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Lecture Topics and Lecture Suggestions

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Lecture Topics and Lecture Suggestions

  1. The Evolution of Happiness (Buss, 2000). This lecture presents the key ideas laid out in an interesting paper that provides an evolutionary psychological analysis of happiness. This lecture will encourage students to think in terms of integrating the different domains of personality that have been covered in the course. In particular, this paper and the associated lecture guide students to consider the interface of evolutionary psychology and the study of emotion. Following the lecture, encourage students to discuss the ideas, including arguing in favor of them or against them. As always, be sure to help students fashion logical arguments rather than knee-jerk arguments that are not scientifically defensible.

  • According to Buss (2000), an evolutionary perspective offers novel insights into some major obstacles to achieving happiness

  • Impediments to achieving happiness include

  • Large discrepancies between modern and ancestral environments

  • The existence of evolved mechanisms “designed” to produce subjective distress, and

  • The fact that evolution by selection has produced competitive mechanisms that function to benefit one person at the expense of others

  • On the positive side, people also possess evolved mechanisms that produce deep sources of happiness

  • These include mechanisms designed to initiate and maintain mating bonds, deep friendship, close kinship, and cooperative coalitions

  • According to Buss (2000), understanding these psychological mechanisms—the selective processes that designed them, their evolved functions, and the contexts governing their activation—offers the best hope for holding some evolved mechanisms in check and selectively activating others to produce an overall increment in human happiness


Buss, D. M. (2000). The evolution of happiness. American Psychologist, 55, 15–23.

  1. Emotional Reactions to Infidelity (Shackelford, LeBlanc, & Drass 2000). This lecture presents research investigating the emotional reactions to a long-term partner’s sexual infidelity or emotional infidelity. The research is empirically guided and represents an example of the categorical approach to emotions in the sense that the researchers sought to identify the basic or primary emotions that underlie emotional reactions to a partner’s infidelity. Research on conflict in romantic relationships is a favorite topic of students, and this research is squarely within this topic. Use this lecture as a springboard for discussing and distinguishing between the categorical and dimensional approaches to emotion.

  • Shackelford et al. (2000) sought to identify emotional reactions to a partner’s sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity

  • In a preliminary study, 53 participants nominated emotional reactions to a partner’s sexual and emotional infidelity

  • In a second study, 655 participants rated each emotion for how likely it was to occur following sexual and emotional infidelity

  • Principal components analysis (similar to factor analysis) revealed 15 emotion components

  • These emotion components included Hostile/Vengeful, Depressed, and Sexually Aroused.

  • The researchers then conducted repeated measures analyses of variance on the 15 components, with participant sex as the between-subjects factor and infidelity type as the within-subjects factor

  • A main effect for sex was obtained for nine components

  • For example, men scored higher on Homicidal/Suicidal, whereas women scored higher on Undesirable/Insecure

  • A main effect for infidelity type obtained for 12 components

  • For example, participants endorsed Nauseated/Repulsed as more likely to follow sexual infidelity and Undesirable/Insecure as more likely to follow emotional infidelity

  • The researchers address limitations of this research, including reliance on self-report and imaginary infidelities, and highlight the need for an integrative theory of emotional reactions to infidelity


Shackelford, T. K., LeBlanc, G. J., & Drass, E. (2000). Emotional reactions to infidelity.

Cognition and Emotion, 14, 643–659.

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