Mating preferences of men and women: not so different after all

For more than three decades evolutionary psychologists have advanced a simple theory of human sexuality: because men invest less reproductive effort in sperm than women do in eggs, men’s and women’s brains have been shaped differently by evolution. As a result, men are eager for sex whereas women are relatively choosy. But a steady stream of recent evidence suggests this paradigm could be in need of a makeover….

The proportion of mating effort dedicated to short-term mating was the same for men and women. Similarly, both men and women showed an equivalent tendency to lower their standards for sex partners, and men did not report feeling constrained to have far fewer sexual partners than they truly desired….

Beyond simply poking holes in the standard evolutionary psychology narrative, researchers have another paradigm ready to put in its place: U.S.C.’s Wood and Alice Eagly of Northwestern University propose that men and women adapt their outlooks to fit their society’s division of labor between the sexes, which results from physical differences in size, strength and mobility (during pregnancy)….

“In more equal actual roles, men and women have more similar mate preferences,” Eagly says. “In very different marital roles that confine women to a domestic role, men and women choose differently.”

…In Wood’s view the traditional evolutionary psychology paradigm was attractive because it explained the pattern of sex differences people saw around them in a way that made those differences seem natural. It assumed that men and women have always interacted in the way they do now. “We would say that men and women have evolved to act in a lot of different ways,” Wood says. “We’re the ultimate flexible species.”

For more, go here.

(Thanks, elp and Frog!)

Workshop: Women in Philosophy (Edinburgh)


The Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group will host a workshop to explore some of the philosophical issues surrounding the under-representation of women in professional philosophy. The date is Friday 21st January 2011, in the Conference Room, David Hume Tower, George Square, Edinburgh. We have the following provisional program:

12.30pm: Welcome coffee

1pm – 2pm: ‘Particularity, Epistemic Responsibility, and the Ecological Imaginary’
Lorraine Code, University of York

2pm – 3pm:‘False Consciousness and the Modern Woman’
Elinor Mason, Edinburgh University

3pm – 3.30pm: Coffee break

3.30pm – 4.30pm: ‘Unconscious Influences and Women in Philosophy’
Jennifer Saul, Sheffield University

4.30pm – 5.30pm: ‘Should sexual harassment law be used to address the operation of implicit bias in the workplace?’
Jules Holroyd, Cardiff University

5.30pm – 6.30pm: Coffee and further discussion

Each paper will be of 40 – 45 minutes, followed by a 15 – 20 minute Q&A session. The discussion after all the talks is intended to develop and explore arising issues further and/or to identify common threads in the talks.

Please note that we won’t be providing lunch. After the workshop there will be a workshop dinner, and attendees are welcome to join us. Attendance to the workshop is free, but numbers are limited. Please let Ana Barandalla know if you plan to attend, and if you would like to come for dinner (a.i.barandalla-ajona AT Please indicate if you require any special arrangement for access either to the workshop, or to the restaurant.

Deadline for registration for the workshop and for dinner is 10th January 2011.

The organisers wish to thank the Scots Philosophical Association, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Philosophy Department at Edinburgh University, for their generous support.

Cuts to Higher Ed in the UK: Say it isn’t so!

The NY Times announces that British Universities can expect the government to cut about 80%  from the funding of teaching and 25% from research.  The cuts will need to be made up from tuition, which was the subject of the Browne report.  What’s discussed below is the next report, due out 10/20 (or, in the UK, 20/10). 

For months, Britain’s universities have warned in apocalyptic terms about the devastating cuts they face as part of the government’s grand plan to reduce public-sector costs. Now, with the government poised next week to announce its spending plans, their worst fears seem about to come true.

The source of information appears to be an interview with Prof. Steve Smith, who  is both president of Universities U.K., which represents Britain’s higher-learning institutions, and vice chancellor of the University of Exeter.  The Times Higher Education reported on Oct. 15:

The president of Universities UK has told vice-chancellors to expect cuts of £4.2 billion in the government’s spending review – and warned that a huge funding gap is a “terrible danger”.

Steve Smith writes in an email to all vice-chancellors that Lord Browne of Madingley’s review of higher education funding and student support, published this week, forecasts a teaching grant of £700 million.

Such a sum would be a huge reduction from the current Higher Education Funding Council for England teaching grant of £3.9 billion – a cut of £3.2 billion, or 82 per cent.

“Cuts in the order of £1 billion for research also appear to be proposed,” Professor Smith says.

 Smith, quoted by the NY Times:

Professor Smith of Universities U.K. said such drastic cuts in government spending were not necessary. Speaking of Prime Minister David Cameron’s notion of “the big society,” he said, “When they say the big society, they mean the small state.”

He added, “I think they’re cutting the university sector because they can, and I think that’s terribly damaging for the future of the country.”

 Another observation:

“As far as I’m concerned, this is philistinism on a large scale,” said Paul Cottrell, the head of policy at the University and College Union, which represents teachers in higher education. Some universities may have to abolish subjects in the humanities, Mr. Cottrell said. “The alternative is to cut costs,” he said, “but as soon as you do that you get a reputation for poor quality, and you lose your overseas students pretty quickly.”

So it’s M&O (maintenance and operations) or humanities departments.  Well, that seems to be easy, but let’s start putting scare quotes around the terms for high education, such as “university”.

Horrific events in the Democratic Republic of Congo

There has been a war in the DCR for many years now. Who is at war changes, but a constant feature of the conflict is the sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers on all sides. Civilians are raped en masse – predominantly women, but also men and children – in what has become a routine practice. Rape is used as a weapon of war to intimidate people who are seen as supporters of the opposing side. The UN has forces stationed in DCR, but has so far failed to stop the awful tide of violence. The most recent reports concern the Walikale region. A coalition of armed militia carried out a series of attacks on civilians in July and August. The UN’s human rights chief said the “scale and viciousness” of the mass rapes “defy belief”. Even for DCR, where such attacks are common, the incident stood out because of the “extraordinarily cold-blooded and systematic way” it was carried out. There is a UN base just 20 miles away from where the attacks took place, but they failed to adequately protect the victims, as the UN has admitted. Now the very same region has suffered another mass raping – this time, it is alleged by UN peacekeepers, the perpetrators were government troops. It goes without saying that these horrendous practices have a terrible effect on the people attacked. There are survivors’ accounts on this BBC site. Thanks to W for the story.