Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Rough Analogy Between Peacocks and Pickups

A pickup truck is a very impractical vehicle for a family.  And if you aren't hauling bales of hay or the like regularly, it is kind of impractical for any other purpose.  Yet pickup trucks are hugely popular, especially with young men. 

I think the main appeal of pickup trucks to most of their owners is as a symbolic display of masculinity.

Displays of masculinity should, I would think, need to appeal to women to be useful in mate selection.  So why would women find a man with a pickup truck attractive?

The sociobiological study of mate selection has wrestled with a signature puzzle: the peacock's tail.  The giant, bright tail on the peacock would seem a huge hazard to peacocks - attracting predators and slowing down the peacock's escape from predators. The ingenious answer to this puzzle that sociobiologists have come up with is the "handicap theory." The peahen, who tends to select the peacock with the biggest and brightest tail, may be thinking that if this peacock can survive despite the gigantic handicap on its butt, it must have tremendous genes.

I think the pickup truck bed is something like the peacock's tail.  The pickup driver's mate may reason (subconsciously) that if this guy can succeed in having enough resources to afford a vehicle, despite the huge handicap it imposes on having friends or family, then he must really have something on the ball.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. Who thinks "there's no place for the car seat!" when you're looking over guys for a first date?
2. Guys with trucks are fun -- they are spontaneous and ready for off-road adventures.
3. Guys with trucks might be handy in hauling/fixing things.
4. The girl gets to drive the truck, too. This is fun.
So, the peacock tail might be valid if the peahen thinks "oooh! Pretty!" when the guy fans his tail.

Anonymous said...

The peahen isn't reasoning her way through anything, she is simply following her hardcoded, naturally selected instincts.

gruntled said...

"The peahen isn't reasoning her way through anything, she is simply following her hardcoded, naturally selected instincts."

Much of human mate selection works the same way. I am trying to discern the logic of the selection process.

Anonymous said...

I guess my issue is that the metaphorical monologue in the peahen's head glosses over what I think is a questionable assumption.

It's not clear that peacocks are handicapped by their plumage. For example there are studies showing that peacocks with more elaborate plumage are better able to avoid predators, not worse.

Anonymous said...

I think of trucks as being a status/lifestyle symbol.

Trucks bring to mind images of cowboys and ranchers (or even handymen). They suggest that a man who conquers obstacles and takes control over the world around him (as opposed to taking care OF the world around him by driving something more practical or environmentally friendly).

I'm not certain how that relates to a peahen's selection of mate.

Bubba said...

I have a long bed pickup...

gruntled said...

Bubba: How has that affected your mate selection prospects?

Bubba said...

Married 25 years, happily. She chose me when I owned a old Chevy Monza...but she adores the the new me.

gruntled said...

So what are the practical and symbolic uses of your truck?

Bubba said...

I'm a handyman...my truck looks like a handyman's truck.It's a 2009 black GMC Sierra.

gruntled said...

That sounds like a full functional justification to me. I was inspired to write this post from passing through a student parking lot with several enormous pickups, which the students have almost no functional justification for.

Bubba said...

It's a chick magnet too...

Stephanie Gibson said...

The Men and Trucks debate rages on in Eastern Kentucky. At least some of them are functional, but the fancier the truck (the ones with the least amount of dirt, tools, or without a farm license plate) are most likely to belong to "show-offs." You do not want to date the owner of the fancy truck. If you do date him, he most likely won't let you drive the darn thing. His most stable relationship is with the truck.