Lecture Center 102 was almost filled as evolutionary psychology students and graduates gave in-depth presentations covering a wide variety of human behavior and how they may stem from an evolutionary foundation. Some unlikely topics were explored, including beauty pageant competitions and their relationship to winning a potential mate. Thus, evolutionary psychology may explain how our animal instincts are at work underneath our intellectual or polished activities while we strive to outcompete others for survival and further our lineage.
For example, as shown in biological psychologist Mandy Guitar’s work, we tend to perceive high risk situations with a “threat or opportunity” lens. Given her computer program to test whether humans base events with success or failure, Guitar was able to prove how in some instances we tend to associate means of obtaining food with success or failure in situations that are and aren’t in our control.
Laura Johnsen, a psychology and theater arts major alum who graduated in 2012, gathered and tested data that reveals the relationships between local, national and international beauty pageants and how women compete for males by various means. According to Johnsen, she “wanted to see how competitive tactics in mating schedules might work in beauty pageants.”
Though these competitions are professional and means for entertainment, women do take part in ousting each other in beauty, talent, intellect and physical health for prizes. A portion of her predictions were supported, as white was found the most popular color amongst the formal dress contest, possibly noting a favor for women who appear pure and virginal.
Humans may also attract mates through producing music. According to Morgan Gleason, a psychology graduate alumna of 2014, people who have high emotional intelligence and aptitude will produce better music and therefore attract mates better. Her results did not always align with her predictions, but she did find that having certain emotional recognition and awareness would better predict musical aptitude: this could provide instances for attracting a mates.
Nicole Arnold, a fourth-year psychology major similarly said she found the last presentation on interdisciplinary studies most useful.
“It basically said it’s applying yourself in different fields, to ground you more and expand research topics,” she said.
The last presentation summed up the lecture event by compiling all avenues of research within a larger context: Dr. Benjamin Crosier applied his knowledge of evolutionary psychology with related fields.
“Evolution is a unifying meta-theoretical framework that is inherently interdisciplinary,” he said. “This includes sex, love and parenting.”
Glenn Geher, professor and chair of psychology at SUNY New Paltz, said that this type of event can benefit faculty too.
“For faculty, helping our students obtain the skills needed to succeed is our primary business,” he said. “And providing a forum for alumni to present and connect with current students is integral to the goals of any faculty member. This event has the capacity to help faculty see ways that they can help connect alumni and students as well as ways to create high-impact educational events connected with their classes.”
Geher said this event is great for students to see alumni success after graduation as well as their research that contributes to evolutionary psychology. “Several of the alumni who spoke now have ‘real jobs’ and were able to help students see how their education now can help them secure and succeed in jobs in their futures,” he said. “For instance, Ben Crosier, who was one of our speakers, is now a post-doctoral researcher in the field of behavioral health at Dartmouth College. He spoke with our students about how his education in statistics and research methods really set him up to acquire and succeed in such a role.”