The Evolution of Desire Book Summary – The Greatest Book on Evolutionary Science of Dating

The Evolution of Desire is one of the most quoted and referenced book when it comes to understanding dating (or human mating) from an empirical, scientific perspective. That’s because the book uses a lot of hard science, is written by the most respected expert on the subject Dr. David Buss, and it unveils reality in a tough love kind of way, addressing truths discovered in a cold, direct manner rather than trying to hide them because of stigma, bias, or because they don’t want humans to be viewed negatively. Because it is straight science, the book brings up some interesting bits about human nature that aren’t seen as favorable, yet who other than scientists are bold enough to show the world how it actually is rather than how they want it to be?

It was about time I read this book, especially since one of my favorite followers of my blog told me he found me through a similar book summary I did many years ago on a similar book The Red Queen.

I read the updated version of The Evolution of Desire, which adds a lot of modern commentary, including references to social media and dating apps.

Here’s my summary.

  • The book kicks off by saying that some of the findings will be shocking, controversial, and not what you want to hear or how you want to perceive humans fondly. For example, they found that there is a lot of mate poaching going on in a typical human population (cheating). That’s not what humans want to be perceived as, but the duty of science is to uncover how the world is, not how we prefer the world to be.
  • You can trust the research in the book because it was done across thousands of people across dozens of civilizations/cultures in dozens of countries. From third world countries to first world countries, from tribal communities who hunt for food to developed economies, the book found a lot of universal traits proven to be consistently attractive across all of them, and some differences across cultures.
  • The drive to stand out and succeed sexually with a mate, which is the impetus of sexual selection, is sometimes more important than the desire to survive, natural selection. An example would be how peacocks have all these feathers in a very noticeable color, which makes them much more vulnerable to predators, but they still do it anyways because it pays off by signaling more healthier genetics to mates. In this case, the need to reproduce trumps the need to survive. They’ll get their job done even if it costs them their lives afterwards.
  • Men will choose younger and younger women as their income and status increases and their opportunities increase. The book elaborates on why this happens, which unsurprisingly has to do with the biological differences between the genders and the priorities each of those hold. For example, women have to bear and birth healthy children. Hence, there’s a higher priority on attractiveness.
  • Homosexual men are like heterosexual men in that they care more about physical attractiveness. The homosexual women are like heterosexual women in that they don’t care as much about physical attractiveness.
  • Research conducted here was done across tens of thousands of people of 36 different cultures that were pretty different across almost all the continents. It’s one of the most credible testament to the universality of certain attraction principles discovered.
  • After seeing photos of attractive women in ads, men surveyed say they are less attracted, happy, and committed to their partner. This is destructive in the modern world because people are bombarded with unrealistic photoshopped women where one photo out of thousands was chosen to make them look the best. It makes them think there is always someone better out there when they are using dating apps or social media. This also creates unrealistic goals and standards for women’s bodies which can lead to eating disorders and other things.
  • The science found shocking discoveries that even astounded the author’s team but science is about discovering the truth, not how you wish the word is. For example, they discoverd that humans are willing to lie to competitors, even friends, and put down competitors to secure a mate.
  • It’s normal for it to take a while for man to accrue his peaks status and resources. One non-modern tribe studied found that the men don’t have enough to attract a woman until their 30s because that is when they have accrued enough hunting skills.
  • A lot of the behaviors covered are unconscious. Mammals don’t need to be consciously aware of why they’re doing them to do them.
  • A lot of traits and behaviors have evolved over the years from a slight tendency of one over another to yield better genes for survival, reproduction, or sexual selection.
  • Elephant seals will fight a rival for days to prove he is stronger since females have evolved the tendency to prefer the stronger seal. After he has won, his work is not done. He continues to protect his harem from mate poachers.
  • Dependability, intelligence, emotional stability, and industriousness (hard-working) are traits that woman put a premium on when they’re looking for a mate because it signals that the mate will be able to acquire more resources for them and their children.
  • Homosexuality is most commonly discussed, obvious mystery that scientists have yet to answer because how can a trait that naturally selected self out continue to persist? Seems that sexuality doesn’t change that much after adolescence, but study show that email sexuality deafly more fluid and flexible throughout their life.
  • Many women generally read intelligence equally in terms of priority of importance.
    Research has found that intelligence is important for few, some obvious reasons: all of which build towards greater survivability, ability to acquire, wealth and resources, and success raising children. Intelligence needs the better decision, making, better judgment, better money, management, less chances of squandering, or losing that money, greater social skills and attunement to social cues, and why is your judgment in knowing who to go to for advice a different skill sets. When you compare that to someone less intelligent, they’re more likely to squander money. If they were to get it, you’re more likely to miss social cues that could jeopardize their situation, and are more likely to make stupid decisions.
  • Some people falsely assume that they’re doomed to follow these scientific discoveries like a blind mice. But humans should be able to consciously work towards controlling themselves and using their environmental factors to influence how they unconsciously behave.
  • One big bias against these discoveries is that people don’t want to see what the world is but how the world should be in their eyes. So they fight back against what’s discovered and this book will likely get backlash.
  • Many women try and find someone naturally who are like them and made value and personality to avoid strife. This naturally happens. Sample, an introvert and an extrovert who are on opposite sides of the extreme may have a hard time living together in the long run if the extrovert is always trying to go out any introverted for staying at home. Similarly, one person with a starkly higher made value than the other I find it difficult to stay in the relationship because they can find better opportunities elsewhere. An eight out of 10 generally makes up with a eight. We generally don’t see a tan with a six. I think in this context, their defining may value is more than just once physical attractiveness but based on nation of all  attractive traits within a meeting market.
  • Women rated the importance of financial resources as much more important than men This makes a lot of sense because women biologically have a lot less eggs over their lifetime and they also have to carry the baby for nine months. Therefore, choosing the wrong mate is very costly in comparison to a man who can just continue to spread his seed. Therefore, financial resources are a huge concern.
  • Women on average rated social status as much more important than men. To them, it was a necessity, not a preference.
  • There is some variance among these studies across countries but the general preference remains the same.
  • Women on average prefer older men, which makes sense since there are various factors like emotional maturity and more resources that come with age.
  • To a women, an eligible man is someone who doesn’t have their resources allocated already to someone else.
  • An examination of 26 behaviors (including things like deception) to increase social hierarchy found that industriousness, the ability to work hard, as the most valuable skill. Women rated this trait as very important. This makes sense because they are wired to assess the potential earning power of a man, not just the present situation. Women are shown to be turned off by someone who lacks ambition.
  • Our attraction tendencies come from our ancestors surviving and passing down tendencies that lead to greater survival of themselves and their children. Hence a bad tendency, like an attraction to old or diseased women wouldve died out and not get passed down as often. That is why there is a universal attraction to smooth skin, full lips, clear eyes, lack of lesions, and lack of disease.
  • The peak female fertility and attractiveness is around 21. Men younger than this prefer women a bit older and men older than this prefer women younger.
  • Less symmetrical people are rated as less attractive. Symmetry of any body part including the legs or face signal health. The older someone is, the less likely they are to be symmetrical.
  • Men do not have an evolved preference for an amount of body fat. Rather they have an evolved preference for whatever body is linked to high social status. In countries where food is abundant, skinny people signal status, so they are are seen as attractive. In countries where food is abundant, fat people signal high status and are seen as attractive.
  • After industriousness (hard work ethic), women found a dependable character and emotional stability to be important. This is likely the case because people wanted a reliable mate who wouldn’t turn on them or get erratically jealous for random reasons or, most importantly, a reliable stream of continuous resources that they provide. Undependable mates will not reliably provide food and other resources when it’s needed.
  • Studies show that women generally prefer taller men and more athletic men because it shows physical health and greater ability to survive and protect.
  • Research shows that women prefer Smarter man. The reasons are obvious, but there’s a lot of benefits that lead to greater and consistent resources being provided by that man. Smarter people make better judgments, or less unstable, earn more, and succeed more.
  • Being love was the most valuable trait out of 18 traits for both sexes. Being loving was the most value treat for a husband.
  • Women are not just looking for resources by signs that someone will commit to relationships. Women put a premium on love for this reason. Sincerity is  the most sought after trait based on 800 advertisements.
  • in many studies, kindness was never ever under the top three most desired traits. Specially when you comes to showing kindness to them, less so when it’s directed to others.
  • Several studies across different cultures found that high income women actually preferred men with more resources, not less, surprisingly.
  • Essentially, women care about kindness, emotional stability, and dependency in a long-term partner, but those traits diminish in value compared to attractiveness and masculinity in a short term partner because they start to look for a good genes for health and physique over who can provide for their child.
  • Women with higher mate value are more drawn to masculine men. They also unsurprisingly are more picky because they have more options. They want more intelligence, education, resources, social proof, and so forth.
  • Women’s selection process is complex, with 20+ traits being considered. They look for a man’s potential to provide resources but also their ability to stay loyal. Hence, they look for acts of love and commitment.
  • A woman cares more about traits that indicate a man’s potential to acquire resources more than their current resources.
  • There’s generally a trade-off that women have to make between a man with more resources who may not be as faithful and a man with less resources who is willing to commit. Men who commit to long-term relationships get benefits too, including more certainty that his kin are his as well as the higher me value women, greater social status, greater  survivability, and access to their partners social networking family. high value women are willing to settle with a man with less resources if theyre  willing to commit longterm.
  • Men are often baffled by women’s behavior because how women choose men is a multifaceted, complex, context dependent situation. It depends on the stage  of the woman and if she’s looking for something short term or long term. It also depends on the environmental situation. Is the girl guy ratio bad or really good? Does she have a lot of options? Does she have a few options? Does she have limited time? Does she already have a lot of resources or not? Can her family help her with resources or does she desperately need resources right now?
  • Just because certain traits exist doesn’t mean they should exist or operate flawlessly. Jealousy causes a lot of unintended side effects like stalking and murder in the modern age. Its intention was to limit another person fathering their kin.
  • Acquiring an attractive female mate raises your social status noticeably. Studies across various cultures including China, Russia, and other European countries found that an unattractive man acquiring an attractive partner delivers greater increases in social status compared to other scenarios such as an attractive woman acquiring an attractive man or a unattractive man acquiring a unattractive woman. Studies also show that there is a noticeable perceived social status increase from that because people assume that he must have status to have acquired an attractive woman, with which stuff to do because a attractive woman has more options. And then a woman acquiring a unattractive man does not decrease social status as much.
  • One’s career seems to be the strongest indicator of the attractiveness of the woman a man can get. Studies show that as income increases, there is a noticeable decrease in the age of the woman that a man prefers. There’s a certain window of fertility that is ideal which is why men prefer women in that range. Studies of the ancient civilizations with emperors and conquerors in here arms across various cultures prove something similar since many of them search the lands for hundreds of young woman in that age range
  • Online dating apps, social media, and advertisements are damaging because you’re seeing the most attractive woman in the most attractive pose with Photoshop. It creates a unrealistic idea or expectation that there’s always a more attractive magr out there. But an ancestral man may only see on  attractive woman every so often.
  • The most effective method of maintaining a mate out of all the strategies examined. Showing consistent signs are not affection and kindness. Who is that you’re still invested in your partner.
  • Studies show that women are less likely to be annoyed by sexual harassment by high status men than men with low status jobs. They also show that men underrate how damaging and terrible women perceive sexual harassment.
  • Studies show men are aroused by videos of rape, however, this is sometimes inhibited when they see the women is in pain, they see violence, or they incur a disgust reaction.
  • Nearly 50% of children in America don’t live with all their biological parents. Stepparents are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
  • It’s a never ending arms race between the genders to further their mating goals. Each gender develops more and more sophisticated ways of getting their goals, which leads to more sophisticated ways of identifying if someone is telling the truth or not. Since the goals are in contrast to each other, this arms race never ends. For example, one of the goals is little commitment for Men, which contrast to woman’s desire for commitment. It also speaks to Howell, saying that men and women are the same is wrong, because there are significant biological and psychological differences, because of how they seed or carry a baby.
  • Women are more attracted to men with masculine features, especially for short term relationships. This is likely because it is a signal of good health. And good health is important for variety of reasons, including greater survivability of the partner and  his children, greater healthcare for the child, and general survivability with his body and mind.
  • Men and women evaluate other Mei opportunities, even if they’re already in a relationship or have no intention of acting on them in the near future. It pays to pay attention to these things.
  • Kindness was a top, rated attractive trait for both sexes, especially for women. Women, however, prefer selective kindness to them over other people. This speaks to the importance of a man signaling signs of selectively dedicating resources to an individual woman rather than to everyone indiscriminately.
  • A man who indicates higher levels of income, or are older, get more hits/matches then other men, although the general limit a woman will tolerate is 10 years older.
  • Unsurprisingly, women with higher mate values are choosier since they have more options, and therefore have higher standards. And eight is more picky than a six. Interestingly, higher meet value women also
  • A person doesn’t go through these behaviors with a conscious understanding of all the evolutionarily payoffs. They simply go with their feeling. A man isn’t thinking oh, I should leave this older partner I’m currently with so I can fertilize younger mates who are more healthy and for tile. He simply thinks that his current partner is becoming less and less attractive, and that other alternatives become more attractive.
  • Being able to provide resources is a key part of a success male. Women who earn more than men or earn a lot often have more freedom and willingness to leave a men who isnt pulling his part in the relationship, working hard, etc.
  • Because men seek more sexual variety and have lower costs. If they get a mate  pregnant, they tend to have different behavior, such as increased extramarital affair is compared to women.  not by a ton, it looks like 50% is for men and around like 35% for women.
  • Men’s frequency and severity of mate guarding seem to be the highest when a woman is younger in her 20s them in her 30s or 40s, which speaks to how their fertility and make value our highest when they’re young. Mate guarding tactics include everything from being closer to the mate to, saying that someone’s taken, to greater displays of affectionate, to verbal threats.
  • A male’s mate value typically rises from twenty to forty since they can accumulate more resources. Therefore, a lot of behavior supports this fact that an older male still has high mate value. A woman’s mate value often peaks in their twenties and sees a slow steady decline. Whereas a man’s mate value can climb quickly, stay constant, or drop over time since there is more variability with his ability to accumulate resourced and status.
  • The modern world has made it so that men are accumulate a lot more resources than another man than before. In ancient times, the men were limited by the size of their land and what they can store, often sharing what they caught. Hence, there are more drastic differences in resources today.
  • There needs to be a distinction emphasized between resources and status. They are different things to attain for a man’s mate value. While resource differenced are larger today, status differences arent that different from ancient times. In no society were teenage boys considered the highest status.
  • Most crimes of sexual coercion are committed by men from 15 to 29. This makes sense because these men are young and can’t compete with the older man of higher status for women, so they have to resort to manipulation to try and get the women that they can’t get through positive means. If a man can make it to 30 and 40 and achieve reasonable status, the odds typically tilt in their favor.
  • One partial contributor to the hook up culture is because more Women than men are college educated these days, which shifts the gender ratio in men’s favor.
  • Roughly half of married women pursue some form of extramarital affair in their lifetime.
  • As women get older, generally, they’re meeting prospects, get worse as the gender ratio continues to school in men’s advantage. Many older women. Sometimes we enter the dating market and find your lack of supply of educated single young man.
  • Both genders have developed strategies to adjust when the ratios shift.
  • As women get older, they start to focus more on dependability and a pleasing  personality rather than good looks because those are qualities more important to long-term relationships.
  • Across various studies, women prefer men with resources and reject men with no or little resources. This is confirmed through dozens of studies and hence, the collection of resources by man is no random behavior, it’s intentional. Even successful career minded women, who don’t need men’s money, prefer men with resources, and are reluctant to marry a man with less resources than her. The men who tend to be married, have more resources, and the men who remain unmarried tend to have less resources.
  • Surveys show that most men would not commit rape, even if there was no chance anyone would find out.
  • Men are more likely to he was violent means to him, obtain something sexual or romantic. The fact that there are no historical accounts of females forming read parties to read a village for husbands tells us this.
  • There are exceptions to common mating paths that we should not ignore  to respect how rich and varied human mating strategies are. For example, there are women that seek men for looks  women who seek men for status or resources.
  • The difference swings in human behavior in modern platforms like Tinder may be caused by the perceived or real changes in ratios.
  • Our ability to influence mating strategies in modern times, unprecedented, and dwarfs any other species. Everything from tummy tucks to sperm banks to plastic surgery is all new and influential. Yet we confront these techniques with ancient strategies that only worked and prehistoric history. We are the only species to be able to control our own destiny.
  • Research shows women will switch to a more short-term mating strategy when the ratio is against them or consider extramarital affairs that generally tend to be with men of higher status stand indicate signs that women have prebuilt mechanisms and behaviors to adjust when their conditions change and they are varmint influences them to seek out better alternatives. It shows that women are rather fluid with their abilities. If the author comes at this from a scientific neutral perspective energies you not to just come to her as a pessimistic thing or negative thing but something to acknowledge the versaility of mating strategies.
  • Research survey showed that women rule read the most attractive, a photo of a ugly man with attractive women versus a man on his own, or a handsome man on his own. The reasoning is that theyre thinking the ugly man must have status resources or something else of value to be able to attract the women.

Book Discussion and Review

Although this book is old, it still touches on a lot of discoveries and ideas that are discussed today and relevant today. The updated eddition does refresh a lot of the concepts with some new data and a lot more modern references to new developments, such as social media, and dating apps.
In fact, I wanted argue that a good amount of these are still not understood, made aware of, or widely accepted in the dating advice world. There’s not many books like this, and it’s a little sad that this book doesn’t get referenced as much as it should. I think there’s a lot of dating experts going off opinions or limited experience, which can be dangerous. There’s a certain benefit to experience as well, but this book holds various truths that are insightful.
I think more of these have become known as time has progressed ,but I do wish there were more coaches out there who referenced scientific evidence and more modern books like these. Science has a unique set of rules that you must follow to control out  biases or factors that could affect the data and results. Unfortunately, many people rely on Social experiments on social media or a guru’s  personal reference experience. Social experiments are often not scientific at all, barely following the scientific method. Often they test a theory haphazardly in the public by, say, talking to 100 people and saying the same thing. It often doesnt control for a variety of other factors that can influence things. Successful coaches often can bring you closer to the truth but they can fail to articulate why they succeed or attribute it to the wrong sources or fail to acknowledge  all sources of success. The science also has gaps since not all useful theories have been thoroughly tested and it’s  hard to control for every possible influence in life back here, such as someone’s mood or personal life affecting their reaction. But effectively find Andrew waiting for truth to all of these things together maybe the best way, with a focus on science.
This book reminded me of similar books like Why women have sex through the amount of scientific evidence given. The issue with books like these (Robert Greene’s books as well) is that the findings can appear very dark, grim, superficial, and high-level. I’m not debating the findings, but I think that readers can misinterpret their importance in the grand scheme of things. For example, when you’re constantly seeing things like women prefer taller, richer, more muscular, bigger guys, you can feel so discouraged that you give up if you don’t think you can acquire these traits. That said, I know people, like Justin Marc, who are short and skinny he does very well. And that’s because he makes up for it in various other ways with his charisma, fashion, social proof, and social intelligence. While there’s sometimes a hierarchy of importance presented, it’s never presented in a very cohesive, complex (and not overly simplistic) way to account for how all these factors may play into it and what’s a must have and what is a possible trait that can overcome another trait and by how many points one can make up for the other.
While this book is great, I don’t think it covers everything. Why are there men I know with good paying jobs, stable incomes, a good sense of humor, emotional resilience and dependability, and friends who still struggle with dating? The topic is likely even more complex than the book describes, which is already fairly complex. My theory is that these men I know have a decent amount of good traits, but they are subpar in other ways (developing strategies of meeting eligible women on a recurring basis – they prefer sticking to the same activities, being unable to show the humor or romantic intent with women, being in a location with low traffic / high competition, having a lot of traits that the book deems useful but may actually be nice-to-haves rather than need-to-haves (does romantic aggressiveness, bravery to ask women out, etc. trump being an emotional dependable, agreeable, funny guy?).
On a similar note, I hope they book doesn’t do the wrong thing for some young men by discouraging them or leaving them in a negative spiral. Depending on how a reader interprets and prioritizes the discoveries, they may give up because they feel they can’t develop the status, income, physique, humor, etc. necessary to compete well or they feel they’re at a loss for being able to develop those things in a reasonable time.
I guess one big thing I learned is that there’s a complex tapestry of a pre-programmed algorithm working behind the scenes to assess people. It’s not easy, and that’s why dating can be so confusing. And it leads to all sorts of interesting and sometimes, shocking discoveries of human behavior, such as how much men and women attempt to cheat when in a relationship. It’s sad to see this, but it’s also important to know how the world works so one can navigate it most effectively. And if I learned nothing else, I guess it’s that there’s a lot of automatic behavior, screening, and work going on unconsciously behind the scenes.
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Categorized as Books, Dating

By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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