Empirical tests described in this article support hypotheses derived from evolutionary theory on the perceptions of literary characters. The proper and dark heroes in British Romantic literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries respectively represent long-term and short-term mating strategies. Recent studies indicate that for long-term relationships, women seek partners with the ability and willingness to sustain paternal investment in extended relationships. For short-term relationships, women choose partners whose features indicate high genetic quality. In hypothetical scenarios, females preferred proper heroes for long-term relationships. The shorter the relationship under consideration, the more likely women were to choose dark heroes as partners.
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Daniel J. Kruger earned his Ph.D. in social psychology at Loyola University Chicago. He is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. His evolutionary research interests include altruism, cooperation, competition, risk, life history, mortality patterns, and applications for social and ecological sustainability.
Maryanne Fisher is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her dissertation research focuses on the evolutionary underpinnings of female intrasexual competition for the purposes of female mate selection.
Ian Jobling received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from SUNY Buffalo in September 2002. His dissertation discusses the figures of the proper and dark heroes in the works of Scott and Byron from an evolutionary perspective.
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Kruger, D.J., Fisher, M. & Jobling, I. Proper and dark heroes as DADS and CADS. Hum Nat 14, 305–317 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1008-y
- Darwinian literary studies
- Life history
- Mating strategy
- Sexual selection