“Lifelong monogamy does not characterize the primary mating patterns of humans,” says David Buss, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas. “Breaking up with one partner and mating with another may more accurately characterize the common, perhaps the primary, mating strategy of humans.”
New research from the University of Texas is challenging long-held notions that humans have evolved to be monogamous. Buss and his partner, Cari Goetz, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, and their team introduced a new theory they call the “mate-switching hypothesis” in which they argue that humans, particularly women, have evolved to keep looking for new partners.
Early humans faced much shorter lifespans and the death of a woman’s partner was practically just around every corner. “Ancestral women lacking a back-up mate would have suffered a lapse in protection, and resources,” Buss explained, adding that it was prudent for them to always be on the lookout for a new partner. “Affairs serve as a form of mate insurance, keeping a backup mate should a switch become warranted in the future. A regular mate may cheat, defect, die, or decline in mate value.”
The idea that women might be genetically hard-wired to cheat is an emerging concept. But several studies published last year showed that women are prone to having affairs, though the research lacked an evolutionary explanation. One of those studies showed a significant link between vasopressin and oxytocin receptor genes and promiscuity in women, according to a report in The New York Times. Meanwhile, those genes seemed to have no effect in men’s sexual behavior. And statistics cited in that same report seem to belie the general sentiment toward cheating in society.
New York Times