Motivation pp 475-509 | Cite as

The Origin of Sexual Behavior

A Functional Analysis
  • Norman T. Adler
  • Theresa O. Allen


Sexual reproduction involves the coordinated activity of two separate organisms leading to the production of progeny. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss how males and females coordinate their behavior to form a reproductive unit and, in turn, how the resulting reproductive behavior acts on the female’s physiology to promote pregnancy. The approach to this study of behavioral mechanisms is functional; that is, we are most interested in those physiological mechanisms and sexual behavior patterns that increase the reproductive fitness of animals that reproduce by sexual means. It might be argued that since all behavior is adaptive (else any given species of animal would not exist in its contemporary form), there is no need to invoke speculative—if not spurious—discussions about function or adaptation. In the modern study of behavior it is not necessary to demonstrate that evolutionary processes shape animal behavior; we take that as axiomatic. Rather, we use the concept of function to help understand the detailed operation of defined behavior patterns in a number of species. Our task is not to demonstrate adaptativeness in general but to discover which of many possible functions a behavior pattern serves. A particular species has a unique evolutionary history and is adapted to a particular ecological niche. Hence, to understand fully a particular response sequence, we should examine the behavior, its physiological causation, and the “job” or function of behavior in promoting reproductive success, that is, its functional significance.


Sexual Behavior Physiological Psychology Circadian Clock Estrous Cycle Copulatory Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman T. Adler
    • 1
  • Theresa O. Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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