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Bad behaviour of ‘alpha males’ encouraged women to form monogamous relationships

New research suggests women shunned aggressive men in favour of better fathers – and proves the shy guy DOES get the girl.

The modern concept of a relationship - with two people exclusively committed to each other - may have its roots in the tactics of prehistoric 'beta males'.
The modern concept of a relationship - with two people exclusively committed to each other - may have its roots in the tactics of prehistoric 'beta males'.
Image: Ernst Vikne

NEW RESEARCH has suggested that the raucous and aggressive behaviour of ‘alpha males’ in early human evolution was a major turn-off for women – who then opted for quieter partners who were better devoted to raising children.

The research, reportedly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, describes a “sexual revolution” in prehistoric times where so-called ‘beta males’, of lesser physical prominence, attracted women by showing their commitment to them and their offspring.

The research speculates that the action of the beta males, and the favourable response of women, was actually the origin of what is now considered the societal norm: of monogamous relationships where two people are committed exclusively to each other.

Study author Sergey Gavrilets, of the University of Tennessee, believes the mating strategies “triggered a key step in the very long process of the evolution of the family.”

Gavrilets, a biomathematician, explained to the Los Angeles Times that dominant males did not feel the need to protect their offspring so vigorously, as they were always likely to mate with other women and have more.

Guarded with rewards

He ran mathematical models simulating a group of males and females, where females became unavailable to mate because they were being guarded by one male, and where the men offered food and resources in exchange for a partnership.

This did not result in most of the couples pairing off, but when his models were adjusted so that only the ‘low-ranking’ males offered food and protection – a reasonable proposition, given that stronger males would be more likely to challenge a rival to a physical right – the couples began to pair off.

When he factored in the faithfulness of women, who might appreciate the loyalty of a partner, the simulations resulted in almost the entire group becoming paired off.

“This model deals with what animal biologists call social instincts and shows that some of these behaviours can be coded in our genes,” Gavrilets told Cosmos magazine. “Culture came much later and only augmented things that were already in place.”

The experiment is seen as an early example of game theory, where individuals adopted varying tactics to play to their own strengths.

Proof, perhaps, that at the end of the day, the shy guy gets the girl.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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