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The Science of Love and Betrayal

Robin Dunbar

An accident of evolutionary history hundreds of millions of years ago when our reptile ancestors were evolving resulted in the reproductive tract passing through what became the bones of the pelvis rather than over them. A far more sensible solution would have been for it to exit just below the belly button, but evo is not good at foresight, and later generations are stuck with the consequences.

When monkeys groom each other, it's not to remove ticks and parasites, which tend to occur only when animals kept in close quarter cages. It's more like a massage, and stimulates endorphin release. Humans still do this, but we call it cuddling and petting, and it's usually restricted to those with whom we have close relations. Too much physical stimulation in the form of stroking or massage with strangers tends to flip over into an unintended sexual response.

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We probably assume that polygamy takes highest mental resources trying to keep track of multiple partners. But in fact it's monogamy that's most cognitive demanding, possibly because there is a cost in keeping your partner happy.

Monogamous pairs co-operate to raise young, which allows them to raise bigger brained offspring.Larger brained birds are smarter and can get more out of the environment. Smaller brained birds usually have to migrate to warmer climates in winter, which exposes them to far more hazards in less familiar territory.

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Analysis of historical marriage records reveal marrying strategies used by women. Women who married into a higher social class got married younger than their cohorts. And richer men married women a lot younger than poorer men. The rich men could pick and choose, whereas the poorer guys had to wait for the ones who'd given up on catching a wealthy husband.

Personal ads focus on what you think is most important in a prospective partner, and what you think they will be most interested in about you. Turns out that there are just 6 criteria - age, physical attractiveness, status/wealth, social skills, hobbies/interests, and commitment. Men tend to emphasize that they are seeking the first two, and advertise the other four, whereas women do the reverse - advertise the first two and seek the other four.

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Traditional idea of hunter-gatherer societies that man brings home meat while woman's contribution is a few berries etc. But in fact the women's contribution is far more reliable, and over all brings in more calories than hunting does. If just about getting food, they'd all be better off if both men and women foraged and forgot about hunting game. So perhaps the hunting is more about proving what a macho man you are, and thus possessor of good genes for your children.

Cheyenne Indians had two types of chief: peace chiefs and war chiefs. Peace chiefs were responsible for the smooth running of the tribe, and they didn't take part in fighting. Their position was hereditary. War chiefs lead the tribe into battle. Many of them died young. But the ones who survived did well for themselves when they retired - they had lots of children. Turned out that war chiefs were all orphans, with few social prospects. So it made sense to take some big risks for the chance of big gains (if you were tougher than most).

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Interacting with an attractive woman significantly impairs men's cognitive functions. Test guys, then put them in a room with pretty girl to chat for few minutes, then test again their performance goes down the tubes. The reverse does not happen to women.

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Farmers have problem of passing on land without reducing size to uneconomic units. Conventional way is primogeniture - oldest son inherits. One group of German farmers used ultimogeniture - the youngest son inherits (tho' he has to pay elder brothers something). This let the farmers hang on to their farm for an extra decade or so longer before nagging started.

Everyone comes to realize that their partner is a long way short of the desired perfection. But religious love is safe love. No risk that the object of yr desire will betray you. You can worship from a distance without the irritating inconveniences of everyday life. Even if he occasionally lets you down you can console yourself that your love is being tested. Because it's all happening in yr mind, you can invent the perfect partner with all the qualities you desire.

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Tiny marmoset monkeys South America the female always has twins, and the male does all the child minding. Babies only go back to the mum to feed. Also unusually, the female comes straight back into heat after babies born, rather than turned off until babies weaned. So next pair babies born just as precious ones are weaned. The male thus gains far more offspring by monogamous care of kids.

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Urban black communities in US often form matrilineal households. Daughter reproduces, mom goes out to work to pay the rent, and granny runs household. Males are here today and gone tomorrow - domestic bliss?

Duck males often fight so violently over a female that she gets drowned, But even in human society, rape and violence lurk just below the surface, and the problem gets much worse when social controls taken away, such as in times such as civil war.

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