Dr. Jennifer Verdolin is an animal behavior researcher specializing in social and mating behavior. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Duke University. Jennifer is the author of two books: “Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships” and “Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics.” Jennifer was also a long-time featured guest on the popular DL Hughley Show, where she dished out relationship advice.
In this interview, Jennifer opens by talking about first impressions, and how humans and animals assess a potential mate based on appearance. She describes specific physical traits that different animal species look for, and reveals the similarities in humans. She discusses how factors such as symmetry and smells influence attraction. Jennifer also talks about the ways that humans try to manipulate these factors in an attempt to be more attractive. We ask her if there are any animal species that are deceptive in this process.
Next, Jennifer discusses the roles that risk assessment and competition play in mating. She explains why men tend not to approach women that are surrounded by other men, and if this is true in the animal kingdom. She describes the differences in how men and women engage in competition. Chris and Jennifer then talk about how hierarchy, group dynamics, status influence attraction. She discusses how humans use social cues to make decisions, and reveals instances of mate copying in other species.
Jennifer explains why looks matter less to females, and reveals some of the non-physical traits that are most important, including intelligence, status, and personality. She compares the ways in which humans and animals assess compatibility in a mate. Chris elaborates on the idea of attraction as a perception of value. Jennifer and Chris also discuss large age differences in dating, and some of the factors that motivate this, including maturity, experience, and security. Jennifer then talks about why females in both humans and the animal kingdom are usually the ones to signal yes or no to the males.
Chris and Jennifer discuss the screening processes that people use in dating, and how this changes based on maturity as well as the type of relationship that someone is seeking. They talk about how people assess mates based on resources, and Jennifer describes the different ways that animal species and humans demonstrate value. They also discuss figuring out what you value and using that to screen people out. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of being honest and communicating your wants and needs.
In the last part of this interview, we ask Jennifer some questions to summarize everything that we discussed. She talks about what makes someone attractive to the opposite sex, as well as the relative importance of physical traits and non-physical traits. Jennifer goes on to describe the similarities and differences between the courtship process of humans and animals. She explains how both humans and animals assess compatibility. She also discusses how human mating activity compares to that of animals, and if there is an ideal number of sexual partners
Finally, Jennifer compares the ways that animals and humans communicate and deal with conflict in long-term relationships. We ask her if there are such things as cheating or breakups in animal relationships. She emphasizes that long-term relationships in humans and animals are always about equality and cooperation. As a last piece of advice, Jennifer encourages us to embrace our imperfections and the things that make us unique. She also leaves us with a few key dating and relationship tips.