Playing Dirty: Intrasexual Competition W/ Maryanne Fisher Ph.D.


There was a moment, when I was a first year university student, when I realized that I really wanted to learn about the grey area of where genetics meets psychology. I went to my psychology professor to ask him if there was such an area, to which he scoffed and said, “No, but why would you want that anyways?”


Twenty some-odd years later, and here I am, studying exactly that topic (I tend not to run from a challenge). To be fair, I study more than just the genetic influence on behaviour, though. I’man evolutionary psychologist, which means that I apply evolutionary principles to the study of human psychology, which means accounting for genes but also one’s environment (whether it be a physical environment, or social/family/cultural environment). It’s been a grand career so far, and I can truly say no two days are alike. I’ve studied everything from Harlequin romance novels to porn to TV shows like Dallas to social interactions on the street, all in order to dig deeper into why (and how) humans behave the way they do. 

I’m a Full Professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, and an Affiliate Faculty member of the Kinsey Institute. My main area of research is how self-report heterosexual women compete for mates. Note, though, that I’m slowly moving into studying other sexualities, as well as studying women’s competition outside of the mating arena, so stay tuned! Within the last 15 or so years, there has been an explosion of research papers on this topic, as well as how women compete in other areas, too – to the extent that on September 11, 2017 (around the time I chatted with Bryde and Jeremie) Oxford University Press released the Oxford Handbook of Women and Competition that I edited. This massive tome weighs over 4lbs and represents the current state of thinking on the topic. It was a long process but an exciting one! This area has really developed, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.


I had a great time chatting with Bryde and Jeremie about my field, the sorts of research I do, and some of the questions that remain to be answered by research. What an honour to be on TMO! Hope your brain gets turned on and thrilled by evolutionary psychology, just like mine does.

Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D.

Jeremie Saunders