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Essay on Mate Attraction and Evolution

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According to error management theory (EMT), when judgments are made under uncertainty, and the costs of errors are not symmetrical, humans have adapted to favor making less costly errors (Haselton, Buss, & DeKay, 1998). When judgments are made under conditions of uncertainty, there are two possible types of errors: false positives and false negatives. The costs of making these types of errors are often asymmetrical because decreasing the likelihood of making one type of error increases the likelihood of making the other type of error (Green & Swets, 1966). This principle applies to the mating paradigm for humans. In terms of judgments of sexual interest, a false positive error is committed when an individual falsely concludes that an opposite sex individual is interested in him/her sexually when the opposite sex individual does not actually have sexual interest. This is sexual overperception because in this case, there is an overestimation of sexual interest. A false negative error is committed when an individual falsely concludes that an opposite sex individual is not interested in him/her sexually while the opposite sex individual is actually interested in him/her. This is sexual underperception (Henningsen & Henningsen, 2010). Haselton and Buss (2000) call these cognitive errors adaptive biases and suggest that they still remain present in humans today because they provided benefits in reproduction and survival in the past. In ancestral societies, it was more costly for men to commit a false negative error than a false positive error because committing a false negative error meant possibly missing a mating opportunity (Buss, 1994). In contrast, for ancestral women, it is less costly to commit a false negative error than false p...


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...estosterone and physical risk taking in young men. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(1), 57-64.
Roney, J. R. (2003). Effects of visual exposure to the opposite sex: Cognitive aspects of mate attraction in human males. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(3), 393-404.
Stanovich, K. E. (2004). How to think straight about psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Sugiyama, L. (2005). Physical attractiveness in adaptationist perspective. In Buss D. M. (Ed.) The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 292-342). New York, NY: Wiley.
Wang, Y., & Griskevicius, V. (2014). Conspicuous consumption, relationships, and rivals: Women’s luxury products as signals to other women. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(5), 834-854.
Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1985). Competitiveness, risk-taking, and violence: The young male syndrome. Ethology and Sociobiology, 6, 59-73.



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