PSYC 5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Evolutionary Psychology, Estrous Cycle, Libido
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Psychological Aspects of Human Sexuality
Perspectives on gender difference: biology
● The evolutionary imperative
- Evolutionary psychology explains psychological traits as adaptions including
differences between women and men. It can lead to reductionist patterns.
- Contemporary mating strategies between the sexes differ, but love and kindness are
highly valued by both men and women.
- Which sex most ‘naturally’ tends towards monogamy?
o Consider estrus (person is on heat), male/female orgasm, conception.
o But these aren’t always true.
o Men could be at the lower end.
● Sex differences in spatial and verbal skills
- Early 20th century debates over women’s intellectual aptitude now replaced by
discussions of sex-based aptitudes (and gender roles).
- Variance within groups (male or female), far outweighs variance between the two.
- A bewildering number of studies confirm some gender differences, but raise more
questions than they answer.
- Men and women overlap more than they differ. The differences are very little at the
end. Yes, we are different but not that much.
● ‘His’ brain and ‘her’ brain
- Past brain research has fit into preconceived ideas about men’s and women’s roles.
- ‘Lateralized’ brain and dominant hemisphere research from 1960’s onwards.
o What is felt to be ‘superior’ in the research findings applied to men?
- Little consistent evidence for significant brain differences
o Palliative system justification motive allows us to justify and rationalize
existing social arrangements.
- Development of the brain
- Brain structure and size
- Gendered brain and difference in the use of spatial and language skills
● Hormonal bases for gender difference
- Sex differentiation is most critical during fetal development and puberty.
- Testosterone: Men have 10 times the levels of women. It varies greatly; some women
have more than men and it varies from culture to culture.
o Linked to aggression, but it isn’t the cause. It has a permissive effect which
facilitates existing aggression. It can also affect the sex drive in males and
- Estrogen levels in women also fluctuate naturally.