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Are we hardwired for multiple partners? If so, what are the implications?


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I've done a bit of scientific research and found we're hardwired for more than one partner. Here's a few facts I've learned. 

* A survey was conducted on 16,000 people from every continent. Participants said they wanted more than one sexual partner.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arch...-innate/4cc92d41-21f1-4a52-a89a-721658f096be/

* Biologists say women are hardwired to have multiple sex partners to boost the chances of having healthy children with the best chances of survival. Females across the animal kingdom are promiscuous. Since we evolved from other animals, women are likely hardwired for promiscuity. The strongest evidence of promiscuity is in testicles. Sperm competition means males evolved to make as much sperm as possible to eliminate competition. The more promiscuous females are, the larger male testicles will get. We find female chimps are very promiscuous and male chimps have large testicles.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/sep/03/anthonybrowne.theobserver

* Monogamy is rare in the animal kingdom. Most are promiscuous.

* 80% of early human societies were polygamous. Monogamy is a modern social invention.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/...y/201605/monogamy-is-not-natural-human-beings

* Many people do not have just one partner in their lives. They've had more than one at a time. This is not monogamy. It's serial polygyny.

https://www.bustle.com/articles/121...nogamous-heres-what-5-researchers-have-to-say

It's fascinating information. I'm wondering what to make of this. 

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Link to survey does not seem to work.

In nature you can find every single strategy in partner search. Using the majority argument to try to apply it to a specific species is silly, of course. Every species has their particular constraint and is more or less likely to have a specific reproductive strategy. 

Note that in humans many potential constraints are changed due to e.g. availability of reproductive control, but also things like easy availability of food or water (for most) and other technological and social elements.

Finally, few things are that hardwired to begin with. We have learned to live in a highly artificial environment. None of us are hardwired to move faster than running speed, yet we can drive cars, for example. 

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, CharonY said:

Link to survey does not seem to work.

In nature you can find every single strategy in partner search. Using the majority argument to try to apply it to a specific species is silly, of course. Every species has their particular constraint and is more or less likely to have a specific reproductive strategy. 

Note that in humans many potential constraints are changed due to e.g. availability of reproductive control, but also things like easy availability of food or water (for most) and other technological and social elements.

Finally, few things are that hardwired to begin with. We have learned to live in a highly artificial environment. None of us are hardwired to move faster than running speed, yet we can drive cars, for example. 

Why is it silly? Chimps are highly promiscuous. They're also our cousins. Why wouldn't it make sense to say we're naturally inclined to promiscuity since we evolved from them?

It's true that potential constraints changed like cultural expectations via. monogamy, but I don't think they've changed much. Cheating rates are high. 

Edited by Isaiah90
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2 hours ago, Isaiah90 said:

Why is it silly?

Your argument was that basically that because many species are promiscuous, one selected one (humans) must therefore also be promiscuous. This is not a logical conclusion, as you said yourself that there are apparently differences in promiscuity in nature ("most" does not equal "all"). In other words, you would first have to figure out why certain species are more or less promiscuous in order to establish whether it likely (or not) applies to humans.

If nature was based on majority rule, we all would still be bacteria and just reproduce asexually.

Likewise, you cannot dismiss whether our society makes promiscuity more or less likely, as you have not established conditions that are associated with promiscuity that we could discuss. 

I am going make an analogous argument to yours to demonstrate why your original argument does not hold water:

 Most animals are arthropods (well above 80%). Therefore animals are evolutionary primed to live like insects.

What we can discuss, which is somewhat outside biology is about human society and how that influences partner structure. But again, doing sweeping positive correlations and then somehow invoke evolution is just bad science (and which is why evolutionary psychology as a discipline is in deep trouble).

But even using somewhat shaky arguments in that area, it is very weird that you focus on female promiscuity. Assuming big fitness arguments (and again, research has shown that it is actually far more complex than these simple narratives), in most mammals, including humans, males benefit more from being promiscuous than females. The reason is fairly intuitive, because a) in most species females invest more into the offspring and b) extra-pair copulation for the female does not automatically result in more offspring as for males.

Now, this view has been challenged to various degrees, mostly using insect models, again highlighting my above argument, if you will. In observational studies  In birds, reproductive success seem to increase for both, male and female partners in a number of partners. However, the advantage for males is still more obvious than females (and the latter is trickier to study).

If we focus on humans, there is of course the issue of social norms- in many societies it is more permissive for men to be promiscuous than women. As such, it is not surprising that most surveys indicate higher promiscuity in men, but this again is challenged with changing gender roles. So again, another societal, rather than evolutionary factor.

I suspect that what you tried to say that serial monogamy is in polygyny (succession of female partners, as the reverse does not make sense) but why not polyandry?

This is not to say that the area of research is not fascinating, but I think the way you start off is far too narrow and biased toward a certain narrative that it actually runs counter to existing research. 

To kick off such a discussion with a focus on human species you may want to look at a few accessible papers such as Schacht and Kramer (Front. Ecol. Evol. 2019) for a general review. The paper does actually discuss (and refutes) some of the common popsci narratives.

 

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24 minutes ago, CharonY said:

the issue of social norms- in many societies it is more permissive for men to be promiscuous than women. As such, it is not surprising that most surveys indicate higher promiscuity in men, but this again is challenged with changing gender roles.

Also, birth control. The cost of accidental birth is nearly zero for men, and decidedly NOT zero for women. 

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Posted (edited)

We are also 'hardwired' to be very competitive, belligerent and tribal.
This instinctive behavior is also evident in chimps.
But we have come to realize that certain instinctive behaviors are detrimental to out society, and we try to control them with education, and laws, where needed.
Similarly, child rearing is beneficial to our society, and birth-mothers/fathers provide the best care of their own offspring.

Sometimes, 'natural' behavior is not the best option.

Edited by MigL
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8 minutes ago, MigL said:

Sometimes, 'natural' behavior is not the best option.

And sometimes it is, how else do we evolve?

In answer to the topic title, only my fridge is hardwired... 😉

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We didn't evolve to be totally one way or the other. There are species that entirely lack pair bonding and species that mate for life. Most humans will disagree with either extreme.

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5 hours ago, dimreepr said:

only my fridge is hardwired...

If I tickle you, can you keep from laughing ?
if you stick your finger down your throat, can you keep from throwing up ?
Can you stop a sneeze, or touch a hot object and not recoil your hand ?
Do you automatically yawn when you see someone else yawn?

You are more 'hardwired' than you think.

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5 hours ago, MigL said:

We are also 'hardwired' to be very competitive, belligerent and tribal.
This instinctive behavior is also evident in chimps.
But we have come to realize that certain instinctive behaviors are detrimental to out society, and we try to control them with education, and laws, where needed.
Similarly, child rearing is beneficial to our society, and birth-mothers/fathers provide the best care of their own offspring.

Sometimes, 'natural' behavior is not the best option.

Why would things like polyamory be wrong even if it's natural? 

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4 minutes ago, Isaiah90 said:

Why would things like polyamory be wrong even if it's natural? 

Because right and wrong aren’t objective states that apply consistently across domains. They’re based merely on local behavioral norms and cultural expectations. These unwritten “codes of conduct” evolve over time and vary from one community to another.  

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15 hours ago, MigL said:

If I tickle you, can you keep from laughing ?
if you stick your finger down your throat, can you keep from throwing up ?
Can you stop a sneeze, or touch a hot object and not recoil your hand ?
Do you automatically yawn when you see someone else yawn?

You are more 'hardwired' than you think.

Fair point, but my point was in the context of the thread title.

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On 6/6/2021 at 5:24 PM, Isaiah90 said:

Why is it silly?

I think you are a little off track but it's hardly a silly argument...and I don't see anyone claiming it is/was.

+1 for starting the thread and welcome to the Forum.

On 6/6/2021 at 5:24 PM, Isaiah90 said:

Why is it silly? Chimps are highly promiscuous. They're also our cousins. Why wouldn't it make sense to say we're naturally inclined to promiscuity since we evolved from them?

That's like saying chimps are naturally inclined to promiscuity because they evolved from humans. Common ancestor=/= "we evolved from them". 

 

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13 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

I think this varies among people probably in a Gaussian way. There are minority of very monogamous people and minority of highly polygamous ones. Most are somehwere in between

Might be less symmetric than that but very good point.

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5 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

To be more precise "somehwere in between" means "mostly monogamous with occasional polygamy". 

More precise than a Bell curve???

14 hours ago, J.C.MacSwell said:

...and it might be less symmetric than that...but H de V's point still holds.

Indeed, but it could be why he's wrong...

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I suspect humans are innately - or initially - "weak-wired" sexually; the potential for attraction and arousal is broad. I note that arousal does not even require the participation of anyone else, let alone specific pheromones or specific seasons; fantasizing alone can do it. I also suspect that absence of seasonality made a strong but non-specific sex drive more important.

I think the power of the plasticity of the developing pubescent human brain is able to reinforce the triggers and responses humans experience - creating (usually lifelong) "hard-wiring". A wide variety of them. And we are a social animal where sex is both bonding and cause of rivalry and conflict; rules and customs around it have probably always been essential for the group's health.

Most preferences will arise from observation and mimicry and experiences. And varying levels of enforcement of conformity within the group can determine what those will be. Those that are missing out on early sexual experiences - perhaps denied them by tribal rules and/or polygamy from power - just guessing - may result in higher incidence of homosexuality.

Edited by Ken Fabian
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What's missing from this discussion to some extent is the unique aspect of humans:  A high level of intelligence coupled with the instinctive biological drives.  This creates a situation where there are three driving forces that can conflict:  (1) The instinctive drive to reproduce that pretty much all living things share, (2) The intellectual attraction some people develop that seems unique to intelligent species, and (3) The societal standards unique to individual cultures.  This makes it difficult to generalize.

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I think to some degree the points are valid, but may also somewhat overplay the uniqueness of humans. While we often describe a given species to behave in a monolithic way, many folks interacting a lot with higher animals report a huge range of behavioural differences. Of course there is more behavioural modulation (learning/training) going on in humans but I would almost make the reverse argument, that we simplify animal behaviour too much.

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