On Seduction and Mate Selection

Kevin Lewis

November 18, 2009

Narcissism and Attractiveness

Nicholas Holtzman & Michael Strube
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Is narcissism related to observer-rated attractiveness? Two views imply that narcissism is unrelated to attractiveness: cognitive illusions theory and Feingold's (1992) attractiveness theory (i.e., attractiveness is unrelated to personality in general). In contrast, two other views imply that narcissism is positively related to attractiveness: an evolutionary perspective on narcissism (i.e., selection pressures in short-term mating contexts shaped the evolution of narcissism, including greater selection for attractiveness in short-term versus long-term mating contexts) and, secondly, the self-regulatory processing model of narcissism (narcissists groom themselves to bolster grandiose self-images). A meta-analysis (N > 1,000) reveals a small but reliable positive narcissism-attractiveness correlation that approaches the largest known personality-attractiveness correlations. The finding supports the evolutionary and self-regulatory views of narcissism.


Cognitive word use during marital conflict and increases in proinflammatory cytokines

Jennifer Graham, Ronald Glaser, Timothy Loving, William Malarkey, Jeffrey Stowell & Janice Kiecolt-Glaser
Health Psychology, September 2009, Pages 621-630

Objective: To examine whether greater cognitive engagement during a marital conflict discussion, as evidenced by use of words that suggest thinking and meaning-making, results in attenuated proinflammatory cytokine increases to stress and wounding.

Design: Husbands and wives (N = 84 individuals) were observed during two separate 24-hr visits: each visit included a wounding procedure, which was followed by a nonconflictive marital discussion (first visit) and a conflictive marital discussion (second visit).

Main Outcome Measures: Serum proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a).

Results: Individuals who used more cognitive processing words during the conflict discussion (but not the nonconflictive discussion) showed smaller increases in serum IL-6 and TNF-a over 24 hours; they also had lower levels of both cytokines 24 hours after baseline controlling for demographics, hostility, depressed mood, positive and negative interactions, and marital quality. Effects of word use were not mediated by ruminative thoughts after conflict. Although both men and women benefited from their own cognitive engagement, only husbands' IL-6 patterns were affected by spouses' engagement.

Conclusion: In accord with research demonstrating the value of cognitive processing in emotional disclosure, this research suggests that productive communication patterns may help mitigate the adverse effects of relationship conflict on inflammatory dysregulation.


Effects of Attractiveness and Social Status on Dating Desire in Heterosexual Adolescents: An Experimental Study

Thao Ha, Geertjan Overbeek & Rutger Engels
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

The present study examined to what extent adolescent dating desire is based on attractiveness and social status of a potential short-term partner. Further, we tested whether self-perceived mate value moderated the relationship between dating desire and attractiveness of a potential partner. Data were used from a sample of 1,913 adolescents aged 13-18. Participants rated the importance of various characteristics of a potential partner and also participated in an experimental vignette study in which dating desire was measured with either low or high attractive potential partners having either a high or low social status. The results showed that boys rated attractiveness as more important than girls, while social status was rated as relatively unimportant by both sexes. In addition, in the experimental vignette study, it was found that attractiveness was the primary factor for boys' dating desire. Only when a potential partner was attractive, social status became important for boys' dating desire. For girls, on the other hand, it appeared that both attractiveness and social status of a potential partner were important for their dating desire. Finally, boys and girls who perceived themselves as having a high mate value showed more dating desire toward an attractive potential partner compared to adolescents who perceived themselves as having a low mate value. The present results extend previous research by showing that attractiveness of a potential partner is important to both adolescent boys and girls, but social status does not strongly affect dating desire during this particular age period.


Women's Marital Naming Choices in a Nationally Representative Sample

Gretchen Gooding & Rose Kreider
Journal of Family Issues, forthcoming

We explore women's marital naming choices using the 2004 American Community Survey (ACS). Six percent of native-born married women have nonconventional surnames. Nonconventional surnames include hyphenated surnames, two surnames, and women who kept their own surname at marriage. Characteristics associated with nonconventional surname use include younger age, being other than White non-Hispanic, a large age difference between spouses, and higher educational attainment. Women with a master's degree have odds of using a nonconventional surname that are 2.8 times higher than those who have less than a bachelor's degree, whereas women with a professional degree have odds that are 5.0 times higher,and women with a doctorate have odds 9.8 times those with less than a bachelor's degree.


Height, Relationship Satisfaction, Jealousy, and Mate Retention

Gayle Brewer & Charlene Riley
Evolutionary Psychology, September 2009, Pages 477-489

Male height is associated with high mate value. In particular, tall men are perceived as more attractive, dominant and of a higher status than shorter rivals, resulting in a greater lifetime reproductive success. Female infidelity and relationship dissolution may therefore present a greater risk to short men. It was predicted that tall men would report greater relationship satisfaction and lower jealousy and mate retention behavior than short men. Ninety eight heterosexual men in a current romantic relationship completed a questionnaire. Both linear and quadratic relationships were found between male height and relationship satisfaction, cognitive and behavioral jealousy. Tall men reported greater relationship satisfaction and lower levels of cognitive or behavioral jealousy than short men. In addition, linear and quadratic relationships were found between male height and a number of mate retention behaviors. Tall and short men engaged in different mate retention behaviors. These findings are consistent with previous research conducted in this area detailing the greater attractiveness of tall men.


Human birth seasonality and sunshine

David Cummings
American Journal of Human Biology, forthcoming

The environmental light intensity/photoperiod (ELI/PP) hypothesis proposes that the seasonality of human births is primarily associated with seasonal changes in ambient atmospheric luminosity or ELI. This study tests for the presence of increased ELI during the 1 or 2-month period preceding the conceptual month. Monthly birth data for Helsinki, Finland; Kiev, Ukraine; Hanoi, Vietnam; Matlab, Bangladesh; Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado and Pretoria, South Africa, are correlated (Pearsonian r) to corresponding monthly meteorological data. With the exception of Matlab, birth data are adjusted for conception date, 31-day months, leap years and monthly deviation from an annual mean. Meteorological data are adjusted for a 1-2-month exposure to ELI before conception. From these correlations, Helsinki r = 0.82, Kiev r = 0.80, Hanoi r = 0.93, Matlab r = 0.91, Nashville r = 0.84, Los Angeles r = 0.71, Dallas r = 0.86, Denver r = 0.53, and Pretoria r = -82. Weakness and strengths of the ELI/PP hypothesis are reviewed using the criteria developed by AB Hill. Substituting meteorological variables for ELI may be a weakness, whereas the specificity of ELI/PP predictions may be a strength. Increased periods of ELI precede increased periods of conceptions. Increased ELI may influence seasonality for chimpanzee, baboon, and humans. Atmospheric pollution may alter the onset of seasonality. Increased ELI may be the initial, but not the singular variable to affect seasonality.


Genetic dissimilarity, genetic diversity, and mate preferences in humans

Hanne Lie, Leigh Simmons & Gillian Rhodes
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

It is clear that genes at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are involved in mate preferences in a range of species, including humans. However, many questions remain regarding the MHC's exact influence on mate preference in humans. Some research suggests that genetic dissimilarity and individual genetic diversity (heterozygosity) at the MHC influence mate preferences, but the evidence is often inconsistent across studies. In addition, it is not known whether apparent preferences for MHC dissimilarity are specific to the MHC or reflect a more general preference for genome-wide dissimilarity, and whether MHC-related preferences are dependent on the context of mate choice (e.g., when choosing a short-term and long-term partner). Here, we investigated whether preferences for genetic dissimilarity are specific to the MHC and also whether preferences for genetic dissimilarity and diversity are context dependent. Genetic dissimilarity (number of alleles shared) influenced male, but not female, partner preferences, with males showing a preference for the faces of MHC-dissimilar females in both mating contexts. Genetic diversity [heterozygosity (H) and standardized mean (d2)] influenced both male and female preferences, regardless of mating context. Females preferred males with greater diversity at MHC loci (H) and males preferred females with greater diversity at non-MHC loci (d2) in both contexts. Importantly, these findings provide further support for a special role of the MHC in human sexual selection and suggest that male and female mate preferences may work together to potentially enhance both male and female reproductive success by increasing genetic diversity in offspring.


Face off: Implications of visual cues on initiating friendship on Facebook

Shaojung Sharon Wang, Shin-Il Moon, Kyounghee Hazel Kwon, Carolyn Evans & Michael Stefanone
Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming

This research investigates how moderating factors and theoretically relevant contextual variables affect impression formation and the willingness to initiate virtual friendship. An experiment examined both main and interaction effects for visual cues, profile owner's gender, and evaluator's gender; a 2 (stimulus gender: male and female) × 3 (visual conditions: attractive, unattractive, and no-photo) × 2 (evaluator's gender: male and female) between subjects model analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed. A three-way interaction between gender and appearance was revealed. The results indicated that both male and female subjects were more willing to initiate friendships with opposite-sex profile owners with attractive photos. Subjects also displayed comparatively higher willingness to make friends with profile owners who did not include visual cues than with those who revealed an unattractive photo. The hyperpersonal model was supported and extended to address gender attributes.


Rethinking Democracy: Legal Challenges to Pornography and Sex Inequality in Canada and the United States

Max Waltman
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Why are democracies unresponsive to well-documented injuries in the production and by the consumption of pornography? Legal challenges to pornography in Canada and the United States in which sexual subordination, not moral notions of "obscenity," were the driving rationale, show democracies inadequately recognizing gender-specific harms. Changes in Canadian obscenity doctrines to account for harm and inequality, in contrast with the U.S. reign of "free speech," did not deliver a corresponding change on the ground. Developments in democratic theory, international law, and the particular U.S.-Canadian legal trajectory, and consideration of the void of institutions articulating the interests of those victimized in and by pornography, suggest the need to adopt empowering civil remedies.


Women's Probability of Conception Is Associated with their Preference for Flirtatious but not Masculine Facial Movement

Edward Morrison, Andrew Clark, Lisa Gralewski, Neill Campbell & Ian Penton-Voak
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Women's preferences for facial structure vary over the menstrual cycle. Little is known, however, as to how preferences for behavior may be influenced by hormonal factors. Here, we demonstrate that social properties of facial motion influence attractiveness judgments in the absence of other cues, and that women's preferences for these displays vary over the menstrual cycle, as has been demonstrated for structural traits of men's faces in static stimuli. We produced shape-standardized facial models that were animated with male movement and assessed for flirtatiousness by 16 women and attractiveness by 47 women. In fertile phases of the menstrual cycle, women showed stronger preferences for flirtatious movement, but not for absolute movement. These data show that women (1) recognize specific mating-relevant social cues in male facial movement and (2) are differentially influenced by these cues at different phases of the menstrual cycle. This preference for flirtatiousness may promote the adaptive allocation of mating effort towards men who are, in turn, likely to respond positively.


People are experience goods: Improving online dating with virtual dates

Jeana Frost, Zoë Chance, Michael Norton & Dan Ariely
Journal of Interactive Marketing, Spring 2008, Pages 51-61

We suggest that online dating frequently fails to meet user expectations because people, unlike many commodities available for purchase online, are experience goods: Daters wish to screen potential romantic partners by experiential attributes (such as sense of humor or rapport), but online dating Web sites force them to screen by searchable attributes (such as income or religion). We demonstrate that people spend too much time searching for options online for too little payoff in offline dates (Study 1), in part because users desire information about experiential attributes, but online dating Web sites contain primarily searchable attributes (Study 2). Finally, we introduce and beta test the Virtual Date, offering potential dating partners the opportunity to acquire experiential information by exploring a virtual environment in interactions analogous to real first dates (such as going to a museum), an online intervention that led to greater liking after offline meetings (Study 3).


Looking Online for the Best Romantic Partner Reduces Decision Quality: The Moderating Role of Choice-Making Strategies

Mu-Li Yang & Wen-Bin Chiou
CyberPsychology & Behavior, forthcoming

The Internet has become a means by which people expand their social networks and form close relationships. Wu and Chiou (2009) demonstrated that more search options triggered excessive searching, leading to poorer decision making and reduced selectivity in finding partners for online romantic relationships. Regarding the more-means-worse effect, they argued that more searching leads to worse choices by reducing users' cognitive resources, distracting them with irrelevant information, and reducing their ability to screen out inferior options. Expanding Simon's (1955) seminal theory, this research compared choice-making strategies of maximizers and satisficers on excessive searching, quality of final decisions, and selectivity. One hundred twelve adolescents with experiences of online romantic relationships participated in an experimental study. Participants were administered a scale that measured maximizing tendencies and were then assigned to receive either a small or a large number of options. Results indicated that the participants with high maximizing tendencies (i.e., maximizers) showed more pronounced searching than did those with low maximizing tendencies (i.e., satisficers). The negative effect of excessive searching on decision-making was more prominent for maximizers than for satisficers in terms of final choices and selectivity. These findings reveal that adopting maximizing strategies may increase vulnerability stemming from excessive searching when a large number of choices are available.


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