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The Science of Romance: Secrets of the Sexual Brain [Anglais] [Relié]

Nigel Barber

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Description de l'ouvrage

1 octobre 2002
Have you ever wondered why divorce is so much more common now than a century ago? Why the sex appeal of certain body types and clothing styles changes so dramatically over time? Why so many liberated young women today prefer emotional commitment from men while their male counterparts seem always more interested in "sowing their wild oats"?
According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, each of these aspects of modern life reflects two million years of hominid evolution. In The Science of Romance he explains that much of our present behavior can be traced back to the ancient evolved motives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In short, we exhibit the behaviors that have evolved over millennia to increase the reproductive success of the species. Also drawing on the mating behavior of various animals, Barber finds illuminating comparisons that help to explain human actions and reactions.
Barber delves into a host of interesting topics: dating competition and aggression; female courtship signals that subtly manipulate male behavior; how exposure to different sex hormones shapes the evolving brain in utero, which may account for the different behaviors of men and women; and much more.
This absorbing book educates and entertains, while showing that many seemingly irrational aspects of our intimate romantic behavior make sense when understood in terms of our prehistoric ancestors and evolution.

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Biographie de l'auteur

Nigel Barber, Ph.D. (Portland, ME), formerly an assistant professor of psychology at Birmingham-Southern College, is now a freelance writer and researcher, and the author of Why Parents Matter: Parental Investment and Child Outcomes.

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17 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Incorrect facts, misguided speculation 4 septembre 2003
Par Thomas D. Kehoe - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Barber presents a variety of poorly connected, often incorrect facts, then develop misguided theories from the facts.
For example, on pages 13-15 he notes correctly that in hunter-gatherer societies, women provide more food than men. From this he argues that this gives hunter-gatherer women more sexual freedom, which they enjoy by having sex with the most successful hunters, because these hunters give them more meat. Huh? The women with the most food have sex with the men who give them the most food?
Barber writes (page 14) that women in agricultural societies had little economic power. This isn't true. Power in agricultural societies was held by families that owned the best land. Women in landowning families had more power than peasant men.
Chapter One, "The Sexual Brain," continues the rambling style, moving from how ringdoves court to cognitive differences between men's and women's brains (e.g., men are better at visual rotation tasks), to the effects of learning to play a stringed instrument on children's brain development, and the correlation between men's testosterone and crime. The author seems to have written the book from a set of index cards, and the cards were sometimes shuffled randomly.
Barber presents a long discussion of developmental hormone abnormalities, e.g., CAH, relating to adult homosexuality. But he never explains fetal testosterone, which is the basis of normal and abnormal development. Then he wanders off to INAH3 abnormalities in gay men, which is a minor, debatable issue.
Next, Barber discusses PEA (page 37). In this context, he mistakenly describes "companionate" marriages as "lifelong." In reality, many companionate marriages end in divorce, and many non-companionate marriages are lifelong. What this has to do with PEA is unclear.
Chapter Two is "Physical Attractiveness and Sex Signals." On page 52, Barber writes that women can be breast-feeding and pregnant at the same time.
Barber writes (page 51) that in almost all species, males are brightly colored or ornamented, to attract females. He then writes that "among humans, both sexes agree that women are the more physically attractive" sex and that this "fact" shows that "men are in a stronger bargaining position relative to most other male mammals and birds." Barber fails to note that in other cultures, such Masai young men in Kenya, or at other times, such as aristocratic men before the French Revolution, men adorned themselves to look beautiful.
On page 53, Barber writes that peahens look plain compared to peacocks, therefore "peacocks are not drawn to the physical attractiveness of mates." But peacocks might see peahens differently than Barber sees peahens. Barber's theory is unsupported by fact. He jumps from fact (peahens look plainer than peacocks) to speculative theory (peacocks don't see one peahen as more attractive than any other peahen).
Chapter 3 is titled "Love's Labors: Dating Competition and Aggression." Barber begins by oversimplifying (page 70) that "testosterone causes aggression." This chapter extensively describes a 14-year-old boy who killed three girls at his Kentucky high school in 1997. But the facts contradict Barber's theory that testosterone made the boy kill the girls. Testosterone might drive men to kill other, rival men, but not to kill women. And Barber describes the boy as five feet tall, 110 pounds, "far from physically impressive," and psychologically childish. This description suggests that the boy had low testosterone, not high testosterone! Also, Barber states that between 1997 and 1999, all school shooting were perpetrated by boys. That may be true, but in 1979 14-year-old Brenda Spencer opened fire at a San Diego elementary school (made famous by the song "I Don't Like Mondays"), killing two adults and wounding seven children.
On page 77, Barbur notes that testosterone increases friendliness in men -- which contradicts the previous seven pages.
On page 78, Barber states that alcohol reduces serotonin. The opposite is true (David Lovinger, "The Role of Serotonin in Alcohol's Effects on the Brain," Current Separations 18:1 (1999), page 24).
Barber presents an entire chapter about testosterone (pages 69-88), but no chapter about estrogen or progesterone. I.e., he writes about the male sex drive, but ignores the female sex drive.
Chapter 5 is titled "The Cheating Hearts of Birds and Humans." Barber writes (page 124) "a single act of sexual intercourse can entirely undermine a large chunk of a man's lifetime reproductive effort." Perhaps this is a misprint, and Barber intended to say that a Victorian woman's life could be ruined by one sexual experience.
Barber writes (page 127) that "prostitutes are almost always women." I've heard that in some cities "streetwalkers" are almost all transvestite men.
On page 147, Barber writes that "when the economic and political power of women rises" the divorce rate increases. This is a wrong conclusion from two correct facts: women earn more today than 30 years ago, and a higher percentages of marriages end in divorce today, compared to 30 years ago. Barber fails to note that marriages last longer, on average, than at any time in the past. Both the increased length of marriage and the higher divorce rate are due to longer lifespans. Women's earning power has nothing to do with it.
On page 147, Barber writes that "Women's agendas are much more focused on providing a good environment in which to raise children, whereas men's agendas are more focused on maximizing the number of children produced; they strive to have sex often and with different women." This is the conventional view, but women "agendas" include changing partners, especially before marriage; and men's "agendas" include being a good father, especially after marriage. Barber seems to think that married women's behavior is normal for women, and bachelor behavior is normal for men, and conversely that marriage is abnormal for men and being single is abnormal for women.
On page 150, Barber refers to a 1983 book purporting that the increasing divorce rate was due to a shortage of marriagable men. That was true in 1983. Barber fails to note that by 1987 the marriageable male/female ratio reversed, and we're now in a "women shortage" era. Barber instead claims (page 154) that the population sex ratio has remained unchanged over the past 30 years. This is true, but for some reason the millions of unmarried elderly women don't marry the millions of unmarried young men. Barber notes that it would be better to consider population sex ratios by age cohort instead of using the overall population sex ratio. This information can be downloaded free from the Census Bureau, but Barber didn't.
On page 153, Barber writes that on the American frontier of the 19th century, a shortage of women made men devoted to their wives and made marriages stable. In reality, many men went to the frontier (or emigrated to the United States) to escape marriages.
On page 166, Barber that "actors and entertainers" "again and again" show an "insecure pattern" of unstable marriages, due to childhood abuse. On page 185, Barber writes that "typical Hollywood marriages" last two or three years. But I've heard of many actors and actresses with long marriages.
On page 192, Barber writes that 1949 was during World War II. Well, he got the decade right. :-)
Chapter 9 is about teenage pregnancy among poor inner-city African-Americans. Barber concludes (page 229) that teenage pregnancy could be stopped by improving economic conditions, especially for young inner-city African-American men. That may have been believable in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson started the "Great Society" programs, but today it's clear that teenage pregnancy leads to poverty at least as much as the reverse.
Chapter 10 is about fashions, both clothing and body size and shape. This chapter contains too many errors to list. I'll just mention one (page 225), that women dislike bearded men because beards communicate that a man is sexually promiscuous. Conversely, women like clean-shaven men because they're like sexually restricted nuns. Huh?
I'll give Barber two stars because he sometimes gets facts right. But this book has too many mistakes for me to recommend it.
Review by Thomas David Kehoe, author of "Hearts and Minds: How Our Brains Are Hardwired for Relationships"
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Missed opportunity 23 novembre 2003
Par Ejames LIEBERMAN - Publié sur
Evolutionary psychology best describes the discipline of this work, which acknowledges The Evolution of Human Sexuality, by Donald Symons (1979), as its inspiration. In a dozen chapters, Nigel Barber covers a range of interrelated topics, including physical attractiveness and sex signals, dating competition and aggression, cheating, and single parenthood. Unfortunately, problems of bias, repetition, loose ends, and awkward examples weaken the result so that analysis of the flaws serves well as an exercise for the target audience-advanced high school to college age and up.
Barber makes too much of the Columbine high school shooting as an example of the aggressive expression of status deficiency in the mating game. He refers to a "rash" of school shootings, when these events actually are rare and extreme. Though often employing anecdotes as evidence himself, he faults social scientists as lacking in objectivity: "Cultural explanations have little scientific merit...."
Barber wants to explain romance in biological and economic terms and, as a result, leaves out what is most human. Sexual passion cools, he says, all but forgetting that good relationships stay warm. He leaves unsaid whether evolution explains women's increasing sexual interest with age-i.e., after peak reproductive years. In addition, some cited research is quirky: "Merely thinking about their spouse having sex with a rival produced a much larger physiological response in men than in women. For example, the heart rate increased by an amount equivalent to the effect of drinking two cups of coffee." Is that a lot or a little?
Fortunately, there is a worthwhile book on romance that integrates evolutionary principles with good social science: Garth Fletcher's The New Science of Intimate Relations (Blackwell, 2002). --E. James Lieberman, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC
1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Human Relationships 101 23 juin 2009
Par Gertrude Callaghan - Publié sur
Among the plethora of books on human relationships, The Science of Romance, stands apart as the one that quite simply makes the most sense. As with Barber's other books, what makes his discussions compelling is their grounding in evolutionary theory. Behaviors and emotions that the reader understands intuitively, are given scientific weight; behaviors and emotions that once perplexed become lucid and accessible. Evolution has had a bad rap and is often viewed as boxing people in - read this book and you'll feel liberated!
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