Review of David C. Geary’s Evolution of Vulnerability: Implications for Sex Differences in Health and Development
Two key questions drive this book: Why are some traits more easily disrupted by stressors than others? Why does the impact of environmental stressors often differ between the sexes? For example, poor nutrition during adolescence disrupts height and physical fitness—but more so in boys than girls. Early Alzheimer’s affects language competencies—but more so in women than men.
Not to keep the reader in suspense, Geary announces the answers his questions on page 2: “Traits that have been elaborated through social and sexual selection are especially vulnerable to disruption by environmental and social stressors.” Sexual selection drives these traits to ever greater elaboration, steadily increasing the challenge of pulling them off successfully. Greater upper-body strength makes a male more successful in combat. Peacocks’ elaborate plumage attracts mates despite being detrimental to locomotion and increasing predation risk. But in both cases a cost is associated with their successful...
KeywordsVulnerability Sex differences Health and development Cognitive traits Physical traits Behavioral traits
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