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It takes two: sexual strategies and game theory

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David Buss's Sexual Strategies Theory is one of the major evolutionary psychological research programmes, but, as I try to show in this paper, its theoretical and empirical foundations cannot yet be seen to be fully compelling. This lack of cogency comes about due to Buss's failure to attend to the interactive nature of his subject matter, which leads him to overlook two classic and well known issues of game theoretic and evolutionary biological analysis. Firstly, Buss pays insufficient attention to the fact that, since mate choice is a cooperative decision, what is adaptive for the two sexes individually is irrelevant to the evolutionary explanation of our sexual strategies; instead, all that matters is what is adaptive given the choices made by the other sex. Secondly, Buss does not pay enough attention to the difference between polymorphic and monomorphic evolutionarily stable states in his attempt to empirically confirm his theory. Because of this, the data he presents and analyses are unable to show that natural selection is the most important element in the explanation of the origins of our sexual strategies. In this way, I try to make clear that, at least as things stand now, Buss has failed to provide compelling grounds for thinking that Sexual Strategies Theory can make a major contribution to human psychology.

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