Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chapman University publishes research on attractiveness and mating

Chapman University has published research on what people find "desirable" and "essential" in a long-term partner based on two of the largest national studies of mate preferences ever conducted.

This research supports the long-held belief that people with desirable traits have a stronger "bargaining hand" and can be more selective when choosing romantic partners, but it also challenges other commonly held mating beliefs. The studies examined how heterosexual mate preferences differed according to a person's gender, age, personal income, education and appearance satisfaction.

"We looked at the extent to which attractiveness and resources are 'desirable' versus 'essential' to men and women when they are looking for a long-term partner," said David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and a co-author on the study. "We've known for a long time that men care more about attractiveness in a long term partner, and women care more about resources. In two national datasets, we found that gender was by far the strongest predictor of what people want in a long-term mate: it was more important than age, income, education, or confidence in appearance. We found that although men have stronger preferences for a 'good looking' and 'slender' partner, men and women care equally about having a partner who is specifically attractive to them. Wealthier men and people who were more confident in their appearance had stronger preferences for a good-looking partner, and older men and women placed less importance on looks and income traits when seeking a long-term partner," continued Dr. Frederick.

The study took a "mating market" approach which is defined as heterosexual individuals compete with others of the same gender to make "bids" to members of the other gender for the purposes of securing a romantic partner. People with desirable traits are in a position to be more selective about what they look for in mate. The mating market metaphor can be extended to include a distinction between partner "necessities" (what people find essential in a partner) and partner "luxuries" (what people would prefer to have in a partner, but could live without).

Here are some of the findings broken down by category:

Gender Differences: Specifically, the study revealed that men and women differed in the percentage indicating:

  • it was 'desirable/essential' that their potential partner was good-looking (M 92 percent vs. W 84 percent),
  • had a slender body (M 80 percent vs. W 58 percent),
  • had a steady income (M 74 percent vs. W 97 percent),
  • and made/will make a lot of money (M 47 percent vs. W 69 percent).
There were also gender differences in whether it was 'very important/a must have' that their partner made at least as much money as they do (M 24 percent vs. W 46 percent) and had a successful career (M 33 percent vs. W 61 percent), but not in whether their partner was physically attractive to them (M 40 percent vs. W 42 percent).

Confidence in Physical Attractiveness: People who reported greater satisfaction with their own appearance did not have stronger preferences for a partner who is physically attractive to them, but they did report stronger preferences for partners who are good looking and slender - this was true for both men and women.

Income: People with higher incomes had stronger preferences for partners who are good looking - and this was true for both men and women. Men with higher incomes showed stronger preferences for women with slender bodies. Wealthier women had stronger preferences for men who had a steady income or made lots of money.

Education: Men with more education had stronger preferences for female partners who are good looking and slender; however for both men and women, education level was not related to preferences for steady income or making a lot of money.

Age: Older people - both men and women - had weaker preferences for a partner they find physically attractive, who make as much money as they do, and who has a successful career.

A total of nearly 28,000 heterosexual participants ages 18 to 75 years completed the surveys.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Men and women are different when it comes to feeling jealous about sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity

In the largest study to date on infidelity, Chapman University has learned men and women are different when it comes to feeling jealous. In a poll of nearly 64,000 Americans this study provides the first large-scale examination of gender and sexual orientation differences in response to potential sexual versus emotional infidelity in U.S. adults.

According to the findings, heterosexual men were more likely than heterosexual women to be most upset by sexual infidelity (54 percent of men vs. 35 percent of women) and less likely than heterosexual women to be most upset by emotional infidelity (46 percent of men vs. 65 percent of women).

Participants imagined what would upset them more: their partners having sex with someone else (but not falling in love with them) or their partners falling in love with someone else (but not having sex with them). Consistent with the evolutionary perspective, heterosexual men were more likely than heterosexual women to be upset by sexual infidelity and less likely than heterosexual women to be upset by emotional infidelity. Bisexual men and women did not differ significantly. Gay men and lesbian women also did not differ.

"Heterosexual men really stand out from all other groups: they were the only ones who were much more likely to be most upset by sexual infidelity rather than emotional infidelity," said David Frederick, Ph.D., and lead author on the study. He went on to note: "The attitudes of gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women have been historically understudied and under theorized in psychology, particularly in regards to tests of evolutionary perspectives."

Sexual and emotional infidelity can cause harm to both men and women, including leading to broken hearts and relationships coming to an abrupt and painful end; as well as abandonment, partner violence, and loss of resources when these resources are invested into affair partners.

"The responses of men and women to the threat of infidelity range from intense pangs of jealousy to elaborate displays of attention to woo their partner back. Jealousy can also trigger harmful and violent behavior, so it is important to understand what are the most potent triggers of jealousy," said Dr. Frederick.

The evolutionary perspective notes that men face a problem that women never face: paternal uncertainty. They never know if their child is genetically related to them, there is always a chance the child could have been fathered by another man. In contrast, women never face the problem of maternal uncertainty. Thus, while it is expected that both men and women experience sexual jealousy, men may exhibit particularly heightened responses compared with women. Further, while women do not face maternal uncertainty, they risk the potential loss of resources and commitment from partners if they channel their investment to another mate.

Sociocultural perspectives have generally claimed that no difference would be expected between men and women. However, this study notes that men are socialized to be masculine, which includes having great sexual prowess. If a man's partner commits sexual infidelity, this brings into question his sexual prowess and therefore threatens his masculinity, which leads him to react more negatively to his partner committing sexual rather than emotional infidelity.

In contrast, women are taught to think relationally and to be the emotional nurturers in a relationship. If their partner commits emotional infidelity, this may threaten her sense of self more so than if her partner commits sexual infidelity.
"There has been significant disagreement about whether or not men and women tend to differ in their responses to sexual and emotional infidelity. Most research relies on small samples or college samples. We set out to examine a broad and diverse sample of Americans," said Dr. Frederick.

Consistent with evolutionary perspective, one's reaction to sexual verses emotional infidelity is likely shaped by environmental and personal factors. This gender difference emerged across age groups, income levels, history of being cheated on, history of being unfaithful, relationship type, and length. Factors such as age, income and whether people had children were unrelated to upset over sexual versus emotional infidelity. However, younger participants were notably more upset by sexual infidelity than older participants.

A review of ethnographic accounts from 16 societies found that infidelity was the most common cause of marital dissolution. A meta-analysis of 50 studies found that 34 percent of men and 24 percent of women have engaged in extramarital sexual activities. Infidelity in dating relationships is even higher.

A total of 63,894 participants ages 18-65 years completed the survey. On average, participants were in their late 30s.

The paper appears in the journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Friday, June 20, 2014

'Trophy wife' stereotype is largely a myth, new study shows

Don't be so quick to judge.

Most people are familiar with the "trophy wife" stereotype that attractive women marry rich men, placing little importance on their other traits, including physical appearance, and that men look for pretty wives but don't care about their education or earnings.

New research, however, by University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, shows the trophy wife stereotype is largely a myth fueled by selective observation that reinforces sexist stereotypes and trivializes women's careers.

In "Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?" in American Sociological Review, McClintock resolves the paradox between the trophy wife stereotype and the evidence that couples match on both physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status.

Using, for the first time, a nationally representative sample of young couples in which both partners were interviewed and rated for physical attractiveness, McClintock was able to control for matching on attractiveness. She says prior research in this area has ignored two important factors.

"I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women," says McClintock, who specializes in inequality within romantic partnerships. "So, on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking--perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces, nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc. Secondly, the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity — in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness."

McClintock's research shows that there is not, in fact, a general tendency for women to trade beauty for money. That is not to say trophy wife marriages never happen, just that they are very rare.

"Donald Trump and his third wife Melania Knauss-Trump may very well exemplify the trophy wife stereotype," McClintock says. "But, there are many examples of rich men who partner with successful women rather than 'buying' a supermodel wife.

The two men who founded Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) both married highly accomplished women—one has a PhD and the other is a wealthy entrepreneur."

McClintock says the trophy wife stereotype is most often wrongly-applied among non- celebrities.

"I've heard doctors' wives referred to as trophy wives by observers who only notice her looks and his status and fail to realize that he is good-looking too and that she is also a successful professional--or was before she had kids and left her job," McClintock says.

McClintock's research also indicates that, contrary to the trophy wife stereotype, social class barriers in the marriage market are relatively impermeable. Beautiful women are unlikely to leverage their looks to secure upward mobility by marriage.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

High-status co-eds use 'slut discourse' to assert class advantage

A new study suggests that high-status female college students employ "slut discourse" — defining their styles of femininity and approaches to sexuality as classy rather than trashy or slutty — to assert class advantage and put themselves in a position where they can enjoy sexual exploration with few social consequences.

"Viewing women only as victims of men's sexual dominance fails to hold women accountable for the roles they play in reproducing social inequalities," said lead author Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. "By engaging in 'slut-shaming' — the practice of maligning women for presumed sexual activity — women at the top create more space for their own sexual experimentation, at the cost of women at the bottom of social hierarchies."

Titled, "'Good Girls': Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus," the longitudinal ethnographic and interview study, which appears in the June issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, considers a cohort of 53 women (51 freshmen and two sophomores) who lived on the same college dorm floor in the 2004-2005 academic year at a large, moderately selective university in the Midwest. As part of their analysis, Armstrong and her co-authors supplemented data on cohort members accumulated over the course of their college careers with data from individual and group interviews with other female students.

"Fear of being judged often constrains women's sexual experimentation," Armstrong said. "However, we found that high-status women worried less than low-status women about being judged negatively. High-status women conveniently defined the criteria of judgment among women in ways that defined the sorts of sexual exploration they sought as acceptable."

According to Armstrong, participation in the Greek party scene was the most widely accepted signal of peer status on campus, and status fell largely along economic lines as high-status women were primarily from upper and middle class backgrounds while low-status women were from lower-middle-class and working-class backgrounds.

"Surprisingly, women who engaged in less sexual activity were more likely to be publicly labeled a 'slut' than women who engaged in more sexual activity," Armstrong said. "This finding made little sense until we realized that college women also used the term as a way to police class boundaries. High-status women, who were from affluent families, defined themselves as classy compared to other women whom they viewed as trashy or slutty. Less affluent women — and others excluded from high-status circles — equated 'sluttiness' with exclusivity, materialism, and shallowness."

When low-status women attempted to participate in high-status social worlds by attempting to befriend and go out to parties and other social events with high-status women, they risked public humiliation.

"One of the ways that high-status women signaled to those trying to break in to their social groups that they did not fit in was by engaging in public 'slut-shaming,'" Armstrong said. "This often took the form of calling other women out for their dress or deportment, as a way of making it clear that they did not fit in with the high-status group."

Low-status female college students also engaged in "slut discourse" in an effort to level differences between them and their high-status peers, but this behavior had little impact. "High-status women barely recognized the existence of those they considered low-status," Armstrong said.

In terms of the study's policy implications, Armstrong said it is important to recognize that "slut-shaming" is a form of bullying. "In a few recent cases, 'slut-shaming' has played a role in the suicides of girls and young women," Armstrong said. "We hope that our findings are constructively used in campaigns against bullying. We suspect that these campaigns are more likely to be successful if they help young people arrive at deeper understandings of the social processes involved in this type of bullying."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

People more likely to choose a spouse with similar DNA

Individuals are more genetically similar to their spouses than they are to randomly selected individuals from the same population, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Scientists already knew that people tend to marry others who have similar characteristics, including religion, age, race, income, body type and education, among others.

In the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists show that people also are more likely to pick mates who have similar DNA. While characteristics such as race, body type and even education have genetic components, this is the first study to look at similarities across the entire genome.

"It's well known that people marry folks who are like them," said Benjamin Domingue, lead author of the paper and a research associate at CU-Boulder's Institute of Behavioral Science. "But there's been a question about whether we mate at random with respect to genetics."

For the study, Domingue and his colleagues, including CU-Boulder Associate Professor Jason Boardman, used genomic data collected by the Health and Retirement Study, which is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

The researchers examined the genomes of 825 non-Hispanic white American couples. They looked specifically at single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which are places in their DNA that are known to commonly differ among humans.

The researchers found that there were fewer differences in the DNA between married people than between two randomly selected individuals. In all, the researchers estimated genetic similarity between individuals using 1.7 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms in each person's genome.

The researchers compared the magnitude of the genetic similarity between married people to the magnitude of the better-studied phenomenon of people with similar educations marrying, known as educational assortative mating. They found that the preference for a genetically similar spouse, known as genetic assortative mating, is about a third of the strength of educational assortative mating.

The findings could have implications for statistical models now used by scientists to understand genetic differences between human populations because such models often assume random mating.

The study also forms a foundation for future research that could explore whether similar results are found between married people of other races, whether people also choose genetically similar friends, and whether there are instances when people prefer mates whose DNA is actually more different rather than more similar.

Women short-changed by fear of, actual premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is one of the most common sexual disorders in men. But it is not just the men who suffer; it also causes increased psychological strain and stress in women, as a new survey conducted by Andrea Burri, a clinical psychologist at the University of Zurich, reveals. Around 40 percent of over 1,500 women polled from Mexico, Italy and South Korea indicated that ejaculation control is very important for satisfactory intercourse. It is not the short duration of the act of lovemaking that is primarily regarded as the main source of sexual frustration by the majority of women, but the fact that the man is focused too strongly on delaying ejaculation. As a result, he ignores the sexual needs of the woman and is unable to satisfy her individual desires.

Women who rarely climax suffer more
For the majority of the women polled, satisfying sexuality does not only consist of sexual intercourse, but also includes kissing, caressing and other forms of sexual stimulation, which are considered equally important. If the man is primarily preoccupied with his problem, premature ejaculation and thus his performance, these needs are ignored. Sexual intercourse is increasingly determined by time and not "how we like it and what is good for us". "In the long run, the woman becomes distressed and frustrated. Much like the man, she avoids sexual contact for fear of rejection and the resulting trauma for her own sexuality," explains sex researcher Andrea Burri. The woman thus suffers a loss in quality of life and ultimately calls the relationship into question.

It is mainly women who do not perceive intercourse as the central aspect of sexuality, but prioritize sexual creativity that suffer from the man's one-sided attention. "Interestingly, lengthy coitus is primarily important for women who do not have any trouble climaxing," says Burri. For women who rarely reach orgasm – if at all – how long coitus lasts is not central. Instead, the sexual act serves to establish and experience intimacy and commitment. Although premature ejaculation is also regarded as exasperating by women, the short duration is deemed less problematic than the partner's inattentiveness towards their other sexual needs.

The survey reveals that an essentially harmonious relationship often ends in a split due to the woman's psychological strain and bottled-up frustration. The majority of the women indicated having been considerably more satisfied in previous relationships with partners who did not suffer from a sexual problem. This was primarily linked to the fact that too much importance is attached to the problem of premature ejaculation in the current relationship. Moreover, a quarter of the respondents had already experience a breakup in the past because of this sexual problem. "After all, the consequences are often more far-reaching than simple sexual dissatisfaction as, in extreme cases, it poses a threat to the desire to have children if the man already ejaculates prior to actual intercourse," Burri concludes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

* The real difference between how men and women choose their partners