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The Evolution of Desire

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The Evolution of Desire

Strategies of Human Mating

Basic Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How the evolution of mating affects your dating. Warning: This book may change the way you look at relationships.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Why do women use makeup? Why do men like to buy big cars? Why do people feel jealous? Evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss digs deep into the ancient past of human relationships to answer such questions, and produces intriguing results, disconcerting insights and valuable explanations. Using observations from the animal world and from many studies conducted in various societies, he provides a theoretical framework based on Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Give Buss credit for elaborately fitting in almost every conceivable puzzle inherent in human mating relationships - even though this, admittedly, at times requires quite a stretch of his evolutionary theory. getAbstract recommends this "drop-dead shocker" (The Washington Post Book World) to anyone who has ever searched for, attracted, kept or separated from a mate - that is, anyone who is strong enough to face the unromantic truth.


The Survival Competition

The way humans behave when they mate is fascinating and frustrating, and may now be open to scientific understanding. Evolutionary psychology explains why "conflict in mating is the norm and not the exception" by looking at the psychological adaptations, or "survival strategies," that have helped men and women survive. Charles Darwin identified two mechanisms that determine which genes are passed on to future generations. The first is "competition for a mate," since only the winner’s characteristics are passed along. The second is "preference for a mate" or for certain traits in a mate. For example, over time peahens preferred peacocks with beautiful plumage, so such peacocks gained a "reproductive advantage" and survived their less handsome rivals.

Wanted: Male Mate With Riches and Rank

Compared to men, women can reproduce only a very limited number of times and with considerable physical investment. Over the centuries, this has required women to choose mates wisely to ensure that they and their children survive. Thus, since the earliest ages, females have sought men with the material ability to support a family. Today, multiple studies...

About the Author

David M. Buss is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of six books including Personality: Domains of Knowledge about Human Nature and The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex.

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    J. B. 2 years ago
    Women want men with status and resources

    The objective for human beings are to secure resources in order to perpetuate genetics

    Men must be prosperous, have a high status, be healthy and strong

    Women need signs of fertility health and beauty

    Mens strive for rank and wealth and in turn form alliances so they can hunt and go to war together
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    E. G. 5 years ago
    Women prefer status and rich. Men prefer beauty and young. Thanks, Cap!