In this video at 42:06, Daniel Dennett posits that our big brains are:

The human artifice or version of the peacock's tail.

Peacocks have sexual dimorphism - it's males who exhibit the costly signal of showing off a big, colourful tail.

Now, humans are more special, because there are certainly no differences in the cognitive potential of men and women. Yet, there seems to be evidence for each gender being driven by different interests (there are exceptions).

Thus my question: has human intelligence evolved as a costly male signal which has, over time, been passed to females too, but whom are just not as interested to use it to attract mates?

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    $\begingroup$ You cite an opinion piece as "plenty of evidence"? $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Nov 4 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I read most of the article. Though it cites research, it is an opinion piece. Opinion pieces cherry pick and misrepresent in order to support their bias. To truly evaluate the worth of this opinion piece, one would need to read all the cited studies (to see if there was misrepresentation, to see if it was a good study, etc.) As to your (horribly biased) statement that the fact that women have contributed less to science than men, you need to look no further than how women in science have been discouraged and discriminated against by men. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Nov 4 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ For example, read The Double Helix to see first hand how Watson stole - that is, used without her permission or knowledge - the work of Rosalind Franklin to deduce - to deduce the fact that DNA was a double helix. They could not have done it without her Xray crystallography work. As a Molecular Biologist and physician, perhaps I know a bit more about "gender politics" in Science than you. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Nov 4 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ "I don't engage in gender politics..." You already did by claiming that the differences in scientific contribution between men and women is vast, or as you've said, "little compared to men." $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Nov 4 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ There might be an interesting question buried in here somewhere (along the lines of "is intelligence a sexually selected trait in humans?") but it's buried in unnecessary non sequitur and unsupported claims about male and female humans. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Nov 4 at 20:22

"has human intelligence evolved as a costly male signal which has, over time, been passed to females too, but whom are just not as interested to use it to attract mates?"

(I am ignoring that last part)

So you suggest intelligence (the modern human brain) evolved solely as a sexual dimorohism which then migigated over time?

I find that particular combination unlikely because intelligence would somehow need a sex-chromosome dependence which later was somehow lost. I don't think sexual dimorohism in intelligence can by seen in any mammals, and losing it again is unlikely as well.

But I can't disprove your idea completely: It seems the brain specific expression pattern is quite different in males and females. Also some brain specific genes were found as additional copies on sex chromosomes.


With either of these 2 facts alone there is at least some miniscule potential that your hypothesis could be true!

(So you can argue gene duplication to autosomal chromosomes or expression levels being influenced by sex chromosomes.)

Ps: But it's equally (un-)probable that intelligence at first evolved in women only.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if this matters, but it bothers me: the N's all had neuropathology (autism, I'll assume Parkinson's, etc.) There are neuropatologies more common in men than women and vs. versa. Does this affect the validity of the study? I don't know, but I'd rather see this comparison done on normal tissue. However, I don't doubt there are differences; testosterone has a significant effect on behavior which would imply the mind/brain. The study linked in comments shows a difference in white/gray matter use during certain tasks in men and women, but not a difference in matter per se. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Nov 5 at 17:34

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