Samstag, 21. April 2018

Effects of Paternal Investment on Mate Attraction Strategies

Attracting Mates: Effects of Paternal Investment on Mate Attraction Strategies,
Elisabeth Cashdan, 1993:

Should Women Flaunt or Suppress Their Resources and Competence? Effects of Paternal Investment (Hypothesis la)

If fitness functions for humans are (perhaps after some threshold) downward sloping, it presents females with an interesting dilemma: while a female with abundant resources makes an attractive mate for a male (his fitness will be higher with her, other things equal), it also makes him less likely to invest in her offspring. To attract a male’s initial sexual interest, then, she should emphasize her competence and resources, but to attract post-reproductive investment in her children, she might do better to emphasize her need for male investment-i.e., to suppress her appearance of competence and resources. What is a woman to do? To the extent that she cannot play it both ways (and she may try), her optimal strategy will be influenced both by her own wealth and competitive ability, relative to those of the male, and by her chances of finding an investing mate. If she can expect high male parental investment, and it pays her to try to get it, she should minimize her competence and emphasize her need for male investment. If the men available to her are unlikely to invest (if they are, in the memorable phrases of Draper and Harpending [1982], “Cads” rather than “Dads”), then she should emphasize her own competence. Doing so will not only make her an attractive mate, but will enhance her ability to compete for material resources and invest successfully in her offspring. This argument leads to the following prediction, which will be tested below: females who expect to find investing males (“Dads”) will be more likely to emphasize their need for investment than will females who expect non-investing males (“Cads”). In other words, females who expect Dads will suppress their competence and resources around potential mates, whereas females who expect Cads will be more likely to emphasize their ability to acquire resources.

Should Women Flaunt or Suppress Their Resources and Competence? Effects of Resources (Hypothesis lb) 

The prediction made above ignores the effect of the female’s own wealth and competitive ability, yet this can be expected to affect both the costs of deference and the benefits of male parental investment. A female with little to invest should place a higher value on a given amount of help from a male than a female with abundant resources of her own. Furthermore, to the extent that her ability to acquire resources on her own is limited, the cost of presenting a helpless appearance should be reduced. Other things equal, therefore, a female with abundant resources (or the ability to acquire them on her own) should be less likely to minimize her apparent competence and resources than a female without this ability. Taking these two factors (resources and paternal investment) together, we should expect deferential and self-deprecating behavior to be most prevalent among women with high expectations of paternal investment but few resources. Conversely, such behavior should be least prevalent among women with low expectations of paternal investment who are able to procure resources on their own.

Should Women Flaunt Their Sexuality, or Emphasize Chastity and Fidelity? (Hypothesis 2) 

A female will be better off if her mate invests, irrespective of her own level of investment. However, there are two ways in which she can procure this investment, and she cannot do both at once. One option is to mate with a “Dad,” who will provide resources for an extended period after her children are born (we can call this “post-reproductive investment”). In order to do this, she must emphasize her chastity and fidelity in order to assure her mate that the children are his. If her opportunities for this type of investment are few, however, it will pay her to get what resources she can from as many mates as possible, perhaps in exchange for mating itself (we can call this “pre-reproductive investment”). A reputation for this type of behavior can be expected to lower her perceived mate value among investing males due to decreased confidence of paternity, but might well be worth the cost where investing males are few. If she adopts this strategy, we can expect her to form alliances with as many males as possible, since this will increase her total resources, and to attract these males by flaunting her sexuality. Both pre-reproductive and post-reproductive investment will help a woman enhance her reproductive success, but she cannot easily flaunt both her sexuality and her chastity. The difficulty of doing both at the same time (which would involve using deception to play a “mixed strategy”) are underscored by Gangestad and Simpson’s (1990) finding that personality traits associated with sociosexual behavior are bimodally distributed. The optimal strategy for a woman should depend on her likelihood of obtaining paternal investment. A woman who is unlikely to find much post-reproductive investment does not lose much by not appearing chaste, so such a woman can be expected to seek pre-reproductive investment where the alternative is unlikely to be available. The prediction of this third argument can be summarized as follows: females who expect to find investing males will attract mates by acting chaste and emphasizing their fidelity. Females who expect non-investing males will be more likely to flaunt their sexuality and to engage in more promiscuous sexual behavior. Draper and Harpending (1982) have, similarly, argued that father-absent females, who are less likely to expect much investment from their own mates, will flaunt their sexuality more than father-present females. This relationship has some support in the empirical literature (Hetherington 1972). However, the argument proposed by Draper and Harpending, while also drawing from evolutionary theory, differs from the one proposed here. They suggest that such females reproduce “fast and early,” since such females “may maximize reproductive success by minimizing time loss” (Draper and Harpending 1982, p. 262). I suggest that the aim of this greater sexuality is to obtain prereproductive investment from males, not necessarily to increase number of offspring per se.

Should Men Advertise Their Ability and Willingness to Invest? (Hypothesis 3) 

Females, as the “choosy” sex, will prefer (other things equal) a mate with abundant resources. It will, therefore, pay a male to emphasize his material resources and competitive ability. Buss (1987) has summarized a number of studies showing that females, more than males, value resources in a mate and the personality characteristics associated with acquiring them. He has also shown that this pattern holds true across a wide variety of cultures (Buss 1989). In a study with a U.S. sample. he has shown that males are more likely than females to attract mates by showing off their material resources (Buss 1988). Some females, however, may be more choosy in this regard than others. We might expect that females who expect Dads will be less willing than females who expect Cads to mate without evidence of significant resources. If a male lives in a world where females expect high paternal investment, therefore, he should gain a higher payoff from investing time and energy in acquiring and displaying material resources than a male who can mate without this investment. This suggests the following hypothesis: investing males should be more likely than non-investing males to attract mates by flaunting their resources and their ability to acquire them. Since long-term paternal investment is attractive to females, we might also expect a Dad to emphasize his interest in a serious relationship with his mate, and his willingness to invest in the children. While false advertising in this regard might also help a Cad, the best way to show good intentions is to do some real investing, which is a costly strategy. As with other species where male investment is important to the survival of the offspring, we might expect females to demand actual demonstration of investment (financial and/or emotional) from prospective mates. We might expect, therefore, that Dads would be more likely than Cads to signal their willingness to invest in this fashion.

Should Men Flaunt Their Sexuality, or Emphasize Chastity and Fidelity? (Hypothesis 4) 

Males can attract females by showing their willingness to invest, but in doing so they face their own dilemma: one way a man can convince a woman of his intention to invest is to emphasize his fidelity by not acting promiscuous. Yet this exacts a considerable cost in reproductive opportunities. Will the cost be worth it? Males can enhance their fitness by putting resources into mating or into parental investment, but since resources are limited they cannot maximize both simultaneously. A male without the intention to invest, therefore, should weigh the cost of chastity more heavily. This leads to the prediction that investing males should be less promiscuous than non-investing males, and place greater emphasis on advertising their fidelity. There is a second reason to expect this relationship. Females who do not expect much investment from males, and do not expect their own sons to have significant resources to invest, should be more concerned to mate with a male who has demonstrated his sexual attractiveness to females. To the extent that this sexual attractiveness is heritable, such a male will give her “sexy” sons who themselves will have high reproductive success because of their attractiveness to females. Therefore, a male who either cannot invest much or thinks he can get away without it can be expected to emphasize his sexual attractiveness to females, and his success at getting them. These two arguments, then, lead to the following related predictions: non-investing males should be more promiscuous than investing males, and should flaunt their sexuality and attractiveness to females as a tactic for attracting mates.


These hypotheses were evaluated among undergraduates by administering questionnaires measuring (a) attitudes toward paternal investment and (b) reported tactics used to attract mates. Hypotheses 2–4 were supported by the data, while hypothesis 1 received only partial support. The mixed results for hypothesis 1 indicate that self-deprecating acts and deferential acts may be signaling different things.

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