Greater Emphasis on Female Attractiveness in Homo sapiens: A Revised Solution to an Old Evolutionary Riddle
Jonathan Gottschall; 2007
Substantial evidence from psychology and cross-cultural anthropology supports a general rule of greater emphasis on female physical attractiveness in Homo sapiens. As sensed by Darwin (1871) and clarified by Trivers (1972), generally higher female parental investment is a key determinant of a common pattern of sexual selection in which male animals are more competitive, more eager sexually and more conspicuous in courtship display, ornamentation, and coloration. Therefore, given the larger minimal and average parental investment of human females, keener physical attractiveness pressure among women has long been considered an evolutionary riddle. This paper briefly surveys previous thinking on the question, before offering a revised explanation for why we should expect humans to sharply depart from general zoological pattern of greater emphasis on male attractiveness. This contribution hinges on the argument that humans have been seen as anomalies mainly because we have been held up to the wrong zoological comparison groups. I argue that humans are a partially sex-role reversed species, and more emphasis on female physical attractiveness is relatively common in such species. This solution to the riddle, like those of other evolutionists, is based on peculiarities in human mating behavior, so this paper is also presented as a refinement of current thinking about the evolution of human mating preferences.