August 1, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
Sex testing for elite female athletes is a highly charged issue. In the A2 Complete Companion (page 105 3rd edition) we have written about the past decision by the Olympic committee to decide gender on the basis of obvious physical differences. Just before the 2012 Olympics the committee released new regulations which involve measuring testosterone levels. There are many who regard this as a flawed approach (see, for example, Katrina Karkazis’s blog or click on CBS news item on right).
One argument is that there is little evidence that testosterone does confer an athletic advantage in a predictable way. In fact women who have AIS (andogen insensitivity syndrome), and are thus insensitive to testosterone, are actually overrepresented among elite athletes. A further argument is the question of whether other biological abnormalities should also be banned (high levels of testosterone in women are due to medical conditions, so should people with conditions that enhance aerobic conditions also be banned?).
Such discussions continue to highlight the role of gender research in understanding what determines male-female differences.
December 26, 2010 by Adrian Frost.
Interesting range of online experiments involving bio-motion here
December 2, 2010 by Adrian Frost.
For a quarter-century, women have outnumbered men at Scrabble clubs and tournaments in America, but a woman has won the national championship only once, and all the world champions have been men. Among the world’s 50 top-ranked players, typically about 45 are men.
The top players, both male and female, point to a simple explanation for the disparity: more men are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top. You need more than intelligence and a good vocabulary to become champion. You have to spend hours a day learning words like ‘khat,’ doing computerised drills and memorising long lists of letter combinations, called alphagrams, that can form high-scoring seven-letter words.
. . .
The guys who memorise these lists have a hard time explaining their passion. But the evolutionary roots of it seem clear to anthropologists like Helen Fisher of Rutgers University.
‘Evolution has selected for men with a taste for risking everything to get to the top of the hierarchy,’ she said, ‘because those males get more reproductive opportunities, not only among primates but also among human beings. Women don’t get as big a reproductive payoff by reaching the top. They’re just as competitive with themselves – they want to do a good job just as much as men do – but men want to be more competitive with others.’”
From New York Times
Images from Adverblog
November 7, 2010 by Cara Flanagan.
It seems that you can tell whether a person is promiscuous or monogamous just by looking at the fingers! Well, maybe it doesn’t work for individuals but researchers curious about human evolution have used finger length to make an educated guess about some of our distant ancestors’ mating habits.
According to evolutionary theory male characteristics such as aggressiveness and competitiveness are more likely in promiscuous species than monogamous ones. Looking at fossil skeletons we can therefore suggest that Australopithecus, which lived three to four million years ago was monogamous whereas an even earlier group, Ardipithecus, was highly promiscuous – all because of their finger length!
Of course it isn’t the finger length that causes sexual behaviour – it is levels of the male hormone androgen. Higher aggression and competitiveness in males is related to intrasexual selection (the more androgens the more competitive) and is also related to higher levels of androgens. An effect of higherlevels of androgens is that they cause a short forefinger and longer ring finger. This means that males high in androgens have a low forefinger to ring finger ratio whereas males low in androgens have a high ratio.
Finger length ratios have been linked to lots of other things, such as numeracy and literacy (see The A2 Complete Companion page 288).
June 20, 2010 by Cara Flanagan.
Meat was an important source of nutrition for ancestral humans (as it is today, MacDonalds aside). It has been suggested that the importance of meat meant that men often traded it for other favours such as forging allegiances or for sex (Stanford, 1999 – see pages 101, 130 and 131 of our A2 Complete Companion). Observations of animal and human behaviour have been used to support this ‘meat for sex’ hypothesis, however a recently published study says the suggestion is baseless. Gilby et al. (2010) conducted an observational study of chimpanzees over a 28 year period (see here and here) and found no evidence that males hunted more when females were most fertile, nor were they more likely to share meat with fertile females. However there continues to be evidence that supports the meat for sex hypothesis (see here). This study by Gomes and Boesch (2006) found direct evidence of meat exchange in another study of wild chimpanzees. It may be that males exchange meat on a long-term basis i.e. they don’t do it just when a female is fertile but provide meat continually so they can take advantage of fertile periods when they occur.