Presentation on theme: "Evolutionary Psychology and the Beauty Myth?"— Presentation transcript:
1Evolutionary Psychology and the Beauty Myth? Charles CrawfordDepartment of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnaby, BC, Canada, V 5A 1S6Website:Slide 1 Fashion drawing
2A Central Problem for Humans How can we set up societiesthat are founded on moral principles, and yetare pliable and comfortable enough for people so that the society will persist?Example: Collapse of the USSRResolving “naturalistic” and “moralistic” fallaciesIs there a role for evolutionary psychology?
3The Beauty Myth Standards of human physical beauty are arbitrary. Individual3s are very susceptible to cultural pressures to conform.The media in western cultures impose beauty standards.Men somehow use the “beauty myth” to control and oppress women.Slide 2 Princess Di.
4Blame for Standards of Beauty “Oh my God, we are so sick in this society.”“Better watch out girl. You're getting a little broad across the beam.”“I believe in sin, therefore in a sinner; in theft, therefore in a thief; in slavery, therefore in a slaveholder; in wrong, therefore in a wrong-doer.” William Lloyd Garrison/Naomi Wolf The Beauty Myth
5Today’s Talk Physical beauty: What it may tell us Fluctuating body asymmetryWaist-to-hip ratio.The thin female physiqueReproduction suppression model of anorexic behaviour.empirical support for it.Slide 3 PeacockSlide 4 Eyespots and reproductive success.Slide 5 !kung familySlide 6 !Kung woman day’s foragingSlide 7 Ache woman carrying childSlide 8 Ache women making baskets
7Assessing Quality of Prospective Mate Qualities: May not be directly observableResourcesFertilityParental careParasite resistanceAssessing health, fertility,...Body asymmetryWaist-to-hip ratioSlide 9 FA Benzil Washington
9Fluctuating Body Asymmetry Genes produce the basic design of organs.Environmental conditions and genetic quality impact on expression of the design.Many traits bilaterally symmetric in design.Asymmetry results from imprecise expression of the design.It can indicate poor genes or high levels of environmental stress.Slide 10 Female faceSlide 11 FA and age at first sexSlide 12 FA and life time partners.
11Dev Singh: Waist-to-hip Ratio Ratio of waist to hip measurementsWomen: WHR = 0.7Cross cultural evidenceIndicator of healthBody scarificationSlide 13 WHR figures
12Adaptations: Tools for Ancestral Survival and Reproduction Fever fighting parasitesUpright walkingAssessing Waist-to-Hip Ratio in choosing a mateAssessing Fluctuating Body Asymmetry in choosing a mateDetecting cheaters on social contracts
13Adaptations as Information Processors a set of genetically-coded developmental processes that enabled ancestral organisms to implement cost-benefit analyses in response to specific sets of environmental contingencies, andthat organized the effector processes for dealing with those contingencies so that the allele(s) producing the decision processes were reproduced better than alternate allele(s)examples: recognizing kin, forming social contracts, deceiving oneself, choosing mate,...
14Evolutionary Psychology Defined Problems humans encountered in the EEAFinding high quality mates.Psychological adaptations that evolved to help solve those problemsAssessing Waist-to-hip ratio/Symmetry.The way those adaptations function nowWomen in advertisements, TV, & movies
15Anorexic Behaviour Disturbance in way body weight/shape is experienced Fear of gaining weightAmenorrheaMost common in:Young womenIndustrialized countriesUpper status women
16Anorexia nervosa:Some Basic Statistics Prevalence: 0.5% - 1%Age of onset:Average age: 17 yearsPeaks: 14 and 18 yearsMuch less common in Afro-AmericansLess severe symptoms - more commonOur interest.
17Non Evolutionary Explanations SocioculturalTaking controlFamily pathologyPolitical:Men want power over women.“Juvenile” women easier to control.Men “juvenilize” women to control them.Others...
18Unanswered QuestionsWhat is it about industrialization that encourages a thin standard of beauty?Why do some girls progress to very thin levels of emaciation?Why do we not see “pathologies” associated with other aspects of attractiveness, i.e. eyelashes?What environmental variables drive the passion for thinness?What are the relations to the physiology of ovulation, menstruation, and hunger?
19Adaptive Reproductive Suppression Female reproduction is very costly.Individuals can improve their lifetime reproductive success by delaying reproduction if current conditions for reproducing are poor, but are expected to improve.Value of body fat for women:InsulationStorage of caloriesRegulation of reproduction
21Hypothesized Stresses that May Make Delay Adaptive High levels of:Female-female competitionAttention from undesirable malesExacerbating conditions:Fat-rich dietWork needed to raise body fat levelEarly puberty relative to social maturity
22Female-Female Competition: Initial Naive Predictions 1. Incidence will be positively correlated with social statusReason: Female-female competition is more intense in upper status groups.2. Incidence will be increasing in societies where the age of puberty is fallingReason: Changes in diet, etc. producing earlier physical maturation do not necessarily cause earlier psychological maturity.
23Female-Female Competition: Initial Naive Predictions 3. As the level of female-female competition increases women are expected to increasingly value thinness.Reason: Since reproductive suppression mechanisms are being activated at a low level in many women thinness will become attractive to many women.4. As women gain political and social skills incidence will begin to declineReason: Avoidance of stresses
24How do we Validate Evolutionary Explanations? by modeling ancestral selection processes to determine if the adaptation could have evolvedcross cultural studies to determine how the adaptation functions in different environmentsexperimental studies to make causal statements about psychological mechanismslocating the basis of the adaptation in nervous and endocrine systems to give biological credibility
25Modeling Ancestral Fitness Costs and Benefits Explain: Contribution to ancestral fitnessPredictor variables:Reproductive effort - Now/LaterReproductive success - Now/LaterReproductive value - Now/LaterParameters:c = cost of delayk = effect of reproducing now.
27Environmental Variability: In Standards of Beauty Human Relations Area files63 societiesDependent variable: Standards of beautyplump/fat, moderate fatness, slim.Independent variables: Predictors of standards of beauty for several hypotheseslatitude, protection of girls, menstrual taboos, value of women’s work,...Slide 15 Hypotheses ( )Slide 16 Food security ( )Slide 17 Climate ( )Slide 18 Women’s work ( )Slide 19 Battle of the sexes ( )Slide 20 Adaptive reproductive suppression ( )Slide 21 Female dominance (273.07)Slide 22 Summary (273.08)Slide 23 Cherished notions (273.08).
28Some Hypotheses Whims of fashion Food security Latitude Battle of the sexes - control of fertilityValue of female workAdaptive reproductive suppression
29Food Security & Climate Independent variable: FoodResults: Societies with unreliable food supply have plump standard of beauty (r = 0.28)Independent variable: LatitudeResults: Societies with high latitude have plump standard of beauty (r = 0.273)
30Battle of the Sexes: Fertility Male-female Battleground Independent variables: Dominance, Machismo, value of female life, courtship choice, control of sexResults:Strong emphasis on machismo have plump standard of beauty (r = 0.433).Husbands dominate wives (r = 0.426).
31Value of Women’s WorkIndependent variables: value of female work, menstrual taboosResults:Few menstrual restrictions (r = 0.377)Female work (r = 0.284)
32Adaptive Reproductive Suppression: Protection Independent variables: Risk associated with reproductionSocieties with high probability of adverse consequences of sexual maturation have slender standard of beautyExposure, premarital sex, illegitimacy attitude (r = 0.234)Sexual expression, permission (r = 0.325)
33Adaptive Reproductive Suppression: Female Dominance Multiple regression of beauty on dominance measures for 62 societiesResults:With female dominance (R2 = 0.423)Without female dominance (R2 = 0.209)Female power associated with slender standard of beauty.
34Experimental Studies of Psychological Mechanisms Causal statements about psychological mechanismsExperimentally manipulate:Nature of delay: Indeterminate / DeterminantReproductive stress: Female-female competition, undesirable male attentionNon reproductive stress: Gardening, Hospital visitSusceptibility measures
35Experimental Design Control group Experimental group Pre test Yes Yes StressmanipulationLow HighPost testYes Yes
36Pre and Post Tests Pre tests: Indicators of susceptibility on: Interoceptive awarenessInterpersonal distrustIneffectivenessPost tests: Effects of the imagined stress on:Drive for thinnessBody dissatisfactionMaturity fears
44Relating physiological processes to ancestral cost-benefit analyses. ????????
45Unanswered QuestionsWhat is it about industrialization - thin standard of beauty? Stress: Duration & intensityWhy do some girls progress to very thin levels of emaciation? Vulnerability, stress“Pathologies” associated with other aspects of attractiveness, i.e. eyelashes? ReproductionWhat environmental variables drive the passion for thinness? Competition, attention, othersWhat are the relations to the physiology of ovulation, menstruation, and hunger????????
46Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth Anorexia is spreading because it works. Not only does it solve the dilemma of the young woman faced with the hunger cult, it also protects her from street harassment and sexual coercion; construction workers leave walking skeletons alone. Having no fat means having no breasts, thighs, hips, or ass, which for once means not having asked for it.Woman’s magazines tell woman they can control their bodies; but women’s experiences of sexual harassment make them feel they cannot control what their bodies are said to provoke.
48Darwin in The Descent of Man Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy that feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest of living creatures, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system -- with all these exalted powers -- still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.(Charles Darwin, 1871/1898, p. 634.)
49Naturalistic Fallacy: “What is, is what ought to be. Women are more caring than men...Men are more sexually aggressive than women...Men’s sexual jealousy...Women care for children...
50The Moralistic Fallacy: “What ought to be is what is.” Women ought to be more caring than men...Abortion ought to have no negative effects...Coercion ought not to be involved in sexuality...Men and women ought to have the same sexual agendas...
51Wilson on Natural Selection and the Human Mind Camus said that the only serious philosophical question is suicide. That is wrong even in the strict sense intended. The biologist, who is concerned with questions of physiology and evolutionary history, realizes that self-knowledge is constrained and shaped by the emotional control centers in the hypothalamus and limbic system of the brain. These centers flood our consciousness with all the emotions--hate, love, guilt, fear, and others--that are consulted by ethical philosophers who wish to intuit the standards of good and evil. What, we are then compelled to ask, made the hypothalamus and limbic system? They evolved by natural selection. The simple biological statement must be pursued to explain ethics and ethical philosophers, if not epistemology and epistemologists, at all depths. (Edward O. Wilson, 1975)