Thing about evolutionary psychologists is that after giving sciency sounding names to commonplace events, they believe they have discovered something new. Happens with wild abandon in the peer-reviewed paper “The mate switching hypothesis” by David Buss and others in Personality and Individual Differences. (The title of today’s post was lifted from one of the many popular media summaries.)
First thing Buss does, after quoting Kinsey on infidelity rates as if these numbers were reliable, was to give a name New & Improved! name to infidelity: “mate-switching.”
Although breakups are often moralized as “failures,” we propose that selection has sculpted a complex psychology designed to jettison current mates and acquire new ones in circumstances wherein mate switching would have been historically evolutionarily advantageous.
And so Buss moralizes infidelities as “advantageous”. Now this theory as Buss states it, as all experience proves, is immediately false. We all know plenty of couples, even infertile ones, who stuck together even when this “strategy” was not “evolutionarily advantageous”. This “mate-switching” therefore cannot be universal.
Of course, we also know some couples who haven’t stuck. Who has more kids, incidentally, women who stick or those who wander? (The paper focuses on women.) Are the rates you’re thinking of current? Were they the same, say, 150 years ago? In England? In Sumatra? Kenya? Philippines? Across all time?