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The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,705 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
At once a pioneering study of evolution and an accessible and lively reading experience, The Mating Mind marks the arrival of a prescient and provocative new science writer. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller offers the most convincing and radical explanation for how and why the human mind evolved.
Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits tha
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Anchor Books (first published 2000)
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Apr 12, 2009 Manny rated it liked it
Shelves: science
One way of looking at this book is that it claims women have been selectively breeding men for the last few hundred thousand years. They've prioritized intelligence, creativity, sensitivity and good parenting skills. And they've done a fine job. As Miller says, in an early chapter: a human male is about 100 times more likely to kill his stepchild than his biological child. Almost unbelievably good news for human stepchildren, if you for instance compare with male lions, who routinely kill the pr ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Jonatron rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Gabrielle, Desi Fish
Recommended to Jonatron by: Claire
First off, I found this book very hard to read. Not because I'm illiterate, but because it just wasn't enjoyable. I've finally just finished it, 14 months after buying it, because I never felt like picking it up and reading another chapter. It feels as though he just restates the same ideas over and over again with too many words. (Though I suppose verbosity might be a good way to impress certain potential mates.)

Despite the praise of science and the chapter's worth of references in the back, it
May 13, 2012 Jrobertus rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I have read. The concept of sexual selection was proposed by Darwin himself, and he spent more time on it than on natural selection. His inspired insights have lain fallow for a century, but this book brings the matter up with panache. Miller makes a compelling case that much of human speech, artistic drive, morality, and wit resulted from sexual selection. By mechanisms similar to those clearly identified in other species, much of our mental activity serv ...more
Oct 11, 2007 Jeroen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
If you want to know how sexual selection produces diversity and, in the case of the human species, our consciousness... Brilliant... For me it was the final piece in the puzzle for understanding human behaviour... And NO don't tell me Freud already said something about the importance for sexuality for human behaviour... First of all he said so much nonsense that there will always be something for someone to find... And second, his blabbering about sexuality doesn't even come close to the ray of ...more
Jurij Fedorov
Feb 07, 2015 Jurij Fedorov rated it it was amazing
Trully a great book. If you like philosophy and evolutionary psychology then this is a must read. I would recommend it for anyone with the intelligence and knowledge to understand it. It's not popular literature so don't think you can read it in one week. You have to think, read, think, read and repeat. Miller has created a timeless classic that is even more relevant today than it was in 2001. If you like intelligent books and like science and academia you will definitely love this one. Every se ...more
Bob Nichols
Miller argues that most of what we see as distinctively human (i.e., products of our mind) are derived from females selecting intelligent males. Mind, Miller says in short, is a "sexual ornament." Miller does not discount adaptationist theory. Even though many of our traits evolved through sexual selection, they still had to pass the survival test (not be harmful for survival) and many, in fact, were later adapted for survival functions.

Miller says that women selected intelligent males for mati
Mar 09, 2013 Blerina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have always been interested in psychology alone and watched more than read on evolution (David Attenborough's life series and the planet earth documentary series), but this book brings these two sciences together in a way that now I can hardly think of each of one separately. I'm new to evolutionary psychology but after reading this book this science sure tops my list of interests.
Geoffrey Miller focuses on Darwin's sexual selection theory, how sexual preferences have driven the species to pro
Feb 05, 2008 Angie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Steve
This is a layman’s Anthropology book delving into the idea that mate selection could explain all of those inexplicable bits of human behavior like art, music, and language. Maybe humans all those 100’s of thousands of years ago preferred to mate with people who showed a special flair for these qualities just like peahens prefer to mate with peacocks with the most elaborate tails. It was a very interesting read, but I think I’d prefer a concise essay hitting the highpoints. In book form, it got a ...more
May 03, 2009 Natalie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I got about 100 pages in. I just couldn't force myself to finish this before it's due at the library.

Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to read this. But it just kept on getting frustrating. Miller kept on explaining and seemingly trying to prove a theory just to say "but that's probably not right, so here, let me convince you of another theory just to say it's probably not right either."
Jacob O'connor
Feb 14, 2014 Jacob O'connor rated it it was amazing
I recently picked this book back up to do some research. I read it a few years ago. I really enjoyed it, and I still quote from it often.

Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist. This is a new approach to psychology that reasons we can figure out how we evolved in the past by looking at how we behave now.

In the case of The Mating Mind, Miller defends what he calls "sexual selection". Why does the peacock have those cumbersome feathers that make it harder to avoid predators? Certainly not
Jul 15, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I am always impressed when very smart people in very technical fields can effectively explain their work to the rest of us. Miller does this, and he does it in an entertaining (and sexy) way.

What I was most impressed with was how compelling this book was, even when laying a foundation that included some things I already knew. Parts of the book even read like fiction, where I was intrigued to turn the page and find out where we were headed next. Miller does a very good job of explaining concepts
Arron Kallenberg
Jul 10, 2013 Arron Kallenberg rated it it was amazing
Despite Miller's recent well publicized self-described "idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged" tweet, which seems to have generally lowered his social status and sexual attractiveness, I still found "The Mating Mind" to be quite entertaining, informative, progressive and open-minded, so much so that I nearly can't believe the same person crafted both the book and the tweet. What I like most about this book is that it demonstrates how much more complex, chaotic and integrated nature and evolution ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Aarti rated it liked it
Shelves: science, evolution
There were many ideas expressed in this book that were new to me.

The one that made the most impression was his theory that human nature has evolved due to a female's mate choice not the male's. Moral vision, language skills, humor, altruism are fitness indicators. He warn's that this is not a theory of "subconscious motivation"(what can drive us) but evolutionary function( how it works). This is easy to confuse. His statement "Human altruism is not an evolutionary paradox. It is a sexual orname
Greg Linster
I once heard someone say that we evolved ears so that we could wear earrings. No joke. The more classic statement that follows that line of reasoning is the claim that we evolved noses in order to wear glasses. I know, it sounds pretty silly. Evolution is a highly controversial topic and our vague understanding of it has left many important questions unanswered. Darwinian concepts such as “natural selection” and the “survival of the fittest” are certainly relevant when discussing evolution, but ...more
Jul 18, 2007 Mark rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at how the process of sexual selection probably shaped our mental abilities. The forces of sexual selection have been largely marginalized in favor of natural selection ever since Darwin, yet it may account for many of the complex mental behaviors that are uniquely human that we find so difficult to explain in survivalist terms. Topics include art, morality, language, creativity, and humor.

The first half of the book spends a lot of time detailing the general forces of sexual s
Henry Manampiring
Aug 27, 2008 Henry Manampiring rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in evolutionary psychology

Impressive thinking from Miller to fill the missing gap of evolutionary psychology. If everything we do and think must have evolutionary purpose, what's the point of creativity, kindness, morality, humour - all of which have no obvious survival benefit?

Enter The Mating Mind. Convincingly pointed out that our mental excesses probably function much like the peacock's tail - they advertise one's fitness for mating purposes. Very hard to resist this theory's plausibility.

Highly enjoyable and illumin
May 21, 2009 John rated it really liked it
Ever wondered why guys do goofy stunts or make up limericks while the girls just giggle and whisper to each other?

Then you might be interested in Miller's take on how the human brain evolved from its chimpanzee-like precursor.

Just as in the peacock's tail, almost every human chromosome is involved in the brain's development, so chromosomal problems show up in how your brain works. It also points out that if he is good at knock-knock jokes, and she likes knock-knock jokes, then their kids will p
Behija S.
Feb 23, 2013 Behija S. rated it it was amazing
I have read it some time ago, and it would probably be good to read it again, but my impressions were really strong.

His statements are very well argumented and explained. There is a clear logic behind the story. I really reccomend for reading to everybody who are interested in evolution of human.
Aug 26, 2016 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Survival of the fittest" isn't really what evolution is about. You can survive all you want but if you don't reproduce your genes won't get passed into the future. Geoffrey Miller suggests (along with lots of other things) that human intelligence & culture are largely the result of survival of the sexiest. Lady peacocks like a shiny tail & lady humans like an amusing tale, so to speak.
Yasin S.
Aug 07, 2013 Yasin S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Evrimle ilgili okunması gereken en önemli eserlerden biri. Richard Dawkins'in de belirttiği gibi cinsel seçilim üzerine bu kadar geniş çapta bir kitap yazılmadı. Evrimsel psikolojinin insan davranışlarını ve kadın erkek ilişkilerini daha iyi anlamamıza olanak sağladığını kitabı okuduktan sonra farkediceksiniz.
Russell Ramaswamy
This is a brilliant book which discusses Darwin's idea of sexual selection (much lesser known) which works along with natural selection and how it most probably caused our species to become who we are today.
Nov 19, 2008 Miriam rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Julie
Recommended to Miriam by: Max Werner
This book blew my mind and just buried some of the old theories about evolutionary psychology I'd learned in college. Yes it has been more than 10 years. The new theories go much further in explaining the complexity of human behavior, especially our deep capacity for love, empathy and altruism.
Lisa Ramtzen
Feb 10, 2015 Lisa Ramtzen rated it it was amazing
By now a classic and an essential read for anyone interested in psychology and particularly in evolutionary psychology. Very well written and entertaining, but perhaps not suited for readers unfamiliar with psychology and biology.
Nov 29, 2011 Jay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, favorites
Miller does makes an excellent argument in his book. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in psychology, biology, or human nature.
Rudhro Sarkar
Sep 05, 2011 Rudhro Sarkar rated it it was amazing
The one book I was glad to be alive at this time in history to have the pleasure of reading. There is before the book, and after.
Kavita Ramesh
Aug 08, 2015 Kavita Ramesh rated it it was amazing
If you are serious about understanding the mechanics of evolution then this book is a MUST READ...almost as important as "The Selfish Gene".
Jan 20, 2011 Dimi rated it it was amazing
Offers great insights into the human condition.
I believe that everyone would benefit from reading it.
Molly Octopus
Jan 17, 2013 Molly Octopus rated it it was ok
The ideas are solid, but this book should've been 1/4 its length. Tl;dr
John Wylie
Feb 14, 2012 John Wylie rated it it was amazing
Best book on sexual selection in human evolution.
Dennis Blanchette
Jan 20, 2014 Dennis Blanchette rated it liked it
Interesting premise but never finished it. Its just the same thing over and over again
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Geoffrey F. Miller, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico, is an American evolutionary psychologist in the tradition of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker.

Miller is a 1987 graduate of Columbia University, where he earned a BA in biology and psychology. He received his PhD in cognitive psychology
More about Geoffrey Miller...

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“Men write more books. Men give more lectures. Men ask more questions after lectures. Men post more e-mail to Internet discussion groups. To say this is due to patriarchy is to beg the question of the behavior's origin. If men control society, why don't they just shut up and enjoy their supposed prerogatives? The answer is obvious when you consider sexual competition: men can't be quiet because that would give other men a chance to show off verbally. Men often bully women into silence, but this is usually to make room for their own verbal display. If men were dominating public language just to maintain patriarchy, that would qualify as a puzzling example of evolutionary altruism—a costly, risky individual act that helps all of one's sexual competitors (other males) as much as oneself. The ocean of male language that confronts modern women in bookstores, television, newspapers, classrooms, parliaments, and businesses does not necessarily come from a male conspiracy to deny women their voice. It may come from an evolutionary history of sexual selection in which the male motivation to talk was vital to their reproduction.” 20 likes
“Existing political philosophies all developed before evolutionary game theory, so they do not take equilibrium selection into account. Socialism pretends that individuals are not selfish sexual competitors, so it ignores equilibria altogether. Conservatism pretends that there is only one possible equilibrium—a nostalgic version of the status quo—that society could play. Libertarianism ignores the possibility of equilibrium selection at the level of rational social discourse, and assumes that decentralized market dynamics will magically lead to equilibria that yield the highest aggregate social benefits. Far from being a scientific front for a particular set of political views, modern evolutionary psychology makes most standard views look simplistic and unimaginitive.” 5 likes
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