Major Movements in Psychology

Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology

Do females compete for males?

Although male-to-male competition can be very dramatic in the animal world and consequently has received more attention from sociobiologists, female-to-female competition certainly exists. Some female birds roll other females’ eggs out of the nest or otherwise interfere with their reproduction. In complex social groups, females can compete for status. In large monkey troupes, for example, high-status females and their offspring have many advantages over lower status females. The presence of monogamy can also affect female-to-female competition.

Monogamy is more common when a prolonged or intensified period of dependence in the young favors paternal investment in child rearing. When males are monogamous, they are likely to be more selective in their choice of a mate as they invest more in each partner. Hence females may need to compete for males. In these cases, females who show signs of greater reproductive fitness are often more successful in attracting males. We can certainly consider how this might apply to human females, who characteristically spend considerable energy and time maintaining and enhancing their physical attractiveness to males. Across human cultures, the standards for female beauty almost universally relate to youth and physical health, which corresponds to a long period of fertility.

If we consider the size of the beauty industry, which produces women’s makeup, jewelry, clothing, skin creams, hair products, and many other forms of female adornment, we can see how evolutionary pressures may be in play within our own culture.


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