Darwin and the sports psychologist

In Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Block and Dewitte (2008) discuss sport from an evolutionary perspective. They suggest that participation in sport, underpinned by social learning, has arisen out of signaling attractiveness for the purposes of courtship and that human sports are cultural and therefore learned rather than innate. Using the dual-inheritance theory (for others theories see post), suggest that sport:

  • Like the peacocks tail, has evolved to make the sportsperson more attractive by highlighting physical differences, and therefore strengths
  • Signals heritable fitness to potential partners by: (1) identifying an evolutionary relevant quality (e.g. speed, strength etc), (2) favouring accuracy over luck, and (3) making clear who has won as a consequence of these qualities
  • Possesses varying degrees of prestige, may have a survival value to the winner (for example distance running, or horseback riding), be important for the players status and can assess and display the ability to team work

Block, A. D., & Dewitte, S. (2008). Darwinism and the Cultural Evolution of Sports. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine,52(1), 1-16. doi:10.1353/pbm.0.0063