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Hot Dads, Part Deux

Because we’re geeks, we can’t stop thinking about our earlier write-up of the iVillage.com Hot Dads contest. Most of the features we highlighted this past Monday suggest that a lot of what likely makes a dad hot are the same characteristics that make a man hot. But as any good psychologist will tell you, context matters. And we’re not talking about just judging hotness of men in general, we’re talking about judging hotness in dads. And part of what should make a dad hot is his ability to fulfill his role as father (at least we hope it matters!). So thinking more about the ‘dad’ context led us to suspect several other cues or features should (or could) also come into play when evaluating the future winner of iVillage.com’s Hot Dads Contest.

In addition to signs of status, which may signal a dad’s ability to provide for his kids, we suspect any indication that a guy is devoted to fatherhood will be perceived as attractive in a dad. This led us to a number of research questions:

  • Are more ‘feminized’ (i.e., less masculine) faces perceived as hotter? Feminized faces are associated with nurturance, so maybe such faces signal long-term investment in children. What’s hotter than that? Really.
  • The NFL's DeMarcus Ware with his daughter; from nytimes.comAre pictures of dads with their kids perceived collectively as more attractive than pictures without kids? Otherwise, how else can you know he’s a dad vs. just some creepy narcissist in a speedo?
  • Are pictures with newborns particularly hot? What’s hotter than a naked baby butt next to a symmetrical man’s face? Nothing, that’s what.
  • One of the big issues in the evolutionary armistice is paternity confidence – i.e., the extent to which men and women can be confident their children are actually their biological bretheren. Women, who give birth, win at this little game hands down. Men, on the other hand, lack paternity confidence relative to women (basic biology here). Thus, are men who look more like their kids going to be perceived as hotter – because those similar mugs signal a more definite fertility status?
  • Does the manner in which women approach the contest ratings vary as a function of menstrual cycle stage? Specifically, are currently fertile women more likely to focus on overall cues of genetic fitness versus non-ovulating women who may focus more on signs of nurturance and stability?

These are just a few of the ideas we had while poking through the literature and thinking about the contest. We’re sure there are other factors that may matter as well. Importantly, the iVillage.com contest isn’t a true experiment; we can’t take the same guy and have him in photos that are virtually identical except for the presence of kids (vs. no kids), a baby (vs. older kid), doppleganger children (vs. kids that look like they belong to the proverbial mail carrier), etc. But, the contest does create a nice little observational study.

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