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?
Entries in evolutionary psychology (41)
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.
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.
As you may have noticed, some of Hollywood’s leading ladies have taken younger lovers and husbands in recent years. Although most people still think about the recently-dissolved Demi and Ashton (separated in age by 16 years) as the epitome of older women-younger man relationships, there are actually numerous other examples. Susan Sarandon (33 years older than her partner), Mariah Carey (+11 years), Jennifer Lopez (+18 years), Katie Couric (+17 years), and Madonna (+30ish years) are all currently involved with younger guys (click here for a few additional examples). The public and popular press alike have been fascinated by these so-called “cougar” relationships, considering them worthy of front page news. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably can’t help but wonder why these relationships are such a big deal.
A pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel in his pants. The bartender looks at him, and says: “Hey buddy, that looks pretty uncomfortable.” The pirate says: “Arrrrrrrrr, it’s driving me nuts.” I have a feeling you find this joke very funny. As a consequence, you probably like me a lot at this point (unless I’m the only one who finds this joke funny).
You don’t need a scientist to inform you that we all love to laugh. Humor is a social phenomenon; some researchers have estimated that we laugh about 18 times a day, mostly in the company of others. It should come as no surprise then that we like those who make us laugh. Research routinely shows that both men and women want a partner who has a good sense of humor.
My boyfriend and I of a very long time broke up two days ago, and I'm at a total loss of where to go from here. We had an amazing relationship with very little problems or issues, and I honestly thought that this could be my future husband. But about a month ago we were going through a rough patch and I made what is unquestionably the biggest mistake of my life and kissed another man. This man has no emotional meaning to me and it was a one-time occurrence.
I debated for weeks if I should tell him but I decided not to knowing he would break up with me and knowing it would never happen again. The man I kissed though had other plans and told others after I told him how important it was to keep between us because it had been a mistake. My boyfriend of course found out and asked me if had anything to tell him, and I confessed right then knowing he had found out. I told him how sorry I was and that there was absolutely no excuse for what I’d done. I told him the whole situation and that I only love him. I told him I wanted to work through it and earn his trust and forgiveness back but he broke up with me stating "I want to be with you but I have to break up with you".
So we haven't spoken in two days and here is my question for you. Do I let him go because I love him, or do I fight for him because I love him? I am 100% committed to fixing it and want him back but should I just set him free? He says he still loves me but should respect himself enough to break up with me. I have no idea what to do, but I know he's the one and I'm so lost. Please help!!
Assuming no freak hospital mix-ups, mothers can be 100% sure that a child that she bears and raises is, in fact, genetically her own. Fathers, however, can’t be quite so sure. Even if “dad” engages in vigilant mate guarding, there’s always the possibility that his partner snuck off for some horizontal mambo action with another guy. Evolutionary psychologists call this the “paternal certainty problem”— men who have been cuckolded and are unknowingly raising a child that’s not their own have failed, from an evolutionary perspective, at passing on their genes. And it turns out that a significant number of men have failed to solve this problem.
Editor's note: A reader recently asked for our thoughts about the history of marriage across time. This is a topic that Dr. Lorne Campbell tackled in our book, The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, and Family, so we've included an excerpt below.
The answer to this question is not straightforward. Research does suggest that although a lot of people are not monogamous, the majority of people do remain faithful to their partners. Any answer to the question, therefore, must address the conditions that make it more likely for some people to cheat on their partners but others to keep their zippers securely fastened.
A striking feature of human beings is our lack of a thick coat of body hair. Since all other primates have such fur this suggests the primate ancestors of human beings likewise had fur and that, for some evolutionary reason, lost their body hair. But what could this reason be? There are various theories but none is fully adequate.
In a new attempt to explain this loss of body hair I argue that human hairlessness had its origin in the ancestral mother-infant relationship. In the “naked love theory”, as I call it, this hairlessness is ultimately the result of bipedalism or the ability to walk on two feet.
Single people use a number of methods to find potential dates, such as going to bars, being fixed up by friends, online dating, or attending speed-dating events. How about choosing your next date based only on the smell of their stinky t-shirt? Sounds crazy, but an artist in Georgia has been throwing parties for singles where they do just that. Attendees bring a t-shirt they have worn to bed for the past three nights (without wearing any deodorant or perfume) to the party in a plastic bag. They then smell each other’s t-shirts and can introduce themselves to the people whose t-shirts they found most appealing. At one party, out of 40 attendees, a dozen people reportedly “hooked up”, and about half of them started relationships, which means roughly a third of the attendees found a match based on the smell of a t-shirt. Could smelling t-shirts be the best way to find that special someone? If so, what are people finding attractive about each other’s scents, and what does this mean for their later relationship success?
Why are people so strongly motivated to have relationships? According to a landmark paper by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary it’s because of a fundamental “need to belong.”1 The “belongingness hypothesis” states that people have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior.
Here is an overview of the evidence for this hypothesis, point by point.
Although Mad Men revolves around the life of the mysterious Don Draper, undoubtedly the coolest character on the show is Ms. Joan Holloway. When you talk to anyone that watches Mad Men, they all either want to be her or be with her. But what makes Joan so appealing? After all, Christina Hendricks, the actress that plays Joan, is not your typical overly skinny Hollywood actress. Instead, Joan Holloway’s appeal may come down to one simple number: .70.
Men are more willing to donate money and volunteer for helpful causes that demonstrate virility (donating blood) and parental investment (helping children in need) when attractive women are around than when they are around other men or alone. Why? To pick up chicks, of course. Donating money and volunteering “signal” generosity, a valuable trait in a potential mate (for more examples of such showcasing, see here).
Van Vugt, M., & Iredale, W. (2012). Men behaving nicely: Public Goods as peacock tails. British Journal of Psychology. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02093.x
We discussed previously how men view women who wear red (vs. other colors) as more physically attractive and sexually desirable. Researchers have recently discovered that this preference exists because men perceive red as indicating greater sexual receptivity in women. These results are consistent with evolutionary perspectives and research indicating female primates display red on their bodies to indicate sexual receptivity.
Pazda, A. D., Elliot, A. J., & Greitemeyer, T. (in press). Sexy red: Perceived sexual receptivity mediates the red-attraction relation in men viewing women. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.12.009
To celebrate Charles Darwin's 203rd birthday, check out some of our posts about research inspired by evolutionary psychology, including:
Editor's note: Relationship researchers and married couple Drs. Charlotte and Patrick Markey give us "his and her" takes on how to approach Valentine's Day gift giving.
I went to the mailbox this morning and found a turquoise blue catalogue amongst the undesirable bills and solicitations. On the cover, heart-shaped jewelry reminded me that Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching. I was tempted to strategically place this little blue reminder from Tiffany’s in my husband’s view -- on his dresser, in his briefcase, or perhaps on the kitchen island. But then, I found myself realizing I did not actually desire expensive jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I was ill? Wasn’t I supposed to want something fancy?
New research suggests that women who wear sexy clothing and show cleavage alienate other women. While waiting to participate in what they thought was a study of conflict, pairs of women witnessed an attractive woman in sexy clothing enter the room and talk to a research assistant about setting up the cameras. The researchers recorded responses of the women in the waiting area during the provocatively dressed woman’s presence and after she left the room. The women in the waiting room rolled their eyes, looked at the provocatively dressed woman in disgust, made negative and mocking comments, and laughed at her when she left the room. Apparently this sexy woman was quite threatening. When the same woman entered the room in khakis and a crew neck t-shirt (i.e., not provocatively dressed), the women barely even noticed her!
After rating their own attractiveness, 200 undergraduates participated in a speed-meeting task and talked to 5 members of the opposite sex for 3 minutes each. Men with high self-perceived attractiveness were more likely to think the women (especially attractive women) were attracted to them. Also, men looking to hook up overestimated women’s desire. In contrast, women underestimated men’s desire. From an evolutionary perspective, men’s overestimations increase mating success because it gives them more chances.
Perilloux, C., Easton, J. A., & Buss, D. M. (in press). The misperception of sexual interest: A speed-meeting study. Psychological Science.
image source: novelasymas.com
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, everyone knows that red is one of the colors associated with this holiday. It’s the color of Santa’s suit, Rudolph’s nose, and those tacky woolen sweaters you inevitably see at the office holiday party. However, recent research suggests that red gets us “in the mood” for more than just eggnog and gift-giving—it also increases how attractive and sexually desirable we find other people.
In a recent study, researchers examined whether women pay more attention to men’s status cues when women are most fertile. Naturally cycling women (i.e., non-pill users) paid more attention to status symbols (e.g., sports cars, mansions) when they were ovulating compared to other times of their cycles. Also, ovulating non-pill users paid more attention to status than did pill users. Finally, pill users’ eye for status did not vary across the menstrual cycle.
Lens, I., Driesmans, K., Pandelaere, M., & Janssens, K. (2012). Would male conspicuous consumption capture the female eye? Menstrual cycle effects on women’s attention to status products. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 346-349.