Here's an Evolutionary Explanation for Mean Girls

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Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount Picture

A not entirely well-received paper in the Philosophical Transactions B argues that women “evolved” into mean girls in order to demoralize their sexual rivals and ensure the propagation of their genetic material. University of Ottawa psychology professor Tracy Vaillancourt wrote that early woman couldn’t hurt or kill outright the women competing with them for men, because it was too risky. “Indirect aggression” — i.e. calling another woman a slut behind her back — is relatively low-cost. “The person making the attack doesn’t get injured,” Vaillancourt told LiveScience, which could compromise her own childbearing capabilities. “Oftentimes, the [mean girl’s] motives aren’t detected, and yet it still inflicts harm against the person they’re aggressing against." 

Vaillancourt supposes women target other women’s sexuality because promiscuous women lower the social cost of sex, while “such cattiness” makes “the targeted women too sad and anxious to compete in the sexual market.” Too bleak a portrayal of humanity for your Monday morning? Not all hope is lost. Criticizing Vaillancourt’s paper, Emory University psychologist Kim Wallen told LiveScience “none” of the studies cited “contain data showing that indirect aggression is successful in devaluing a competitor.” Modern man, in other words, doesn’t care if you have a bad reputation.

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