Monday, May 18, 2009

Human Evolution and Costly Signaling

-C. Paula de los Angeles

Evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Miller believes that humans employ "costly signaling" such as having a Harvard degree or a BMW just as a peacock may use his ornate tail, as outlined in his new book: “Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior.”

While some may argue there are other reasons for attending Harvard or owning a BMW or iPhone, Miller argues that, ultimately, they are for signaling one's fitness, a way to demonstrate intelligence or one of the Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, stability and extraversion.

Interesting quote: “We evolved as social primates who hardly ever encountered strangers in prehistory,” Dr. Miller says. “So we instinctively treat all strangers as if they’re potential mates or friends or enemies. But your happiness and survival today don’t depend on your relationships with strangers. It doesn’t matter whether you get a nanosecond of deference from a shopkeeper or a stranger in an airport.”

Question: How does sexual selection work at the human level?

NYTimes article:

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