Wednesday, December 15, 2010

6 Surprising Psychology Studies on Relationships

Women Not Always More Selective in Mate Choice

The speed-dating formula is familiar: women sit at tables around a room, and men move from table to table for a short interaction with each woman. Afterwards, everyone either checks “yes” or “no” to indicate their interest in a second date. Studies of speed-dating align with the fundamental principles of evolutionary psychology: women are much more selective than men when it comes to mate choice since women pay greater reproductive costs by making the wrong choice. Men check “yes” for a larger number of women than women do for men.

However, Eli J. Finkel and Paul Eastwick of Northwestern University decided to quite literally turn the tables in the speed-dating scenario. When the arrangement was changed to “men sit, women rotate” – men became significantly more selective and women became less selective. The cautious or choosy female and sexually aggressive male paradigm is consistent through every human society studied, as well as in most other mammals. Should this study make us question the long-held model?
Alternative explanations:
  1. When the women are forced to walk toward and away from the seated men, the men are able to see their whole bodies and gauge shape and approximate weight. While women are generally less picky about men’s bodies,U.S. males show a preference for thin, firm women when choosing dates.
  2. Women’s evolved mate selection goes something like: wait to be approached by a man unless I see an exceptionally desirable man, in which case, approach him. Finkel and Eastwick’s experiment thus tricked the women’s brains into thinking the men they were approaching were of exceptionally high quality.
Conclusion: Getting a woman to approach you means half the battle is won. Actually achieving this is somewhat more difficult – maybe starting your own speed-dating club under the alternative model would be a start, or you could simply ask for the switch in an existing speed-dating scenario.

Love At First Sight Lasts

Earl Naumann’s book, Love at First Sight: The Stories and Science Behind Instant Attraction, is based on quantifiable research, including 1,500 in-depth interviews with revealing results:
  • Love at first sight (defined as “within one hour of meeting someone, feeling strange and powerful feelings of love for him or her”) only happens to people who believe in it.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the US population believes in love at first sight.
  • More than half of those who believe have experienced it.
  • 55% of people who experienced love at first sight married the person.
  • 75% of those who married as a result of love at first sight have stayed married – a massive improvement over average divorce rates.
Conclusion: If it happens, go for it. Lucky bastard.

Women Who Think Men Are Pigs Win Out

Glenn Geher, an associate professor of psychology at SUNY at New Paltz, finds that women who are automatically skeptical of a man’s intentions are almost always better off than women who spend time analyzing and debating over a first date.

Geher’s findings show that if a woman cannot accurately judge a man’s romantic intentions at least 90% of the time, mathematically she’s better off being biased and de facto skeptical. “Women using a ‘men are always pigs’ decision-making rule may be more likely to actually end up with honest, committed, and long-term-seeking males,” Geher concludes.
Conclusion: A woman’s rejection of you is based on a sound mathematical model and thus quite rational. Small comfort when you’re rejected, but know you’re in the top 10% for those who do say yes.

Women Benefit from Polygyny, Men Lose

The finding that humans are naturally polygamous does not qualify as surprising. However, the fact that polygyny (the marriage of one man to many women) is more beneficial to women than to men seems somewhat counterintuitive at the microlevel. It seems as though the guy has all the fun in this one, even though he’d go bankrupt on wedding ringsalone, while women are forced to share. Taking the larger picture into account, though, polygyny allows a few males to monopolize all the females in the group. The situation creates greater pressure for men to compete with each other for mates as there is a much greater gap between the winners and losers in this reproductive game, which makes the cream of the crop even more desirable. Under polygyny, women can share a wealthy man, while under monogamy, they are stuck with marrying a poorer man. Or, as George Bernard Shaw puts it, “The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one.”

While men in monogamous societies often express desire for a polygynous setup, monogamy in fact guarantees every man can find a wife. Polygyny means no wife at all for men who are not extremely desirable.
The losers in polygyny? Extremely desirable women, who can monopolize an extremely desirable man under monogamy but are forced to share in a polygynous model.
Conclusion: If you’re not incredibly wealthy, impossibly handsome and indescribably awesome, be happy with monogamy. If you are all of the above…become a Mormon or move to Senegal.

Taking the Pill Could Mean Picking the Wrong Mate

After a pleasant disposition, scent is the second most important criterion for women in choosing a man, according to Rachel Herz of Brown University. Women care more about scent than muscle tone, appearance or voice.
The source of each person’s scent is actually their immune system. The segment of DNA called MHC (major histocompatibilty complex) both produces our individual odor and controls proteins involved in immunity. Because we are best protected by the broadest possible array of disease resistance, our bodies want to mate with a partner whose MHC profile differs from our own.

Claus Wedekind of the University of Bern in Switzerland conducted experiments asking women to sniff and choose clothes worn by various men. Unsurprisingly, women favored the aroma of men whose MHC profiles differ from theirs, while similar MHC profiles remind them of their fathers or brothers. However, women who take oral contraceptives get it all backwards: they found the father and brother smells most attractive. This is because the pill tricks the woman’s body into acting as if she’s pregnant – and thus she feels safer around her family in this “vulnerable” state.
Herz suggests that the widespread use of the pill while couples are dating may factor into the high divorce rates. One of the top complaints to marriage counselors reinforces this hypothesis: “Marriage counselors say that a complaint from women who want to end a relationship is, ‘I can’t stand his smell.’”
Just to make sure, Herz advises women to stop using the pill for a few months before deciding to marry.
Conclusions: Stop using too much cologne, and consider alternative forms of contraception before taking the plunge.

Men Who Sexually Harass Women Aren’t Being Sexist

Kingsely R. Browne recasts sexual harassment in terms of sex differences in mating strategies. Women reporting sexual harassment complain they have been subjected to degrading, intimidating and abusive treatment by male coworkers.

However, Browne points out that before women entered the workforce, men subjected each other to similar degrading, intimidating and abusive treatment. These are simply part of the tactics men employ in competitive situations. Thus, by subjecting women to this kind of treatment, men are not treating women differently from men (which is the legal definition of discrimination under which sexual harassment falls) – but treating them the same. Men harass women because they are not discriminating between men and women.
Conclusion: Be an equal-opportunity a-hole?
This article was taken from

No comments:

Post a Comment