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Sex, drugs and moral goals: Penn study of reproductive strategies and recreational drug use
Date:6/15/2010

PHILADELPHIA - Why is there so much disagreement about whether using recreational drugs is morally wrong? A University of Pennsylvania psychology study shows that the debate about drugs might really be about sex.

The study compared two competing theories.

One theory -- the conventional wisdom in political science -- sees drug attitudes as primarily coming from people's political ideology, level of religious commitment, and personality, for example, openness to experience.

The other theory, proposed by the researchers and driven by ideas from evolutionary psychology, holds that drug attitudes are really driven by people's reproductive strategies.

When the Penn researchers questioned almost 1,000 people in two subject populations, one undergraduate and one Internet-based, a clear winner emerged between the competing theories: Differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals' different views on recreational drugs.

While many items predict to some extent whether people are opposed to recreational drugs, the most closely related predictors are people's views on sexual promiscuity. While people who are more religious and those who are more politically conservative do tend to oppose recreational drugs, in both study samples the predictive power of these religious and ideological items was reduced nearly to zero by controlling for items tracking attitudes toward sexual promiscuity.

"This provides evidence that views on sex and views on drugs are very closely related," said Kurzban, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at Penn. "If you were to measure people's political ideology, religiosity and personality characteristics, you can predict to some degree how people feel about recreational drugs. But if, instead, you just measure how people feel about casual sex, and ignore the abstract items, the
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Contact: Jordan Reese
jreese@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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