3

votes

Evolutionary place of beta males?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 30, 2012 at 2:02 AM

Hey all. Being a beta male that was recently screwed over something fierce for it, would anyone care to guess at what purpose men such as myself would have had throughout our evolution? Seems like we would have been sexually selected out by now.

Edit - Seems like most of you think that rank in the male social hierarchy is more determined by nurture than nature. Is that really the case, though? I mean sure, you can change your attitude a bit, but I feel like being a "nice guy", conflict-averse, and other stereotypically beta characteristics are pretty ingrained. Perhaps that's more suited to another question.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 04:59 PM

Hah, a good point. But I guess the question, as always, is exactly how much is nature and how much is nurture? I guess that's not an easy thing to answer.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:43 PM

The Fatal Conceit doesn't really count as any evidence either way surely- it's just political philosophy (and I say this as a political philosopher). Also since Hayek's thesis is about the evolution of a market economy it really doesn't have much to say about pre-agricultural societies. On the egalitarian point. It's widely recognised that HG societies were much more egalitarian than later societies. That's some (though of c only some) evidence for the idea that egalitarianism was beneficial for these societies.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:19 PM

I LOL'd. But your point is valid.

Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 30, 2012
at 12:05 PM

Another interesting thing is that in hunter gatherer societies paternity certainty is so low that if men were only to care for children of their own genetic line, they would be better off taking care of their sister's children than those that may be their own.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 30, 2012
at 07:24 AM

BTW a Beta can climb to Alpha anytime. Which will make the Alpha a Beta.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 30, 2012
at 07:23 AM

Makes you wonder about the Omegas.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 30, 2012
at 07:22 AM

Make you wonder about the Omegas.

Medium avatar

(3213)

on August 30, 2012
at 06:33 AM

But why do you call yourself a Beta male?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 30, 2012
at 05:48 AM

Sure, but so is all of evolutionary psychology. I didn't pull this one out of my ass. Human babies are born quite prematurely compared to other primates to get through our narrow pelvises. The social contract that results from pair-bonding was likely an evolutionary advantage for all involved. http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/29/the-ancient-sexual-revolution-that-may-have-spurred-human-monogamy/

6d64cd6dc98d6ab763bd03678a317964

(2177)

on August 30, 2012
at 04:43 AM

Pure conjecture.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 03:01 AM

and if you play by the rules, men are the one's who need permission to enter. And, since men are mostly motivated by sex, it's not the alphas that have the real power, it is the females.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 03:00 AM

and if you play by the rules, men are the one's who need permission to enter. And, since men are mostly motivated by sex, it's not the alphas that have the real power, it is the females.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:53 AM

Another benefit of being a beta male is that I've seen documentaries on monkeys and the betas often sneak in covert quickies with the alpha male's female mates. So, if nothing else, in nature, betas get the thrill of having an affair with a taken woman.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:52 AM

Don't have an article handy, college anthro was a long time ago. As I remember his point was that people are selfish, not altruistic, and as such they realized their best bet to survive was through building communities where everyone had their own role and were treated as equals. There were leaders, but they lead smaller groups. The lead hunter, the lead warrior, the lead builder, etc...

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:52 AM

Another benefit of being a beta male is that I've seen documentaries on monkeys and the betas often sneak in covert quickies with the alphas mates behind their backs. So, if nothing else, in nature, beta's get the thrill of having an affair with a taken woman

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:51 AM

Another benefit of being a beta male is that I've seen documentaries on monkeys and the betas often sneak in covert quickies with the alpha's mates behind their backs. So, if nothing else, in nature, beta's get the thrill of having an affair with a taken woman.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:48 AM

I really wish you could just give me a paper, lol. But, I read in his interests, altruism is one. Just want to make sure you aren't equating altruism in a species to egalitarianism.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:44 AM

Also, who do you think really has more power in who they choose today? Women or men? I say it's women who have the power. My mother told me that "when a man marries a woman, he has to be the one who loves her more (for it to work)" and I think that speaks volumes about who has the real power.

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0

(2698)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:44 AM

To be fair I never said those helping the leaders to achieve goals were lesser in any way.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:42 AM

Yeah, I the article too. Honestly though, I think today's society is a little different. Because our living standards are so high in developed nations, women can essentially pick their own alpha characteristics (money, power, looks, charisma, humor, wit, charm,dependability, trust, etc). When in yesterday's society what universally mattered was strength and ability to provide food and shelter.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:37 AM

Read this guy -- http://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid=1003114

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:37 AM

Not that the goal of PH is to comfort people, though. :P It's really just this bit: "This leaves the remaining females left with no recourse but to mate with beta males or lower-ranking males". Like, "oh, we couldn't get the _good_ males to mate with us, so let's go after these sub-par ones." I do appreciate the good answer (and the article).

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:35 AM

I wasn't meaning to be harsh, I was just trying to make sure you saw the point, because I thought it would make you feel better.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:35 AM

Egh. I hate this line of reasoning. "Without lesser laborers, how would the truly great have accomplished anything?" Not saying that it doesn't make sense, just that I don't like it from a personal perspective. Maybe it's true, though. :/

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:33 AM

No need to be harsh. I was just suggesting that second pick probably isn't the most ideal.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:33 AM

... all it means is that alpha 1 chose female Y over female Q. For all you know alpha male 1 has different tastes than beta male 2.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:32 AM

Did you read? beta's end up fathering the majority of society, and it says nothing about the quality of mates they attract. Just because Alpha male 1 chose female Y does not mean that female Y is better than the female Q that Beta 2 mates with.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:29 AM

Necessary fallbacks for those females that fail to attract the affection of alpha males, eh? Well that sucks...

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:27 AM

And could you provide some sources for the view that egalitarian tribes were the most successful? I find that suspicious, given what I've read in the Fatal Conceit.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:26 AM

What's with the species hate? Humans are incredible animals. We can fly, hold our breath, move fast, and lift heavy objects with superhuman strength (planes, oxygen tanks, supersonic jets, and tractors, cranes, etc)

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:24 AM

That's what I was going to say. Who do you think is going to work for the alpha's?

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:13 AM

http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/july2011/07252011beta.htm

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11 Answers

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3
Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on August 30, 2012
at 04:33 AM

Leaders in human groups are selected not primarily for their physical strength, but their social dominance, capacity to read/follow the groups desires and their leadership skills. Unlike monkeys, any leader that dissatifies the group will be ousted. As such, I am not sure humans really truely follow an alpha male pattern.

If one examines the primary characteristics preferred by women in a mate, wealth comes up, but not so much the ability to beat someone in a physical contest. So it would seem, that social influence, in an of itself, is the "alpha" quality in humans. This makes sense, to me, in a more intelligence social animal that operates with a more sophisticated social dynamic (and are also tool users).

You can have all the martial prowess in the world, and it wont save you from a bullet, or even a pack of organised people throwing rocks.

Being physically capable, and healthy, might serve as an attractant to women (for genes), but conversely so will sensitivity and caring. In fact, caring, for both men and women, generally comes out on top. (Men choose, health/energy/fun, attractiveness & caring, women choose wealth, attractiveness & caring primarily).

Of course people vary, and theres more than three things that people look for, but when your children come out the womb unable to walk, and basically remain helpless for a few years, your looking for more than fitness genes in a mate IMO.

However it does seem like in some more limited and basic societies, like high school etc, the physical card gets played more. Perhaps the same can be said of societies where physicality is more important (like tribal societies). I guess then though, the physicality can be veiwed as a form of social power, and money, fame and influence are in modern society.

Humans females also select for "rebels", aka (potential future power holders), in a sort of biological gamble. For many people who dont fit into traditional social heirarchies, this "alternativeness" can serve as a sort of social upgrade. And then theres heirarchies within various groups. Society is a complex beast. Being a good chef will make you hot to a professional cook, being a fashionista will make you hot to another fashionista, etc.

I personally would have nothing to do with a girl who wanted merely power, or something 100% superficial. I would select for a lifetime mate as well, not mere evolutionary drivers (such as someone who is like minded, affable etc). We have sophisticated psychology, and thats as much a driver as our base biology IMO.

So in all honest, I dont know if that whole alpha male idea is that relevant to humans. Yes, power is attractive to many women, or the potential for power, but that comes in a large variety of forms, most of which have no relation to martial prowess, outside of high school.

5
F59d04be1acdc85dd1e6da34f43dc447

on August 30, 2012
at 06:54 AM

You straight people have the strangest problems.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:19 PM

I LOL'd. But your point is valid.

5
E253f8ac1d139bf4d0bfb44debd1db21

on August 30, 2012
at 05:47 AM

Seems like we would have been sexually selected out by now.

By that logic homosexuals should not exist.

Maybe it's more likely that everyone is potentially alpha or beta and that environment as well as heredity play a role in determining social hierarchy position.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 04:59 PM

Hah, a good point. But I guess the question, as always, is exactly how much is nature and how much is nurture? I guess that's not an easy thing to answer.

5
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:19 AM

For all that alpha-males are stereotypically seen as jizz spewing womanizers, and playing just the numbers would seemingly have the most offspring, it is the beta-males whose offspring had a better chance of making it to adulthood because they tended to stay and help nurture and care for the family.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 30, 2012
at 05:48 AM

Sure, but so is all of evolutionary psychology. I didn't pull this one out of my ass. Human babies are born quite prematurely compared to other primates to get through our narrow pelvises. The social contract that results from pair-bonding was likely an evolutionary advantage for all involved. http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/29/the-ancient-sexual-revolution-that-may-have-spurred-human-monogamy/

6d64cd6dc98d6ab763bd03678a317964

(2177)

on August 30, 2012
at 04:43 AM

Pure conjecture.

3
Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 30, 2012
at 10:28 AM

Read Sex at dawn. This book will completely change your views on human sexuality. Humans were NOT monogamous, with alpha males having all the women, humans are much closer to bonobos in this regard. Sex was communally shared, children did not grow up with one father, but with many, one alpha male did not dominate the tribes, such persons would be rejected from the tribe. The book really explains the many puzzling problems that the currently established theories cannot.

The only reason that the alpha/beta male theory dominates the current views are due to the fact that chimps sexual patterns were studied much earlier and extensively than that of the bonobo. Thus parallel lines were drawn between human and chimp sexuality without exploring the much more similar patterns we share with the bonobo.

What is favorable about this setting is that human males did not have to compete constantly of being alpha male, something that leads to constant stress and disease in apes with such structures. When men have to compete for women, the male are also much bigger than females, something that is not the case in humans. If you study hunter-gatherers one can see that such a scenario is much more likely. Marriage and having only the family raising the kids is part of the neolithic world, not that of a egalitarian paleolithic society.

Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on August 30, 2012
at 12:05 PM

Another interesting thing is that in hunter gatherer societies paternity certainty is so low that if men were only to care for children of their own genetic line, they would be better off taking care of their sister's children than those that may be their own.

3
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on August 30, 2012
at 02:20 AM

That article is good. I also think you may have a misconception of what a beta male is. A beta male is second ranking male, and they are larger in number than alphas. They are not, however, the lowest ranking class. There are only so many alphas too, so females/women compete for his attention, but he'll only choose one or a few over a lifetime. This leaves the remaining females left with no recourse but to mate with beta males or lower-ranking males, but they prefer betas- so the betas have the majority of the offspring. Therefore, betas don't get selected out and without them, the term alpha would meaningless. Literally, since not everyone is 100% equal, alpha's, beta's, and the lower ranking classes are a necessary part of individual specialization within a species.

It's a similar to concept to doubling the money supply for a few, or doubling it for everyone. If you double it for a few, they will gain, but if you double it for everyone, no one will gain. Umm, that's

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:29 AM

Necessary fallbacks for those females that fail to attract the affection of alpha males, eh? Well that sucks...

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:32 AM

Did you read? beta's end up fathering the majority of society, and it says nothing about the quality of mates they attract. Just because Alpha male 1 chose female Y does not mean that female Y is better than the female Q that Beta 2 mates with.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:37 AM

Not that the goal of PH is to comfort people, though. :P It's really just this bit: "This leaves the remaining females left with no recourse but to mate with beta males or lower-ranking males". Like, "oh, we couldn't get the _good_ males to mate with us, so let's go after these sub-par ones." I do appreciate the good answer (and the article).

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:33 AM

... all it means is that alpha 1 chose female Y over female Q. For all you know alpha male 1 has different tastes than beta male 2.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:42 AM

Yeah, I the article too. Honestly though, I think today's society is a little different. Because our living standards are so high in developed nations, women can essentially pick their own alpha characteristics (money, power, looks, charisma, humor, wit, charm,dependability, trust, etc). When in yesterday's society what universally mattered was strength and ability to provide food and shelter.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:35 AM

I wasn't meaning to be harsh, I was just trying to make sure you saw the point, because I thought it would make you feel better.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:44 AM

Also, who do you think really has more power in who they choose today? Women or men? I say it's women who have the power. My mother told me that "when a man marries a woman, he has to be the one who loves her more (for it to work)" and I think that speaks volumes about who has the real power.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:33 AM

No need to be harsh. I was just suggesting that second pick probably isn't the most ideal.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 03:01 AM

and if you play by the rules, men are the one's who need permission to enter. And, since men are mostly motivated by sex, it's not the alphas that have the real power, it is the females.

2
7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0

(2698)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:19 AM

Alpha males are only alpha relative to beta males. Large, great, projects take many many people. How could such a project be successfully managed if only alpha males existed?

Leaders require people to lead. One could argue more beta males are needed by society than alphas.

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0

(2698)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:44 AM

To be fair I never said those helping the leaders to achieve goals were lesser in any way.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:24 AM

That's what I was going to say. Who do you think is going to work for the alpha's?

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:35 AM

Egh. I hate this line of reasoning. "Without lesser laborers, how would the truly great have accomplished anything?" Not saying that it doesn't make sense, just that I don't like it from a personal perspective. Maybe it's true, though. :/

1
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 30, 2012
at 06:33 AM

Some beta males are much better than alpha males, don't worry. Come to think of it - are there only alpha and beta males or there are also gamma and delta? Do males actually have an internal ranking system or is it an obvious hierarchy?

In girls it is kind of obvious - younger and prettier females have more choice. In guys... it is not about the position you have in a tribe, it is all about who is doing the most grooming (according to Robert Sapolsky).

If you are nice and sweet, play with their kids and make them laugh - they will prefer you over any alpha. For sure.

There is a time and place for everybody under the sun.

1
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:19 AM

Humans are pretty pathetic animals. We are not particularly fast, or strong, we can't fly, we cannot hold our breaths very long....

In fact we have one thing that sets us apart, our brain.

And it was our brain that allowed us to create and form very strong communal groups, and in these groups we were able to divide up the workload (something that could not be done alone) and become the dominate species on the planet.

In fact, many anthropologist are starting to believe that egalitarian tribes were the most successful, and likely the ones that survived the longest. That is, alpha males may not have been the norm for humans, we were able to understand and respect the values of all members. Sure, there were people with the "alpha" traits, and they were probably out hunting and defending the territory most of the day.

But it was the "beta" males who were inventing and designing weapons, tools and techniques which truly enabled us to dominate our environment.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:27 AM

And could you provide some sources for the view that egalitarian tribes were the most successful? I find that suspicious, given what I've read in the Fatal Conceit.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:48 AM

I really wish you could just give me a paper, lol. But, I read in his interests, altruism is one. Just want to make sure you aren't equating altruism in a species to egalitarianism.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:26 AM

What's with the species hate? Humans are incredible animals. We can fly, hold our breath, move fast, and lift heavy objects with superhuman strength (planes, oxygen tanks, supersonic jets, and tractors, cranes, etc)

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:37 AM

Read this guy -- http://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid=1003114

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:43 PM

The Fatal Conceit doesn't really count as any evidence either way surely- it's just political philosophy (and I say this as a political philosopher). Also since Hayek's thesis is about the evolution of a market economy it really doesn't have much to say about pre-agricultural societies. On the egalitarian point. It's widely recognised that HG societies were much more egalitarian than later societies. That's some (though of c only some) evidence for the idea that egalitarianism was beneficial for these societies.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 30, 2012
at 02:52 AM

Don't have an article handy, college anthro was a long time ago. As I remember his point was that people are selfish, not altruistic, and as such they realized their best bet to survive was through building communities where everyone had their own role and were treated as equals. There were leaders, but they lead smaller groups. The lead hunter, the lead warrior, the lead builder, etc...

0
4e6baf393fd5f339ae5a92ffbeadc884

on August 30, 2012
at 11:51 AM

Alpha/Beta classifications have a certain simplistic appeal, but real life is much more complex than that. All alphas do not get their alpha status in the same way, and all beta's likewise, plus the remaining gammas and epsilons.

A good example of this is shown is Robert Sapolsky's book a Primates Memoir.

http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/771/a-primates-memoir

Its been a while since I read this, but it struck me how a particular gamma male obtained high mate success by mating with any female the other males did not bother with for various reasons (age, ultra-low status, etc). This male was always getting beaten up by the alphas and betas, but his genes got passes on readily.

The moral of the tale is that mate success can be down to many factors, not just your place in the male vs male hierarchy.

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