Can Darwin help you date?

Published 22 January, 2013

Corresponding author: Nathan Oesch
Email: nathan.oesch@psy.ox.ac.uk

Oxford, UK. Evolutionary psychologists have recently turned their attention to issues beyond the traditional academic world of psychology. The powerful insights provided by a Darwinian perspective may be able to help solve problems in the real word, in addition to resolving esoteric debates. Encouraged by the great potential for human benefit, evolutionary scholars are setting out to bridge the divide between theoretical and practical.

The funny thing is, the bridge of applied evolutionary psychology had already been built, and was generating millions of dollars for some outside of the ivory tower. Those in the self-described Seduction Community claim to use the empirical insights of evolutionary psychology to coach effective courtship strategies.

So can these strategies really help men meet, date, and ultimately seduce women? Advertisements for guides to meet and mate with women have been found in the back of comic books and men’s magazines for generations. Recent popular books claiming to portray evolutionarily informed accounts of human sexuality appeared to be sorely lacking in scientific basis. In the interest of a more balanced appraisal of this literature, Nathan Oesch at the University of Oxford and Igor Miklousic at the Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences decided to review these seminal works by seduction coaches.

The authors note a common assumption is that so-called ‘pick-up artists’ or dating coaches are shady characters and the methods they use unscientific, unethical and manipulative strategies to gain female attention. This may be accurate for some figures or consumers within the industry, yet the authors contend that “a much larger portion of this material represents an informed, constructive and underappreciated guide to dating and relationship science, often informed by an evolutionary approach to human behavior.”

In sum, they concluded that a significant portion of this material does demonstrate and informed approach to meeting people, dating and relationship maintenance. Some of the reviewed themes, such as ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ conversational starters, found substantive support for both ways of initiating conversations. Furthermore, the favorable personality traits often promoted by Community literature, such as humor and creativity, are consistently rated as desirable in the psychological mate choice literature. Additionally, concepts like ‘pre-selection’ which predict that women will view men more favorably, seen in conversation with other attractive women, are grounded in much psychological and biological research, typically known as mate choice copying behavior.

Interestingly, the authors also found original material that could inspire additional research examining its validity. However, the authors also recognized the potential for misuse or manipulation with this information, and so included a word of caution in using portions of this material. Like any piece of technology, it has the potential for abuse if used unethically or improperly.

“The Dating Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Emerging Science of Human Courtship” is published in Evolutionary Psychology and is available at http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP10899909.pdf

Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)
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