Look for DNA in Valentine’s Day

2013-02-08 13:09

Paris – As Saint Valentine’s Day looms, some good advice to the gullible might be this: Don’t think romance, think genes.

“In courtship, who wins and who loses will determine who passes on their DNA to tomorrow,” says Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“So the game of courtship matters. It matters big time.”

The theory of evolutionary behaviour is rooted in the biological differences of the genders.

Both men and women are looking for the best bet in a partner to ensure that their progeny is healthy.

But women have only a small, limited stock of eggs, while men have almost limitless sperm. So choosing a guy who is willing and able to provide is essential.

“To paraphrase Darwin, males will mate with anything that has a pulse, women are choosy,” quips US anthropologist Neal Smith.

These differences explain our snapshot responses, honed over millions of years, when we eye a person of the opposite sex.

Males are engineered to scan for signs of fertility – large breasts, a shapely figure, clear skin, bright eyes – and potential sexual invitation, such as swishy hair, red lips and a bouncy gait.

Knowing this, women adapt their look accordingly.

“A raised backside is attractive to men because it mimics lordosis, the sexually receptive position that mammalian females adopt prior to mating,” notes Gad Saad of Montreal’s Concordia University, author of a book on evolutionary behaviour, The Consuming Instinct.

Looking for fitness in a man, a woman goes for signs of health and strength, which indicates such genes will be transmitted to the offspring.

Alternatively, she may look for signs that the man will be a good provider. The swift clues come from money and signs of status.

This is why men jostle to show themselves off as alpha males and why credit cards, sports cars, watches, houses and other obvious signs of resources and rank are important.

It also explains why admitting to being poor or jobless brings zero returns for a man looking for love at a cocktail party.

Gifts, especially food, are used everywhere to show increasing “investment” by a male in a female. In the West, the stereotypical presents are flowers, chocolate and a ring, but in other cultures, the tokens would be different.

Underneath, though, the message is this: Times have changed since Homo sapiens first walked the savannah, but our DNA – and thus our primal responses for sizing up a potential mate – has remained the same.

“Even in our modern day, when men might not want the babies and women might not need the resources, both sexes respond in a pattern that from an evolutionary psychiatry perspective is adaptive,” meaning that their behaviour is shaped by natural selection.

“The bottom line is, the more you get to know somebody, the more you tend to like them, and the more they tend to like you. So one has really got to get over those first impressions and move into trying to think of reasons to say: Yes,” said Fisher.

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