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Jacqueline Woolley, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

David Buss speaks at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Posted: September 27, 2013
David Buss

David Buss

Over 1100 people attended Professor David Buss’s Sept. 6 talk, “Human Mating Strategies”, making it the largest ever crowd for UT’s “Hot Science- Cool Talks” series (view the talk here).  Internationally acclaimed evolutionary psychologist Buss examines multiple aspects of mating related behaviors, including those with a darker side.

We usually link romantic relationships with love, and Buss’s recent talk explored the evolutionary psychology of human mating strategies.  Unfortunately, mating-related motives can also manifest in darker and more alarming forms, including intimate partner violence, sexual victimization, homicide, and stalking.  Buss’s Evolutionary Psychology Lab has recently turned its attention to identifying the causes of stalking and developing methods for reducing this behavior and its often destructive aftermath. 

Stalkers may pursue their victims in myriad ways, including repeated phone calls, unwanted messages, monitoring, unwanted gifts, intruding in interactions, invading property, and covertly obtaining information.  Buss’s study of over 2000 stalking victims found that roughly 40% of men and 60% of women report being stalked.  These numbers are in contrast to national samples of stalking, which show 2% of men and 8% of women to be victim.  The reason for the difference is that Buss’s group relaxes the ‘legal definition’ of stalking, which requires that the victim experience moderate to high levels of ‘fear.’  They feel that this legal definition is too restrictive, in that it ignores the many legitimate victims of stalking who do not experience fear at the time.  Moreover, some victims of stalking are entirely unaware that they are being stalked (e.g., sexual predators and even ex-mates sometimes intentionally conceal their stalking), and the victim doesn’t become aware of it until after the fact.  So they might not experience ‘fear’ while being stalked simply because they are unaware that they are being stalked at the time. 

The effects of stalking can be devastating.  Buss’s study found that stalking seriously disrupts the social life, work life, school life, and romantic life of victims.  Further, a substantial proportion of stalking victims report fear reactions and concern about physical harm, with female victims experiencing greater levels of these responses.  In an effort to help victims of stalking, Professor Buss has developed a website published in both English and Spanish: www.stalkinghelp.org. 

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