- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (17 April 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038549517X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385495172
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,20,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature Paperback – 17 Apr 2001
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“Quite ingenious stuff…. This is a welcome change from a lot of evolutionary psychology."–The New York Times Book Review
From the Inside Flap
At once a pioneering study of evolution and an accessible and lively reading experience, The Mating Mind marks the arrival of a prescient and provocative new science writer. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller offers the most convincing-and radical-explanation for how and why the human mind evolved.
Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits that make us human. Scientists have traditionally explained these qualities as merely a side effect of surplus brain size, but Miller argues that they were sexual attractors, not side effects. He bases his argument on Darwin's theory of "sexual selection, which until now has played second fiddle to Darwin's theory of "natural selection, and draws on ideas and research from a wide range of fields, including psychology, economics, history, and pop culture. Witty, powerfully argued, and continually thought-provoking, "The Mating Mind is a landmark in our understanding of our own species.
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As other reviewers have indicated, the main thrust of the book is to chronicle the thinking of evolutionary scientists as to the nature of non-directly survival oriented selection, i.e. selection outside the realm of the conventional "natural selection" of traits needed to survive to reproductive age. For this purpose, traits that may indicate overall offspring strength and health tend to be sexually selected for, based on the traits' difficulty to fake and conspicuous costliness. For example if a peacock can be so strong as to survive with such a heavy colorful predator attracting tail, well, he surely must be a strong peacock and, as such, quite sexy. The analog to the peacock tail for humans is, in general, extensive human intelligence.
But beyond detailing the various theses of sexual selection and its related evolutionary processes, the book also covers mating behavior of pre-civilization (Pleistocene) humans. Furthermore it notes that the amount of time civilization has existed, measured in reproductive generations, is so small that hardly an iota of genetic difference exists between civilized humans and pre-Neolithic hunter gatherers. (Some of the latter are still in existence today.) As such there can be no doubt that our basic genetic human nature is that of the hunter gatherer. Moreover, there is a material consistency in sexual/mating behavior of hunter gatherers, behavior that could be described as "natural". It's not prostitution, at least to the extent that hunter gatherers don't have/use money. It's not polygamy, this appearing as a kind of corollary to skewed distributions of power and wealth that occur in civilization. And finally it's not ultra long-term monogamy (marriage), also an outcome of civilization invented to deal with legal and economic matters concerning property, inheritance, education in child rearing, etc. Nope. The "natural", hunter gatherer way is described in the book a something akin to "serial monogamy", which across diverse hunter gatherer societies yields quite consistent observation of fairly strong temporary monogamous bonds, at least through to pregnancy. Such bonds may even extend through child birth and early baby care, but little continues after that. Half siblings and multiple lifetime lovers are more the rules than the exceptions.
With this sort of knowledge and understanding of both the evolutionary purpose and the more natural norms of human mating behavior, it seems possible that marriage counselors and their clients might be better prepared to come up with more apt solutions to marital difficulties. And I also suspect there's an important policy implication from this book for social and legal planners: invent renewable, one to five year term marriages.