Essays on Science and SocietyIBI* Series Winner

Exploring the Evolution of Human Mate Preference

Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1060-1061
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230005

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Summary

A colleague once told me that, during lectures, 60% of the time college students are thinking about sex. Although attempts to find the source of this statistic resulted in its description as “apocryphal” (1), most educators will agree that maintaining student interest during lecture is challenging, and dedicated readers of this series are well aware of the benefits of replacing lecture with inquiry-based instruction (2). Asking college students to design experiments to investigate human mate preference engages them in the process of science by appealing to their natural interest in the subject. The Evolution of Human Mate Preference module has been used in a lower-division majors' biology course at a community college. This multiday module gives students experience with researching the primary literature, formulating a testable hypothesis, conducting an experiment, analyzing data, and communicating ideas in a scientific paper or poster. Although some may argue that the development of these skills should begin at the upper division or graduate levels, lower-division students, when given frequent formative assessment and appropriate scaffolding (2), are quite successful with this module.