Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week One

The reading for this week by Wiley and Allen was extremely interesting, but covered a lot of ground. As such, I think I will focus on the parts that stuck out the most to me, and pose some questions for you all to consider.

One of the first things that the reading went into was life history theory. It just so happens that this theory was one of the topics covered in Personality Psych, a course I took last semester. One of the main features of this theory is the two main constraints that all living beings are faced with, namely those of time and energy. As reproductive beings, the two most important things we can spend our time and energy on are reproduction and growth/maturation. Unfortunately, we can’t invest in both at the same time, and as a result, which of these that we choose to focus on is determined by the environment in which we are raised. If we are raised in an environment which has abundant resources, we can spend more time maturing and growing before beginning reproduction, since there is a lower mortality rate. On the other hand, if we are raised in an environment which has very scarce resources, the focus on reproduction becomes more prominent, since there is a higher mortality rate.

However, what Wiley and Allen did not discuss is r/K selection theory, which is another important facet of life history theory. In essence, an r-selection strategy would be one which tries to produce as many offspring as possible, and dedicates the least amount of time to parenting these children. This strategy is common within an environment which is unsafe and unstable, meaning that mortality rates are higher. A K-selection strategy involves having fewer children, but spending a lot more time raising them. K-strategy is most often seen in environments which are safe and have stable supplies of resources.

While I am somewhat confused as to why Wiley and Allen did not mention these strategies, I do not feel that their absence detracted from the article in any significant way. As far as questions go, I would like to ask this:

These two strategies can be present within a single species of organism, meaning that even today these strategies may manifest themselves within humankind. Do you feel that these theories hold any value in our current society? Is one strategy inherently preferred over another (culturally, socially, environmentally, etc.)? If so, why is this? I’m interested to hear what people have to say about this, and have included a relatively simplified explanation of r/L selection if anyone wants to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that these theories have value in society. For example, look at the current society in the United States. Since we have a relatively low mortality rate along with safe and stable environments, there is a negative connotation towards marrying young and having many children. The abundant resources available mean that more couples are waiting until later in life to have children and are also having less children in general. However, every society is not like this. In many developing cultures, it is very common for there to be young brides and for there to be many children. For example, the average number of children in household in Ethiopia is 5.39, compared to the United States which is 2.06 ( A possible reason for this besides the more stable and safe environment in the United States is that the United States is more affluent than Ethiopia. Since the society as a whole is more affluent, there are more educational and career opportunities for women. The CIA World Factbook stated, "over 2/3 of the world's 793 million illiterate adults are found in only eight countries(Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan); of all the illiterate adults in the world, 2/3 are women; extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in three regions, the Arab states, South and West Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa…(2005 est.)" ( Illiteracy promotes a more developing and agriculture-based society, which in turn promotes larger families because there will be more hands to help out with taking care of not only the farm but also the family. In short, I believe that both strategies are present in societies around the world and that one strategy would be preferred over the over economically and culturally.