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Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love

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Psychologists often paint a picture of human mating as visceral, instinctual. But that's not the whole story. In courtship and display, sexual competition and rivalry, we are also guided by what Glenn Geher and Scott Barry Kaufman call Mating Intelligence --a range of mental abilities that have evolved to help us find the right partner. Mating Intelligence is at work in our efforts to form, maintain, and end relationships. It guides us in flirtation, foreplay, copulation, finding and choosing a mate, and many other behaviors.

In Mating Intelligence Unleashed , psychologists Geher and Kaufman take readers on a fascinating tour of the crossroads of mating and intelligence, drawing on cutting-edge research on evolutionary psychology, intelligence, creativity, personality, social psychology, neuroscience, and more. The authors show that despite what you may read in the latest issue of Maxim, Playboy, Vogue , or GQ , physical attractiveness isn't the whole story. Human mating draws on a range of mental skills and attributes--from the creative use of pick-up lines, to displays of charisma, intelligence, humor, personality, and compassion. Along the way, the authors shed new light on age-old questions, such What role does personality play in mating? Which traits are attractive--and which traits repulse? How do people really choose mates? How do men and women deceive each other? How important is emotional intelligence? Why do people create art--and does it have anything to do with sex? Do nice guys really finish

Since Glenn Geher coined the term Mating Intelligence in 2006, it has drawn a great deal of media attention, ranging from a Psychology Today cover story to articles in the New Scientist , the Washington Times , the Huffington Post , and elsewhere. Now, in Mating Intelligence Unleashed , readers will have the first full account of this revolutionary new approach to dating, mating, and love.

298 pages, Hardcover

First published December 11, 2012

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Glenn Geher

12 books13 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Yanick Punter.
267 reviews35 followers
June 29, 2017
I enjoyed this and some of the information is highly interesting. There is also a lot of research yet to be done, of which I am looking forward to.

What did bother me is that in some parts I really wondered about the science. It has taken me some time from when I started my interest in psychology to be fully convinced about IQ and the Big Five Personality, but I accept them. Of some concepts presented in this book I am (still) highly skeptical. These include concepts such as the distinction between pride (authentic vs hubristic) and more of these. It also included emotional intelligence and Robert Sternberg’s theory of love. Some of these concepts could perhaps be useful without really existing but I am looking for convincing evidence that they do indeed exist. The book failed to provide those in these cases.

I've learned that we make decisions unconsciously and rationalize afterwards. So I tend to not believe self-reported reasons for why we do things. I am under the impression that it goes largely unconscious. When this book discussed what people think that attracts them in a mate I do not take it that serious. The book actually covered this (that is partly unconscious), but did have plenty of self-reports.

Political science books "Predisposed" and "Our political nature" talk (at last Predisposed did) about assortive mating between political leanings, and the latter also talked of preference for outbreeding vs inbreeding. The first was not covered in the personality chapter. The preference outbreeding vs inbreeding seems to be new enough that it hasn't been tested yet, so I mention this more for those interested.

Lastly, I didn't find anything about sexual imprinting. Additionally, I would have liked to see the info that we are attracted to mates with different immune systems.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
53 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2022
Glenn Geher, a Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychology podcaster with a PhD in cognitive science from Yale University explores mating, dating, love and sex through the lens of evolution, psychology and the science of personality.

It’s interesting because most relationships, sex and love books nowadays examine the ‘how’, while Geher and Kaufman thoroughly deconstruct the ‘why’ of relationships, sex and love.

This book explains much of the seemingly perplexing aspects of dating such as
- why do males and females approach mating differently?
- What is the ideal and most attractive male and female?
- Why does homosexuality exist?
- Why do people in general have different wants in mating (think one night stands versus a life-long relationship)?

My criticism for this book, is often there would be too many studies that would explain the same point so it would get repetitious at times, especially in the middle and end of the book. Furthermore, most of mating is unconscious, but the authors used many self-report studies, which are unreliable.

I think everyone should definitely read this book. It wasn’t a hard read, and the authors were very funny at times. Shines a comprehensive light on why we do the things we do in relationships, sex and love.
Profile Image for Matt.
8 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2021
-We know that self-report assessments are unreliable so we’re just gonna base the bulk of our research on them. Also, homosexuality...what’s up with that? Back to normal people!-

I was disappointed in this book. My biggest problem with it was the research. They made a lot of conclusions that seemed to lean towards cultural bias than objectivity. Conclusions like promiscuity in women means low mating intelligence or personality is more important than looks just to name a couple. Not all of the conclusions are bad and some of them I really wanted to believe but I can’t do that if I don’t trust the research.

The faulty research was almost forgivable when the subjects were mostly lite and only discussing short-term and long-term mating success but I really had a hard time getting through the sections that considered actual mental health. Books that encourage people who aren’t trained in psychology to make personal diagnoses of others get an immediate red-flag from me; especially if they’re discussing issues as serious as psychopathy and narcissism. They do differentiate by calling them “subclinical” but the effort was too minimal for my taste.

With such highly educated and knowledgeable authors, I was really expecting better. The only reason why I’m not giving it one star is because they made a really honest effort at discouraging men from using predatory tactics to attract women.

Also, the jokes are pretty cringe-worthy.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
103 reviews1 follower
May 15, 2013
Lots of intriguing research on the social psychology of how people interact and why we behave as we do. Also shines a light on how little we may understand of the underlying motivators guiding much of our daily lives — signs and signals that extend beyond dating and mating to permeate most every aspect of interpersonal relationships.
Profile Image for Sophia.
223 reviews74 followers
July 5, 2022
I couldn’t be bothered to finish this, and I wouldn’t really recommend anyone try. It’s already outdated, taking a VERY male (heterosexual) perspective presenting a collection of studies that were already barely acceptable to begin with, never substantially replicated, and on top of that completely misinterpreted to fit the pre-existing biases of the authors.
I usually love books and studies about humans that try to put us under the same microscope we put all other species, but it is very important that authors and scientists be very aware of their own biases, and actually address them rather than put a one-liner disclaimer in the prologue.
The most glaring bias would have also been the easiest to rectify; the authors are both male, and didn’t seem to have a wide enough friendship group to find a single woman to co-write this book with them. To be fair, it’s well within the skills of a single gender to write about others, but that is not the case here. A clear example is when they talk about the mating strategy behind pickup lines. 5 pages are dedicated to emphasizing the different male strategies behind “direct” pickup lines and sexually charged ones, the latter being used to screen women who might be interested in a casual hookup, even if it would otherwise have a low success rate. Then a half page makes it in for women, starting with “of course, women can also be successful with their opening gambit”, identifying direct pickup lines as the most successful, and then ending with the recommendation for women to be more direct! Without making the consideration that maybe, just maybe, women are trying to suss out good long term partners rather than short term ones, and are therefore also using opening lines strategically.

Then, a classic symptom of these overhyped fields is when the authors have a preconception, a study only partially validates it, but they take it as proof that the whole hypothesis is proven. This was obvious when the authors cite research (somewhat suspicious research, first time I see one tailed tests being deployed) about how women are attracted to either creativity or wealth depending on their menstrual cycle. The study found a relationship between cycle phase and attraction to creativity, but no link with wealth. That did not stop these authors from concluding that “when women are at the low fertility stage of their cycle they tend to shift their preferences towards males who offer resources”. Furthermore, this study found no effect on long-term attractiveness of either wealth or creativity relating to menstrual cycle, and while both the authors of the study and this book happily take that as confirmation that their hypothesis works, it ignores the very obvious discrepancy that the only reason for women to be attracted to uncreative but wealthy men in the low fertility phase of their cycle is if they get to KEEP that man long term. This really seemed like a bad case of shifting the goal posts once the results came in.

I say this book is outdated for two reasons. One, it is rigidly trying to explain all behavior from a evolutionary lens, and this has been repeatedly shown to not work. Evolutionary psychology is still a valid field, but it has been operating with a lot more caution in the past decade. Second it approaches mating interactions just from a dyad perspective (2 people in isolation), at most with a little nod to the attractive effect of being the object of desire of other people or high social status. But psychology is well aware that people and especially social interactions don’t exist in a vacuum, and the whole social context is incredibly important. Whether a person is even out looking for a mate in a bar is culturally dependent, with some societies relying on arranged marriages specifically to facilitate inter family relationships.

Overall, there’s probably some good research in this book, but it would be such a drag to try and tease it out, I would recommend anyone interested in the topic to find a more up to date book.

Profile Image for Chris.
131 reviews6 followers
May 12, 2022
I have a lot mixed feelings about this book. On one side, it provides a well-researched academic perspective to explore human mating behaviours (minus the actual sex), on the other side, the authors would frequently go on, what feels like, personal tangents, such as dedicating a large portion of the end of the book to 'do nice guys finish last?', which I'd never have considered a generalisation that exists outside of Hollywood. It really felt as though one or more of the authors have previously determined that they are 'too nice' for what women really want. The authors also often went off on random tangents about various mental illnesses. Why the 50 pages dedicated to narcissism and psychopathy, for example? I think an emphasis on mentally-healthy adults would have been more beneficial for the average reader.

I also REALLY disliked the emphasis on the Big 5. I'm not a fan of personality trait theories. The Big 5 has a lot of weaknesses and errors in both the research and the conclusions. The most important being that of context. Humans are adaptive. Neurology is adaptive. Traits theories and their genetic determinism simply don't fit in that setting. Can the Big 5 be used instead to measure contextual adaptation? That feels a little like squeezing a square peg through a round hole. There was also a similarly disdainful emphasis on intelligence quotient, the research of which is so riddled with errors that I don't even know where to begin.

The epilogue was dedicated to their Mating Intelligence scale. The authors pointed out several potential weaknesses but left out the inherent unreliability and poor internal validity of self-assessed questionnaires. The Scale was riddled with poorly-defined terms and adjectival statements that really don't allow for any objective measures at all. I would go so far as to say that its current form is next to useless! What exactly is 'many/a lot' or 'beautiful' or 'into' or 'mind'? What does this measure other than the responses to the personal interpretations of the analogical associations of those terms? How do you account for cognitive dissonance to ensure non-distorted self-reflection?

That said, I enjoyed the structure of the Mating Intelligence framework, even if few actionable observations were made. These can be broken down into cross-sex mind-reading, adaptive self-deception, courtship displays, and adaptive bias, each of which is interesting and allows a clear point of focus for self-reflection. However, the book wasn't really laid out in a way that focused on these points, they were scattered everywhere. Trait-based personality was emphasised way too much, and the nice MI structure was hard to find.

A chapter summary would also have been really useful. Each point was burried in a mass of studies and side points. It was often really difficult to pick out specifically what the authors wanted you to walk away with.

Some Interesting Points

Profile Image for Skyqueen.
270 reviews51 followers
November 20, 2013
It is new territory on who we are as a species and how we really are more like animals than you expect for the simple fact of evolution and propagation of the species according to Darwin. Amazing info that is being tested to be added to high school sex education programs as a means of bettering our society through several avenues including violence, finances, birth rates, and others you don't readily associate with us as sexual beings. Very thought provoking as a race and individually.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
28 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2023
The central thesis of this book is that is that the human animal has an innate intelligence related to mate selection and courtship, separate to that of cognitive and emotional intelligence. I personally wasn’t convinced by the central argument but I enjoyed the book regardless. It is well written and very well researched, with the authors consistently referencing numerous studies to support their claims. The author’s influences are apparent. Chapter two is essentially a summary of The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller.

Although it requires a medium level of scientific literacy, it doesn’t lose the reader by delving too deep into the details. It also avoids condescension. However, it does veer off on tangents and spends a large amount of time discussing the Dark Triad personality types. It briefly introduces a fascinating idea about a Theory of Mind Spectrum. I would be interested to know more about this.

Enjoyable overall, but I don’t feel that it adds anything new to the genre.
Profile Image for Jake J.
63 reviews
March 24, 2020
A fantastic read that delves into the science of sex, or at least sexual attraction. Very well researched, scientifically, well reasoned as it does explore multiple takes and well written - I could understand and enjoy it as a layman.
1 review
March 27, 2021
This book seriously needed an editor before being published. Chapter 8 for example should have 1/3 of it's current extension, is extremely redundant and reiterative (how many papers about narcissism do you need to cite to tell the same 5 characteristics over and over?). Overall, useful information.
2 reviews
September 20, 2021
Very insightful book; however, it felt like the authors were holding back a little in a lot of areas which made parts of the book seem vague and lacking of a conclusion or guide for healthy mating behaviour.
Profile Image for Henry Barry.
Author 1 book14 followers
January 9, 2015
A scientific presentation of mating intelligence, which is a new concept in evolutionary biology in a similar vein to emotional intelligence, or social intelligence. Uses meta-studies and brings the world up to date on mating intelligence, and how it can change the world. Fascinating explanation of both gender's preferences, and gives a new, fresh perspective on the same old evolutionary biological issues.
Profile Image for Alicia Fox.
472 reviews23 followers
August 12, 2014
Fun Read

I've read better books on evolutionary psychology, but not much on the dating side of things. Plus, it includes a test. Watch out, Cosmo. (I got 16 out of 24. The average is 10.5. Yay me.)
Profile Image for Neftalí.
18 reviews15 followers
February 29, 2016
Intelligence is an evolutionary tool, sexual selection has contributed to "enhance" the species survival mechanisms. Evolutionary psychology is an interesting approach to our modern "problems" at mating and etc.
Profile Image for Madalina Nastase.
120 reviews11 followers
March 29, 2017
Unless you're a science graduate and don't mind in line references (down to the page number of the damn thing), stay away from this one - and do not, under any circumstances, get it in audio format. It's pretty much a textbook, and not a great one at that.
Having said that, I do think it could be worthwhile for those not already familiar with the evolutionary psychology view on human sexuality. It's pretty eye-opening and puts things into perspective in a way that is seldom outlined elsewhere. Just be prepared to put up with the silly g-spot jokes.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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