As explained by the IB Psychology Guide, evolutionary psychologists assume that if genes code for behaviour as well as physical traits, then the behaviour is subject to evolutionary pressures in the same way that physical traits are subject to evolutionary pressures.

One study that is relevant to a discussion or evaluation of evolutionary explanations of behaviour is Buss et al. (1992). He asked participants to vividly imagine scenarios involving either sexual or emotional infidelity by their partner. Participants’ distress while imagining these scenarios was assessed by monitoring various indices of emotional (e.g. questionnaire) and physiological arousal (e.g. sweat response). The results showed that sexual infidelity generated the most distress in males, whereas emotional infidelity elicited the most distress in females.

Buss et al. concluded that men are concerned that their sperm will be replaced by another man’s thus reducing the chances that genes will be passed on. They also concluded that women are concerned when men think about having sex with other women thus increasing the likelihood that her mate will re-distribute his resources. This study, therefore, illustrates differences between male and females in terms of sexual selection.

You can find the full text of the study here.


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