Tag Archives: attractiveness

Men who flash their wealth are perceived as unsuitable long-term partners

Credit: Max Pixel.

Studies suggest that women generally prefer physical qualities when they have a fling in mind, while a man’s wealth is a more desirable quality when considering a long-term relationship. But how a man signals his wealth can also influence the framing of the relationship. According to new research, women can see through the bling and will generally consider a man who’s flaunting his wealth — by buying a flashy car, for instance — as a less suitable life partner than men with more practical considerations.

Male peacocking

Peacocks were one of Charles Darwin‘s long-standing dilemmas. They gave him headaches when devising the theory of evolution by natural selection. The peacock’s long tails and elaborate plumage did not confer any survival advantage — actually, the flashy plumage made them stand out, making them more vulnerable to predators. Darwin realized, however, that these features made the peacock’s more attractive to potential mates, conferring a reproductive advantage. He concluded that males who succeed in reproductive competitions will have more offspring and, thus, their traits will be selected for, even if such traits may lead to detrimental consequences in terms of survivability.

Later, psychologists found a similar puzzle when describing individuals who spent disproportionate amounts of resources on luxury goods relative to their utility, or made considerable charitable contributions that did not return economic benefits. They later concluded, however, that such conspicuous expenditure of resources incurred indirect benefits by raising prestige. Modern evolutionary psychologists now consider human male display of wealth as a costly signal strategy which is analogous to the peacock’s tail, thereby enhancing perceived attractiveness to women.

Daniel Kruger of the University of Michigan and Jessica Kruger at the University at Buffalo recruited two groups of undergraduate students who had to complete anonymous online surveys. The participants were presented with descriptions of two men who were purchasing cars. Both men had the same budget. However, one made a frugal purchase by buying a new car that’s reliable but rather boring. The other bought a used car but then spent the remaining budget on cosmetical enhancements such as larger rims, a new paint job, and a banging sound system.

Each participant, both male and female, had to rate each fictional character on dating and parenting behaviors, but also his interest in relationships and attractiveness to others. Consistently, for both males and females, the man with the flashy car was rated as being more interested in brief sexual relationships. Although this character was rated highly for the effort he made in securing a mate, he was rated poorly on his willingness to invest in a potential long-term romantic relationship. The man with the boring car scored much higher and received top marks as a life partner, parent, and provider.

“Participants demonstrated an intuitive understanding that men investing in the display of goods featuring exaggerated sensory properties have reproductive strategies with higher mating effort and greater interest in short-term sexual relationships, as well as lower paternal investment and interest in long-term committed romantic relationships than men investing in practical considerations,” explains Daniel Kruger.

The findings suggest that there are nuances in perceived male attractiveness that go-beyond the popular “man displays wealth, man signals he can care for offspring” paradigm.

“This contrasts with the notion that men’s conspicuous resource displays are attractive to women because they reliably signal expected future resource investment in partners and especially in offspring,” adds Jessica Kruger, who says the study increases researchers’ understanding of how human psychology and behavior applies to technologically advanced and wealthy societies.

Scientific reference: Kruger, D.J. & Kruger, J.S. (2018). What do Economically Costly Signals Signal? A Life History Framework for Interpreting Conspicuous Consumption, Evolutionary Psychological ScienceDOI: 10.1007/s40806-018-0151-y.

Puppies.

Puppies reach peak-cuteness around 8 to 10 weeks specifically to make us love them

New research delves into the cornerstones of human-dog bonding.

Puppies.

Image credits Dae Jeung Kim.

Scientific pursuit can often feel remote, involving too many things leptons or quasars for us to truly connect. Every now and again, however, members of academia ask and then try to answer questions that speak to our core — for example, exactly when in their lifetimes do dogs reach maximum cuteness? Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and director of Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory, says it’s around the time they get weaned.

Someone else’s problem now

Wynne and his colleagues write that about 80% of the world’s billion-strong population of dogs comprises of feral animals. Wynne himself has had ample opportunity to observe these feral dogs and how they interact with humans — for example, by watching street dogs in the Bahamas. Despite the apparent independence, human intervention is crucial for the survival of feral or street dogs, the team writes.

The next question is, of course, what would motivate people to intervene on behalf of these animals. One of the factors that seemed promising to the team was ‘cuteness’. So they set out to see if there is indeed a connection between pups’ weaning age (the most vulnerable period during a dog’s life) and their attractiveness to humans.

The study involved pictures of puppies of three races (Jack Russell terriers, Cane Corsos, and white shepherds) taken at different ages. Fifty-one participants were asked to rank the photographs based on their attractiveness levels. The results suggest that pups’ attractiveness was lowest at birth, reached peak-cuteness at roughly 10 weeks of age, then gradually declined and leveled off. Per-race rankings found that Cane Corso hit maximum cuteness at 6.3 weeks of age, Jack Russell terriers at 7.7 weeks of age, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks of age. Caution to the wise, though: fifty-one participants is quite a limited sample size.

“Around seven or eight weeks of age, just as their mother is getting sick of them and is going to kick them out of the den and they’re going to have to make their own way in life, at that age, that is exactly when they are most attractive to human beings,” Wynne said.

He adds that the findings offer some nuance to the origin and relationships between humans and dogs. Being the oldest human-animal relationship we’ve formed, this relationship is often touted on its practical merits: we’ve befriended dogs because they’re smart and they help around the cave. But Wynne says the results suggest dogs’ usefulness and intelligence isn’t the only — or, even, the main — chip they base their survival on.

“I think that the intelligence of dogs is not the fundamental issue,” he explains. “It does seem to me that the dog has something rather special, […] a very open-ended social program. That they are ready and willing to make friends with anybody.”

Wynne explains that while other animals, most notably cats and birds, have shown the ability to form especially strong bonds with humans, dogs take this to the extreme. He adds that the eight-week maximum cuteness point has biological and evolutional significance. The fact that pups are the most attractive to us during weaning — when they’re at their most vulnerable — suggests that dogs have evolved specifically to rely on human care, the team adds.

The findings are also reinforced by previous research into human-dog dynamics and human-wolf relationships. Such research revealed that even hand-reared wolves are less willing and comfortable engaging humans compared to domestic dogs. In other words, man’s best friend likely evolved their gregarious nature specifically to cozy up to us humans. Not that I’m complaining.

“For them, it’s the absolute bedrock of their existence. […] being able to connect with us, to find an emotional hook with us is what actually makes their lives possible,” Wynne says.

The eight-week point is just the point where the hook is biggest, the ability of the animal to grab our interest is strongest. But, having grabbed our interest, we continue to love them all their lives.”

The team plans to follow up on their research using videos of puppies at different ages instead of still photographs to determine if there are other factors to pups’ behavior (such as movement) that attracts people. Another area they want to further explore is how mother dogs perceive their pups’ cuteness over time — although they admit that last one will be difficult to perform.

The paper “Dog Pups’ Attractiveness to Humans Peaks at Weaning Age” has been published in the journal Anthrozoös.

Good-looking people are more likely to feel that life is fair

In a study that will raise a lot of eyebrows but will also seem completely unsurprising to some, attractive people feel that life is more just than non-attractive people.

Image credits: Nine Köpfer / Unsplash.

The study analyzed an unlikely connection between attractiveness and the belief in a just world, finding a strong correlation between the two.

“My primary area of research is the attractiveness stereotype, which refers to the human tendency to attribute positive traits to attractive people and negative traits to those deemed unattractive,” said R. Shane Westfall, a PhD student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and corresponding author of the study.

“As I was reading more about the Just World Hypothesis for an unrelated topic, I noticed that the strongest endorsers of the hypothesis tend to be those favored by society. This led me to make a connection with my research, as more attractive individuals receive favorable treatment throughout their lives.”

As part of the study, 395 college students were asked to rate how much they agree with the following statements: “I feel that people get what they are entitled to have” and “I feel that people who meet with misfortune have brought it on themselves.”

Researchers found that students who were more attractive were significantly more likely to agree with the statements — both when their attractiveness was rated by peers, and when they self-rated. Additionally, both attractiveness measures were found to have a relationship with participant’s level of life satisfaction, researchers write.

It’s not the first time a study finds this type of result. Studies have consistently shown that belief in a just world is strongly correlated with societal privilege, and attractiveness is as straightforward as privilege goes.

As a major limitation of the study, researchers note that the participants were largely college-aged Americans. This carries on two consequences: first of all, participants were younger, and at an age where they place more importance on looks. Secondly, there are likely significant cultural differences associated with the view of a just world.

However, the findings strongly suggest that physical attractiveness, and more importantly, overall privilege, affects our opinion of the world and even our subjective experience as a human — and in a way, this makes a lot of sense. If the world treats us good, we think of it as a fair place. But if it doesn’t… well then it’s only normal that we don’t.

The study, “The Influence of Physical Attractiveness on Belief in a Just World“, was authored by R. Shane Westfall , Murray G. Millar, and Aileen Lovitt, and published in in the journal Psychological Reports.

Women undoubtedly prefer strong, muscular men, study shows

Psychologists have confirmed something most women deep down know regarding male physical attractiveness: strong men are, by far, preferred to weaker looking men.

The study was based on interviews with 160 women. The female participants had to rate the physical individual attractiveness of men from two categories: a group composed of 130 psychology students and one composed of 60 gym-going university students who worked out a few times per week.

Aaron Sell, a psychology lecturer at School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Australia and his co-author, Aaron Lukaszewski, an evolutionary psychologist at California State University at Fullerton measured the males’ strength via weightlifting machines, grip strength tests and other methods.

Source: Pexels/Pixabay

The male recruits all came from the University of California at Santa Barbara. The assessors, students from Oklahoma State University and Australia’s Griffith University, rated both strength and physical attractiveness on a scale from 1 to 7. Interestingly, the scores the women gave for strength were fairly accurate compared to the actual physical performances of the students.

“The rated strength of a male body accounts for a full 70 percent of the variance in attractiveness,” Sell said.

None of the surveyed women showed a statistically important preference for weaker looking guys.

“No one will be surprised by the idea that strong men are more attractive,” said one of the study authors, Aaron Lukaszewski, told The Washington Post. “It’s no secret that women like strong, muscular guys.”

“That is so obvious, people are going to wonder why scientists needed to study it,” said Holly Dunsworth, an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island, also to The Post. “And the answer would be because they want to know how these preferences evolved.”

Dunsworth also raised questions about the reliability of the paper, because the study involved only 20-year-olds, who she adds, may not have very much experience with the meaning of attractiveness.

Source: Geralt/Pixabay

Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles, also criticizes the study’s interpretation: “It’s my opinion that the authors are too quick to ascribe a causal role to evolution,“ she told The Post.

According to Wade, culture has a bigger impact on male torso aesthetics.

“We value tall, lean men with strong upper bodies in American society. We’re too quick to assume that it requires an evolutionary explanation,” she said. “We know what kind of bodies are valorized and idealized,” Wade added. “It tends to be the bodies that are the most difficult to obtain.”

In her opinion, a few centuries ago, women would have preferred larger torsos, due to the scarcity of hyper-caloric food and the requirements of heavy physical labour. The preference for leaner upper masculine bodies was not universally valued at that time.

The paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B surely has many scientists arguing over it, but the team led by Sell and Lukaszewski plans to examine physical attractiveness on a larger scale, with a cross-cultural study on the way.

lack of sleep

Beauty sleep is a real thing, researchers find

I used to dismiss “beauty sleep” as and old wives tale, but it turns out this tale has a lot of truth to it.

lack of sleep

“Telling someone they look tired says more about your perception of them than you might think,” the study starts. Image credits: Pixabay.

A couple of bad nights is all it takes to make you look less attractive, a new study has shown. Researchers recruited 25 university students, both male and female, to participate in a sleep experiment. They were given a kit to measure their night time movements, to check how long they have slept. They were asked to get two good nights’ sleep, and then two bad nights of sleep (maximum 4 hours).

Next, they asked 122 participants to look at photos of the participants and rate them in terms of attractiveness, health, sleepiness and trustworthiness. They were also asked how likely they would be to socialize with the participants. As it turns out, not getting enough sleep made participants score worse on all counts.

Basically, the less sleep participants got, the less attractive and healthy they appeared. To make things worse, it also seems that people are much more likely to avoid contact with people who look sleep-deprived. The study writes:

“The importance of assessing evolutionarily relevant social cues suggests that humans should be sensitive to others’ sleep history, as this may indicate something about their health as well as their capacity for social interaction. Recent findings show that acute sleep deprivation and looking tired are related to decreased attractiveness and health, as perceived by others. This suggests that one might also avoid contact with sleep-deprived, or sleepy-looking, individuals, as a strategy to reduce health risk and poor interactions.”

This makes a lot of sense in evolutionary terms. Basically, if you look more tired, you also look more unhealthy, and this might trigger some diseases-avoiding reactions in others — which would explain why people would avoid socializing with sleep-deprived people.

So as far as attractiveness is concerned, beauty sleep should be making a resurgence. However, researchers tell people they shouldn’t worry too much about this. Lead researcher Dr Tina Sundelin explained:

“I don’t want to worry people or make them lose sleep over these findings though. Most people can cope just fine if they miss out on a bit of sleep now and again.”

The study was well-received in the community. Dr Gayle Brewer, a psychology expert at the University of Liverpool and member of the British Psychological Society added that the study seems to make a lot of sense, as most of our attractiveness estimations are done unconsciously.

“Judgement of attractiveness is often unconscious, but we all do it, and we are able to pick up on even small cues like whether someone looks tired or unhealthy. We want our partners to be attractive and energetic. This study is a good reminder of how important sleep is to us.”

Journal Reference: Tina Sundelin, Mats Lekander, Kimmo Sorjonen, John Axelsson — Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160918

Apple

How much weight you need to lose to appear more attractive

Apple

Obesity rates have increased virtually everywhere in the world, especially in the developed world. Some 160 million Americans are obese or overweight. Over 70 percent of all men and 60 percent of all women from the US are overweight, and it seems like the next generation will have similar problems: nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight, up from 19% in 1980. When talking strictly about obesity, one-third of American men (32%) and women (34%) were obese in 2013 compared with about 4% of Chinese and Indian adults. Being obese puts you at risk of developing a myriad of conditions from heart disease and stroke, to diabetes, to some cancers, to osteoarthritis.  Yet, for all the hazards that being overweight causes most people would rather lose weight to appear more attractive, than be more healthy. The two are interlinked, as we shall see.  But that’s better than not having any reason at all to lose weight, and now a new study quantified just how much weight men and women need to lose for this to show and make them look more attractive. Some might find the findings useful.

Increased facial adiposity is associated with a compromised immune system, poor cardiovascular function, frequent respiratory infections, and mortality.

Previously, other studies showed that facial adiposity, or the perception of weight in the face, significantly predicts perceived health and attractiveness.  Overweight people have high facial adiposity and are perceived to be less attractive and lower in leadership ability.

To see just how subtle changes in facial adiposity need to be for people to notice, researchers from the University of Toronto, Canada presented a series photos to volunteers that were digitally doctored to make the people in photos appear more or less overweight than in reality. Participants looked at randomly selected pairs of images and were asked to choose the heavier one.

Researchers found that  a change in BMI (body mass index — defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height) of 1.33 kg/m2 is required for someone to notice a difference between doctored photos. Then, the team assessed just how much weight an individual needed to lose to not only make an observer notice, but appear more attractive as well. For men, it was around 8.2kg or around 18 pounds. For women, the difference was 6.3kg or about 14 pounds.

“We calculated the weight change thresholds in terms of BMI rather than simple kilograms or pounds, so that people of all weights and heights can apply it to themselves according to their individual stature,” said Daniel Re, study co-author.

Even adjusting for height, proportionally women need to lose less weight than men to appear more attractive, according to the paper published in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science.

Header image via Pixabay

In the Omo Valley Tribes of Southern Ethiopia this young man is considered attractive.

Who you find attractive is a personal experience

They say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but science had yet to have its final word. While there are some people that are generally considered more attractive than others, and likewise some that are seen as less attractive, the consensus is far from perfect when people in between are factored in. Each person seems to have his or her own checklist used to internally rate attractiveness depending on how the body is shaped, height, hair colour, muscles, symmetry and so on. However, what influences these factors? Are these nurtured by the environment, like who our friends are or what the media tells us what an attractive person should look like, or is it genetics? A new research that studied the preferences of twins and non-twins found that it’s each person’s life experience that counts the most.

In the Omo Valley Tribes of Southern Ethiopia this young man is considered attractive.

In the Omo Valley Tribes of Southern Ethiopia this young man is considered attractive. Image: izismile.com

Speaking of beauty and attractiveness, Charles Darwin famously said: “It is certainly not true that there is in the mind of man any universal standards of beauty with respect to the human body.” So, while I might find a person attractive, you might not and vice-versa, but isn’t there really an universal standard for beauty? Maybe, maybe not. For instance, studies found that facial symmetry is one of the most important feature that counts for attractiveness. Having a face which is equal on both sides is a biological advert which tells prospective partners that good genes will be found in this body. Some even say that long-distance runners (seriously?) make the best partners. Heck, a couple of years ago a team of researchers used a computer program typically used to profile wanted criminals to draw up the ideal looking man and woman. Both of them were dark haired, but another study found blondes were most attractive, while redheads were found least attractive. If you study the scientific literature on the subject, you might find yourself lost down a rabbit hole filled with inconsistencies since results always differ depending on where people live or where they grew up to be more precise.

This most recent study led by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston seems to offer the most solid evidence yet that there’s no magic formula for human attractiveness. The team performed two sets of experiments, the first involving 547 sets of identical twins (who have identical DNA) and 214 sets of fraternal twins (who share half their DNA, while second involved  660 nontwins. Participants viewed 200 digital photos showing various male and female faces and were asked to rate them from 1 to 7, where one was the least attractive. The reasoning was that if what qualifies as attractive is dependent on genes than the twin’s preferences should generally match. So, the researchers developed an individual preference score which measured a deviation’s in each person’s rating score from the average.

A sample from the photos shown to the participants. Image: Current Biology

A sample from the photos shown to the participants. Image: Current Biology

The first interesting finding was that were you to pick two people from the study at random, twins or otherwise, then they would agree agree on the attractiveness of a person’s face only 52% of the time, which pretty much sounds like random. Then the researchers compared the individual preference score between the twins (identical and fraternal) and the non-twins. Whether identical or fraternal, most twins scored differently from one another. This suggests genetics aren’t at play. Instead, the researchers discovered that environmental factors accounted for 78% of the difference in what people deem attractive. This stood even for twins which generally share the same environment while they grow up – they live in the same house, generally have the same friends, often stick together and sometimes even wear the same clothes. To some it up, the research shows that an individual’s life experience matters the most in defining how each of us measures attractiveness.