Re: Phenotypic quality and human social behavior

Robert Snower (
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 20:11:08 GMT

"Evolutionary psychology" always seems so completely obvious, and
anit-climactical. What on earth is controversial about this?

Best wishes. R. Snower (Bryant) wrote:

> Newsweek recently did a cover story on the "Biology of Beauty,"
>reviewing the recent work of evolutionary psychologists and behavioral
>biologists, suggesting that the principles of evolution by sexual
>selection apply not just to other animals' minds and behavior, but to
>human ones as well, especially in our mating preferences.

> This, no doubt, will be very unpopular in some crowds before the data
>is even evaluated by them. However, it brings up some interesting questions.
>The first and foremost of which, I think, is the question of whether the
>zoological/behavioral ecological concept of "phenotypic quality" can be
>applied to humans. (Please: I do not wish for this to go political... I
>am *not* talking about guaranteed political equality when I suggest
>individual differences in physical quality.)

> It's been suggested to me before that like differences in
>immunogenetics between the races or between cultures in different
>ecological settings, it is illegitimate to "judge" differences between
>individuals on an objective basis. Yet, biologists do just this all the
>time, when (for instance) they study the different degrees of
>developmental integrity of organisms by measuring their bilateral

> With humans, in our lab, we have noted that symmetry in the face
>correlates significantly with: higher attractiveness ratings (which have
>recently been shown to be cross-culturally consistent, counter
>anthropological dogma), higher spatial IQ, and higher aggressiveness levels
>by males. It would appear, then, that subtle developmental differences
>between individuals play a role in varied parts of our lives. If these
>findings were of baboons or field crickets (similar findings have
>actually been found in many other taxa), we'd be discussing "phenotypic
>quality" without hesitation. Yet, I find a lot of wincing when I discuss
>human phenotypic quality with others.

> Although sometimes painful, or annoying, I've found that throwing ideas
>out on the internet is a great way to get diverse ideas, other
>perspectives, etc.