Human beings have a mental mechanism which helps them recover from the heartache associated with the end of relationships, researchers have claimed.
A team from St Louis University, the University of Florida and the University of Cincinnati set out to study the way people experience the end of relationships and move on to new ones. They concluded that an evolutionary mechanism assists the process.
Associate Professor Brian Boutwell of St Louis University was lead author. He said:
“Our review of the literature suggests we have a mechanism in our brains designed by natural selection to pull us through a very tumultuous time in our lives. It suggests people will recover; the pain will go away with time.”
A resilience to heartbreak amongst our ancestors would have provided evolutionary advantages, the team believes. Talking to the Huffington Post, the Professor explained:
“In our evolutionary past, selection pressures may have been such that individuals who could successfully jettison a mate and find a new one, when the situation called for it, would have been better able to solve the evolutionary imperative of reproduction — in other words, they sent more of their genes on to the next generation.”
Examining the topic from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, the team also identified the different reasons men and women typically end relationships. On average, they say, men are more likely to end relationships because their partner has been physically unfaithful while women tend to be more motivated by emotional infidelity.
Professor Boutwell said:
“Men are particularly sensitive to sexual infidelity between their partner and someone else. That’s not to say women don’t get jealous, they certainly do, but it’s especially acute for men regarding sexual infidelity.”
Evolutionary psychologists believe males’ greater sensitivity to sexual infidelity is motivated by a drive to avoid expending resources on the children of other men. Women by contrast evolved a greater sensitivity to emotional infidelity in order to protect the resources provided by their mate.
The research was published in academic journal the Review of General Psychology.
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