Sample Paper on Evolutionary theory of personality by David Buss

David H Buss


            Human personality describes a dynamic and well-coordinated set of attributes held by certain individuals and which play a unique role in influencing their thoughts, feelings, conducts and motivations. It defines a pattern of cognitions, feelings, conducts and social alterations constantly portrayed over a considerable period of time thereby influencing one’s perceptions, beliefs, thoughts and values. On this note, human personality can significantly influence a person’s conduct towards other people, complex life situations and stress (Russell, 2003). Personality, as described from an evolutionary viewpoint, refers to a meta-category of the ultimate outcome resulting from a suite of species-based, categorical and progressed psychological processes that are modified in response to various adaptive situations that are repeatedly experienced by our predecessors. This conceptualization can help in understanding the various aspects of human traits including gender differences, personality consistency and individuals’ differences. The concept of human personality has been crafted for many years as different scholars seek to understand its origin and development (Buss, 1989). This document analyzes the evolutionary theory, which is an early theory of personality that was coined by David Buss. The document will describe the theory and its primary theorist, various criticisms posed on the theory as well as trace its development and use in contemporary therapy.

Evolutionary theory of personality by David Buss

            David Buss is an American psychologist that is renowned for his significant contribution in evolutionary psychology. Buss was born in the state of Indiana but has spent his life in various other places where he made significant achievements in life. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree and a PhD in psychology in 1976 and 1981 respectively. He worked as a subordinate professor in Taxas, Havard and Michigan Universities. Although Buss has a long history of constant failure in academic, he portrayed significant academic excellence after joining university. He then developed a strong passion for psychology, which was nurtured by his educators thereby translating into many years of research and collaboration with other scholars interested in the field (Russell, 2003). This saw Buss and his colleagues establishing the Act Frequency Perspective of Human Personality, which aimed to enhance significant understanding of dispositional attributes that shape individuals’ day-to-day lives. Upon obtaining his first job as an assistant professor, Buss developed an active research career, which latter translated into an active venture in evolutionary psychology. Buss latter obtained an affiliate professor job in the Psychology Department and this gave him an opportunity to develop his knowledge in evolutionary psychology. Buss was then nominated to join the Center for Behavioral Sciences, where he intensified his research in evolutionary psychology particularly in area of human personality. He particularly focused on aspects like sexuality and how it is linked to sexual selection as highlighted by Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution (Schmitt, Shackelford, Duntley, Tooke, Buss, Fisher and Vasey, 2002).

Buss’ constant research culminated into a contemporary evolutionary theory, which he employed to explain the aspect of human behavior. While developing this theory, Buss started by analyzing the development of jealousy, and he realized that jealousy is a strong emotion that tends to crown long-standing romantic relationships. He thus concluded that this emotion often attributes to spouse abuse including murder. Buss’ evolutionary theory represents jealousy as an aspect of immaturity but the concept may perpetuate an adaptive solution to various challenges posed by actual risks facing a relationship (Sterelny, 2003). Buss’ evolutionary theory further describes the progression of human desire, where it portrays individuals as significantly comparable to their ancestors. This is because they tend to employ a set of unique strategies intended to ensure that each one of them is able to acquire the best available mate even if this would mean brutally discarding a partner. Buss realized that human beings pursue the best mate to complement their reproductive requirements. Females seek for male partners that would be dedicated to long-term relationships while males seek for female partners that are bound to conceive and bring forth healthy and strong children. This explains how individuals throughout time terminate unhealthy and unproductive relationships as each individual seek for the most appropriate mate while unfit mates are left out of relationships. The theory further explains that through sexual selection, men and women will eventually be similar in all perspectives provided both sexes have undergone similar adaptive challenges (Buss, 1989). Facing distinct adaptive challenges during their evolutionary history would mean that men and women would eventually develop distinct adaptive behaviors. This explains why females have developed certain adaptations that cannot be found among males. Such adaptations include developing a cervix that can easily dilate and a reproductive system that can easily release oxytocin during contraction and childbirth (Barker, 2006).

The theory of evolutionary personality has faced significant criticism despite the fact that it has increasingly become popular throughout its development. Criticism and controversy began at University settings where Buss made the first attempts to develop this theory. Critics argued that evolutionary ideas could not be adopted to explain human behavior. This is because the concept is founded on constant body changes due to changes in the environment. This shows that the nature-nurture relationship that human beings develop with the environment can only describe their biased adaptations but cannot explain their personality. The theory has further raised controversy pertaining to testability of its hypotheses (Sterelny, 2003). This critique is based on basic cognitive assumption that is usually adopted in evolutionary psychology, which alleges vagueness emanating from evolutionary suppositions. Supporters of this critique state that hypotheses cannot be adequately tested, which challenges the theory’s position in empirical science. Critics further argue that the various hypotheses that have been put forth to portray the adaptive nature of individuals’ traits are just stories as there are no explanations relating to the evolution of their attributes. This is because traits and personality attributes cannot be based on any other evidence apart from their inner logic (Russell, 2003).

Despite these critiques, evolutionary theory has undergone significant development, which has perpetuated its constant application in contemporary therapy. Development of this theory can trace its roots long before the coming of Charles Darwin. Darwin however played the most significant role in implementing the concept of natural selection, which plays a central role in evolutionary psychology. His theoretical concept of natural selection mainly explains why certain life characteristics form as well as how they transform over time. This provides the basis for evolution, which in return creates an avenue for evolutionary psychology. This is because Darwin’s basic theoretical components explain how trait variations are usually passed on from parents to their children, which is an important scientific aspect that forms basis for evolutionary process (Schmitt, Shackelford, Duntley, Tooke, Buss, Fisher and Vasey, 2002). Evolutionary psychology has equally become an important theoretical perspective that has continually integrated the basic principles of contemporary evolutionary theory with modern developments in psychological phenomena. The theory has widely been applied in contemporary therapy particularly in helping to understanding development of diseases. It has been employed in contemporary therapy to help explain why people fall ill, and not merely understanding how they fall ill. Medical researchers have constantly employed this theory in understanding evolutionary changes in molecular organisms that contribute to good health or sicknesses. The theory has mainly been used to help understand how molecular mechanisms have been shaped in a manner that may intensify people’s susceptibility to certain ailments. This has enabled medical practitioners to make significant advancements intended to prevent physiological resistance to certain antibiotics (Barker, 2006).


            Evolutionary psychology is an important theory that has been coined by David Buss with the intention to help understand human personality, which is an important concept that influences individuals’ thoughts, perceptions, attitudes and values. The theory developed as a result of David’s consistent commitment on scientific research, which helped him to make significant discoveries pertaining to human psychological traits. He mainly concentrated on analyzing jealousy and human desire, after which he made significant conclusion relating to the crucial similarity that human beings share with their ancestors. This helped him to understand how human traits develop from constant evolution and interaction with the environment over time, which later translated into evolutionary processes. The theory has faced severe criticism relating to its inability to explain human behavior as well as develop hypotheses that can easily be tested. This however does not interfere with its constant development that has seen it being effectively applied in contemporary therapy. The theory’s initial development can be traced in Darwin’s concept of natural selection, which provides a basis for evolutionary processes that Buss has effectively integrated in his scholarly work. The theory has been used in contemporary therapy particularly in helping medical practitioners to understand how and why people fall sick.




Barker, L. (2006). Teaching Evolutionary Psychology: An Interview With David M. Buss. Teaching Of Psychology, 33(1), 69-76.

Buss, D.M. (1989). David M. Buss. American Psychologist, 44(4), 636-638.

Russell, E. (2003). Why Evolutionary Psychology is Not Mere Speculation or Just So Stories: With Examples from Human Sexuality and From Narratives, Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 24(3-4),81-109.

Schmitt, D. P., Shackelford, T. K., Duntley, J., Tooke, W., Buss, D. M., Fisher, M. L., & … Vasey, P. (2002). Is there an early-30s peak in female sexual desire? Cross-sectional evidence from the United States and Canada. Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality, 11(1), 1.

Sterelny, K. (2003). From Mating to Mentality: Evaluating Evolutionary Psychology, New York: Psychology Press.