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David Buss

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Name  David Buss

Role  Professor
David Buss David Buss

Education  University of California, Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin
Books  The evolution of desire, Evolutionary Psychology, The Dangerous Passion, Personality Psychology: Domains, The Murderer Next Doo
Similar People  John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, Nancy Cantor, Geoffrey Miller, Steven Pinker

Sexual Conflict in Human Mating | David Buss | TEDxVienna

David M. Buss (born April 14, 1953) is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, known for his evolutionary psychology research on human sex differences in mate selection.


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Buss earned his PhD in psychology at University of California, Berkeley in 1981. Before becoming a professor at the University of Texas, he was assistant professor for four years at Harvard University, and he was a professor at the University of Michigan for eleven years.

The primary topics of his research include mating strategies, conflict between the sexes, social status, social reputation, prestige, the emotion of jealousy, homicide, anti-homicide defenses, and—most recently—stalking. All of these are approached from an evolutionary perspective. Buss is the author of more than 200 scientific articles and has won many awards, including an APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in 1988 and an APA G. Stanley Hall Lectureship in 1990.

Buss is the author of a number of publications and books, including The Evolution of Desire, The Dangerous Passion, and The Murderer Next Door, which introduces a new theory of homicide from an evolutionary perspective. He is also the author of Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, whose fourth edition was released in 2011. In 2005, Buss edited a reference volume, The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. His latest book is Why Women Have Sex, which he coauthored with Cindy Meston.

Buss is involved with extensive cross-cultural research collaborations and lectures within the U.S.

Act frequency approach

Attempts to state the conditions that constitute a certain personality trait and attempts to exhaustively list all the acts that identify a bearer of a trait have not been very successful in providing exact definitions for trait-related terms (such as "creative", "humorous", and "ambitious"). The question of what exactly defines an individual as being—for example—courageous is an open one. Another difficulty is measuring how strongly a trait is pronounced in an individual.

As a solution to these problems of defining and measuring traits, Buss and K. H. Craik (1980) proposed to introduce prototype theory into personality psychology. First, a group of people is asked to list acts that a person bearing the trait in question would show. Next, a different group of people is asked to name from that list those acts that are most typical for the trait. Then the measurement is conducted by counting the number of times (within a given period of time) a proband performs the typical acts.

Short vs. long-term mating strategies

One element of David Buss' research involves studying the differences in mate selection between short-term and long-term mating strategies. Individuals differ in their preferences for either a short or long-term mating strategy (i.e. whether they are looking for a "hook-up" or for a serious relationship). The Gangestad and Simpson Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI) determines whether a person favors a short-term or long-term strategy (also termed as unrestricted and restricted). Higher SOI scores indicate a less restricted orientation, and thus a preference for a short-term mating strategy.

David Buss and colleagues conducted a study that attempted to uncover where priorities lie—concerning determinants of attractiveness—in short- and long-term mating strategies. In order to do this, participants' mating strategies were determined using the SOI, labeling each participant as favoring either a short- or a long-term mating strategy. Each individual was then given the choice to reveal either the face or body from a portrait of a person of the opposite gender. David Buss and his colleagues found that sociosexual orientation or favored mating strategy influenced which part of the portrait was revealed. Men who favored a short-term mating strategy chose to reveal the woman's body, whereas men who favored a long-term mating strategy chose to reveal the woman's face. David Buss and his colleagues found that favored mating strategies in women had no correlation with which part of the portrait was revealed but had to do with utilitarian aspects that make sense in terms of supportive and dependable resources, health and stamina. Attractiveness, from a male's perspective, seems to be based on facial cues when seeking a long-term relationship, and bodily cues when seeking a short-term relationship because they cue healthiness and reproductive capacity. They also found men showed retardation in long term mating strategy than women and in short term strategy for women, their individuality, perceptions of benefit and demand of mate switching influenced. This findings add to David Buss' field of research by demonstrating differences in mating strategies across preferred relationship type.

Sex differences

Buss posits that men and women have faced different adaptive challenges throughout human history, which shape behavioral difference in males and females today. Women have faced the challenges of surviving through pregnancy and lactation and then rearing children. Men, by contrast, have faced the challenges of paternity uncertainty, with its related risk of misallocating parental resources, and of maximizing the offspring onto which they pass their genes. Because insemination and pregnancy occurs inside of the female, males cannot be certain that the child in which they are investing is genetically their offspring.

To solve the female adaptation dilemma, females select mates who are loyal and are willing and able to invest in her and her offspring by providing resources and protection. Historically, women who were less selective of mates suffered lower reproductive success and survival. Males solve the adaptation challenge of paternity uncertainty and resources misallocation by selecting sexually faithful mates. To maximize their offspring, men have adopted a short-term mating strategy of attracting and impregnating many fertile mates rather than one long-term mate.

David Buss supported this evolutionary reasoning with research focused on sex differences in mating strategies. In a large cross-cultural study that included 10,047 individuals across 37 cultures, Buss sought first to determine the different characteristics each sex looks for in a mate. From these findings, Buss was able to hypothesize the evolutionary causes for these preference differences. Buss found that men place very high importance on youth. Because youthful appearances signal fertility and men seek to maximize their number of mates capable of passing on their genes, men place high value on fertility cues. Buss also found that women desire older mates. He later hypothesized that this is because older males tend to have a greater chance of higher social status; this social status could lead to more resources for a woman and her offspring, and could therefore increase a woman's likelihood of sexual success and reproduction.

Another area in which the two sexes seem to differ greatly is in their reactions to sexual and emotional infidelity. Buss found that women were more jealous of emotional infidelity while men were more jealous of sexual infidelity. This has been supported as universal norm by Buss' cross-cultural study. Buss hypothesized that women find emotional infidelity more threatening because it could lead to the woman losing the resources she had gained from that mate and having to raise children on her own. He then hypothesized that men found sexual infidelity more threatening because they could risk spending resources on a child that may not be their own.

Emotional distress towards intersexual deception

David Buss' research also explores the differing ways in which men and women cope with intersexual deception. His Strategic Interference Theory (SIT) states that conflict occurs when the strategies enacted by one individual interfere with the strategies, goals, and desires of another. Buss found that anger and distress are the two primary emotions that have evolved as solutions to strategic interference between men and women. When a person's goals, desires, and strategies are compromised, his or her aroused anger and subjective distress serve four functions: (1) to draw attention to the interfering events, (2) to mark those events for storage in long-term memory, (3) to motivate actions that reduce or eliminate the source of strategic interference, and (4) to motivate memorial retrieval and, hence, subsequent avoidance of situations producing further interference. In this manner, SIT implies that anger and distress will be activated when a person is confronted with an event that interferes with his or her favored sexual strategy. The source of interference will differ between the sexes, as men and women display different sexual strategies.

Buss and colleagues have found that SIT helps in predicting emotional arousal with respect to mating deception. These predictions can be made in regards to various scenarios that often occur between men and women. The research facilitated by Buss and colleagues shows that women, in comparison to men, will display more emotional distress when they have been deceived about their partner's socioeconomic status, when their partners deploy expressions of love as a short-term mating strategy, when their partners display postcopulatory signals of disinterest in pursuing a long-term relationship, and when their partners conceal their existing emotional investment in another person. Men, more than women, will become emotionally distressed when their partners present false invitations for sex as a long-term mating strategy, when their partner displays sexual infidelity in the context of a long-term relationship, and when their partners lie about the content of their sexual fantasies.

Mate poaching and guarding

Schmitt & Buss in 2001 defined mate poaching as a behavior designed to lure someone who is already in a romantic relationship, either temporarily for a brief sexual liaison or more permanently for a long-term mating. In empirical studies men showed higher propensity in mate poaching than women. Tactics involved befriending, waiting for an opportunity, driving a wedge in existing relationship, etc.

Mate guarding is a co-evolution strategy designed to defend against poaching. Jealousy and guesstimation are identified indicators of this guarding strategy. In analysis' those who failed to successfully guard among men expressed sexual infidelity of their mate was the most damaging while women expressed emotional infidelity as the most damaging. Men perceived borderline paternity issues. In contrast, women were always 100% certain that their offspring are their own. Mate retention tactics among men mainly involved vigilance and violence while among women it mainly involved with enhancing their physical appearance and intentionally provoking their mate’s jealousy with suggestibility an object/stimulus is a threat to their valued relationship and challenge status hierarchy with changes in attachment. John Gottman states negative coping in this situation can disrupt relationships.

Published books

  • Buss, D.M., The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies Of Human Mating. Basic Books, 1995. -ISBN 978-0-465-02143-7
  • Buss, D.M. and Malamuth, N., Sex, Power, Conflict: Evolutionary and Feminist Perspectives. Oxford University Press, USA, 1996. -ISBN 978-0-19-510357-1
  • Buss, D.M., Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex. Diane Pub Co, 2000. -ISBN 978-0-7567-6548-4
  • Buss, D.M., The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is Necessary in Love and Sex. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2001. -ISBN 978-0-7475-5360-1
  • Buss, D.M., The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Wiley, 2005. -ISBN 978-0-471-26403-3
  • Buss, D.M., The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill. Penguin, 2006. -ISBN 978-0-14-303705-7
  • Meston, C.M. and Buss, D.M., Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge. Times Books, 2009. -ISBN 0-8050-8834-2
  • References

    David Buss Wikipedia