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Sexual Conflict and Evolutionary Psychology: Towards a Unified Framework

  • Tracey ChapmanEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Evolutionary Psychology book series (EVOLPSYCH)

Abstract

I review sexual conflict: what it is, why it occurs, how to measure it, and why it matters. My focus is on our current understanding of sexual conflict from the perspective of evolutionary biology, drawing upon studies across diverse species. The aim is also, however, to stimulate discussion at the interface of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. The potential for sexual conflict is pervasive, particularly in outbreeding, nonmonogamous species. It results from divergence between the sexes over how to maximize their fitness. Sexual conflict can occur over a range of different reproductive traits and behaviors, from who to mate with, to how much parental care to give. The intensity of sexual conflict over the level of expression of any reproductive trait value or behavior can be assessed by measuring its costs and benefits, in terms of lifetime fitness, for individuals of each sex. Though as yet an underexplored idea, outcomes of sexual interactions between males and females can be viewed in terms of Hamilton’s famous quartet of social behaviors: mutual benefit (cooperation), selfishness, altruism, and spite. Recent work has focused on the mechanisms used by individuals to assess their social and sexual environment to calibrate their responses to perceived threat levels from sexual competitors. In this respect, there is the potential for much crossover between evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology to further refine and illuminate common emerging themes.

Keywords

Sexually antagonistic coevolution Fitness Social behavior Sexual selection Sexual environment Mate choice Seminal fluid proteins 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank Todd Shackelford and Ranald Hansen for the invitation to the 2013 Evolution of Sexuality Conference and for the invitation to write this chapter. I thank Andrew Bourke, David Buss and Todd Shackelford for their generous and insightful comments, and Andrew Bourke for troubleshooting EndNote. Finally, I thank the University of East Anglia, the Natural Environment Resources Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for financial support.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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