Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The evolution of attraction
Those of you ladies out there who are in relationships, have you found your gaze lingering a bit too long on an especially beautiful woman? I think we all probably have. It's not just because of her perfect hair or "toothpaste commercial teeth" though. It's because of evolution.
That's what psychologists at Florida State University recently discovered. They measured how long it takes a person to avert their eyes when they see a really attractive person of the same sex, and concluded that we have an innate reflex of looking just a little bit longer at someone who appears to be "competition" for our mate, compared with when the interloper is just average-looking. And, if you're straight and you see someone of the opposite sex who's really attractive, it generally takes longer for you to avert your eyes too; you are literally mesmerized.
When I talked a little longer to lead study author John Maner, he revealed some other really interesting tidbits about the effects of evolution on how we choose our mates. It turns out beauty isn't really just in the eye of the beholder, as they say. In fact, it has generally objective parameters that are driven by evolutionary motivations. Study after study proves that our biological need to procreate leads most of us to pick mates with the same specific types of physical features over others. At the end of the day, most of us tend to latch on to people whose features suggest their own high potential for reproductive success. How unromantic!
Men look for women with a hip-to-waist ratio of 0.7, and a face with a high forehead, good skin, and big eyes because it means you're youthful - all signs of good childbearing potential and healthy future offspring. Meanwhile, women look for men with strong square jaws and other macho features that suggest high testosterone levels (big muscles, etc.) because the more dominant they are, the more likely they will provide resources and status for the woman. But when a woman wants to cheat, she usually looks for someone who's got really symmetrical features. That's because symmetry is something we tend to associate with having good gene... so in the end, even when we cheat, we're looking for good procreating prospects.
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