Entries in evolutionary psychology (58)

Thursday
Jun012017

Can Using Hormonal Birth Control Affect the Health of Future Children?

When choosing a partner to have children with, it is only natural to desire “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella,” who may pass on their beneficial genetic qualities to future kids. Given that better genes increase the offspring's survival and reproduction chances, mechanisms that detect “genetic quality” should have evolved to lead people to be sexually attracted to “knights in shining genes.”

One such cue for mate suitability is odor, which signals compatibility between potential mates' immune systems. Specifically, odor indicates the extent of overlapping between potential mates' immune systems, such that more attractive odor signals less overlap between mates' immune systems. The larger the dissimilarity between mates' immune systems, the more threats the immune system can combat.

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Wednesday
May182016

Do You Know When Your Partner is in the Mood for Sex?

Sometimes it’s obvious that our partner is interested in having sex—they might give us that seductive look or special touch. But other times it might be clear that tonight’s not the night—our partner might avoid our advances and simply roll over and go to sleep. But often, amidst our busy lives, work responsibilities, and children to care for, it may be much less clear how interested our partner is in engaging in sex. In a recent set of studies, my colleagues and I looked at how accurate people are at picking up on their partner’s interest in sex and how perceptions of a partner’s sexual desire are associated with relationship satisfaction and commitment.1 

First I want to share what we currently know from previous research about perceptions of sexual interest. All of the the past research on perceptions of sexual interest has focused on initial encounters between men and women—that is, men and women rating the sexual interest of a person they are meeting for the first time. The results are very consistent: men tend to show a sexual overperception bias where they perceive greater sexual interest in a women’s behavior than she herself reports. The majority of this research draws on evolutionary psychology and explains these findings as reflecting the fact that it’s more costly (in terms of men’s chances for mating with a good partner and having kids) for men to miss a potential mating opportunity than to perceive that a woman is interested in sex when she actually is not; thus, men tend to err on the side of overperception.2

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Tuesday
Dec082015

Infidelity and Jealousy from an Evolutionary Perspective

When you feel as if someone poses a threat to your relationship (whether they do or not), jealousy likely creeps in. Researchers note that jealousy is characterized by fear of loss, distrust, or anger, as one is worried about losing a relationship due to a rival.1 Essentially, jealousy serves as a mechanism by which the person remains hypervigilant to protect his/her relationship from potential intruders. One common scenario which can elicit jealousy is when your partner is in the presence of available and datable others, resulting in the sense that a partner may be unfaithful.

Infidelity

In a previous article, I discussed theories of infidelity, focusing on the different perspectives offered by evolutionary psychologists and social-role theorists. The dispute between these two perspectives focuses on the difference in how distressed is measured. One approach is to use “forced choice” alternatives, which include answer choices in which a participant is to pick which is more upsetting from two pre-selected responses: your partner forming an emotional attachment with another individual (emotional infidelity) or your partner having sex with this other individual (sexual infidelity). Evolutionary psychologists have used this forced-choice paradigm to show that men are more upset by sexual infidelity, while women are more distressed by emotional infidelity.

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Thursday
Oct012015

A “Double-Shot” of Cheating

The need to belong is a basic human drive; we as humans have a pervasive desire to form and maintain lasting, positive relationships.1 Relationships are important for our well-being, as their initiation is often associated with happiness, elation, love, and joy. Marital relationships serve as important buffers against stress;2 and marital quality is associated with better health.3 The benefits of being in a relationship, such as those just mentioned may explain why people are often very resistant to breaking social bonds and experience strong negative emotions when they feel as if their relationships may be compromised.

Cheating (or being cheated on) is one of the most detrimental behaviors for the survival of a relationship. Infidelity shakes the ground upon which the relationship was built, as it creates a violation of trust and breaks the commitment each partner made to one another. Not only does the act of cheating create tension and potentially destroy the relationship, but the perception that a partner may be cheating is also problematic. If there is suspicion of infidelity, that suspicion often creates a rift between couple members. Therefore, it is important to know how people view cheating and what behaviors people believe violate the terms of a committed relationship. 

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Thursday
Jun042015

Features that Signal Attractiveness: The Kylie Jenner Effect

After the youngest Kardashian sister admitted that she has benefitted from temporary lip fillers, the internet has been abuzz with the #KylieJennerChallenge, as people all over the world are putting their lips to bottles and sucking in to create a fuller, plumper lip. Why is it that girls are interested in obtaining Kylie’s plump pout? Is it some sort of obsession with looking like a Kardashian, or is there more to it? Although the answer may be a little bit of both, there is indeed a psychological underpinning to the desire to obtain these features.

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Wednesday
Apr222015

The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - How Parents Meddle in Their Children's Love Lives

Meet the parents! Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments show how choosing a partner can send shockwaves across the generations. Find out how parents meddle in their children’s love lives, and how sexy sons lead to handsome fathers.

Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.

Wednesday
Apr082015

The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - Preventing Cheating with "Coalitional Mate Retention"

With a little help from my friends: Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments that examine how people use coalitional mate retention tactics to prevent their partners from cheating. Your friends can help to keep your partner faithful.

Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.

Tuesday
Feb242015

Vocal Cues of Fertility: Bachelor 19’s Whitney Bischoff May Be the Ultimate Prize

Full disclosure: Watching The Bachelor/ette is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fascinating not just for the entertaining drama, but also as a unique case study of relationship dynamics. If you’re unfamiliar, The Bachelor is a reality TV show in which 25-30 beautiful and presumably single women contend for the attention, love, and marriage proposal of one eligible gent over the course of about two months of filming. Every season is chock-a-block with romantic and often extravagant dates, profuse amounts of smooching, and (sometimes ridiculous) drama. (Disclaimer: Before I get to the meat of this article, I should make it clear that that while I find the show very amusing, I don’t find the format to be particularly realistic, nor do I feel like the format allows for a strong foundation that can foster a future long-term relationship to be built—though there seem to be a few happy exceptions.)

When I watch The Bachelor/ette, I love to shamelessly analyze the contestants and try to make connections to research (after all, I am a relationship science nerd). There are always a few contestants who stand out, for better or worse, and this season I’m a bit mesmerized with Whitney Bischoff in a good way. She seems very classy, but more than that, she has a very distinct voice. The pitch is quite high, and though some people might find it a bit intense, it may actually make her more appealing to our current Bachelor, Chris.

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Wednesday
Dec172014

All I Want for Christmas is You: The Science of Gift Giving

Each year around mid-November, business owners begin to lick their chops: the next month will arguably be their busiest and most profitable. Last year, for example, Americans spent over $52 billion during the Thanksgiving weekend alone.1 Although large portions of these purchases are surely self-indulging, people also make a lot of purchases to take care of gift shopping for the upcoming holiday season.

Gift giving seems to be a biologically natural phenomenon across a range of species and targets – even organisms as simple as insects feel the need to get in on the giving. Male crickets, for example, gift their sexual partners with a nutritious treat to prevent them from prematurely consuming their sperm ampulla—essentially a big bag of sperm—after mating.2 Insect gift giving extends beyond sexual partners as well: burying beetles provide their young larvae with a tasty carcass to feed on and live in.3

Similarly, humans often provide their loved ones—children, mates, or otherwise—with an assortment of presents. Thankfully, these gifts tend to be less disgusting than those given by our insect counterparts. Although you may look forward to exchanging gifts with your loved ones this time of year, it’s worth asking: is gift giving good for relationships, or is it possible for gift giving to somehow harm close relationships?

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Sunday
Sep072014

Ashton Kutcher: Why Mila Will Succeed Where Demi Failed

Image Source:www.netquake.net/In Hollywood, where a relationship lasting five years is an impressive feat, celebrity break-ups are predictable. Needless to say, when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s 8-year relationship ended in 2011, it wasn’t shocking news. However, it was intriguing that Ashton began a new relationship soon after with Mila Kunis, his co-star from That ’70s Show. Will Ashton’s new relationship with Mila last longer than the 8 years that Ashton spent with Demi?  On one hand, the outcome may not be all that different; Demi and Mila are fairly similar. Both women are beautiful celebrities/actresses who are famous, wealthy, have the same hair color and, strangely, both have one hazel and one green eye (apparently Ashton has a thing for mix-and-match eyes). But on the other hand, Mila and Demi have some differences that may make the Ashton-Mila pairing more likely to lead to happily ever after, or at least to last longer than 8 years (it is Hollywood, after all). 

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Monday
May122014

Music to Her Ears: Female Fertility and the Sounds of Music

What is the point of music? Psychologist Stephen Pinker likens it to “auditory cheesecake,” a confection intended to tickle our neural pleasure circuits1 -- a jolt of enjoyment rather than a necessity for human survival. But 140 years ago, Charles Darwin was tinkering with another theory: that music’s true purpose is to impress the opposite sex.2 He recognised that birds don’t sing for pure joy, but to attract a mate or challenge rivals. Could music serve a similar function in humans?

Quite possibly. The lyrics of most pop songs are about relationships, with love at first sight, jealousy, and breakups being common themes. And it’s also plain that music stirs fierce emotions, from the screaming adulation that provided a second soundtrack to Beatlemania, to the Beliebers and Directioners of today whose online worshipping of their idols knows no bounds. But until recently, there’s been little hard evidence for Darwin’s theory that music is a method of sexual seduction.

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Saturday
Apr052014

Attractive Girl and a Rich Guy: A Fair Trade or Not?

It feels like something you've seen a thousand times before: a younger attractive woman with an older, wealthy man. But check out the response a woman gets when asking a dating forum how to find a rich guy (click here).  It is a nice example of evolutionary theory, which you can read more about here.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Manly Men’s Potential Negative Effects on Daughters

Men with chiseled chins and other manly facial features are thought to appeal to women as long-term mates, partly due to the potential benefits for their children. Using data from over 1,000 individuals who have a twin and over 100 of their brothers/sisters, researchers assessed the masculinity and attractiveness of participants’ faces. While attractiveness and facial masculinity were unrelated for men, women with more masculine brothers were rated as less attractive. This suggests that would-be moms mating with masculine men for genetically superior children should be aware of the potential negative impact on their daughters.   

Lee, A. J., Mitchem D. G., Wright, M. J., Martin, N. G., Keller, M. C., & Zietsch, B. P. (2013). Genetic factors that increase male facial masculinity decrease facial attractiveness of female relatives. Psychological Science (OnlineFirst). doi: 10.1177/0956797613510724 

Saturday
Nov092013

We Aren't Saying She's a Gold Digger...but if the Shoe Fits....

Saturday
Sep212013

Those Love Geeks: Dr. David Buss on Hooking Up

Thursday
Aug012013

Did Monogamy Evolve to Prevent Infanticide?

According to this recent article on the Science website, human's predisposition for monogamy in relationships may have evolved as a mechanism to prevent infanticide. What do you think?

Check out our article Are We Meant to be Monogamous? here.

Wednesday
Jul172013

"You Make Time Stand Still": 80 Milliseconds of Hotness

We attempt to estimate “time” on a routine basis. How long will it take to get to work in today’s traffic? How long will I need to complete this project? How much time should I give to reading this article? But just because we regularly estimate time doesn’t mean we are very accurate at our predictions. Certainly there are factors like stress and fatigue that make us better or worse at making predictions about time, but it is also possible that our relationships with others influence us as well. For example, you may have heard the expression “getting lost in someone’s eyes,” but can that mean losing track of time too?

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Friday
Mar152013

"Wanna Go to Bed With Me?" (a.k.a. "Get Away from Me, Creep" vs. "Where Do I Sign Up?")

What if you were sitting at a café, the park, or a beer garden (the latter being where you’re most likely to find me) and someone you’ve never met before approached you. Doesn’t seem too bad at this point, right? Now, what if this stranger then attempted to solicit casual sex from you? What would you say?

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Friday
Mar012013

When a Flash of Skin Makes a Man Flash His Cash

I’m probably not the only person who’s wondered why muscle-car expos and auto-enthusiast magazines often feature attractive female models, or “car babes,” posing suggestively alongside (or on top of!) luxurious vehicles. Doesn’t the eye candy distract prospective buyers from the cars?

Maybe not. Turns out feminine curves and cold chrome aren’t such an unlikely combination after all. It all boils down to the need to impress a potential mate.

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Friday
Dec142012

All I Want for Christmas is You: The Science of Gift Giving

Each year around mid-November, business owners begin to lick their chops: the next month will arguably be their busiest and most profitable. Last year, for example, Americans spent over $52 billion during the Thanksgiving weekend alone.1 Although large portions of these purchases are surely self-indulging, people also make a lot of purchases to take care of gift shopping for the upcoming holiday season.

Gift giving seems to be a biologically natural phenomenon across a range of species and targets – even organisms as simple as insects feel the need to get in on the giving.

Click to read more ...