Mating games: Cultural evolution and sexual selection

Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):475-491 (2007)
Abstract
In this paper, we argue that mating games, a concept that denotes cultural practices characterized by a competitive element and an ornamental character, are essential drivers behind the emergence and maintenance of human cultural practices. In order to substantiate this claim, we sketch out the essential role of the game’s players and audience, as well as the ways in which games can mature and turn into relatively stable cultural practices. After outlining the life phase of mating games – their emergence, rise, maturation, and possible eventual decline – we go on to argue that participation in these games (in each phase) does make sense from an adaptationist point of view. The strong version of our theory which proposes that all cultural practices are, or once were, mating games, allows us to derive a set of testable predictions for the fields of archaeology, economics, and psychology.
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