Sports and Gender
In our human history, we have many aspects that set us apart from other animals, whether it be our sports that bring us together and teach us socialization or our gender that showcases our need for others.
Human's Core Tenants
Evolutionary psychology is a hybrid discipline that draws insights from modern evolutionary theory, biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science, and paleoarchaeology. Our core tenants are what set us out on our journey to the top of the food chain. Without our adaptations, we would not be here today. Here are the 5 core premises and tenants of evolutionary psychology as is stated word for word by researchers David Buss and David Schmitt:
Manifest behavior depends on underlying psychological mechanisms, information processing devices housed in the brain, in conjunction with the external and internal inputs—social, cultural, ecological, physiological that interact with them to produce manifest behavior.
Evolution by selection is the only known causal process capable of creating such complex organic mechanisms (adaptations).
Evolved psychological mechanisms are often functionally specialized to solve adaptive problems that recurred for humans over deep evolutionary time.
Selection designed the information processing of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be adaptively influenced by specific classes of information from the environment.
Human psychology consists of a large number of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms, each sensitive to particular forms of contextual input, that get combined, coordinated, and integrated with each other and with external and internal variables to produce manifest behavior tailored to solving an array of adaptive problems.
These tenants are a large part of why sports are so important and have played a major part in the story of humans. It helped us find out who was the fittest.
Sports Helped Us Learn How to Cooperate
Researchers state "dominance is positively associated with traits such as narcissism, aggression, and disagreeableness, whereas prestige is positively associated with traits such as genuine self-esteem, agreeableness, conscientiousness, achievement, advice-giving, and prosociality" (Cheng and Henrich, 2010). Our prestige and social status derive from our ability to cooperate and socialize in team sports.
These sports are a derivative of societal adaptations.
We are thus participating in a form of natural selection that we actively engage in to see who is best at exhibiting great physical achievement as well as showing leadership qualities to be able to have a cohesive bond with their teammates. This is why sports are so entertaining to watch, they are the symbolical showcase of what it means to be human. Here are some examples of traits we look for in a good team player:
- Endurance: physical excellence
- Gamesmanship: knowing how to be a good winner and a good loser
- Social grooming: working with teammates towards a common goal
Gender Similarities and Differences
The empirical data shows that while men and women are more similar than they are different (Buss and Schmitt) there is much data showing how we are differing in our ways.
- Taste preferences
- Habitat preferences
- Kin investment as a function of genetic relatedness
- Adaptations to avoid the “hostile forces of nature” such as predators, parasites, and other environmental hazards
Women have for millions of years faced the adaptive problems of pregnancy and breastfeeding, both of which are metabolically expensive endeavors.
Paternity uncertainty and the risk of misdirected parental investment—adaptive problems incurred as a consequence of internal female fertilization.
- Both genders face the problem of identifying mates who will commit to them over the extended temporal durations (Buss and Schmitt1993).
With this in mind, men and women employ different strategies in regards to sexual encounters in both long term and short term aspects.
Sexual Strategies Theory
Sexual Strategies Theory "proposes a contextual-evolutionary theory of human mating strategies. Both men and women are hypothesized to have evolved distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie short-term and long-term strategies." (Buss and Schmitt) These strategies were to gain these two goals
- Equity Exchange: "social interactions, close relationships, helpfulness, and work and pay in economic settings. It maintains that humans frequently consider fairness in their calculation of costs and benefits in their encounters with others."
- Similarity-Seeking: “You try to create a social world where you’re comfortable, where you succeed, where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals” (Crandall)
The theory states 9 core hypotheses and 22 empirical predictions:
Physiological (e.g., hormones), ontogenetic (learning), phylogenetic (evolution), and functional (adaptive) perspectives are all needed for scientifically complete explanations of behavior (Tinbergen1963).
The core logic of the evolutionary argument is as follows as pertaining to female attractiveness (Buss1987; Symons1979):
- A key adaptive problem ancestral males faced involved identifying and preferentially choosing fertile or reproductively valuable mates (males selecting infertile mates left no descendants)
- This adaptive problem was exacerbated by the evolution of relatively concealed or cryptic ovulation in women (in contrast to chimpanzee females, for whom ovulation is signaled by visible and olfactory estrus cues)
Standards of female attractiveness evolved to be attuned to recurrently observable cues that were statistically correlated with fertility.
Observable cues to youth:
- Clear skin,
- Smooth skin,
- Facial adiposity,
- Lustrous hair and
- Cues to health (e.g., absence of sores or lesions)
Tying it All Together
With all this said, we have to begin to realize that there is more to what people might perceive as just "social constructs". Gender and sports have way more to them than just what society happened to decide upon along the way. The two genders are different in our ways and aspects, and that's how we survived. We survived by being able to be different to see what works and what doesn't. Sports filtered out the best from the worst and the best kept being able to play games and show their prestige or dominance and the weaker ones didn't get to pass on their genes. This is who we are, animals. But, we are different from animals because of how we express ourselves and that's the important part. That's the part we get to really enjoy, and not be ashamed of. Let's remember who we are and where we came from and how it made us who we are, and as always, continue to think differently.
- Baughman, K., & Stryker, Sheldon. (2000). The Social-psychological Benefits of Sports and Fitness Identities, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.
- Cheng, Tracy, & Henrich. (2010). Pride, personality, and the evolutionary foundations of human social status. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 334-347.
- Buss, D., & Schmitt, M. (2011). Evolutionary Psychology and Feminism. Sex Roles, 64(9), 768-787.