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Sex, Caregiving, and Love in Romantic Relationships: Other Perspectives from Evolutionary Psychology Lee A. Kirkpatrick College of William & Mary September,

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Presentation on theme: "Sex, Caregiving, and Love in Romantic Relationships: Other Perspectives from Evolutionary Psychology Lee A. Kirkpatrick College of William & Mary September,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sex, Caregiving, and Love in Romantic Relationships: Other Perspectives from Evolutionary Psychology Lee A. Kirkpatrick College of William & Mary September, 2004

2 Preface Outstanding problem in adult attachment theory: Integrate attachment with mating and other systems within an evolutionary perspective From evolutionary perspective, must begin with mating/reproduction Potential role of attachment-like processes must be understood in terms of contribution to adaptive mating/reproductive strategies Cf. infancy, where survival is chief life task

3 Outline I. Human Mating Strategies –pluralistic and facultative II. Attachment –control system vs. affectional bond III. Love and Caregiving –commitment and altruism IV. Individual Differences in Adult Attachment –sociosexuality and long-term/short-term mating V. Conclusions

4 I. Human Mating Strategies: Theory Human mating strategies as pluralistic –long-term vs. short-term strategies in both sexes (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) –restricted vs. unrestricted sociosexuality in both sexes (Gangestad & Simpson, 1990) –Separate neurotransmitter systems enable simultaneous pursuit of multiple mating strategies (Fisher, 2002) Human mating strategies as facultative –adaptive costs and benefits (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) –ecological factors (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000)

5 I. Human Mating Strategies: Evidence Cross-cultural evidence –Prevalence of divorce, extra-marital affairs, prostitution, polygamy; variation in sociosexuality Behavioral and self-report evidence –Desire for multiple sex partners, content of sexual fantasies, willingness to engage in sex with strangers, etc. (esp. among men) Other adaptations –Comparative testis size, sexual dimorphism in stature –Mechanisms for sperm competition –Sexual jealousy, other defenses against mate-poaching

6 I. Human Mating Strategies: Conclusion Humans are not designed to be exclusively (or even predominantly) monogamous However, no reason why adult-attachment researchers need to argue or assume so –Existence of ST mating systems in no way renders LT mating less important or adaptive –Indeed, existence and power of ST mating systems might be precisely why attachment-like mechanisms could play an important role in romantic love But, any attachment-like processes likely to be related only to long-term mating context

7 II. Attachment: System or Bond? In application of attachment theory to romantic love, which facet(s) of attachment are relevant? –attachment as a control system –attachment as an affectional bond Confusion generated by usage of same term for both –seems to imply that they necessarily go together –but, they are separable and functionally distinct

8 II. Attachment: as a System Behavior-regulation system in infancy Adaptive function: protection Set point; system activation vs. deactivation; etc. Inputs to system –external (caregivers location, danger) –internal (health, injury, fatigue) Outputs from system –Crying, calling, reaching, other attachment behaviors Distinct from complementary caregiving system –Evolution of caregiving system almost surely predates evolution of attachment system

9 II. Attachment: as a System Not central to adult romantic relationships –protection/survival only one of many adult life tasks; mating/reproduction become paramount –cannot assume reliable caregiving from spouse based on genetic relatedness, as in infancy –spouse usually not solution to adult-sized dangers –leads to expectation of sex differences –adults posses diverse repertoire of strategies for coping with various threats and dangers System cannot be exapted for entirely different function without major reorganization/redesign

10 II. Attachment: as a Bond Children feel love for caregivers –and other context-dependent emotions But also –parents love their children –adult romantic partners love each other –close friends love each other as well Emotional bond as a distinct mechanism – vs. attachment, caregiving, and mating systems –shared neurophysiology (oxytocin, vassopressin) What is its adaptive function? –why arent these simply cold cognitive systems?

11 III. Love and Caregiving: Commitment Robert Frank on love and social emotions –love as a commitment device –landlords-and-tenants analogy –turn off mate-search mechanisms –derogate alternatives; enhance partner –get on with mating and childrearing Love in other contexts –children: temptations to seek alternative caregivers –mothers: temptations to give up, redirect resources

12 III. Love and Caregiving: Altruism Tooby & Cosmides: the Bankers Paradox –3 rd evolutionary path to altruism (vs. reciprocal altruism and kin selection) –friendships as deep engagement relationships –evolutionary logic: invest in (be altruistic) to others to whom your own welfare is yoked –Fisherian runaway process –overrides short-term social-exchange considerations in favor of long-term (and difficult-to-calculate) benefits

13 III. Love and Caregiving Two distinct love systems in adults? –Love as Commitment Device (per Frank) passionate love, infatuation, limerance, attraction commit to a partner choice for long-term mating long enough for mating, caregiving thru infancy –Deep Engagement (per Tooby & Cosmides) companionate love, goal-corrected partnership same mechanism as in close friendships attachment part of adult romantic relationships?

14 IV. Individual Differences Preceding arguments suggest limited role of attachment (system) in romantic relationships Might measured individual differences in adult attachment reflect mating strategies instead? –I argued previously that avoidant-vs.-secure dimension might primarily reflect short- vs. long-term (unrestricted vs. restricted) mating orientation –e.g., avoidants dont believe in love, dislike intimacy, have shorter relationships, etc. –but, several empirical studies to date have shown only weak correlation between SOI and adult attachment

15 IV. Individual Differences Jenee James M.A. thesis (W&M, 2004) –original SOI measures primarily attitudes toward short- term mating; assumes long-term as opposite –sociosexuality as a bipolar dimension not consistent with pluralistic mating theories –developed new measure with two separate (and only moderately correlated) scales for LT and ST mating Results: –ST dimension, like SOI, only weakly correlated with adult attachment measures –LT dimension correlates approx. r = -.50 with avoidance (vs. security)

16 V. Conclusions Role of attachment in adult romantic relationships may be highly circumscribed –Among multiple mating systems, only some (long-term, restricted) involve attachment-like processes –Among multiple facets of attachment, only some (attachment as affectional bond) may be relevant –Among multiple affectional bonds, only one (akin to friendship, companionate love) may be relevant Individual differences in adult attachment may largely reflect variation in mating orientations/ sociosexuality, not attachment per se

17 V. Conclusions (cont.) Devils advocate role Deliberately staked out most extreme position Challenge researchers to question assumptions and consider alternative hypotheses In particular, design empirical research to rule out these alternatives in more rigorous tests of theory Seriously confronting these alternative hypotheses is crucial if adult-attachment theory is to retain the evolutionary foundation proposed by Bowlby from which the theory derives its power


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