Across species, sexual selection and sexual conflict – where the evolutionary interests of the sexes differ – provide the arena for the evolution of highly elaborate forms of signaling. Sexual conflict models, with complex psychological adaptations to situations of both conflict and cooperation between the sexes, can illuminate the evolution of the human symbolic domain of language, art and ritual.
This talk centres on sexual strategies and counter-strategies – a dynamic arms race between the sexes – as the main engine of the evolution of human cultural cognition and symbolic behaviour. Strategic conflict and cooperation between the sexes intensified as offspring became larger-brained and so more costly to mothers in terms of time and energy required to care for them. Resistance to male dominance and exploitation culminated in a revolutionary outcome – human symbolic culture and communication.
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