Does Being Altruistic Or Being A “Bad-Boy” May Make You More Attractive?

Dienekes shared the abstract to a paper that seems to completely contradict an earlier study. It is pretty evident from the title of newer study, “Do humans prefer altruistic mates? Testing a link between sexual selection and altruism towards non-relatives,” what the authors tested. And they confirm that there is a linkage between the propensity to be giving and being perceived as a good parent/partner.

The previous study, led by Peter Jonason, suggests quite the opposite — that someone who holds a “dark triad” of traits, like callousness, impulsive behavior, extroversion, and narcissism attract mates more effectively than someone who expressed empathy for others…. Better expressed by the cliché, “nice guys finish last.”

The crux of this difference is between short term mating and long term mate choice and which is more evolutionarily valuable in humans. People who express the “dark triad” of traits have a higher number of sexual partners than those that don’t. These relationships are short term. Some consider this to be successful, in other words, self absorbed traits have persisted because they seem to be advantageous.

But as the new paper shows, increased altruistic personality correlates significantly with the spouse/partner chosen. Humans aren’t mosquitos. Because of the relative developmental immaturity of the human newborn and its dependency on long-term care to reach sexual maturity, the reproductive success of humans isn’t all about ‘spreading the seed.’ This makes us relative K-strategists, where we put an emphasis on high levels of parental care, resource acquisition, kin provisioning, and social complexity and not on gamete production, mating behavior, and high reproductive rates which r-strategists like fish, frogs, etc. emphasize.

    Tim Phillips, Chris Barnard, Eamonn Ferguson, Tom Reader (2008). Do humans prefer altruistic mates? Testing a link between sexual selection and altruism towards non-relatives British Journal of Psychology, 99 (4), 555-572 DOI: 10.1348/000712608X298467

2 thoughts on “Does Being Altruistic Or Being A “Bad-Boy” May Make You More Attractive?

  1. It’s very possible, I guess, that altruistic guys are prefered as husbands and formal parents but not necesarily as biological parents. If we exclude contraception (not always available, probably not often in prehistory – and, even if available, not always desirable from the women’s viewpoint) , more mating epysodes could well mean more biological offspring, taken care of possibly by the good guys (who would not care much even if they found out, precisely because they are altruistic).

    Of course, the good guys would also get offspring (and possibly a majority of descendants overall), so some sort of balance between monogamous/altruistic and polyamorous/egoistic men would be the result, securing the perpetuation of both traits, at least in the part that genetics may have to do with it.

    This may anyhow be oversymplistic, as archetypes are not real people.

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