Again, it helps to think about psychological adaptations as innate solutions to life’s problems. Solutions that have been etched into the human mind (see Buss, Tooby and Cosmides, Pinker).
Adaptations, designed in the past, work through our emotions and without much awareness they guide our behavior today.
Another example helps illustrate this point:
When it comes to selecting a romantic partner our current desires reflect what worked best a long time ago (see Buss, Etcoff). Consider the story of a colonel in the army who was recently accused of defrauding up to 50 women he met on the internet. He was allegedly engaged to these women and he took advantage of them by exploiting their desire to find a mate.
The interesting thing about this story is that these women were not the type of women you would expect to be so desperate for love that they would put themselves in such a situation; most of them were attractive, successful, and had a lot going for them. They had one thing in common, however; they were unusually tall.
So what does their height have to do with it? Well, when it comes to selecting a mate, women universally desire men who are taller than themselves – a psychological adaptation that worked well for our female ancestors.
Having a tall mate also meant having a strong and powerful mate – useful traits to have in a companion who happened to hunt for a living. But in a world where physical strength is not directly related to most people’s job descriptions, women still prefer taller men.
So much so, in fact, that close to 50 successful women were willing to get engaged to a person they had met on-line. And a person who, by the way, also claimed to be 6’6. Apparently, when very tall women go looking for someone to love there are simply not enough tall men to go around.
Think about it for a minute – this example reveals a lot about who we are and how we behave. Why will women only date someone who is taller than themselves? If you are dating a successful accountant, does it really matter how tall he is? Not really. But that is not how we think and behave. Our feelings give way to reason and logic and they nudge us towards decisions that worked a long time ago.