What's the evolutionary purpose of nervousness around the opposite sex?

It’s counterproductivity at the fullest, as far as reproduction is concerned.

That’s sort of like asking the evolutionary purpose of being short and homely. :slight_smile: If you’re excessively nervous around the opposite sex, then you’re not the one whose genes are going to be passed on to the next generation. It’s those who are confident who are going to be at a selective advantage.

Aside from that, much nervousness with the opposite sex may not be under genetic control, but rather due to factors during to development or else be learned behavior. If so, it won’t be as readily affected by selection.

Which is why I’m surprised it has persisted.

Can you explain this further?

Nervousness around the opposite sex is generally worst around adolescence, so I’m guessing that if there is an evolutionary purpose, it’s to protect the young nervous guy from putting himself in stupid situations where is he more likely to get himself shunned/beaten/killed by a bigger, older guy who he isn’t realistically capable of competing with anyway. It might be temporarily counterproductive but help him live to be productive later on.

Are you surprised that some people are short and ugly? Why isn’t everyone tall and handsome?

Let’s say a child is mentally or physically abused by one of his or her parents while growing up. Or maybe the child is teased by schoolmates of the opposite sex. This may well lead to psychological problems in dealing with the opposite sex later on, and not have anything to do with genetics at all.

On a basic level, it’s to keep us from being reeled in by destructive sociopaths (of either sex).

On a higher level, it’s to help ensure that only those best adjusted to society get to enjoy the benefits it bestows in terms of couplehood, let alone reproduction.

Yes, I do think evolution helps reinforce a rough kind of social status quo.

But practically everyone is taller and handsomer (YMMV) than an Australopithecus, so arguably evolution has made some “progress” on this front.

I’m not sure I understand the question.

People get nervous when they are doing something risky. The evolutionary purpose of that is to stop us taking unnecessary risks. The reason why it is evolutionarily counterproductive to take unnecessary risks should be obvious.

Why does nervousness around the opposite sex need any special explanation that nervousness before a fight or nervousness when working at heights does not?

What’s the evolutionary purpose of nervousness around the opposite sex?

This is not a helpful question to ask, as it assumes there is an evolutionary purpose to it. Heck, even “evolutionary purpose” is a misleading concept – evolution doesn’t work in terms of purpose, it works in terms of survival and resultant reproductive advantage.

Any number of traits have come through the process of evolution not because they necessarily confer survival/reproductive advantage (or “have a purpose”), but because they don’t necessarily confer a disadvantage. Nervousness around the opposite sex may be a slight disadvantage (say, non-nervous types do a little better at mating), a slight advantage (say, nervousness is perceived as endearing to potential mates), or neither (no effect one way or the other). Regardless, it seems that plenty of people prone to such nervousness, and plenty not prone to it, have reproduced. I’d say it’s pretty much a non-starter in terms of identifiable advantage/disadvantage.

I suspect that an Australopithecus chick would find a flat-faced, huge-nosed, and grotesquely bulbous-headed modern human quite horrible, besides being frighteningly gigantic.

Actually, I think it is. It doesn’t matter if some people with nervousness succeed in reproducing, as long as they don’t reproduce as frequently as confident people. And they probably don’t. If nervousness was mainly determined by genetics, then the questions as to why it persists could be a valid one.

maybe it’s just a matter of lacking a behavioral script. Adolescents don’t fumble when talking to parents and teachers because this script got rehearsed thousands of times, all their life. But the “get a date” script is something they need to learn from scratch by dealing with an otherwise engaged individual who is under no obligations (unlike adults) to tolerate their clumsy practice efforts.

No; only as far *as those who are so afflicted *are concerned. Evolution is not concerned with the individual but the species (or arguably, the genome). The very fittest breed and the rest don’t; genetic variability is contributed by the quick buck (ie the small but agile male who sneaks under the alpha male’s radar and manages to impregnate a small but significant portion of his harem).

The nervousness is presumably drawn from the very understandable fear that the alpha male will find you in the act of attempting to mate with his females and kill you. Evolution does not say that every male must have a chance to breed; quite the opposite, it works more decisively when the less fit males don’t have that chance. Sucks to be us, hey?

I don’t think we have a factual answer to this question, or most involving evolutionary reasons. Nervousness may be maladaptive or it may not be. I would however like to point out that there need not be one single mating strategy in species. I understand in orangutans, older males develop sexual selection traits to attract females. Younger males rely on subterfuge, a strategy often called the “sneak-and-rape.” Both seem to be equally effective. I’d hate to speculate on humans, but two strategies, which I will term “be a decent person” and “be a complete douche” may both be effective (tlh, 2011).

in a mostly monogamous society we would expect essentially all men to reproduce regardless of nervousness. In fact, the main limiting factor on getting genes propagated would be the ability to generate enough wealth to keep children from dying of hunger and disease at an early age.

Meanwhile, societies more prone to promiscuity are not known for fumbling.

What I was thinking of but didn’t go into was the overall complexity of the situation. Lots of people are nervous but still reproduce – they get over the nervousness, they mate despite the nervousness, whatever. And then there are the other factors – fertility, fecundity, mortality, etc. It seems to me it would be quite a task to separate the nervousness from the rest and accurately identify its role.

It’s so that some people have enough time to fix the network when it goes down.

Females choose the males in most situations in nature. Nervousness on the part of the male is a signal to the female that the male is attracted to her.

So in your world it is the guys who are most scared of chicks who get the most action, huh?

I would agree it’s probably:
a) a learned behavior, or
b) what happens before you learn how to act around the opposite sex.

Not everything is genetics. The most famous example is children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves, not because of some alcoholism gene, but because they don’t learn how to cope with stress from their parents (because their parents use alcohol to cope.)