Tag Archives: men

Men could significantly outnumber women within decades — and this is a problem

Cultural preferences for boys and prenatal sex selection are causing uneven ratios of men and women around the world, a group of researchers found in a new study. If this continues, there will be a deficit of at least 4.7 million female births by 2030 under a conservative scenario. By 2100, that number could even escalate to 22 million. 

Image credit: Flickr / Mulan

Over the last 40 years, prenatal gender-biased sex selection has become the most visible consequence of “son preference”. Simply put, with prenatal screening allowing parents to tell the sex of the child, many aren’t settling with a girl. Along with child marriage and female genital mutilation, sex selection is one of the key harmful practices defined by the United Nations (UN) and targeted under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Sex-selective abortions, the main mechanism behind sex selection, have been observed across various countries from Southeast Europe to South Asia. They lead to a hike in the sex ratio at birth above its natural level and to the emergence of a surplus of males, contributing to a population with fewer females than men.

This is not a new phenomenon. Previous studies showed there were 45 million “missing” female births between 1970 and 2017 due to prenatal sex selection – 95% in China and India. Now, in a new modeling study, the same group of scientists predicted that in 12 countries known to have skewed sex ratios at birth, there will be an extra 4.7 million missing female births by 2030. 

This would continue even more in the longer term, the researchers said, with a shortfall in female births of 5.7 million expected by 2100. The higher ratio of males to females will eventually decline in populous countries such as India and China, but could inflate in other countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria, Fengqing Chao, who co-authored the study, said in a statement. 

A global problem

Chao developed the predictive models with researchers from the UN, the National University of Singapore, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Centre de Sciences Humaines in India. They based their projections on a database that incorporated over three billion birth records from more than 200 countries. 

The researchers warned the trends they identified would lead to a preponderance of men in more than a third of the world’s population, which could bring unknown social and economic consequences. They anticipate a set of demographic problems, such as large numbers of young men being unable to find wives in the coming decades, as well as violence against women becoming an even greater problem.  

“Prenatal sex selection accounts for about half of the recent deficit of females in the world during the previous decades. Fewer-than-expected females in a population could also result in elevated levels of antisocial behaviour and violence, and may ultimately affect long-term stability and social sustainable development,” the researchers wrote.

The main challenge now, the authors argued, is to understand whether birth masculinity will stay indefinitely skewed in countries affected by sex-selective abortions and whether new countries may be affected in the future. They described this as “essential” to anticipate and plan for changing sex structures around the world.

In addition, policies based on monitoring, advocacy campaigns, as well as direct and indirect measures to combat gender bias are required to slow down the rise of sex ratio at birth or to accelerate its decline. A broader objective is related to the need to influence gender norms that lie at the core of prenatal sex selection, they wrote.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Global Health. 

Risk of death from COVID-19 is 2.4 times higher in men

For many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and experience a more severe course of illness than men. In some southern African countries, for example, young women are up to eight times more likely to have HIV than men of the same age, which is thought to be due, in part, to gender inequity, gender-based violence, age-disparate relationships, and not simply because of biological differences.

But in the case of COVID-19, that’s not the case — in this case, it’s men that seem to bear the brunt of the damage.

Men are more likely than women to die of the coronavirus. This is particularly pronounced in Italy, where men represent nearly 70% of the country’s deceased patients. Scientists suspect unhealthy habits like smoking and underlying health issues among men could be influencing this trend. 

According to a study in Frontiers in Public Health, men are 2.4 times as likely to die from COVID-19 than women, regardless of age. Moreover, older men with underlying medical conditions are much more likely than their female counterparts to have poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection, according to a small retrospective study published in PLOS Pathogens.

Investigators in the Frontiers study extracted data from a case series of 43 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Wuhan, China; a public data set from the first 37 patients who died of the virus and 1,019 survivors in China; and information from 524 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) patients, including 139 who died, in 29 Beijing hospitals in early 2003 to compare the two diseases.

In the case series, 37.2% of patients had one or more underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic lung disorders. Male COVID-19 patients had elevated levels of serum creatinine (indicating kidney damage), white blood cells (indicating immune response), and neutrophils (indicating inflammation). Of the 43 patients in the case series, 13 (30.2%) had mild or moderate pneumonia, while 14 (32.6%) had severe pneumonia, 16 (37.2%) had critical pneumonia. Chi-square (χ2) test for trend showed that men tended to have more serious illnesses than women (P = 0.035).

Advanced age and a high number of underlying diseases were linked to more severe disease and death in patients who had either COVID-19 or SARS. In the case series, men tended to have more serious disease than women (P = 0.035), while the public data set revealed that men were 2.4 times more likely than women to die of COVID-19 (70.3% versus 29.7%; P = 0.016).

Of the 37 non-survivors in the public data set, 70.3% were men, 29.7% were women, and 64.9% had one or more underlying conditions. These patients were significantly older, at 65 to 81 years, with 83.8% of them age 65 and older, versus survivors, who were 35 to 57 years old, with 13.2% 65 and older.

In patients with SARS, the proportion of males in the group who died was higher than that of the surviving group (P = 0.015). In this group, 57.0% of patients had one or more underlying conditions. Median age of non-survivors was much higher than that of survivors (57 versus 32; P < 0.001), and non-survivors were also more likely than survivors to have underlying disease (57.0% versus 17.9%; P < 0.001). The percentage of men was higher in the non-surviving group (53.2%) than in the surviving group (42.3%) (χ2 test; P = 0.027). Men were also significantly more likely to die than women (31.2% vs 22.6%; hazard ratio, 1.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05 to 2.06; P = 0.026).

In the PLOS Pathogens case series, researchers studied the data of 168 patients with the novel coronavirus admitted consecutively to Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, from Jan 16 to Feb 4. Overall, 17 patients (8.9%) died, while 136 (81%) were released from the hospital. Eleven (12.8%) of the 86 male patients died, while 65 (75.6%) were released from the hospital. Six (7.3%) of the 82 female patients died, while 71 (86.6%) were released. Fifty-seven patients had underlying conditions (33.7%). Median time from illness onset to hospital admission was 9 days for males and 7 days for females.

Of male patients, 36.0% had a chronic underlying illness, especially diabetes and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. After adjusted logistic regression analysis, males with underlying illnesses were more vulnerable to critical illness than those without comorbidities.

This was not the case for females. After adjustment for confounding factors, males 80 years and older were more likely to become critically ill than those younger than 59. But this wasn’t true for females.

Men and women differ in both innate and adaptive immune responses. These disparities may be attributed to steroids and X-linked gene activity, which both regulate the immune response to viruses. The authors said that future studies are needed to identify the different pathways and cellular responses between the two sexes.

Why do men have beards? An inquiry from an evolutionary biology perspective

Credit: Pixabay.

One of the most easily recognizable features of sexual dimorphism in humans is the fact that males grow beards whereas women don’t. But what is the point of having a beard in the first place, evolutionary-speaking?

Do beards make men more attractive?

Whenever there are important physiological differences between males and females of a species, these features are more often than not due to the evolutionary pressure of sexual selection — the process that favors traits that promote mating opportunities.

Charles Darwin proposed the concept of sexual selection 150 years ago in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, but his definitive work on sexual selection was undoubtedly covered in ones of his lesser-known works: The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which was published in 1871. Although Darwin wrote extensively about sexual selection and offered ample evidence to support his thesis, this simple quote from the book illustrates the concept quite clearly:

“We are, however, here concerned only with that kind of selection, which I have called sexual selection. This depends on the advantage which certain individuals have over other individuals of the same sex and species, in exclusive relation to reproduction.”

Essentially, Darwin argued that sexual selection drove variation in traits such as skin and hair color, and also shaped many differences between men and women. According to Darwin, such traits help, not with the struggle for survival (natural selection), but with the struggle for reproduction.

However, determining the effects of sexual selection in humans is very tricky because our behavior is also largely driven by culture. It may be difficult to identify a human complex behavior that is completely independent of culture or social learning. For instance, we dress in fashionable clothes to attract the opposite sex — and fashion always changes with the times and varies depending on the geographical location. Footbinding in ancient China and neck rings in the Kayan are some extreme examples of such behavior.

So what does all of this have to do with beards? Being a defining feature of men, it stands to reason that beards evolved to attract mates. However, studies have been rather inconclusive in this respect.

It’s not the beard, bro. Credit: Pixabay.

One 2013 study found that “women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive.” However, a 1996 study reached the opposite conclusion, finding that men with “facial hair were perceived as more aggressive, less appeasing, less attractive, older, and lower on social maturity than clean-shaven faces.”

To complicate things even further, research suggests that in times when beards are fashionable, being clean-shaven is more attractive, while if there are many clean-shaven men, beards become more attractive simply by contrast.

Some women really like beards, while others can’t stand them. There’s no universal preference for beards across the board.

The lack of consistent evidence and the fact that most studies are performed with Westerner participants makes a poor case that men’s beards serve to attract females. However, we’re not out of sexual selection territory yet.

Beards as a signal of dominance for other men rather than an attraction cue for women

Traits favored by sexual selection do not necessarily serve to attract, they can also improve reproductive outcomes by making men appear more dominant, hence more able to fend off competition for mates.

Studies suggest that men with beards are perceived as older, stronger, and more aggressive than those that are clear-shaven.

Credit: Pixabay.

One interesting study that assessed British facial hair styles between 1842 and 1971 found that beards and moustaches became more fashionable during times when there was a great proportion of single men competing for fewer women.

A 2015 study, which was published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, found that perceptions of men’s dominance increased with features of masculinity (lower-pitched voices and greater beard growth). Beards didn’t appear to affect a man’s attractiveness rating.

“Together, these results suggest that the optimal level of physical masculinity might differ depending on whether the outcome is social dominance or mate attraction. These dual selection pressures might maintain some of the documented variability in male physical and behavioral masculinity that we see today,” the authors wrote.

Beards to soften the punch?

Credit: Pixabay.

Aside from enhancing traits of dominance (and providing the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs), beards may also serve a very practical purpose.

A recent study, which was published in April 2020 in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology, suggests that growing a thick beard offers protection for the human jaw from the impact of blunt force.

Previous research suggested that human hands evolved to be used as weapons and the human face is naturally developed to withstand blunt force.

The new study suggests that the beard can also offer men an edge during physical confrontations with other males. The researchers covered a human skull with fiber epoxy composite and grafted a beard made of untrimmed sheepskin.

Their trials found that the faux beard absorbed 37% more energy than hairless models. What’s more, beard-covered skulls broke bones only 45% of the time, compared to hair-free skulls that broke almost all of the time.

“These differences were due in part to a longer time frame of force delivery in the furred samples. These data support the hypothesis that human beards protect vulnerable regions of the facial skeleton from damaging strikes,” the authors wrote.

Bottom line: it’s highly unlikely that beards are some fluke of evolution. Instead, they’re likely the result of evolutionary pressures meant to enforce dominance hierarchies, perhaps enabling some men to intimidate competitors for mates. They may also aid in physical confrontations with other men by softening the impact of blunt force. In the end, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for you), there is limited evidence that beards make men more attractive.

Galaxy cocktail before and after heating. Credit: Xiaolei Wang.

Colorful layered cocktail inspires new male contraceptive

Galaxy cocktail before and after heating. Credit: Xiaolei Wang.

Galaxy cocktail before and after heating. Credit: Xiaolei Wang.

Most birth control methods are geared towards women, whether it’s a hormonal contraceptive such as “the pill” or more invasive methods like implants or intrauterine devices. For males, there are basically really only two vetted forms of contraception: condoms and vasectomy. Condoms are effective over the short-term, but they can lead to unwanted pregnancies when they break or are handled improperly. Vasectomies are effective over the long-term, however, they’re not always reversible. This is why research groups are developing and testing all sorts of new methods.

The most recent notable attempt at a male contraceptive comes from China — and it was inspired by an enchanting colored cocktail. Bartenders prepare the Galaxy by layering various types of liquids, which become a homogenized solution only when stirred or heated.

The team of researchers at Nanchang University led by Xiaolei Wang used a similar approach and injected separate layers of substances in order to block the vas deferens — the duct that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra. When the materials were injected into male rats, pregnancies were avoided for more than two months. At the end of this period, the researchers shined a near-infrared lamp on the rats for a few minutes, which caused the layers to mix and dissolve. The animals then produced offspring when they copulated, the authors reported in the journal ACS Nano.

[panel style=”panel-info” title=”The galaxy cocktail” footer=””]Bottom & Top Layer:
1 oz. (30ml) Tequila
3/4 oz. (22ml) Grenadine
3/4 oz. (22ml) Blue Curaçao
1 oz. (30ml) Lemonade

Middle Layer:
3/4 oz. (22ml) Blue Curaçao
3/4 oz. (22ml) Peach Schnapps
1/2 oz. (15ml) Vodka
1 oz. (30ml) Lemonade

Drink responsibly.[/panel]

Before anyone gets too excited, this is just a pilot experiment which will require further testing for safety. After all, the concoction doesn’t sound particularly risk-free: a hydrogel that physically blocks sperm; gold nanoparticles; ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), a chemical that breaks down the hydrogel and also kills sperm; and a final layer of gold nanoparticles.

Elsewhere, other researchers are trialing oral and rub-on gel contraceptives for men that lower sperm count by preventing the testes from producing enough testosterone

When it comes to influenza — Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Flu vaccine seems more effective in women; men recover faster from the flu.

Influenza (also known as the flu) is the smartest virus on the planet. Every year, seasonal influenza kills up to 650,000 people in the world, but when the flu season is over, people usually forget about the hundreds (or even thousands) who died and how bad the past flu season was. Until scientists create something more effective, the flu shot is still the best way to protect yourself and your family from flu and any associated illness. But no matter how often people are reminded to get the vaccine, and how often healthcare professionals tell patients compelling reasons to get vaccinated, flu shots are always a hard sell.

Scientists conduct studies each year to determine how well the influenza (flu) vaccine protects against flu illness. While vaccine effectiveness can vary, studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. The vaccine’s effectiveness can also vary depending on the characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and the similarity or “match” between the flu strains included in the vaccine and the flu viruses spreading in the community. However, gender appears to have a significant impact on the efficacy of the influenza vaccine as well according to a study entitled “Should sex be considered as an effect modifier in the evaluation of influenza vaccine effectiveness?” published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

It has long been known that gender can correlate with health with influenza. For example, women have increased exposure to influenza due to historical gender norms under which more women serve as primary caregivers than men. Nevertheless, men, although exposed less to the flu, tend to have higher rates of mortality and morbidity from the flu. Women are also more likely to be vaccinated than men, and they tend to seek health care more quickly when they are sick.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph showing H1N1 influenza virus particles. Surface proteins on the virus particles are shown in black. Credit: NIAID, Flickr.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph showing H1N1 influenza virus particles. Surface proteins on the virus particles are shown in black. Credit: NIAID, Flickr.

Investigators in this study wanted to ascertain the extent to which gender itself—not just cultural and behavioral norms around gender— could affect the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. To study the question, the investigators looked at a database of patients over seven flu seasons, from 2010-2011 to 2016-2017. Patients were included if they were at least 1-year-old and had seen a doctor within seven days of the onset of flu-like symptoms. Vaccination status was recorded based on patient self-reports and only those who had been given the flu shot at least two weeks before the diagnosis of flu were included in the study.

Results showed that women were less likely than men (43% versus 40%) to end up with a positive flu test and were more likely (29% versus 23%) to have received the flu shot. The overall vaccine effectiveness for women was considerably higher (49% versus only 38% for men). The difference in effectiveness varied by strain with the greatest dissimilarity in the A (H3N2) and B (Victoria) strains. Among patients not given the flu vaccine, there was no gender-based difference in influenza infection rates.

The authors wrote that “…these findings suggest that biological gender differences in response to the vaccine, rather than gender differences in health care seeking or vaccination status reporting, likely explains the observed differences in influenza VE between males and females.” In addition, the authors noted that previous research has suggested women have “stronger innate and adaptive immune responses, including more pronounced antibody response to influenza vaccine, in association with higher rates of local and systemic adverse events following immunization.”

Credit: Air Force District of Washington.

Credit: Air Force District of Washington.

Another possible biological cause for the difference in vaccine effectiveness is that testosterone can be immunosuppressive at high levels. The gender-based difference in vaccine effectiveness gap was most obvious among older adults (potentially because of age-related immune system changes or immunosenescence) and prepubescent children. According to corresponding author Danuta Skowronski MD, FRCPC, of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, if the findings are confirmed, one day physicians and vaccine developers might consider gender when developing newer influenza vaccines and flu prevention strategies.

This comes after the publication by scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the journal Biology of Sex Differences showing that a protein called amphiregulin (AREG) could be the reason why men recover from influenza more quickly than women. AREG is an Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-like molecule that plays a critical role in wound and tissue healing following infection or injury.

Certainly, more evidence is needed before public health experts can say whether influenza prevention strategies should vary by gender or whether a gender-specific influenza prevention strategy is warranted. But for now we know that flu vaccine effectiveness seems to be higher in women but men seem to recover faster from the influenza infection.

Income inequality, not gender inequality, leads to female sexualization on social media

A new study found that, contrary to popular belief, sexualized images of women on social media aren’t associated with gender inequality and female oppression — but they are associated with environments in which incomes are unequal and people are preoccupied with relative social standing.

Although we’ve taken important steps to reduce gender inequality, society is still a long way from placing men and women on equal footing. The over-sexualization of women is often regarded as an important aspect and, ironically, this has been exacerbated by social media. In a new study, Khandis Blake of the University of South Wales analyzes what makes some women more willing to share sexualized images of themselves on social media.

In other words, Blake and colleagues analyzed why women post sexy selfies.

The researchers focused on Instagram — a social media network focused exclusively on photos, and which greatly emphasizes body image. Previous research has already shown that Instagram can be associated with greater body image concerns and negatively influence women’s appearance-related concerns — and it doesn’t take a peer-reviewed study to see that Instagram is riddled with sexy selfies.

“Publicly displayed, sexualized depictions of women have proliferated, enabled by new communication technologies, including the internet and mobile devices,” researchers write. “These depictions are often claimed to be outcomes of a culture of gender inequality and female oppression, but, paradoxically, recent rises in sexualization are most notable in societies that have made strong progress toward gender parity.”

What they found is that gender inequality wasn’t a good predictor of sexualized selfies. Rather, researchers noted another trend: women who posted more sexy selfies were more likely to live in areas where income inequality is high, and to be of low income themselves.

“We found no association with gender oppression,” the researchers continue. “We find that female sexualization and physical appearance enhancement are positively associated with income inequality and generally are unassociated with gender inequality. The relationship between income inequality and female sexualization is particularly strong and robust in more developed countries and across US cities and counties.”

It’s important to note that the study established a correlation and not a causation. There are many parameters for which the study authors could not control. For instance, social inequality is often associated with big, industrialized cities — which also tend to have more social media activity and are more libertine. Still, the correlation is very robust and could pave the way for a better understanding of a common phenomenon that has been largely ignored by the scientific community.

The study has been published in PNAS.

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.

It’s official: College men think they’re smarter than they really are

If you think women in science don’t have it hard — then you’re probably not a woman in science.

We all know that overconfident personality, the type who thinks they’re so much better than they really are. We also know that one person who’s really good, but doesn’t have enough confidence. Well, as a new study has shown, the odds are that that first person is a man, and the second one is a woman.

Katelyn Cooper, a PhD student at Arizona State University School of Life Sciences and her adviser, assistant professor Sara Brownell, wanted to study this effect on biology undergrads.

The average grade of the class was 3.3. But when they asked students if they thought they were smarter than the average, male students thought they were smarter than 66 percent of the class, whereas female students thought they were smarter than 54 percent of the class.

Of course, most people tend to slightly overestimate their results, but the difference between the male and female students was quite significant. Men were also three times more likely than women to say they were smarter than the classmate they worked with most closely. This isn’t necessarily a new find.

“This echoes what has been previously shown in the literature; a review of nearly 20 published papers on self-estimated intelligence concluded that men rate themselves higher than women on self-estimated intelligence,” Cooper and Brownell wrote in their report, published in Advances in Physiology Education.

“More and more of these studies are painting similar pictures,” Brownell said.

It’s no secret that STEM is being dominated by men, and women still struggle to establish a solid position in many fields of science and industry. The antiquated, long-held beliefs that men are somehow better than women at subjects like math or physics have long been disproved but unfortunately, unhealthy attitudes still persist.

In terms of Cooper and Brownell’s study, they already identified immediate consequences of this issue:

“Females are not participating as much in science class. They are not raising their hands and answering questions.”

It’s not just a self-attitude — it spills into interpersonal relationships as well. It’s common for women to feel the disdain of their colleagues or to face disproportionate challenges in their careers. These may seem like inconsequential factors, but they do add up and consolidate an unhealthy attitude for all people involved.

It’s important to note however that the findings didn’t apply only to women: non-native English people were also exposed to similar doubts.

“We found that men and native English speakers had significantly higher academic self-concept relative to the whole class compared with women and non-native English speakers, respectively,” the study concludes.

Journal Reference: Katelyn M. Cooper, Anna Krieg, and Sara E. Brownell. Who perceives they are smarter? Exploring the influence of student characteristics on student academic self-concept in physiology. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00085.2017

Women who regularly use cleaning supplies risk lung damage, study shows

Researchers discovered that women who cleaned on a regular basis using cleaning supplies are more likely to experience a greater decline in lung function than the ones who didn’t clean.

Via Pixabay/klimkin

According to the study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the participants enrolled at the average age of 34 and were followed for more than 20 years.The lung damage recorded by the scientists is compared to smoking 20 cigarettes a day over the same period. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed data from 6,235 participants in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey and discovered the that the women who cleaned had the following results, as compared to women who did not clean:

  • Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), or the amount of air a person can forcibly exhale in one second, declined 3.6 millilitres (ml)/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
  • Forced vital capacity (FVC), or the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, declined 4.3 ml/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.

When asked about the reason for the research, senior study author Cecile Svanes, MD, PhD, a professor at the university’s Centre for International Health answered:

“While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact,” she said.

“We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”

The results, even if surprising at first because of the high lung impairment, are justified, believes Svanes — for example, inhaling particles of cleaning agents meant for the household, and not for the lungs is, basically, bad for one’s health. No surprise in that.

Doctors suggest that repeatedly inhaling particles of cleaning products affects the airways by causing the mucous membranes lining the airways to become irritated, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodelling.

Additionally, the researchers did find that asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 percent) or at work (13.7 percent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 percent).

I know, I know, until now, the study seems pretty sexist.

The researchers did study a group of men who worked in the cleaning business and compared their results to non-cleaning men and found out that there are no significant differences in the decline of FEV1 or FVC between the two groups.

The study has some limitations: the study population included very few women who did not clean at home or work. The authors believe this group of women “constitute a selected socioeconomic group”. Also, the number of participating men working in the cleaning business was small, and doctors think that their exposure to cleaning agents was likely different from that of women who worked as cleaning professionals.

“The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs,” Øistein Svanes, a co-author of the study, said. “These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.”

So, girls, if you are tired of cleaning all the time, showing this study to your masculine other halves might get you out of a bunch of chores. Just sit back, relax, and let science work in your favour!

 

old male

A mutation might extend the lifespan of some men by ten years

old male

Credit: Pixabay.

Some people are primed to live longer than others due to their genetic makeup. Nailing down such genetic factors can be cumbersome, though, but one at a time, we’re getting there. The latest insight comes from researchers in Israel who’ve identified a genetic mutation linked to increased lifespan in men, but not in women.

The team led by Gil Atzmon, a geneticist at the University of Haifa in Israel, had some hints from previous research that height and longevity were somehow intertwined. For instance, dogs who have more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) proteins expressed by the IGF-1 gene grew taller but lived shorter lives. Conversely, less IGF-1 led to shorter height but longer lifespan. Ponies generally outlive horses and small dogs generally outlive larger ones .’Smaller lives longer,’ Atzmon says.

With this in mind, the team started to investigate in broader detail the molecules responsible for growth. The researchers sequenced the gene for growth hormone receptors in 567 Ashkenazi Jews over 60 and their children and found some individuals had a deletion in d3-GHR, a growth hormone receptor gene. The proportion of individuals carrying two copies of d3-GHR increased with age. Among the participants over age 100, the mutation was present in 12 percent or three times more common than in 70-year-old men.

Oddly, in women, the mutation was just as frequent for all age groups.

“We knew in the past that genetic paths related to growth hormone are connected to longevity and now we have discovered a specific mutation that is directly involved [in longevity], said Prof. Gil Atzmon.

When the team followed-up with investigations of long-lived populations in the United States, France and in an Amish community, thus raising the total number of participants to 841, they observed the same effect.

In 2008, Nir Barzilai, a geneticist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and co-author of the new paper, found a mutation in another growth-related gene could extend life for women and women only. Coupled with these most recent findings, the notion unfurls that men and women have different genetic paths for longevity.

Another important finding was that the mutation that, on average, added ten extra years to their lives seemed to raise the men’s height by about an inch. This is totally opposite from what the researchers expected given their prior knowledge about lifespan and height. The relation between the two must be more complex than the scientists thought.

For now, Altzman and colleagues think the mutation amplifies the receptor’s response to surges in growth hormone.

“Now our goal is to fully understand the mechanisms of the mutation and enable life extension while maintaining quality of life,” says Atzmon.

Findings appeared in Science Advances.

Confidence.

Testosterone makes men more confident in their instincts, less likely to question their impulses

Hotheaded, driven, impulsive — that’s Holywood’s archetypical main action movie dude. But there might be a kernel of truth to this over-the-top silver screen persona, as a new paper reports on the effects of testosterone on behavior.

Confidence.

Image credits Chris & Karen Highland / Flickr.

Now, I don’t often partake into the habit of generalizing behavior by gender — men like to keep an open mind, after all. But I think we can all agree that (to some extent) if something seems fun, bragworthy, or will impress someone but isn’t exactly sensible, there’s one guy close at hand ready to take up the challenge. We’re also the half of the table more likely to jump into a pub melee and/or send you a lot of texts with the word “duck” autocorrected in afterward. In short, men are on often regarded as the less restrained, more aggressive, more impulsive of the sexes.

A team of researchers from Caltech, the Wharton School, Western University, and ZRT Laboratory set out to see if men’s higher levels of sex-hormone testosterone can explain this tendency to rely on intuitive judgements at the expense of cognitive reflection — the self-scrutinizing process by which someone stops to consider if these gut reactions actually make sense. They report that men given doses of the hormone performed worse on a test designed to measure levels of cognitive reflection compared to their counterparts who received a placebo.

Test’o’sterone

The study included 243 male testees and was the largest ever conducted of its type. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a dose of either testosterone or placebo gels before the test began. They were also evaluated on their motivation levels, engagement with the test, and basic math skills before the tasks through a simple test.

The questions generally involved or required math to solve. They weren’t particularly hard, but they were designed in such a way as to seem really simple and elicit a ‘gut’ solution. For example, take the following task: If a bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total, and the bat costs $1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Not exactly rocket science™, is it? The trick is that for most people, our brains blurt out “10 cents” before we get a chance to think about it. This answer is incorrect because then the bat would only be 90 cents more expensive than the ball. If you go through the mental process of evaluating your result, you’ll conclude that the ball, in fact, costs 5 cents and the bat $1.05. But a person who relies on their gut instinct is more likely to answer “10 cents” without going through cognitive reflection, giving the team a good indication of how often someone just goes with their instincts vs how often they check the validity of their intuition.

The participants could take as much time as they wanted on the test and were offered $1 for each correct answer and an additional $2 if they answered all the questions correctly as an incentive.

“What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong,” says Colin Camerer, Caltech’s Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics and Chair of the T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience Leadership. “The testosterone is either inhibiting the process of mentally checking your work or increasing the intuitive feeling that ‘I’m definitely right.'”

The testosterone group scored significantly lower than their placebo counterparts, answering 20% fewer questions correctly, on average. They were also quicker to give incorrect answers and gave “correct answers more slowly than the placebo group,” the authors note. This effect wasn’t seen in the results of the initial math test, showing a “clear and robust causal effect of [testosterone] on human cognition and decision-making,” the team concludes.

They believe this cognitive shift stems from testosterone’s documented effect of increasing confidence levels. The hormone is also believed to enhance the male drive for higher social status, and higher levels of confidence enhance status, the authors write.

“We think it works through confidence enhancement. If you’re more confident, you’ll feel like you’re right and will not have enough self-doubt to correct mistakes,” Camerer says.

The results should raise questions about the negative effects testosterone-replacement therapy might incur, he adds. The practice is aimed at reversing the decline in sex drive experienced by many middle-aged men, but in light of the new findings, it’s likely that their behavior and decision-making processes also change following the procedure.

The paper “Single dose testosterone administration impairs cognitive reflection in men” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Women really are better multi-taskers, study finds

Women really are better multi-taskers than men but only up to menopause, a new study found.

Witchcraft!
Image credits d26b73 / Flickr.

A Swiss team has found that women really do multi-task better, owing to a cocktail of sex-specific hormones. Men and menopausal women performed largely similar (bad) at multitasking tests.

The team asked 83 volunteers aged between 18-80 to walk on a treadmill with no hand supports to record how each one walked. They then asked them to take to the treadmill while performing a variation of the Stroop test — which I’ll admit right now, sounds like hell. The Stroop test is widely employed to investigate cognitive processes and check for brain damage. It basically consists of names of colors written in ink of a different color. The participant has to either read the word or name the color as fast as he or she can.

At the same time, the researchers measured arm swing asymmetry in the participants by tracking their wrist movements in 3D. The Stroop test is mainly handled by the left side of the brain, as is the swinging motion of the right hand. So, by comparing the difference in their control gait to their test-gait, the team measured how well their left hemisphere handled two activities at the same time. In other words, the less able they were to move their right hand, the less ‘brain’ they had available.

“We know that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for both the verbal task and the control of arm swing on the opposite side of the body,” said doctoral student and first author Tim Killeen, from the University Hospital Balgrist.

Women under 60 were almost completely free from this effect. Men and menopausal women showed a marked reduction in arm-swinging proficiency, which impacted their balance. The team believes that female sex hormones act on the brain to improve its multi-tasking abilities. As the hormones level drop later in life, women may find multi-tasking as tricky as men, the study suggests.

“In men and older women, the verbal task appears to overwhelm the left brain to the extent that the movement of the arm on the right is reduced. We were surprised to find such a consistent gender difference in how two relatively simple behaviours – cognitive control and arm swing – interact with one another.”

“Others have shown that women are better at switching between tasks than men. We show that women are apparently better, i.e. less susceptible to interference during walking and talking and that this ability apparently fades after 60.”

This settles a long debate, doesn’t it? Well, not really. To me, it seems that these results make perfect sense. I’ve seen my girlfriend texting and dodging heavy traffic without breaking a sweat, while I can’t even handle dialing and talking at the same time. But some papers contravene these findings directly, and there is some evidence that brain age also plays a part in multitasking.

Further research will have to either back-up or deny these results, and determine whether or not they can be generalized to other multi-tasking tasks such as walking and texting. Until then, the debate will have to rage on.

The full paper “Increasing cognitive load attenuates right arm swing in healthy human walking” has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

How women subconsciously fight sexual competition

A new paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examines women’s efforts to guard their mates from sexual competition — especially other ovulating females.

For women, close cooperative relationships with other women offer important opportunities but at the same time raises possible threats — mate competition being one of them. So women have developed mate guarding behaviors to maximize the benefits of these same-sex connections while reducing their risk to the minimum.

It’s all fun and games until the guys get involved.
Image via Quartz

Psychologists from Arizona State University studied how women go about guarding their mates. They found that members of the fairer sex are sensitive to both interpersonal and contextual cues indicating whether other women might be likely (and effective) mate poachers.

And they all have their sights firmly placed on other ovulating women.

The team carried out four studies involving a total of 478 heterosexual engaged or married women. The participants were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing marketplace. In each of the studies, participants were shown photographs of a series of women and then asked how willing they would be, on a seven-point scale, for the women in the picture to befriend their partner.

An interesting thing happened: the participants were more likely to want to put as much distance between their partner and the woman in the photograph as possible if the latter was ovulating. They weren’t told if the person in the picture was ovulating and, in all likelihood, they didn’t even consciously consider the idea, authors note. But studies have shown that humans do subconsciously pick up on the subtle cues that indicate when women are more fertile.

“Research across species demonstrates that social perceptions, cognitions, and behaviors do temporarily shift in response to ovulation, and that these shifts may enhance individuals’ reproductive fitness,” write the authors.

“Similarly, psychological research on humans has demonstrated that (a) women’s perceptions and behaviors shift across their own cycles and (b) men respond to these cyclic shifts.”

It also (unsurprisingly) became apparent to the team that women were especially protective when their mate was desirable to the other subjects, or when their mate found the woman in the photograph to be physically attractive. It’s not all about keeping distance, though. The authors also note that women employ other tactics to keep their partners close:

“Specifically, women with desirable partners reported that they would show increased sexual interest in their partners after viewing a high-fertility target, regardless of how attractive that target was,” the paper reads.

But, sadly, the study didn’t produce any evidence that women’s efforts are rewarded or that “mate guarding” is particularly effective.

The authors also note that the study relies on composite photos of strangers; In real life, when socializing with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, women may well choose to trust their friends and worry less about ovulating threats.

Men ate almost twice as much when they dined with women

We all know that men like to impress the fairer members of our species, and this permeates into almost everything we do: we want to drive the shiniest car on the block, crack the funniest jokes 24/7 and write for ZMEScience so we can impress the ladies at parties (works every time). In essence, no matter how unlikely it is to actually impress, if a man has a choice between doing something and doing that something over the top so he can show off to women, you can bet your right arm he’s gonna do the latter.

Don’t believe me? Well, a recently published study discovered that men will actually eat more food when they dine with a woman than they do in the company of other males, just to show off.

Men who were coupled up with a female tend to eat more to impress the fairer sex. Image via wikimedia

 

Netflix and eat?

The study observed over 150 adults having lunch at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet over a two-week period. Researchers from Cornell University, who collaborated with Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab for the study, took note of the number of pizza slices and how many bowls of salad each subject consumed. Men who walked in the buffet with a female and ate there packed their plates with pizza slices and left the buffet line with bowls overflowing with salad. On average, they ate 93 percent more pizza and 86 percent more greens than the men who ate alone or with other men.

‘These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off – you can also see this tendency in eating competitions which almost always have mostly male participants,’ explains lead author Kevin Kniffin, PhD, of Cornell University in a recent press release.

The researchers waited for the diners to finish their meal and asked them to complete a short survey indicating their level of fullness after eating, their feelings of hurridness and comfort while eating. While they didn’t change the amount they ate while dining with either gender, the women reported feeling like they overate and rushed through the meal when dining with men — however, the team said that their observations disproved this.

So the next time you’re out eating with a guy friend, just try to relax and enjoy your meal; it’s just your brain trying to impress him — his brain is busy doing the same.

 

Men and women respond to pain differently.

Men and women feel pain differently, on a biological level

A breakthrough research found that male and female mice use different cells to signal pain. This could explain why both more women suffer from chronic pain than men, and pain relief medication seems to respond differently in women.

Men and women respond to pain differently.

Men and women respond to pain differently.

The international team of researchers set out to test a long-standing hypothesis: that the pain signal is transmitted to the brain from the site of injury or inflammation microglia – immune cells found in the brain and spinal chord. But when drugs were administered that inhibited the microglia cells, only the male mice showed reduce pain response. The female mice were completely unaffected, suggesting pain is transmitted via a different mechanism. The researchers hypothesis that T cell, fundamentally different immune cells, relay pain the female mice. This needs to be confirmed.

“Understanding the pathways of pain and sex differences is absolutely essential as we design the next generation of more sophisticated, targeted pain medications,” says co-senior author Michael Salter, a professor at the University of Toronto.

“We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans, especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain, so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.”

In 2009, single-sex studies of male animals outnumbering those of females 5.5 to 1. Prompted by a growing body of evidence that suggests males and females respond differently, the  US National Institutes of Health issued a new policy which mandates preclinical research to study tissue from both sexes.

“For the past 15 years scientists have thought that microglia controlled the volume knob on pain, but this conclusion was based on research using almost exclusively male mice,” Mogil says. “This finding is a perfect example of why this policy, and very carefully designed research, is essential if the benefits of basic science are to serve everyone.”

 

 

Percentage of US workers who are male vs female

OK, so this is going to be a long image, and after it you’ll find some analysis on it. This is a 2012 census on US data only, so you can expect some differences if you live in other parts of the globe. Here goes:

The first thing which pops to the eye is that the stereotypes pretty much check out. At the end of the spectrum with most women you have kindergarten and school teachers, nurses, social workers, librarians and mostly other social-focused jobs, while at the other end, you get many physical jobs (construction workers, miners, masons, mechanical engineers and so on). What surprised me the most is the fact that mathematician was basically at the center, with 51-49. This is where the stereotype has it most wrong.

There is also another interesting point to be made. In general, women jobs are OK – nothing exceptionally good or bad, while male dominated jobs tend to be extremes, either really good, or really bad. This seems to confirm a 2006 study which concluded that while men and women are on average the same intelligence, men are on wider extremes of the spectrum. In other words, you’d expect to find more mentally deficient, but also more over-performing men.

What do you think about this – is it relevant, or is it a meaningless statistic? Does it show we have to change the status quo, or are things the way they should be? What’s your insight?

Men Drink More Alcohol because of Contagious Smiles

When men have a drink with other men, their smiles become contagious, according to a new study. This might explain why men are much more likely to drink in excess than women – they simply have more fun.

men drink study

Men have more emotional contagion towards each other when they drink. Image via Trio Media Group

Humans and several others animals experience something called “emotional contagion”. Basically, this means that there are some feelings/expressions which are contagion; if someone smiles to you, you tend to smile back. If someone frowns at you, you tend to frown back. Psychologists believe that this process works in two stages: First of all, there’s the faking. You tend to mirror the reactions of the ones around you. But then there’s the mood changing – if you smile, even if you just mirror the mood of someone around you, you tend to feel better. If someone smiles to you, not only are you likely to smile back, but it will also likely make you feel better (of course, this is just a general behavior which doesn’t apply to all cases). Apparently, this is what happens when men drink alcohol.

Many people use alcohol as a type of social lubricant – to ease you into certain social situations and slightly (or not so slightly) remove your inhibitions. To test this theory, researchers split 720 healthy social drinkers into groups of three — with each one assigned either a vodka cranberry, a non-alcoholic drink, or a placebo drink: a non-alcoholic drink with vodka smell. Researchers wanted to test how the subjects interacted socially. They also looked for genuinely smiles, which are easy to separate from fake ones on camera.

What they found was quite interesting. When alcohol and males were involved, people were much more likely to pick up and mirror smiles. In other words, when they drink, men start to have contagious smiles (mostly to other men). In mixed groups and all-female groups, alcohol didn’t make smiles any more viral than non alcoholic drinks. But the baseline of smile contagion was much higher for women or mixed groups than all male groups – women are much likely to mirror smiles from men or other women.

Researchers warn that the use of alcohol, even in social settings, can be dangerous and lead to addiction (though it is not nearly the same thing as alone habitual drinking). The study also indicates the reason why men seem to enjoy social situations which involve alcohol more than women – they simply enjoy it more.

Journal Reference: Catharine E. Fairbairn, Michael A. Sayette, Odd O. Aalen, Arnoldo Frigessi. Alcohol and Emotional Contagion
An Examination of the Spreading of Smiles in Male and Female Drinking GroupsClinical Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/2167702614548892.

http://www.toonpool.com/user/323/files/chatterbox_484075.jpg

Who talks more, men or women? It all depends on the context, study finds

“We women talk too much, nevertheless we only say half of what we know.”  Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess

http://www.toonpool.com/user/323/files/chatterbox_484075.jpgThere’s a deeply entrenched stereotype that portrays women as extremely talkative or, at least, much much chatty than men. Ask most people, both men and women, they will agree, but is this merely a subjective facet or does it indeed reflect reality? A new study teases out a more accurate picture on the matter. Researchers at Northwestern University found that in the end it all boils down to context, and that in some cases men are the real chatterboxes.

The communication patterns or both men and women have been of great interest to researchers, but so far studies have turned in mixed results and have made the matter controversial. For instance, a University of California study from 2007 that made a meta-analysis of previously published studies investing men and women communication patterns found that in fact men are the most talkative. Older studies report that women chat more, while others report that there’s no actual difference. It’s very confusing, and like most psychological studies the mixed results stem from an inconsistent common frame of reference. Some studies rely on self-reporting (subjectivity limitation), while others make direct observations (the ‘being-watched’ syndrome that causes people to act and respond differently).

Gauging conversations

 

North­eastern pro­fessor David Lazer and his team took a different approach. Making use of the technology at their disposal, the researchers employed “sociometers” – wearable devices roughly the size of a smartphone that quantify social interactions. These were fitted to 79 students and 54 call-centre employees who were involved in two distinct social settings: a University environment where the participants were divided into groups and asked to  work on a project, and a work situation in which employees were tracked during twelve one-hour lunch breaks.

During the task-based, university setting conversations were dominated by men and women, in turn, depending on how large the group was. When the groups consisted of six or more participants, it was men who did the most talking, whereas women spent more time than men speaking with just one or two other people when the task was collaborative (62% more talkative than men). During the lunch-break setting, women were found to be slightly more likely than men to engage in conversations, both long and short-duration. This reported difference, however, is so slight that the researchers couldn’t infer which of the two genders was definitely more talkative.

“In the one set­ting that is more col­lab­o­ra­tive we see the women choosing to work together, and when you work together you tend to talk more,” said Lazer, who is also co-​​director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Net­works, Northeastern’s research-​​based center for dig­ital human­i­ties and com­pu­ta­tional social sci­ence. “So it’s a very par­tic­ular sce­nario that leads to more inter­ac­tions. The real story here is there’s an inter­play between the set­ting and gender which cre­ated this difference.”

Where does the notion that women ‘fill the air’ come from then? It is possible that this stereotype forms during childhood. Girls language skills develop earlier, enabling them to become articulate at a younger age, and it may be possible that this notion stuck with us ever since we were very little. This idea, too, seems to be flawed as studies have failed to report a significant difference in the amount of spoken words by gender in children.

While men and women are indeed biologically and, in some instances, cognitively different, it may be the case that we’ve been brainwashed by society into exaggerating the gender gap. Then again, maybe men are really from Mars and women from Venus.

The findings were reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Paired photographs of a male body before (a) and after (b) the removal of body hair. The photographs were presented to women in the forced-choice trial. (c) Behavioral Ecology

Do women prefer hairy men? Study suggests menstrual cycle and father’s body hair influence mating preferences

The current western ideal for masculine beauty is hairlessness, as most women today will report they prefer to date men with little or no body hair. A new study suggests that there this preference may have a biological basis after researchers at the University of Turku and Åbo Academy in Finland found that women’s preference for men function of their torso hair depended on their menstrual cycle and also how hairy their fathers were – in Finland at least. Freud would had agreed.

The researchers asked 20 male volunteers, aged 20-32 years, to shave their torso hair. Photos were made before and after and for their trouble each male was awarded a 0.33l bottle of Koskenkorva vodka. These were shown to women who were asked to rate how attractive they found the men for each photo. Prior to this, the women volunteers were polled regarding their menstrual cycle and how much hair did their current partners, as well as fathers, have.

Paired photographs of a male body before (a) and after (b) the removal of body hair. The photographs were presented to women in the forced-choice trial. (c) Behavioral Ecology

Paired photographs of a male body before (a) and after (b) the removal of body hair. The photographs were presented to women in the forced-choice trial. (c) Behavioral Ecology

The findings suggest that women generally prefer men’s body hair levels resembling those of their current partners and fathers. During ovulation, however, women prefer less hairy men.  This suggests that biology plays a major role in altering the direction and strength of   female preference even for traits that are not ‘‘good genes’’ indicators and whose preference may be culturally based. What’s more interesting, however, is that the study suggests that Finish women prefer men with body hair levels close to their fathers, hinting that this preference is heritable.

The results were reported in a paper published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

Hourglass Figures are like drugs to men

Scarlett Johansson. Not related in anyway to the study... but a fine example

Scarlett Johansson. Not related in anyway to the study… but a fine example.

Well we all know the effect a curvaceous woman can have on men, but according to a new research published by researchers from Georgia Gwinnett College, the effect they have is similar to that of alcohol and drugs, at least in some ways.

Evolutionary speaking, for women, curvy figures are associated with fertility and an overall good health; in this way, it does make sense for men to find women with generous hips more attractive. In order to reach these results, researchers asked 14 men at the average age of 25 to rate how attractive they find women before and after they had surgery to give them more shapely hips. They didn’t reduce or add weight, but just redistribute it by implanting fat from the waist into the buttocks.

The men’s brains were scanned and revealed that after the surgery, the parts of the brain linked with rewards were activated, including regions related to alcohol or drug consumption. Long story short, when men see generous hips, their brain automatically starts to think something… rewarding will happen; a curvaceous woman works better than Erectzan.

“Hugh Hefner could have told us that by showing us how many zeroes are in his bank account,” said researcher Steven Platek, an evolutionary cognitive neuroscientist at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. “But there’s more to it than buying Playboy, Maxim, or FHM. These findings could help further our understanding pornography addiction and related disorders, such as erectile dysfunction in the absence of pornography,” he explained. “These findings could also lend to the scientific inquiry about sexual infidelity.”

 

So what do women think about other curvy women? It’s the exact response you’d expect.

“It turns out women find similar optimally attractive female bodies as attention-grabbing, albeit for different reasons,” Platek said. “Women size up other women in an effort to determine their own relative attractiveness and to maintain mate guarding — or, in other words, keep their mate away from optimally designed females.”