Part 13: Humans are (Blank)-ogamous: Is Monogamy ‘Natural?’

Patrick F. Clarkin, Ph.D.

This is part of a series on the evolution of human mating behavior, comparing evidence for promiscuity and pair-bonding in our species. Please see the Introduction here.

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Are humans naturally monogamous?Oprah Winfrey says ‘no.’That settles it, then. Maybe.

Oprah (she needs no last name) was a guest on a morning talk show, and the topic of discussion was two recent articles on the origins of monogamy in mammals (Lukas & Clutton-Brock, 2013) and another specifically on primates (Opie et al, 2013). Both articles are impressive for their large databases and attention to detail. The first looked at 2545 species of mammals while the Opie article examined 230 primate species.[1]

Both studies focused specifically on social, rather than sexual, monogamy. This distinction is important because sexual exclusivity was not what was being measured here. Rather, social monogamy was defined by both studies as simply living…

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