Thursday, 17 April 2008

Basic Instinct.

Science Daily / University of Michigan

This seems to be turning into a bit of a science week here with me regurgitating lots of quite interesting research results.

Imagine my surprise after posting the ‘are we alone?’ post yesterday to find that the BBC were running with it all over the news schedules today. I plagiarised first though, honest.

And for today we move onto the hardwiring of certain mating rituals in our heads (or those of students to be precise).

The research centres on the use of ‘nuptial gifts’ which occurs through many species. For example female penguins mate with males who bring them pebbles to build egg nests and hummingbirds mate to gain access to the most productive flowers guarded by larger males. This pattern of behaviour occurs in many species including humans.

All of which makes perfect sense if the resources are required but according to research undertaken by David Kruger at the University of Michigan even when resources aren’t an issue we will probably attempt to use this technique anyway.

Kruger said. The male of the species offers protection and resources to the female and offspring in exchange for reproductive rights.

However, the recent findings suggest that such behaviours are hard wired, and persist no matter how much wealth, resources or security that people obtain.

"It's remarkable to find these patterns in the students in the study," Kruger said. "We have seen many examples where people do this out of necessity, but we still see these tendencies in people who are already well provided for."

In addition, there are predictable, sexual differences in the types of exchanges attempted. Men are more likely to attempt to exchange investment for sex, females were more likely to attempt to exchange sex for investment, Kruger said.

However the strategy of attempting to exchange investment for sex is only successful about 25 percent of the time, the paper found. Some of the attempted trades included: tickets to sporting fixtures, studying assistance; laundry washed; a Louis Vuitton bag; and voice lessons among other things.

Kruger said the findings were remarkable in that any exchanges were reported at all, considering the subjects' youth and affluence---in other words, they don't want for much yet they still attempt these exchanges.

"The confirmation of hypothetical predictions regarding these exchanges once again demonstrates the power of an evolutionary framework for understanding human psychology and behaviour," he added.

Naturally it brings to mind stories from student house that some of my peers lived in. And the efforts made to ensure that the ‘new’ girl was always presented with several cans of ‘Happy Shopper’ baked beans and a sliced white loaf.

Not for these new additions to the household a handbag or a ticket to the Arsenal vs Tottenham game. Which would probably account for the reason why the success rate was practically zero.

But apparently a boy has to do what a boy has to do. And suddenly the recalled images of discarded bread packets, mouldy bean cans and the general sense of misery arising from the fact that Claudia rather liked a b*****d called Simon, who was taking media studies, lived three street down and had an old but still serviceable Ford Fiesta, rather makes sense.


Semaj Mahgih said...

Mating rituals in our heads? Hewads, Grendel?

Crushed said...

We had one girl in our house, Kate. One of our number was madly in love with her, but it was not requited. Wierdly he got on really well with her actual boyfriend.

In the end he got so forlorn, he actually took a year out. Now THAT is unrequited love.

Grendel said...

James - I suspect the issue from a scientific point of view is the continuance of 'inherited' behaviours that are no longer necessary from a practical point of view. Either that or everyone thinks they need to buy people stuff to get their jollies.

Crushed - You find me a student house that doesn't have one or more stories of that kind! Although the resulting 'year out' does seem on the extreme end of the spectrum. Poor chap!

Crushed said...

Indeed, but it had a curious result. The replacement we got was an MA student we'd met two terms before.

He's still one of my two closest friends.