Modeling reproductive decisions with simple heuristics

Peter M. Todd*, Thomas T. Hills, Andrew T. Hendrickson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Many of the reproductive decisions that humans make happen without much planning or forethought, arising instead through the use of simple choice rules or heuristics that involve relatively little information and processing. Nonetheless, these heuristic-guided decisions are typically beneficial, owing to humans' ecological rationality - the evolved fit between our constrained decision mechanisms and the adaptive problems we face.

OBJECTIVE

This paper reviews research on the ecological rationality of human decision making in the domain of reproduction, showing how fertility-related decisions are commonly made using various simple heuristics matched to the structure of the environment in which they are applied, rather than being made with information-hungry mechanisms based on optimization or rational economic choice.

METHODS

First, heuristics for sequential mate search are covered; these heuristics determine when to stop the process of mate search by deciding that a good-enough mate who is also mutually interested has been found, using a process of aspiration-level setting and assessing. These models are tested via computer simulation and comparison to demographic age-at-first-marriage data. Next, a heuristic process of feature-based mate comparison and choice is discussed, in which mate choices are determined by a simple process of feature-matching with relaxing standards over time. Parental investment heuristics used to divide resources among offspring are summarized. Finally, methods for testing the use of such mate choice heuristics in a specific population over time are then described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-662
Number of pages22
JournalDemographic Research
Volume29
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • MATE PREFERENCES
  • ECOLOGICAL RATIONALITY
  • MARRIAGE
  • PATTERNS
  • SEARCH
  • CHOICE
  • HUMANS
  • TIME

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