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A Mind Fit for Mating
G.F. Miller
The Mating Mind, Ch 4 (2000)
Main Thesis
• Human mental abilities shaped by
sexual selection
• not natural selection
• Not necessarily optimal or rational
Sexual Selection
• Goal - choose mate with best genes for
• Feedback loops
– Runaway selection
– Fitness indicators
• Produces traits not optimal for survival
Runaway Selection
Arbitrary preferences self-reinforce
Target sex must develop trait
Selecting sex need offspring with trait
Produces marked dimorphisms
Fitness Indicators
Traits with strong correlation to overall fitness
Draw on large fraction of genome
Exogenous pressure for preference
Leads to exaggerated manifestation
Human brain
– Affected by 50% of genes
– Disproportionate energy use, x10-30
– Rapid tripling in size
Heritability of Fitness
• Mate selection only useful with
meaningful genetic variation
• Absent in evolutionary equilibrium
• But mutations, shifts in environment
Reliable Indicators
• Selective pressure to fake
• Only useful if
– Direct indicator of fitness
– Incur cost
• Handicap principle
– Wasting resources is reliable indicator of
Mental Traits as Fitness Indicators
• Traits not shared with other primates
– Music, humor, creativity
– (excess) language, altruism
• Characteristic of sexual, not natural,
– Large individual differences, non-modular,
heritable, high costs, complex