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28th February 2021

With Mothering Sunday once more nearly upon us, it is the perfect to dispel the myth of maternal instinct, and that’s where evolutionary psychologist Dr. Maryanne Fisher comes in. Dr. Fisher has amassed the biological evidence that shows that not only does this so-called instinct not exist, but also that it is little more than a social construct. Don't think, however, that this gets you off the hook on March 14th (international dates may vary), as it means that whatever was done for you was much more than just mere instinct.

Cambridge Skeptics

 
Mommy Dearest: The Myth of the Maternal Instinct
with Dr. Maryanne Fisher
Thursday, 4th March 2020 at 7:00pm
 
 
Evolutionary perspectives of mothering create a dilemma. One side suggests that women invest so heavily in their children that there may be an 'instinct' that drives their maternal behavior. The other side supports viewing women as strategists who constantly must maximize opportunities to find quality mates and have healthy children, even at the cost of current children. Mothers behave in ways that clearly discount the notion of a maternal instinct, including their harmful (even deadly) behaviors toward their children, and the amount of practice needed to nurse an infant. In contrast, maternal love is more accurate, and shows variation among mothers according to many situational factors, such as whether she has resources and social networks to support herself and children. However, despite advances in our understanding of parenting, the overwhelming majority of students continue to believe in a maternal instinct. Mothers, via a “maternal instinct” are presumed to automatically know how to meet their infants' needs, be able to protect their infant at any cost, and be able to show others how to provide care effectively. The continued belief of a maternal instinct is harmful; it devalues parents and undervalues requests for help. We discuss these ramifications and emphasize the need to explore variation in maternal love, rather than thinking there is a default "maternal instinct." 

Dr. Maryanne Fisher is an evolutionary psychologist at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, and an Affiliate Faculty member at the Kinsey Institute. She has studied mating and dating for years, and especially the competition between women for access to those they desire. After more than two decades of research, writing a few books, and many, many late nights analysing data, she has arrived at the conclusion that women are very strategic. More recently, she has been studying mothering, which she gains insight into while chasing her toddlers. 

Useful Links:
maryannefisher.ca

FIND OUT MORE
 
Psychology prof Maryanne Fisher has been studying what Harlequin romance novels can tell us about relationships for more than seven years, reports Haley Ryan for CBC News.
Psychology prof Maryanne Fisher sees 'movement away from opportunistic’ to search for companionship, reports Kevin Yarr for CBC News.
Psychology prof Maryanne Fisher expects fewer hookups, more long-term relationships post-COVID-19, reports Emma Smith for CBC News.
SEE ALSO
 
It's a Sin showed us how much our understanding of HIV has changed, but social attitudes to the disease still remain mired in stigma, writes Alice Howarth for The Skeptic.
When the media refers to new home swabs for HPV as "home smear test", they risk discouraging people from attending cervical screening, writes Alice Howarth for The Skeptic.
By celebrating the long-debunked claims of Erich von Däniken, Blackpool's new entertainment park perpetuates deeply racist assumptions, writes Mark Horne for The Skeptic.
Podcast hosts have a real intimacy with their listeners - that trust is eroded when they advertise snake oil supplements and pseudoscience - writes Michael Marshall for The Skeptic.
CATCH UP
 
Join neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett as he answers questions and challengs misconceptions about mental health flagged up by the SITP community. This event, which was streamed live on 18th February 2021, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Join neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett as he answers questions and challengs misconceptions about mental health flagged up by the SITP community. This event, which was streamed live on 18th February 2021, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
Join Dr Jacques Launay to explore the role of music in social bonding and whether it's best understood as the alternative to language. This event, which was streamed live on 11th February 2021, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
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