Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-v5vhk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-19T12:12:53.544Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

31 - Evolutionary Psychology

Thoughts on Integrating Feminist Perspectives

from Part VII - Sexual Selection and Human Sex Differences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2020

Lance Workman
University of South Wales
Will Reader
Sheffield Hallam University
Jerome H. Barkow
Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia
Get access


The discussion of evolutionary theory and feminist ideology has existed for decades and has been obstructed by assumptions, generalizations, misunderstandings, and omissions from both points of view. Terminology, in particular, has had important consequences for comprehension. We note, like Barkow (2006), that there is no term that accurately captures the variety of work of those applying Darwinian theory to the study of human behavior. We apply “evolutionary psychology” here as it is a prevalent term that is used currently, but it also reinforces the goal of focusing on human nature as an outcome of biological evolution (Barkow, 2006). To provide as much clarity and simplicity as possible in this chapter, we will refer to evolutionary scientists as “evolutionists” and feminist scholars as “feminists” as they were in Hrdy (1981/1999).

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adler, K. W. (2017). Women are dying because doctors treat us like men. Marie Claire. Scholar
Alexander, M. G., & Fisher, T. D. (2003). Truth and consequences: Using the bogus pipeline to examine sex differences in self-reported sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 40(1), 2735.Google Scholar
Apostolou, M. (2016). The evolution of female same-sex attractions: The weak selection pressures hypothesis. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 10(4), 270283.Google Scholar
Badinter, E. (1982). The Myth of Motherhood: A Historical View of the Maternal Instinct. London: Souvenir Press Ltd.Google Scholar
Baker, K. C., & Smuts, B. B. (1994). Social relationships of female chimpanzees. In Wrangham, R. W., ed., Chimpanzee Cultures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 227242.Google Scholar
Barkow, J. H. (1989). Darwin, Sex, and Status: Biological Approaches to Mind and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Barkow, J. H. (2006). Introduction: Sometimes the bus does wait. In Barkow, J. H., ed., Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 362.Google Scholar
Bateman, A. J. (1948). Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila. Heredity, 2, 349368.Google Scholar
Beery, A. K. (2018). Inclusion of females does not increase variability in rodent research studies. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 23, 143149.Google Scholar
Beery, A. K., & Zucker, I. (2016). Sex bias in neuroscience and biomedical research. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(3), 565572.Google Scholar
Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155162.Google Scholar
Blackwell, A. B. (1875). The Sexes throughout Nature. New York: Putnam.Google Scholar
Buss, D. M. (2013). Feminist evolutionary psychology: Some reflections. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 7(4), 295296.Google Scholar
Camerer, C. F., Dreber, A., Holzmeister, F., et al. (2018). Evaluating the replicability of social science experiments in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015. Nature Human Behavior, 2, 637644.Google Scholar
Campbell, A. (2006). Feminism and evolutionary psychology. In Barkow, J. H., ed., Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 6399.Google Scholar
Cvencek, D., Meltzoff, A. N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2011). Math–gender stereotypes in elementary school children. Child Development, 82(3), 766779.Google Scholar
Daly, M., & Wilson, M. (1999). The Truth about Cinderella: A Darwinian View of Parental Love. Princeton. NJ: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Darwin, C. (1871). The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
Dawkins, R., & Carlisle, T. R. (1976). Parental investment, mate desertion and a fallacy. Nature, 262(5564), 131133.Google Scholar
Diamond, L. M. (2009). Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Eagly, A., & Wood, W. (2011). Feminism and the evolution of sex differences and similarities. Sex Roles, 64, 758767.Google Scholar
Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2013). Feminism and evolutionary psychology: Moving forward. Sex Roles, 69, 549556.Google Scholar
Easterlin, N. (2013). From reproductive resource to autonomous individuality? Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. In Fisher, M. L., Garcia, J. R., & Sokol-Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 390405.Google Scholar
Eastwick, P. A., Eagly, A. H., Finkel, E. J., & Johnson, S. E. (2011). Implicit and explicit preferences for physical attractiveness in a romantic partner: A double dissociation in predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(3), 571574.Google Scholar
Eckes, S. E., & McCall, S. D. (2014). The potential impact of social science research on legal issues surrounding single-sex classrooms and schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(2), 195232.Google Scholar
Ellingsen, T., & Robles, J. (2012). The evolution of parental investment: Re-examining the anisogamy argument. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 299, 113119.Google Scholar
Falk, D. (2004). Prelinguistic evolution in early hominins: Whence motherese? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 491534.Google Scholar
Fausto-Sterling, A. (1997). Feminism and behavioral evolution: A taxonomy. In Gowaty, P., ed., Feminist and Evolutionary Biology: Boundaries, Intersections, and Frontiers. New York: Chapman and Hall, pp. 4260.Google Scholar
Fausto-Sterling, A., Gowaty, P. A., & Zuk, M. (1997). Evolutionary psychology and Darwinian feminism. Feminist Studies, 23, 403418.Google Scholar
Fedigan, L. M. (1986). The changing role of women in models of human evolution. Annual Review of Anthropology, 15, 2566.Google Scholar
Fehr, C. (2012). Feminist engagement with evolutionary psychology. Hypatia, 27(1), 5072.Google Scholar
Fisher, M. (2013). Women’s intrasexual competition. In Fisher, M., Garcia, J., & Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1942.Google Scholar
Fisher, M., ed. (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Women and Competition. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fisher, M., & Moule, K. (2013). A new direction for intrasexual competition research: Cooperative versus competitive motherhood. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology, 7, 318325.Google Scholar
Fisher, M., Kruger, D., & Garcia, J. (2011). Understanding and enhancing the role of the mass media in evolutionary psychology education. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 4(1), 7582.Google Scholar
Fisher, M., Garcia, J., & Sokol Chang, R., eds. (2013). Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fisher, M., Sokol Chang, R., & Garcia, J. (2013). Introduction to Evolution’s Empress. In Fisher, M., Garcia, J., & Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 116.Google Scholar
Fisher, R. A. (1930). Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Gamble, E. B. (1894). The Evolution of Woman: An Inquiry into the Dogma of Her Inferiority to Man. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.Google Scholar
Garcia, J. R., & Heywood, L. L. (2016). Moving toward integrative feminist evolutionary behavioral sciences. Feminism & Psychology, 26(3), 327334.Google Scholar
Gavey, N., & Braun, V. (2008). Editorial. Feminism and Psychology, 18(1), 512.Google Scholar
Geher, G. (2013). Feminism and evolutionary psychology: Complementary. Psychology Today. Scholar
Gowaty, P. A. (1993). Differential dispersal, local resource competition, and sex ratio variation in birds. American Naturalist, 141(2), 263280.Google Scholar
Gowaty, P. A. (1997a). Darwinian feminists and feminist evolutionists. In Gowaty, P. A., ed., Feminism and Evolutionary Biology. New York: Chapman, pp. 17.Google Scholar
Gowaty, P. A., ed. (1997b). Feminism and Evolutionary Biology. New York: Chapman.Google Scholar
Gowaty, P. (2012). Feminism and Evolutionary Biology: Boundaries, Intersections and Frontiers. Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
Gowaty, P. A. (2013). A sex-neutral theoretical framework for making strong inferences about the origins of sex roles. In Fisher, M. L., Garcia, J. R., & Sokol Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 85112.Google Scholar
Gowaty, P. A., & Hubbell, S. P. (2005). Chance, time allocation, and the evolution of adaptively flexible sex role behavior. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 45(5), 931944.Google Scholar
Grasswick, H. (2010). Scientific and lay communities: Earning epistemic trust through knowledge sharing. Synthese, 177(3), 387409.Google Scholar
Gray, P. B., & Anderson, K. G. (2012). Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Grossi, G., Kelly, S., Nash, A., & Parameswaran, G. (2014). Challenging dangerous ideas: A multi-disciplinary critique of evolutionary psychology. Dialectical Anthropology, 38(3), 281285.Google Scholar
Hager, L. D., ed. (1997). Women in Human Evolution. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Haraway, D. (1978). Animal sociology and a natural economy of the body politic, part I: A political physiology of dominance. Signs, 4(1), 2136.Google Scholar
Hawkes, K., & Finlay, B. L. (2018). Mammalian brain development and our grandmothering life history. Physiology & Behavior, 193, 5568.Google Scholar
Hawkes, K., O’Connell, J. F., & Blurton Jones, N. G. (1997). Hadza women’s time allocation, offspring provisioning, and the evolution of long postmenopausal life spans. Current Anthropology, 38, 551577.Google Scholar
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Science, 33(2–3), 6183.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heywood, L. L. (2013). The quick and the dead: Gendered agency in the history of Western science and evolutionary theory. In Fisher, M. L., Garcia, J. R., & Sokol-Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 439461.Google Scholar
Hill, K., & Kaplan, H. (1999). Life history traits in humans: Theory and empirical studies. Annual Review of Anthropology, 28, 397430.Google Scholar
Hosken, D. J., & House, C. M. (2011). Sexual selection. Current Biology, 21(2), R62R65.Google Scholar
Hrdy, S. B. (1980). The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hrdy, S. B. (1981/1999). The Woman That Never Evolved. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hrdy, S. B. (1986). Empathy, polyandry, and the myth of the coy female. In Bleier, R., ed., Feminist Approaches to Science. New York: Teachers College Press, pp. 119146.Google Scholar
Hrdy, S. B. (2009). Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hrdy, S. B. (2013). Overdue dialogue: Forward to Evolution’s Empress. In Fisher, M. L., Garcia, J. R., & Sokol-Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. xvxix.Google Scholar
Hubbard, R. (1990). The Politics of Women’s Biology. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
Hubbard, R., Henifin, M. S., & Fried, B., eds. (1982). Biological Women: The Convenient Myth. Rochester, VT: Schenkman Books.Google Scholar
Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581592.Google Scholar
Hyde, J. S. (2014). Gender similarities and differences. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 373398.Google Scholar
Janicki, M., & Krebs, D. L. (1998). Evolutionary approaches to culture. In Crawford, C. & Krebs, D. L., eds., Handbook on Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues and Applications. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 163207.Google Scholar
Keller, E. F. (1982). Feminism and science. Signs, 7(3), 589602.Google Scholar
Kelly, S. (2014). Tofu feminism: Can feminist theory absorb evolutionary psychology? Dialectical Anthropology, 38(3), 287304.Google Scholar
Khule, B., & Radtke, S. (2013). Born both ways: The alloparenting hypothesis for sexual fluidity in women. Evolutionary Psychology, 11(2), 304323.Google Scholar
Kokko, H., & Jennions, M. D. (2008). Parental investment, sexual selection and sex ratios. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21(4), 919948.Google Scholar
Konik, J. (2013). Book review: Will we make it to the alter? Seeking to unite feminist and evolutionary psychology. Sex Roles, 69, 546548.Google Scholar
Konik, J., & Smith, C. (2013). In search of complexity: Seeking to integrate feminist and evolutionary perspectives in psychology. Sex Roles, 69, 481483.Google Scholar
Kramer, K. L., & Veile, A. (2018). Infant allocare in traditional societies. Physiology & Behavior, 193, 117126.Google Scholar
Leahy, T. (2012). The elephant in the room: Human nature and the sociology textbooks. Current Sociology, 60(6), 806823.Google Scholar
Lee, R. B., & DeVore, I., eds. (1968). Man the Hunter. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
Liesen, L. (2007). Women, behavior, and evolution: Understanding the debate between feminist evolutionists and evolutionary psychologists. Politics and the Life Sciences, 26(1), 5170.Google Scholar
Liesen, L. (2013). The tangled web she weaves: The evolution of female–female aggression and status seeking. In Fisher, M. L., Garcia, J. R., & Sokol-Chang, R., eds., Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 4362.Google Scholar
Luecke, J. C. (2011). Working with transgender children and their classmates in pre-adolescence: Just be supportive. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8(2), 116156.Google Scholar
Macleod, C., Marecek, J., & Capdevila, R. (2014). Feminism & Psychology going forward. Feminism & Psychology, 24(1), 317.Google Scholar
Mace, R. (2013). Cooperation and conflict between women in the family. Evolutionary Anthropology, 22(5), 251258.Google Scholar
Marlowe, F. (2000). Paternal investment and the human mating system. Behavioural Processes, 51(1), 4561.Google Scholar
Martin, E. (2003). What is “rape”?—Toward a historical ethnographic approach. In Travis, C., ed., Evolution, Gender, and Rape. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 363381.Google Scholar
Mattison, S., Moya, C., Reynolds, A., & Towner, M. C. (2018). Evolutionary demography of age at last birth: integrating approaches from human behavioural ecology and cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373(1743), 20170060.Google Scholar
Meredith, T. (2013). A journal of one’s own. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 7(4), 354360.Google Scholar
Meyers, D. T. (2012). Feminist critiques of evolutionary psychology. Hypatia, 27(1), 12.Google Scholar
Money, J., Hampson, J. G., & Hampson, J. L. (1955). An examination of some basic sexual concepts: The evidence of human hermaphroditism. Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 97, 301319.Google Scholar
Morgan, M., Coombes, L., Neill-Weston, F., & Weatherley, G. E. (2011). Shaping feminist psychologies in Aotearoa: History, paradox, transformation. In Rutherford, A., Capdevila, R., Undurti, V., & Palmary, I., eds., Handbook of International Feminisms: Perspectives on Psychology, Women, Culture, and Rights. New York: Springer, pp. 195218.Google Scholar
Muehlenhard, C. L., & Peterson, Z. D. (2011). Distinguishing between sex and gender: History, current conceptualizations, and implications. Sex Roles, 64(11), 791803.Google Scholar
Nier, J. A., & Campbell, S. D. (2013). Two outsiders’ view on feminism and evolutionary psychology: An opportune time for adversarial collaboration. Sex Roles, 69, 503506.Google Scholar
Radtke, H. L. (2017). Feminist theory in Feminism & Psychology [part 1]: Dealing with differences and negotiating the biological. Feminism & Psychology, 27(3), 357377.Google Scholar
Richardson, S. S. (2010). Feminist philosophy of science: History, contributions, and challenges. Synthese, 177(3), 337362.Google Scholar
Robles, T. F., & Kane, H. S. (2014). Normative processes, individual differences, and implications for health. Journal of Personality, 82(6), 515527.Google Scholar
Rosenberg, K., & Trevathan, W. (2002). Birth, obstetrics and human evolution. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 109, 11991206.Google Scholar
Saini, A. (2017). Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Schmitt, D. P. (2015). On accusations of exceptional male bias in evolutionary psychology: Placing sex differences in citation counts in proper evidentiary contexts. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 9(2), 6972.Google Scholar
Schmucker, D. L., O’Mahony, M. S., & Vesell, E. S. (1994). Women in clinical drug trials: An update. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 27(6), 411417.Google Scholar
Shear, M. (1986). A review of A Feminist Dictionary. New Directions for Women, 15(3), 6.Google Scholar
Shields, S. A. (1975). Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women: A study in social myth. American Psychologist, 30(7), 739754.Google Scholar
Sloan-Wilson, D., Dietrich, E., & Clark, A. (2003). On the inappropriate use of the naturalistic fallacy in evolutionary psychology. Biology and Philosophy, 18(5), 669681.Google Scholar
Smuts, B. (1995). The evolutionary origins of patriarchy. Human Nature, 6(1), 132.Google Scholar
Sokol-Chang, R., & Fisher, M. L. (2013). Letter of purpose of the Feminist Evolutionary Psychology Society. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 7(4), 286294.Google Scholar
Tanner, N., & Zihlman, A. (1976). Women in evolution part I: Innovation and selection in human origins. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 1(3 Part 1), 558608.Google Scholar
Tate, C. C. (2013). Addressing conceptual confusions regarding evolutionary theorizing: How and why evolutionary psychology and feminism do not oppose each other. Sex Roles, 69, 491502.Google Scholar
Thornhill, R., & Palmer, C. T. (2001). A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Tishkoff, S. A., Reed, F. A., Ranciaro, A., et al. (2007). Convergent adaptation of human lactase persistence in Africa and Europe. Nature Genetics, 39(1), 3140.Google Scholar
Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In Campbell, B., ed., Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man: 1871–1971. Chicago, IL: Aldine, pp. 136179.Google Scholar
Tybur, J. M., Miller, G. F., & Gangestad, S. W. (2007). Testing the controversy. Human Nature, 18(4), 313328.Google Scholar
Unger, R. K. (1979). Toward a redefinition of sex and gender. American Psychologist, 34, 10851094.Google Scholar
VanderLaan, D. P., Forrester, D. L., Petterson, L. J, & Vasey, P. L. (2012). Offspring production among the extended relatives of Samoan men and fa’afafine. PLoS ONE, 7(4), e36088.Google Scholar
VanderLaan, D. P., Petterson, L. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2016). Femininity and kin-directed altruism in androphilic men: A test of an evolutionary development model. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(3), 619633.Google Scholar
Vandermassen, G. (2005). Who’s Afraid of Charles Darwin? Debating Feminism and Evolutionary Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
Vasey, P. L., & Bartlett, N. H. (2007). What can the Samoan “fa’afafine” teach us about the Western concept of gender identity disorder in childhood? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50(4), 481490.Google Scholar
Vitzthum, V. J. (2008). Evolutionary models of women’s reproductive functioning. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37, 5373.Google Scholar
Weaver, S. (2017). A constructive critical assessment of feminist evolutionary psychology. Unpublished dissertation, University of Waterloo.Google Scholar
Wilson, E. O. (1978). On Human Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1998). Lethal and nonlethal violence against wives and the evolutionary psychology of male sexual proprietariness. In Dobash, R. E. & Dobash, R. P., eds., Rethinking Violence against Wives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 199230.Google Scholar
Winegard, B. M., Winegard, B. M., & Deaner, R. O. (2014). Misrepresentations of evolutionary psychology in sex and gender textbooks. Evolutionary Psychology, 12(3), 474508.Google Scholar
Wrangham, R. (2009). Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats