of people who still do, and somehow they reproduce.
Evolution is no one trick pony however, and males have evolved other tricks to get chosen by females besides bench pressing them. One is actually to possess more feminine traits, which tends to indicate a greater likelihood for long-term commitment. This has proven beneficial in raising children, particularly children who learn the delicate balance between respect and fear in relationships.
Females are also likely to be attracted to males who possess a higher degree of eloquence, on the theory that language skills are better indicators of intelligence than grunts. Poets, writers, singers, and BS artists are all included here. This has proven beneficial in raising children who do not need to crush beer cans on their foreheads.
The biologists rest their case.
Psychologists believe we are evolutionarily designed to make our mate choices based on how much someone looks like us, and no, this is not based on any investments they have in genetic testing companies. Neither are they referring to those couples who dress in matching ensembles. Not even they have the words, much less the grant money to help shed light on that disturbing mystery.
Psychologists say that studies with altered images of participants and their partners have shown that we are most attracted to faces that look 22 percent like ourselves. Participants did not recognize their own faces in these morphs, proving that the attraction occurred at a subconscious level. The studies did not reveal what the remaining 78 percent of the morphs looked like, but if you’ve seen one morph, you’ve seen one morph too many. The same thing has been said about psychologists.
Parents have also been shown to play more of a role in mate choice than providing criticism. Studies have shown that they also provide sexual imprinting from an early age, and that as adults we often look for the face of our parents in our partners, particularly where there has been a high degree of emotional closeness. If you were closer to your parents dog than your parents however, it could explain why you’re more likely to get maced than kissed on first dates.
Still more studies have shown that we find familiar faces more attractive than distinctive ones, mainly because our minds find them easier to process. And unless you’re the type that makes mirrors crack when you look into them, no faces are easier to process than our own. Called the Familiarity Effect, it kind of makes me wonder where Picasso got his mirrors when he painted his self-portraits. I prefer not to think about what his partners looked like.
Something called ingroup bias, wherein we subconsciously prefer to date within our own culture or race, can also affect how our partners can come to look more like our siblings. Psychologists found that such preferences are often influenced by our social network. Social networks that include psychologists, however, often influence people to expand their networks.
The psychologists rest their case.
Parents believe we are evolutionarily designed to listen to them in all major choices, in direct proportion to the amount of inheritance we might be expecting.
The parents rest their case.
I believe, based on my own extensive field research when I was much younger, that we are evolutionarily designed to choose our partners at bars just before closing time, regardless of their traits, their looks, or any parental threats.
I’d like to rest my case, but my wife has just reopened it.