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Novartis Found Symp. 2000;233:260-70; discussion 270-80.

Sexual selection for indicators of intelligence.

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Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Many traits in many species have evolved through sexual selection specifically to function as 'fitness indicators' that reveal good genes and good health. Sexually selected fitness indicators typically show (1) higher coefficients of phenotypic and genetic variation than survival traits, (2) at least moderate genetic heritabilities and (3) positive correlations with many aspects of an animal's general condition, including body size, body symmetry, parasite resistance, longevity and freedom from deleterious mutations. These diagnostic criteria also appear to describe human intelligence (the g factor). This paper argues that during human evolution, mate choice by both sexes focused increasingly on intelligence as a major heritable component of biological fitness. Many human-specific behaviours (such as conversation, music production, artistic ability and humour) may have evolved principally to advertise intelligence during courtship. Though these mental adaptations may be modular at the level of psychological functioning, their efficiencies may be tightly intercorrelated because they still tap into common genetic and neurophysiological variables associated with fitness itself. Although the g factor (like the superordinate factor of fitness itself) probably exists in all animal species, humans evolved an unusually high degree of interest in assessing each other's intelligence during courtship and other social interactions--and, consequently, a unique suite of highly g-loaded mental adaptations for advertising their intelligence to one another through linguistic and cultural interaction. This paper includes nine novel, testable predictions about human intelligence derived from sexual selection theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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