Romance isn't dead: science says monogamy is natural, too.

Image: Crazy Stupid Love

Aside from being A-list movie stars, what do Scarlett Johansson, Shailene Woodley and Cameron Diaz have in common?

Here’s your answer: these three actresses don’t believe it’s natural or instinctive for human beings to be with just one partner for life. And they’re definitely not the only ones.

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If you’re ever stuck for conversation starters at a dinner party, the ‘is monogamy natural?’ question never fails to liven things up. While some people believe long-term, exclusive relationships are built into our DNA, others are convinced it’s a beat-up.

Just ask Playboy founder/notorious lothario Hugh Hefner, who thinks monogamy was a concept “invented in order to take care of children”. (Wait – Hugh Hefner doesn’t believe in monogamy? Well, now we’ve heard it all.)

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However, the findings of a recent study may have finally put the debate to bed. Here’s the verdict: human beings exhibit more diverse mating behaviour than other members of the animal kingdom, so people might naturally fall into two distinct relationship categories.

In other words, monogamy and polygamy may both be natural. It just depends on the person, which, yes, makes dating kind of frustrating.

Experimental psychologist Rafael Wlodarski, who led the research, tells Live Science the result was surprising. Generally, scientists have viewed human sexuality as a bell curve, with most people falling between two extremes: those who value faithful, exclusive relationships and those who are more promiscuous.

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“Rather than it being a whole gamut of mating strategies, there seems to be two potential phenotypes within males and within females,” he explains.

Monogamy is natural, after all.


The sexual attitudes of 600 British and American people were examined for the study, with participants quizzed on a number of topics including their willingness to enter a short-term, casual relationship.

Two distinct groups emerged among both the men and women, with just over half the men falling into the 'promiscuous' end of the spectrum while less than half of the women exhibited this attitude. (Hmph. Maybe those cheesy rom-coms have been right all along...)

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Of course, there are all kinds of factors that might contribute to someone's attitudes about monogamy. It's also worth noting the study subjects in this research were all Western, where the results may have been different if the participants had been more culturally diverse.

"In humans monogamy is relatively new on the scene — we're talking hundreds of thousands of years," Wlodarski told Live Science. "It's a winning strategy because it's so novel and it seems to work in the culture that we've created."

 What's your take on monogamy?