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September 05, 2007

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I prefer lukewarm, thanks.

I hope that means 98 degrees, Ugh, and not room temperature,

The same study also confirmed that women prefer overweight, prematurely balding men who play video games, drink beer and avidly watch sporting events on cable television.

Actually, I shouldn't scoff. The study involved a whole twenty-six men and over twenty women.

With that kind of convincingly large sample, I can't fault their conclusions.

at least they took down the ' "She-Male" Leads Prison Dance ' headline !

This morning on CNN, in an example of the perfect confluence of trivialism, some fellow whose only claim to fame is that he fathered Anna Nicole Smith's last child is denying "accusations" that he once had a sexual encounter with Howard Stern, a fellow whose only claim to fame is shock jockery.

It's really difficult to convey my utter bafflement that 1: anyone gives a good goddamn about anyone in this story, much less in the story itself; and 2: enough people apparently DO give enough of a good goddamn for CNN to waste airtime on it.

Honestly, sometimes? I do yearn for the Apocalypse.

Given Hilzoy's recent descriptions of men sexually harassing her, I think this is a subtle way for her to assert her own hotness. Smart and hot! (drooling...)

This reminds of Cosmopolitan's announcement several years back the "Pretty is in!"

CaseyL, I believe that's Howard K. Stern, ANS's attorney. Let's not sully the good name of the unrelated shock jock by tying him into this sordid affair.

zmulls- A sample size of that scale is adequate. Anything close to 30 is usually plenty.

There's actually some statistical work you can do to demonstrate what sort of sample size you'll need for a particular study, and while I haven't done it, 1) I bet they have, and 2) their sample size matches what I'd expect.

The real flaw in the study is in the use of speed dating as a model for actual dating.

I'm not sure what the objection to the study is. Is it that study evidence shows that men really are as shallow as every has claimed? or that everyone knew that men were shallow so it's silly to research it?

It's true. I prefer my women to have at least a 101 degree fever, though I prefer 102. And projectile vomiting, if possible.

Yeah, baby, yeah!

I'm going to attempt to prevent any further literalist jokes about the word "hot."

To wit:

I like my women composed of high-energy plasma. (Whoo-hooo, that's funny!)

I prefer women whose bodies serve as crucibles for self-sustaining fusion reactions. (Bwahh-haaaa, I'm killing myself!)

I will now assume that I have failed in that attempt.

In other headlines, Rock stars more likely to die prematurely, study finds.

    LONDON (Reuters) - Rock stars -- notorious for their "crash and burn" lifestyles -- really are more likely than other people to die before reaching old age.

    A study of more than 1,000 mainly British and North American artists, spanning the era from Elvis Presley to rapper Eminem, found they were two to three times more likely to suffer a premature death than the general population.

But the rock stars monopolized all of the hot women, so we're even.

Well, I'm a man, and I don't want hot women--balding male bloggers who can speak passionate words about ERISA are much higher on my list of desires . . . ;)

Aside from the small sample size, there's that heterosexual assumption ...

no, it really is a stupider study than even the headline suggests.

it was one of these 'speed-dating' studies, where you meet a bunch of people for a few minutes--literally, less than five minutes--and then they ask you which ones you might like to date on the basis of that brief exposure.

so the real headline should be:
"when asked to make a decision and given only superficial data, men base their decisions on superficial data!"

Hey hairshirthedonist, had you noticed that "hot" means both "of a high temperature" and "sexually desireable"? The ironic thing is, what this study was actually gauging was the preference of the average male for a woman who is "hot", that is to say, "stolen property".

The complaints about using speed-dating for data are very much misguided here. Much of the focus of the whole "fast & frugal heuristics" school, within which Todd is a major player, is to see what kinds of quick preliminary decisions we make in situations where we can't bring significant delibrative resources to bear. And, as Todd reasonably notes, "Speed dating lets us look at a large number of mate choice decisions collected in a short amount of time.... It only captures the initial stage of the extended process involved in long-term mate choice. But that initial expression of interest is crucial for launching everything else."

(full disclosure: I am at Indiana University, which is also Todd's university. But I don't think that that's particularly affected my views here.)

"Men tended to select nearly every woman above a certain minimum attractiveness threshold, Todd said."

Standard for hot is rather low too ;)

given only superficial data

well, actually rather realistic because in the first stages of the mating process one generally has to operate with only superficial data, no? and then oftentimes one gets stuck with a hot woman, terrible, but what can you do

because in the first stages of the mating process one generally has to operate with only superficial data, no?

back when i was dating, i required a Meyers-Briggs evaluation, recent SAT or GMAT scores, and the certified results from a recent President's Physical Fitness test. if those were satisfactory, we moved to the phone-screen stage.

Brief mention of Actual Evolutionary Biology™:

Mate choice is something that, by default, is done *by females*.

And note that the study actually says that -- it's the *headline* that focuses on evolutionarily minor male choice. The study itself could be summarized as: "Men not very picky; women do the choosing. Guys, we are judging you."

So the question is, why isn't that the headline?

OT: In case Jes's suggestion of putting cameras in restrooms wasn't enough to indicate that things are getting pretty Orwellian in the UK:

A senior judge has called for the entire population and anyone visiting Britain to have their DNA placed on a national database.

Lord Justice Sedley says a nation-wide bank of DNA profiles would help to tackle crime and correct an imbal-ance in profiles stored by police.

Though I probably overestimate the outrage such a statement would spark in the US nowadays, especially if the magic words "terrorists" and "child predators" were used.

"Men not very picky; women do the choosing. Guys, we are judging you."

If that's the case, why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?

If that's the case, why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?

Peer pressure and gender expectations.

I am at Indiana University

I visited there once or twice, I think. I really don't remember. Something having to do with a bike race, though.

"REFUND? REFUND?"

""Men not very picky; women do the choosing. Guys, we are judging you."

If that's the case, why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?"

In my experience, that's how women* signal that they have chosen the guy.

*My experience with men trying to signal me that they are interested in me is far too small for conclusions to be drawn.

"If that's the case, why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?"

That's easy to answer. Men basically had a threshold of acceptability, and were happy with anything above that in terms of attractiveness. Women were more precise. If women spend more time on appearance than men, its to raise their spot on the attractiveness ladder, ensuring that more men will deem them acceptable, and giving them a wider pool from which to select.

Heck, even if men and women spent exactly the same amount of time trying to make themselves appealing to the opposite sex, this article's data suggests that women would spend the most time on appearance. Apparently that's the primary criteria for males evaluating females, so that's where the effort should be expended. Women apparently use a more polyvalent analysis, so men would be expected to spend time on a wider array of factors, and therefore less on appearance.

KCinDC:

Though I probably overestimate the outrage such a statement would spark in the US nowadays, especially if the magic words "terrorists" and "child predators" were used.
I haven't the faintest doubt that, given the right phrasing and speaker, let alone circumstances, that it could be overwhelmingly popular.

The whole point of the safeguards intended to be in the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights is that they restrain popular will and sentiment. That they constrain what's popular, against the rights of minorities.

It's a brilliant scheme.

But it requires the people to always be vigilant.

And, alas, that's a mixed deal.

"It only captures the initial stage of the extended process involved in long-term mate choice. But that initial expression of interest is crucial for launching everything else."

true, if you think that all long-term mate choice results from speed-dating scenarios.

false otherwise.

look: pretty often, guys wind up marrying their sister's best friend whom they have known for months before they ask her out. or they marry a college classmate whom they have talked with repeatedly in a variety of contexts. or they marry a work-colleague whom they have seen at work for countless hours before they start dating.

it is simply *not* true that "everything else" depends on an initial four-minute assessment. that may be how it works in speed-dating land. but everywhere else, many men as well as women collect lots of data before they move on to even the early stages of finding a long-term mate.

and a good thing, since superficial attractiveness is a pretty disastrous way to find a long-term mate.

i'm not saying that studies of speed-dating are not studying anything interesting; they are. they are studying, as 'philosopher' said, 'fast & frugal heuristics'. cool, great, bravo. but:

1) this is a ludicrously impoverished base from which to make grand claims about mate-choice, given that a lot of mate-choice starts in data-rich environments; and
2) given that this is the phenomenon being studied, are we really supposed to be impressed by a finding which tells us that when people make snap judgements, they do them on the basis of superficial characteristics?

look, niche research is great--i'm all for it.
over-blown claims are not so great.

why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?

exactly (assuming that's a rhetorical question). biologically speaking, women want to attract the highest-quality man she can get - just like all the other women around her. so, that's competition. and likewise, given a choice between a woman who can make the effort (and does) to attract him and one that doesn't, he's going to go for the show-off.

besides all that, simple ego drives you to get the best mate you can, regardless of your gender.

To paraphrase Arnold in Terminator 3, men want healthy females of breeding age. Not suprisingly, the "healthier" looking, the hotter. Of course, Arnold then qualifies his statment by saying, "My database does not encompass the dynamics of human pair bonding."

I don't want hot women. I guess I can infer I'm not a man.

There was one interesting idea they raised: the idea that women didn't undershoot on attractiveness in their preferences. Apparently no amount of charm or good manners compensates.

That's something to take home for us ugly guys.

women want to attract the highest-quality man she can get

i like to think my whimsical disregard for proper pronoun agreement is my most-attractive feature.

"i like to think my whimsical disregard for proper pronoun agreement is my most-attractive feature."

I'm personally greatly attracted to women with an acute sense of grammar, but I have to confess that as yet, I've not found this reciprocated.

To be sure, I have a whole lot of other disqualifying characteristics to otherwise explain this.

philosopher,

I don't think the complaints are misguided. According to the article,

In the study, participants were asked before the session to fill out a questionnaire about what they were looking for in a mate, listing such categories as wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, healthiness and attractiveness.

After the session it was discovered that men based their decisions on attractiveness, rather than the stated preferences. But how exactly do you find out how healthy and wealthy someone is, their level of "family commitment" (whatever that is supposed to mean) and so on in a speed-dating session? Do you exchange personal financial statements and reports on your latest physical exam? ("You know, you've got a beautiful portfolio and those triglycerides are stunning. Are you free for dinner?")

I think kid bitzer nailed it at 1:44. The men used the data they had and didn't use data they lacked.

Suitable enough to link to my favorite Mullah Nasruddin story (the contemplation of which has both improved my outlook on romance and has been useful in beating sense into certain friends as well)--
quoted from Idries Shah's _The Sufis_:

One afternoon, Nasruddin and his friend were sitting in a cafe, drinking tea, and talking about life and love.
"How come you never got married, Nasruddin?" asked his friend at one point.
"Well," said Nasruddin, "to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no interests in common. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would aways be something missing.
Then one day, I met her. She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had everything in common. In fact, she was perfect."
"Well," said Nasruddin's friend, "what happened? Why didn't you marry her?"
Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. "Well," he replied, "it's a sad thing. It seems she was looking for the perfect man."

it is simply *not* true that "everything else" depends on an initial four-minute assessment

true, but the initial assessment, and I'd go even further and say that it is done in 10 seconds, is important to most in determining if one wants to go on to the later stages in the first place

and a good thing, since superficial attractiveness is a pretty disastrous way to find a long-term mate

what's with the dissing of attractiveness? is spending your life with someone you find physically rather unattractive such a great idea?

Is your physical attraction to someone in the first 10 seconds a good indicator of how attracted you'll be to them 25 years later, novakant?

"what's with the dissing of attractiveness?"

look, i've got plenty of reason to thank my lucky stars that some women ignore appearance.

but that's not the point: the point is that for any more extended decision-making about "who would i like to see for a fourth date/live with/get married to/etc.", a lot more data is going to go into a decision--even a *guy's* decision--than mere attractiveness.

the fact that this study suggested otherwise is largely an artefact of how the study was constructed.

Is your physical attraction to someone in the first 10 seconds a good indicator of how attracted you'll be to them 25 years later, novakant?

Certain facial features don't change all that much over time (interesting examples here and here ) and an initial, intuitive attraction to those would be an example of what I'm talking about. Generally I agree with kid that there are a lot more factors going into such decisions later on, but for me personally that initial attraction is important and I find it rather more poetic and true to what we call love than judging prospective partners by their potential future earnings or social status.

I guess it all depends on what you mean by hot.

I tend to be attracted to smart women with a clever mouth; women who write wittily and well turn me on; and convictions count.

Hence I perceive digby and hilzoy and LizardBreath and BlueGirl and The Goddess Echidne and natasha and Jane Hamsher and Christy and emptywheel and watertiger and bitchphd and Athenae as teh hott.

why is it that the people who are trying to impress guys, on average, make more of an effort with their appearance than those who are trying to impress women?

Because human mate choice does not (apparently) conform to the expectations of evolutionary biology. To put it simply, there is *no* non-human mammal species in which the females are prettier, and biologists do not expect there would be. If there is substantial sexual selection on human females, this is extremely unusual and even bizarre, biologically speaking.

"there is *no* non-human mammal species in which the females are prettier"

dear dr. science,

is there something about your feelings of attraction to male animals that you're trying to tell us about?

maybe you've got the hots for a large buck okapi, and aren't sure how to approach it?

because, i just want you to know:
it's okay. we're here to support you, and listen in a non-judgemental way.

I think outer attractiveness is usually the first filter, followed by others, if it is passed.
Myself (perpetual single) I find that outer attractiveness ("beauty"), sympathy and sexual attractiveness are more often independent than not. And those three still do not trigger automatically a "I could spend my life with that person" reaction. I feel attracted more to "mediocre" outer attractiveness. There are women of the "right" age I find extremly likable but feel not the least sexually attracted too and others that trigger sexual fantasies but are clearly not on the list for longterm relations. I think a lot of that is established often on the first view. On the other hand I found that women that I developed a deeper desire for did not trigger the alarm immediately but took quite a long time to turn from "human-shaped object blocking view to horizon" to "a person I'd like to spend my life with". Immediate attraction was usually not lasting but instant repulsion is rarely overcome later.
So, I think the first view has a strong effect but only by narrowing the field and neutral first impressions often have a better longterm chance than immediate high values.
That may be even part of a subconscious strategy for the less attractive male. To keep a highly attractive female is probably more difficult than an average one and the advantages of the first may not outweigh the trouble one avoids with the latter.
I am definitely not a chick magnet, neither outwardly nor inwardly.

To keep a highly attractive female is probably more difficult than an average one and the advantages of the first may not outweigh the trouble one avoids with the latter.

Or, in the words of Trini Lopez,

"If you want to be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife."

kid:

I mean "prettier" in the most objective and scientific fashion possible, of course, in which "pretty" is the opposite of "camoflaged".

Many confusions in play here, as to what Todd et al. were trying to do.

First of all, most critiques of evolutionary psychology is relevant here, because they aren't even gesturing at an evolutionary _argument_. What they're offering is a straight-up experimental finding. The fact that some evolutionary concerns were discussed in a motivating way does not thereby make the research subject to all of the (many of them very good) complaints that people have about badly done 'just so story' EvPsych.

Second, the main interesting result is NOT: guys like 'em hot. The main interesting result is: men and women seem to use _different_ heuristics in this task. So, in particular, kid bitzer's and Bernard Yomtov's comments are rather off the mark. It doesn't capture what's going on here to say, "The men used the data they had and didn't use data they lacked," because to capture what's going on here you need an account of the different ways that men and women, who had access to all of the same kinds of data, nonetheless did different things with it.

Third, I promise you, Todd and his collaborators are really, really, really aware of the fact that this was one study, from a select (and, indeed, self-selected) population. They're reporting an experimental finding. And it's an interesting experimental finding. They know very well not to take it for more than it is worth.

Fourth, novakant has this exactly right: "the initial assessment, and I'd go even further and say that it is done in 10 seconds, is important to most in determining if one wants to go on to the later stages in the first place". If you don't get any initial interest in the person, you're just not likely to ask them out, and give yourself a chance to get to know them better. So knowing how different people might allocate their initial attentional resources is a pretty darn interesting thing to learn about.

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