Department of Psychology
University at Albany-SUNY
Competition for paternity: The impact of evolution on human genital morphology and behavior
April 11, 2008
Engineering Building 110, 4:00 PM
The size and configuration of the human penis is unique among great apes. Experiments with artificial genitals support the idea that the human penis evolved to promote semen displacement as a means of competing with seminal fluid left by rival males in the female reproductive tract. Evidence also shows that men unwittingly modify the use of their penis in ways that promote semen displacement under conditions where there is an increase in the probability of infidelity on the part of their committed partner. Women, in contrast, appear to have evolved a number of counter displacement strategies that function to minimize sperm competition and favor conception as a consequence of extra-pair copulations.
Gordon Gallup is an evolutionary psychologist, former Chair of the Psychology Department at U Albany, and former editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology. He has over 250 publications on topics such as self-recognition, the evolution of intelligence, human reproductive competition, semen chemistry and behavior, predator-prey relations, paternal assurance tactics, rape avoidance strategies, and the biology of interpersonal attraction. Some of his recent publications include the psychobiology of romantic kissing, yawning as a brain cooling mechanism, and preeclampsia as a response to unfamiliar semen.
Some of the questions Professor Gallup has attempted to answer (with varying degrees of success) include the following. Why did dinosaurs go extinct? Is homosexuality a byproduct of evolution? Is schizophrenia a self-processing disorder? Why do human females have enlarged breasts? Is depression a response to reproductive failure? Can tonic immobility in animals be used to model the behavior of victims of sexual assault? Does the sound of a person’s voice convey reproductively relevant information? Has human paternal uncertainty prompted selection for paternal resemblance? Does human semen have antidepressant properties? Is global warming reversing a trend that gave rise to the evolution of big human brains? Do differences between human populations in the incidence of respiratory diseases vary as a function of exposure to wood smoke during their evolutionary history?