Sex, drugs and moral goals: reproductive strategies and views about recreational drugs

Robert Kurzban, Amber Dukes, Jason Weeden


Humans, unlike most other species, show intense interest in the activities of conspecifics, even when the activities in question pose no obvious fitness threat or opportunity. Here, we investigate one content domain in which people show substantial interest, the use of drugs for non-medical purposes. Drawing from two subject populations—one undergraduate and one Internet-based—we look at the relationships among (i) abstract political commitments; (ii) attitudes about sexuality; and (iii) views surrounding recreational drugs. Whereas some theories suggest that drug views are best understood as the result of abstract political ideology, we suggest that these views can be better understood in the context of reproductive strategy. We show that, as predicted by a strategic construal, drug attitudes are best predicted by sexual items rather than abstract political commitments and, further, that the relationship between factors such as political ideology and drugs, while positive, are reduced to zero or nearly zero when items assessing sexuality are controlled for. We conclude that considering morality from the standpoint of strategic interests is a potentially useful way to understand why humans care about third party behaviour.

  • Received March 22, 2010.
  • Accepted May 25, 2010.
View Full Text