Karen J. Prager, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Professor of Psychology and  Program Head for Gender Studies

Diplomate in Family Psychology

The University of Texas at Dallas

More Information About Dr. Prager's work


Research on Intimacy

Processes in Couple Relationships 

Teaching and Professional Practice

Selected Papers and Publications


For Students:



Back to Psychology of Gender syllabus

Lecture outline for:



Characteristics of the Evolutionary Perspective

I. Explains similarities in gendered ideas & behavior from one culture to another.

Some facts this chapter addresses:

Men, more than women:

a) behave aggressively & violently

b) hold positions of social power & have more than one mate

c) are interested in a mate's physical attributes more than her access to resources

2. Argues that cross-cultural similarities are due to similar evolutionary pressures faced by all peoples.

3. Argues that similarities are due to genetic factors.


***Arrangements that are consistent across cultures exist because of their survival value.

Why is survival value important to consider in understanding gender differences?

(1) Survival is a struggle for existence.

(2) All species demonstrate heritable variation

(3) Heritable variation either helps or hurts the natural selection process.

Extending natural selection theory from biological characteristics to behavior.

Can natural selection explain gendered patterns of behavior?

Yes, if:

(1) Behavior (or structures that determine it) can be inherited.

(2) The inheritance pattern is different for females and males.

**sex linked

**sex limited

(3) The inherited characteristics affect the brain.

Few behaviors (or the structures that affect them) meet these criteria.


Characteristics we inherit may affect the brain indirectly through our experience of them.

The differential parental investment model of the evolutionary theory.

Basic Assumptions

1. (In humans & other mammals) females invest more (biologically) in reproduction than males do.

2. As a result, females should be more selective when choosing a mating partner.

3. Females often mate with males with distinctive physical attributes & who attain dominance over other males.

Kendrick & Trost modify the model for humans because:

1. Human males invest heavily in their offspring.

2. Human males should therefore also be selective about their mate.

3. However, human males make a different kind of investment in their offspring than do human females (i.e., it is less biological).

4. Therefore, human males & females should select mates using different criteria:

Males: physical attributes

Females: access to resources

5. Does this approach assume that women & men inherit tendencies to be attracted to partners for different reasons?


Do men inherit a stronger tendency toward sexual jealousy than women?

Kenrick & Trost's interactional perspective:

Environmental pressures may exaggerate or minimize effects of inheritance.