Drama (on television, film or stage) is the most popular of all modes of fictional cognition. Drama consists of direct representation of a fictional social network in which characters have conflicting desires. It is dominated by two main genres: tragedy, which generally concerns status competition, and comedy, which generally concerns the process of mate selection. I argue that the evolved mind is intrinsically interested in information about the attempts to maximise fitness by individuals in the surrounding group. This is because such information is useful for optimising the individual's own behaviour. In particular, the strategies of others with regard to status attainment and mate selection impinge directly on our fitness and so have strong attention-grabbing power. I argue from analyses of Twelfth Night and Richard III that comedies and tragedies appear well designed to exploit these informational biases of the mind. This may explain the enduring appeal of the genres.
Cultural displays, such as art and science, are proposed to be used by males to compete for potential mates. As a result, the desire to engage in such behaviours will diminish following marriage. Male competition in sport can be considered a cultural display for potential mates, therefore male sporting performance will be negatively affected by marriage. Here we show that professional male tennis players perform significantly worse in the year after their marriage compared to the year before, whereas there is no such effect for unmarried players of the same age. Therefore the results suggest that following marriage, males experience an evolved psychological mechanism that leads to less motivation to engage in intra-sexual competition. Fluctuating testosterone (T) levels are discussed as providing the underlying biochemical changes necessary for such mechanisms.
Theory of mind, or the
ability to make inferences about the mental states of other people, is thought
to be the proximate mechanism underlying humans' ability to function in
complex, collaborative social networks. Here we present a set of stories and
questions for investigating higher-order theory of mind functioning in
school-age children and also a scale for obtaining ratings of children's social
competence. Ten and eleven year old children master first and second level
theory of mind problems, are slightly above chance on third level problems and
perform at chance on fourth level. Theory of mind performance is positively
correlated with teacher ratings of the child's social competence. We also find
poorer performance in a relatively deprived school than a relatively affluent
In a series of recent papers, Kanazawa has extended the Trivers-Willard hypothesis by suggesting that possession of any heritable trait that improves male reproductive success to a greater extent than it does female reproductive success will lead to a male-biased offspring sex ratio (at the individual level). He produces supporting evidence that big and tall parents have more sons than daughters. Here we test this hypothesis using two large datasets from very different populations, one British and one from rural Guatemala. There was no support for Kanazawa's extension of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis in either sample. Maternal marital status was the only predictor of offspring sex ratio but this effect was very small and limited to the British sample. Results are discussed with reference to recent studies of sex-ratio variation in humans.
Authors:Helen Clegg, Daniel Nettle and Dorothy Miell
Miller has argued that artworks act as fitness indicators in mate choice. However, there has been little empirical work to support or refute this assertion. This study aims to rectify this and in so doing to develop a novel method to consider whether observers of art are able to accurately assess the qualities of the artist and to use these judgements in mate choice. Fifty-one females rated six males on creativity, intelligence, attractiveness, dexterity and personality through assessment of experimental artworks they had produced. They then indicated which of the artists they would most like to go out on a date with and why. Results provided some support for the aesthetic fitness hypothesis and highlighted possible improvements to the method which has the potential to be an effective way in which to evaluate potential fitness indicators in mate choice.
Authors:Thomas v. Pollet, Daniel Nettle and Mark Nelissen
suggests that maternal grandparents will invest more in their grandchildren
than paternal grandparents, due to the difference between the certainty of
maternity and the uncertainty of paternity. Tests of this prediction have
tended to use retrospective ratings by grandchildren rather than self-reported
behaviour by grandparents. Using a large-scale dataset from the Netherlands, we
show significant differences between maternal and paternal grandparents in
terms of frequencies of contact with their grandchildren, while controlling for
a wide range of other variables. Our results show biases consistent with the
paternity uncertainty hypothesis.