Monday, November 8, 2010

Zahavian Mating Examples

Economist Thorstein Veblen and anthropologist studied "The Potlatch" ceremonies performed by tribes of pacific northwest coast. The ceremonies revolve around ruinous displays of generosity by rival chieftain. Extreme cases of these ceremonies lead to the burning of everything that the chieftain owns. Social status is considered enhanced by such displays which at times are extremely costly to the individual. These ceremonies and the yearning for social status and prestige point towards the "handicap principle" proposed by Amotz Zahavi.

Similarly a peacock with a longer and more colorful tail is always found to be more attractive by females although the handicap of supporting a longer tail comes at enormous cost to the peacock itself. Supporting a longer tail and still managing to survive and outwit one's predators is considered a sign of superior abilities.

Arabian babblers display handicaps by feeding other babblers altruistically. Some babblers sit atop tall trees as lookout sentinels making themselves visible to predators. The risk their lives for the babbler community and signal to the other members of their superior social status. The social status comes at considerable risk and in return are considered more suitable for reproduction.

Children crying when hungry expose themselves to danger by saying that my parents don't care for me so my predators should eat me. They are in effect handicapping both the parents and themselves. Most attempted suicides are also cases of handicapping. Lovers rarely succeed in attempting suicide.

Women with larger breasts also handicap themselves to show better reproductive abilities thereby attracting males to them. Although technically larger breasts don't correlate with better reproductive systems, but carrying around weight and surviving points out to other traits that might be more suitable for survival.

Problem with the Handicap Principle

The argument suffers as evolution would start supporting handicaps. The individual with more handicaps would always be more reproductive thereby increasing future probabilities of even more handicaps. After successive generations, the specie would only increase its handicaps and decrease its chances of survival by being eliminated by its competitor with lesser handicaps.

Handicap Principle proved right by mathematical modeling

Alan Grafen constructed a theoretical model where both females and males came up with different strategies in choosing a mate. The stability was achieved only when the male used an honest signaling strategy where as the signaling itself was able to differentiate between high quality and low quality males. Although having a longer tale is costly to the male peacock but it is not as costly to a superior quality male compared to a low quality male. The low quality male would suffer more compared to the high quality male if it has a longer tale.

If the tale in subsequent generation becomes longer, then the tale would become costly to even high quality males hence the signaling used should only be costly to low quality males but not to high quality male. If the tail becomes too long then the individual would be wiped out because of the cost and the tail would not be able to differentiate between high quality and low quality males. Hence a stable tail size would emerge.

The Human Handicap : ALTRUISM

The human handicap is altruism. But only rich men should practice being altruistic as being altruistic is not costly to the richer individual. Rich ugly guys with hot beautiful super models is normal. Vice versa, rich beautiful women with poor ugly guys is abnormal. The "Potlatch" ceremonies would therefore differentiate between chiefs who are genuinely altruistic from the ones who are faking it by literally wiping out the fake altruistic chief.

Social status is therefore important as evolution is driven by it. Adapting signals which would differentiate qualities of male is also important. The signal should be costly to lower quality males only

  1. earn lots of money
  2. spend and give away money as long as it is not costly to you
  3. help out other people
  4. have a muscular physique. (lower quality males would have to work harder in the gym compared to naturally muscular individuals)
  5. always be well dressed
  6. your car and house
  7. having finesse, work less and produce more
  8. wasting time partying and travelling but still earning more
  9. risky behavior during courtship. Making the first move.
  10. Bull fighting
If there are anymore suggestions then please add your comments

No comments:

Post a Comment