Sexual orientation

From PsychEvos Wiki


Sexual orientation is the enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both genders, or none. These attractions may result in exclusive attraction towards a single sex, attraction towards multiple genders, or complete absence of attraction. Sexual orientation has been studied through various perspectives, including biology, psychology, and sociology. Evolutionary psychology examines sexual orientation from an evolutionary standpoint, aiming to understand its development and impact on human behavior.

Evolutionary Development of Sexual Orientation

A popular idea in evolutionary psychology is that sexual orientation has evolved to promote adaptive behaviors that increase reproductive success. Male and female sexual orientations have developed as a response to the selection pressures faced by our ancestors. For instance, heterosexual orientation has the obvious reproductive advantage of promoting mating and procreation with opposite-gender partners, which ensures the continuity of the species.[1]

Mate Selection

Mate selection in humans is thought to be heavily influenced by both gender and sexual orientation. Evolutionary perspectives suggest that individuals select mates based on certain characteristics that signal reproductive fitness. These traits have evolved as a response to specific environmental pressures experienced by our ancestors. Studies on personal advertisements, for example, reveal patterns of human mate selection preferences that align with evolutionary interpretations. Men tend to prefer younger women, who are more likely to be reproductively viable, whereas women often prefer older, more stable men capable of providing resources for the family.[2]

Sexual orientation may also play a role in determining these mate selection preferences. For example, while heterosexual men typically prefer younger women, this preference may not hold for gay men or women. Research on age preferences in mating across different sexual orientations remains scarce, and further exploration is required to understand the nuances of these relationships.[3]

Homosexual Orientation and Kin Selection

One of the evolutionary explanations for the persistence of same-sex attraction in human populations is kin selection theory. Kin selection posits that individuals can increase their own reproductive success indirectly by assisting close relatives with their reproduction. In the case of homosexuality, individuals who do not reproduce may still contribute to their gene pool by assisting their close kin who share their same genes.

A study on the cultural group of fa'afafine in Samoa provides supportive evidence for the kin selection hypothesis related to sexual orientation. Fa'afafine are biological males who adopt feminine gender roles and engage in sexual relationships with men. Research showed that fa'afafine supported their nieces and nephews more than their own children, potentially contributing to the evolutionary survival of genes associated with same-sex attraction.[4]

The Biology of Sexual Orientation

Research on the biological aspects of sexual orientation suggests that a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors contribute to the development of one's sexual orientation. Twin studies, for example, have shown that there is a significantly higher rate of concordance in sexual orientation among monozygotic twins compared to dizygotic twins, suggesting a genetic component. Additionally, prenatal hormonal exposure is believed to play a role in the formation of sexual orientation, as alterations in hormonal levels during critical periods of brain development may influence the neural circuitry related to sexual attraction.[5]


Evolutionary psychology offers a variety of perspectives on the development and maintenance of sexual orientation in human populations. These perspectives center around reproductive success, adaptive behaviors, and the interaction of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. While our understanding of the relationship between sexual orientation and evolutionary processes is ever-evolving, it is clear that sexual orientation plays a significant role in shaping human behavior and mating patterns.