Monday, October 15, 2007

Feminism and romance go hand in hand

ontrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study (1) also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported. Rudman and Phelan’s work is published this week in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

It is generally perceived that feminism and romance are in direct conflict. Rudman and Phelan’s work challenges this perception. They carried out both a laboratory survey of 242 American undergraduates and an online survey including 289 older adults, more likely to have had longer relationships and greater life experience. They looked at men’s and women’s perception of their own feminism and its link to relationship health, measured by a combination of overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.

They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite.

The authors also tested the validity of feminist stereotypical beliefs amongst their two samples, based on the hypothesis that if feminist stereotypes are accurate, then feminist women should be more likely to report themselves as being single, lesbian, or sexually unattractive, compared with non-feminist women.

Rudman and Phelan found no support for this hypothesis amongst their study participants. In fact, feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women. The authors conclude that feminist stereotypes appear to be inaccurate, and therefore their unfavorable implications for relationships are also likely to be unfounded.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Study shows the power of attraction

Whether we are seeking a mate or sizing up a potential rival, good-looking people capture our attention nearly instantaneously and render us temporarily helpless to turn our eyes away from them, according to a new Florida State University study.

“It’s like magnetism at the level of visual attention,” said Jon Maner, an assistant professor of psychology at FSU, who studied the role mating-related motives can play in a psychological phenomenon called attentional adhesion. His findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The paper, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You: Attentional Adhesion to Mates and Rivals,” is one of the first to show how strongly, quickly and automatically we are attuned to attractive people, he said. FSU graduate students Matthew Gailliot, D. Aaron Rouby and Saul Miller co-authored the study.

In a series of three experiments, Maner and his colleagues found that the study participants, all heterosexual men and women, fixated on highly attractive people within the first half of a second of seeing them. Single folks ogled the opposite sex, of course, but those in committed relationships also checked people out, with one major difference: They were more interested in beautiful people of the same sex.

“If we’re interested in finding a mate, our attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive members of the opposite sex,” Maner said. “If we’re jealous and worried about our partner cheating on us, attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive people of our own sex because they are our competitors.”

Maner’s research is based on the idea that, through processes of biological evolution, our brains have been designed to strongly and automatically latch on to signs of physical attractiveness in others in order to both find a mate and guard him or her from potential competitors.

“These kinds of attentional biases can occur completely outside of our conscious awareness,” he said.

Biology or not, this phenomenon is fraught with potential romantic peril. For example, even some people in committed relationships had difficulty pulling their attention away from images of attractive people of the opposite sex. And fixating on images of perceived romantic rivals could contribute to feelings of insecurity.

Modern technology has enhanced these pitfalls. Although there are people of striking beauty in real life, singer Frankie Valli’s pronouncement that “you’re just too good to be true” may be the case when it comes to images in movies and magazines or on the Internet.

“It may be helpful to try to minimize our exposure to these images that have probably been ‘doctored,’” Maner said. “We should pay attention to all of the regular-looking people out in the world so that we have an appropriate standard of physical beauty. This is important because too much attention to ultra-attractive people can damage self-esteem as well as satisfaction with a current romantic partner.”

In the experiments, study participants -- 120 people in the first study and 160 and 162 in the second and third studies, respectively -- completed questionnaires to determine the extent to which they were motivated to seek out members of the opposite sex. They then took part in a series of “priming” activities before they were shown photos of highly attractive men, highly attractive women, average-looking men and average-looking women.

After a photo of one of the faces flashed in one quadrant of a computer screen, the participants were required to shift their attention away from that face to somewhere else on the screen. Using a precise measure of reaction time, Maner found that it took the participants longer to shift their attention away from the photos of the highly attractive people.

Maner said he was surprised that his studies showed little differences between the sexes when it came to fixating on eye-catching people.

“Women paid just as much attention to men as men did to women,” he said. “I was also surprised that jealous men paid so much attention to attractive men. Men tend to worry more about other men being more dominant, funny or charismatic than they are. But when it comes to concerns about infidelity, men are very attentive to highly attractive guys because presumably their wives or girlfriends may be too.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Choosing a mate: what we really want

While humans may pride themselves on being highly evolved, most still behave like the stereotypical Neanderthals when it comes to choosing a mate, according to research by Indiana University cognitive scientist Peter Todd. In a new study, Todd and colleagues found that though individuals may claim otherwise, beauty is the key ingredient for men while women, the much choosier of the sexes, leverage their looks for security and commitment.

This formula has served humans throughout time, with the model of choosy females reflected in most mammals, Todd and his coauthors write in "Different cognitive processes underlie human mate choices and mate preferences," which will be published the week of Sept. 4-7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Evolutionary theories in psychology suggest that men and women should trade off different traits in each other, and when we look at the actual mate choices people make, this is what we find evidence for," Todd said. "Ancestral individuals who made their mate choices in this way -- women trading off their attractiveness for higher quality men and men looking for any attractive women who will accept them -- would have had an evolutionary advantage in greater numbers of successful offspring."

Not exactly politically correct" Participants in Todd's study might verbally agree, though their actions said something different.

The study used a speed-dating session in Germany to compare what people say they want in a mate with whom they actually choose. Speed dating, an increasingly popular way for singles to meet, involves sessions in which men and women have numerous "mini dates" with up to 30 different people, each date lasting anywhere from three to five minutes. After every date, the men and women checked a box on a card noting whether they would like to see the other person again. Todd and his colleagues describe such speed-dating events as a "microcosm where mate choices are made sequentially in a faster and more formalized fashion than in daily life."

For Todd's study, 46 adults in a speed-dating session were also asked to fill out a questionnaire beforehand assessing themselves and their ideal mate according to evolutionarily relevant traits, such as physical attractiveness, present and future financial status, health and parenting qualities.

Not surprisingly, Todd said, participants stated they wanted to find someone who was like themselves -- a socially acceptable answer. But once the sessions began, the men sought the more attractive women and the women were drawn to material wealth and security, setting their standards according to how attractive they viewed themselves. Furthermore, while men on average wanted to see every second woman again, the women wanted to meet only a third of the men again.

While the study's results came as no surprise to Todd, the research usefulness of the speed-dating forum did. Todd and his colleagues are conducting several other speed-dating studies that could confirm the results.

"Speed dating lets us look at a large number of mate choice decisions collected in a short amount of time," Todd said. "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."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sexual Behavior Among Older Adults

The first comprehensive national survey of sexual attitudes, behaviors and problems among older adults in the United States has found that most people ages 57 to 85 think of sexuality as an important part of life and that the frequency of sexual activity, for those who are active, declines only slightly from the 50s to the early 70s.

Data from the University of Chicago's National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), presented in the August 23, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that many men and women remain sexually active—participating in vaginal intercourse, oral sex and masturbation—well into their 70s and 80s.

The survey also found that sexual activity was closely tied to overall health, which was even more important than age. As health declined steadily after the early 70s, so did the prevalence of sexual activity, particularly for women. Among those who remained sexually active, nearly half reported at least one sexual problem, such as lack of desire (43% of women), vaginal dryness (39% of women) or erectile dysfunction (37% of men).

"We found that older adults remain interested and engage in sex, yet many experience bothersome sexual problems that can compromise both health and relationships," said Stacy Tesser Lindau, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and of medicine-geriatrics at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study.

With the first baby boomers turning 60, older adults make up the fastest growing segment of the US population. Yet the "lack of reliable information about how sexual activity and function might change with age and illness, combined with taboos around discussing sex in later life, contributes to worry or even shame for many older adults," she added.

"I am especially happy that we now have in hand reliable and comprehensive information on sexual function and activity among older adults based on a scientifically drawn representative sample of Americans 57 years of age and older," said co-author Edward Laumann, PhD, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and co-director of the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, which surveyed persons aged 18 to 59.

"Social relationships are known to contribute to health and well-being in older men and women," says Richard Suzman, PhD, director of the Social and Behavioral Research Program at the National Institute on Aging, which primarily funded the study. "This pioneering research gives us valuable insight into intimate social relationships, providing data clinicians may now draw upon to open better informed conversations with patients about sexuality and health."

Many medical conditions and treatments can interfere with sexuality. American men spend more than a billion dollars each year on medications to improve sexual function. Despite such frequent problems, few older men (38%) and even fewer women (22%) had discussed sex with a physician since age 50, the researchers found. Men were more likely to do so, perhaps because effective drugs are available. Nearly 1 in 7 men (14%) reported taking medication to improve sexual function.

The survey documented another significant gender difference. While 78 percent of men ages 75 to 85 have a spouse or other intimate relationship, only 40 percent of women that age do, a consequence of the age disparity of relationships coupled with women's greater longevity.

"Sexuality is an important part of a healthy and engaged life at older ages for both women and men," said co-author Linda Waite, PhD, the Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Sociology at the University of Chicago and Director of the Center for Aging at NORC. For the vast majority of men, aging is a partnered experience, "but women's sexuality," Waite said, "is more often affected by the death or poor health of their spouse."

NSHAP, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was created to discover how social relationships, especially intimate relationships, influence health as people age. Between July 2005 and March 2006, the researchers interviewed 3,005 people ages 57 to 85 in their homes. They asked about social and marital history, sexual activity and function, and physical and mental health.

While there have been other surveys focused on the older population, "they have typically been based on convenience samples with low completion rates or clinical samples with unknown biases in representing the population at large," Laumann said. Such surveys typically over- or under-estimate the prevalence of sexual problems. "NSHAP provides us with a much more reliable guide to strengths and weaknesses of sexual health in the older population of the United States."

Another new element of NSHAP is the collection of physiological specimens such as spots of blood, saliva and vaginal swabs. In follow-up studies, the researchers will use these specimens to extract various "biomarkers." These will provide evidence about hormone levels, prevalence of diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, and the frequency of human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease.

The NSHAP team also gathered data on how older adults perceive the world of social relationships, assessing participants’ sense of touch, taste and smell as well as vision and hearing.

Despite the personal nature of many of the questions, study participants were very forthcoming, as expected from prior clinical and research experience with older adults. Seventy-five percent of those approached agreed to participate. Overall, only 2 to 7 percent declined to answer direct questions about sexual activities or problems. (Fourteen percent did not answer questions about masturbation on a self-administered questionnaire.) “Participants were more likely to refuse questions about income than they were about sex,” Lindau said.

Many of those who were sexually active found ways to remain active, despite worsening health. The proportion of sexually active couples that engage in oral sex, for example, hovered at around 50 percent for those under 75. More than half of men and a quarter of women, whether they had a sexual partner or not, acknowledged masturbating.

"Although sexuality has long been thought to deteriorate inevitably with age, we found that health is a more important indicator for many aspects of sexuality than is age alone," Lindau said. "This suggests that older adults with medical problems, or those considering treatment that might affect sexuality, should be counseled based on health status rather than just their age."

The most common reported reason for sexual inactivity among individuals with a spousal or other intimate relationship for men (55%) and women (64%) was the male partner's physical health. Women, especially those who were not in a current relationship, were more likely than men to report lack of interest in sex.

Despite the unprecedented shift in the age of the population, the public, physicians and policymakers lack information on sexual behavior at older ages and on how sexual activities and problems change with age and illness.

"We hope our findings improve public health by countering harmful stereotypes and allowing older individuals to view their experience relative to others," Lindau said. "It may comfort people to know that they are not alone in enjoying sexual activity as they age or in experiencing sexual problems, some of which could be alleviated with medical attention."

This report, according to the authors, provides the first such reference for clinical decision making. It "should improve patient education and counseling," they conclude, and help identify "health related and potentially treatable sexual problems."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Testosterone Patch+for Women w/Low Sex Desire

Novel research published in the current issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine supports the claim that women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder or HSDD (persistent or recurrent deficiency and/or absence of sexual fanatasies/thoughts, and/or desire for, or receptivity to, sexual activity, which causes personal distress) show noted improvement in sexual desire and sexual function following low dose testosterone treatment.


Two randomized double-blind, placebo controlled trials in surgically postmenopausal (uterus and ovaries removed) women with HSDD demonstrated that transdermal testosterone patch treatment resulted in significant improvements in the frequency of satisfying sexual activity and sexual desire, as well as a decrease in sexual distress.

A total of 132 participants from the 2 trials were interviewed after a 6-month treatment period regarding their experience with the treatment. Results revealed a significant increase in frequency of satisfying sexual activity and sexual desire based on women experiencing the treatment as beneficial. Those women had an average increase in sexual activity of 4.4 times per 4 weeks. In contrast, women who did not experience a benefit had only a 0.5 increase in activity per 4 weeks.

“More women on testosterone experienced a meaningful benefit (52 percent vs. 31 percent) and, in fact, the odds of experiencing a meaningful benefit on testosterone were 2.4 times greater than that of placebo,” says Sheryl Kingsberg, principal author of the study. Since the women were also able to judge for themselves whether or not the treatment was beneficial, those who experienced benefit were interested in continuing treatment.

“These findings not only confirm the clinical effectiveness of transdermal testosterone, but provide benchmarks for the degree of improvement in sexual function that all future therapies for this disorder should try to attain,” says Jan Shifren, co-author of the study.

"This is an especially relevant clinical study in the field of sexual medicine," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "These important data reinforce the positive value that treatment with the low dose testosterone patch can bring to the quality-of-life of surgically post-menopausal women with HSDD."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Wives have greater power in marriage

Study finds wives have greater power in marriage problem-solving behavior

Men may still have more power in the workplace, but apparently women really are "the boss" at home. That's according to a new study by a team of Iowa State University researchers.
The study of 72 married couples from Iowa found that wives, on average, exhibit greater situational power -- in the form of domineering and dominant behaviors -- than their husbands during problem-solving discussions, regardless of who raised the topic. All of the couples in the sample were relatively happy in their marriages, with none in counseling at the time of the study.
Associate Professor of Psychology David Vogel and Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Megan Murphy led the research. The ISU research team also included Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Ronald Werner-Wilson, Professor of Psychology Carolyn Cutrona -- who is director of the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research at Iowa State -- and Joann Seeman, a graduate student in psychology. They authored a paper titled "Sex Differences in the Use of Demand and Withdraw Behavior in Marriage: Examining the Social Structure Hypothesis," which appeared in last month's issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology -- a professional journal published by the American Psychological Association.
Wives have the marriage power
"The study at least suggests that the marriage is a place where women can exert some power," said Vogel. "Whether or not it's because of changing societal roles, we don't know. But they are, at least, taking responsibility and power in these relationships. So at least for relatively satisfied couples, women are able to take some responsibility and are able to exert some power -- but it's hard for us to say why that's so."
"Women are responsible for overseeing the relationship -- making sure the relationship runs, that everything gets done, and that everybody's happy," said Murphy, "And so, maybe some of that came out in our findings in terms of women domineering and dominating -- that they were taking more responsibility for the relationship, regardless of whose topic was being discussed."
The researchers solicited participation from married couples in and around the Iowa State campus. On average, spouses were around 33 years of age and had been married for seven years. Most participants were European Americans (66%), followed by Asian (22%), Hispanic (5%), and African-American (4%) -- with the final three percent representing other nationalities.
Each spouse was asked to independently complete a questionnaire on relationship satisfaction and an assessment of overall decision-making ability in the relationship. Each spouse also was asked to identify a problem in their relationship -- an issue in which he or she desired the most change and which could not be resolved without the spouse's cooperation. Spouses were then asked to answer some questions about their chosen topics, including the type of problem-solving behaviors that generally take place when this topic arises, and the importance of the topic. Couples were then brought together and asked to discuss each of the problem topics for 10 minutes apiece -- discussions that were videotaped. The researchers did not participate in the discussion.
"We actually just asked them to start talking about the issue, and then we left the room," said Vogel. "And so they were all by themselves in the room talking. We were as non-obtrusive as possible. We just came back at the end of the period of time, and asked them to talk about the other topic."
At the end of the discussions, couples were separated again. Each spouse was then debriefed and discussed his or her feelings and reactions to the study.
The researchers reviewed and coded the videotapes of couples' interactions using a widely-accepted interaction rating system. The system consists of five dimensions to calculate demand and withdraw behaviors -- avoidance, discussion, blame, pressure for change, and withdraws.
Not all talk and no action
The researchers concluded in their paper that wives behaviorally exhibited more domineering attempts and were more dominant -- i.e., more likely to have their partner give in -- than husbands during discussions of either spouse's topic. That refuted their initial premise that sex differences in marital power would favor husbands.
Vogel said that wives weren't simply talking more than their husbands in discussions, but actually were drawing favorable responses from their husbands to what they said.
"That's what I think was particularly interesting," he said. "It wasn't just that the women were bringing up issues that weren't being responded to, but that the men were actually going along with what they said. They (women) were communicating more powerful messages and men were responding to those messages by agreeing or giving in."
"There's been research that suggests that's a marker of a healthy marriage -- that men accept influence from their wives," said Murphy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Couples Share Work/Household Chores Most Stable

'Traditional' Marriages Now Less Stable than Ones Where Couples Share Work and Household Chores -- By Lynn Prince Cooke

Let's face it: The road to happily-ever-after is pitted with potholes. Children, finances, and in-laws can all put stress on a marriage. But what about who cleans the floor? This matters, too. A survey released this week by the Pew Research Center shows that most Americans now regard sharing household chores as more vital to a good marriage than such traditional measures of marital success as having children. This does not mean couples are neglecting their kids. Indeed, both moms and dads are now spending more time with their children than in 1965, the heyday of the female homemaker.

But just having kids is no longer sufficiant for a marriage to last. As detailed in one study recently published in the American Journal of Sociology, and in my ongoing research about the relationship between housework and divorce, I find American couples that share employment and housework are less likely to divorce than couples where the husband does all the earning while the wife does all the cleaning. These findings starkly contrast with the claims of some that to turn back high rates of divorce, we should return to the male breadwinner family idealized during the 1950s and 60s in such television programs as "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver."

One reason some people urge a return to male breadwinner marriages is that wives' employment is associated with greater risk of divorce. Among U.S. couples, however, I find this increase in divorce risk when the wife is employed is more than offset when a husband takes on an equitable share of the housework. So it is not women's employment that directly leads to divorce, but only the strain of her employment when she must still perform the housework alone as well. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to follow couples marrying for the first time between 1985 and 1995, I found that couples where the wife earns about 40 percent of the income while the husband does about 40 percent of the housework have the lowest risk of divorce - considerably lower than the divorce risk in families where the husband earns all of the income and the wife does all of the housework. We have not yet realized perfect equality, however. The divorce risk begins to rise again when a wife starts earning as much or more than her husband and he does more of the housework. But this risk does not exceed that of male breadwinner marriages until the woman earns more than 80 percent of the couple's income. This means neither "Mr. Mom" nor "Father Knows Best" is a stable family scenario for American couples today.

Surprisingly, although either extreme is rare, "Mr. Mom" is more common now than "Father Knows Best." Less than 1 percent of the couples I studied reported the husband earns all of the money while the wife does all of the housework. In contrast, almost 3 percent of couples claimed that the husband does all the housework while the wife earns all the money. The vast majority of couples share responsibility for the family's financial security as well as the household maintenance. Indeed, a research paper issued this May by the Council on Contemporary Families reveals that each generation of men is doing more domestic work and childcare than the previous one. So couples appear to understand what many pundits do not. In today's world, it is give-and-take that makes marriage work. Returning to the days when marital tasks were divided and gendered would do the opposite of what proponents of "traditional" marriage believe; it would ring the death knell for modern American marriages.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sex, Drugs and Dating Make Teens Feel Older

A Canadian study has confirmed what parents have long suspected: dating, sexual activity and substance use seem to make teens feel older than they really are. And, as adolescents get older, the gap between their chronological age and their self-perceived age widens.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, with assistance from the University of Victoria, surveyed a random sample of nearly 700 adolescents from a medium-sized North American city and asked them questions about dating, sexual experience, smoking, alcohol and drug use. The participants, males and females between 12 to 19 years of age, were also asked how old they felt compared to their same-sex peers. Survey results indicated that, as is typical for teens, the sample felt older than their chronological age.

Kelly Arbeau, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Alberta and co-author of the study, explained that she and her fellow researchers set out to find what’s behind the discrepancy between how old teens feel and how old they really are.

“We found that specific behaviors do have an effect on adolescents’ self-perceived age,” said Arbeau. “For example, having an older dating partner seems to give a teen a higher subjective experience of age.”

Sexual activity, especially starting at an earlier age, was found to have an important relationship to teens’ subjective experience of age (SEA). “Sexual experience is unequivocally the realm of adult behavior,” Arbeau explained. “So, when teens are having sex and their peers aren’t, it can make them feel more adult, more mature than their non-experienced counterparts.”

Smoking (in boys), higher alcohol use and higher drug use were also related to an older SEA. These results suggest an increasing discrepancy between SEA and chronological age across the teen years as young people experience the normative changes associated with adolescence. People in their 20s feel about the age they are or slightly older, but after age 30 and into old age, the average person has an SEA that is younger than his or her chronological age. Adolescence is the only point in the lifespan during which individuals consistently feel older than they are chronologically.

As for the popular wisdom that girls mature earlier than boys, the results of the study seem to support that, with girls more likely to feel older than are boys. This may shed some light on why companies are more likely to target teen girls than teen boys with products once considered only for adults.

Sex, Drugs and Alcohol Popular with Some Teens

Parents who think their teens’ online conversations with their peers are innocent may want to reconsider. A new Caron Treatment Centers qualitative study conducted by Nielsen Buzzmetrics found that 1 in 10 messages analyzed involved teens seeking advice from their peers on how to take illicit drugs “safely” and without getting caught. The messages were posted on common online message boards, forums and social networks, such as MySpace.com, ym.com and teenspot.com, among others.

The study also found that in messages about alcohol, hooking up and having sex when drinking were the top behaviors discussed by teens. While a few teens expressed regret over things they did while drunk, many chalked it up to “fun,” “being wasted” and “having a good time.” While both genders discussed hooking up and sex, more girls than boys talked about it, where gender was identifiable.

More than 160,000 of the 10.3 million messages posted by teens were about drugs or alcohol. Despite increased focus on drug trends, such as abuse of prescription medications like oxycontin and club favorites like ecstasy, less “trendy” substances were more commonly discussed. Almost 80 percent of the messages posted by teens mentioned alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and acid/LSD.

“While much attention has been given to adult sexual predators preying on teens online, it’s important for parents to know that their teen’s conversations with peers can be equally dangerous,” said David Rotenberg, executive director of Adolescent Services at Caron, the industry’s leading authority on adolescent addiction treatment. “This study and our teen glossary will provide parents with the tools needed to better understand how to talk to their teens about drugs and alcohol.”

Caron’s review of online teen talk around alcohol and drugs was prompted by concerns from adolescent counselors at the Pennsylvania-based rehab facility. Teens mentioned how easily and freely they could chat with peers online about drugs and alcohol – and how falling in with the wrong “virtual crowd” often proved as destructive as a “real life” group.

“It used to be enough for parents to know their teens’ friends,” said Doug Tieman, President and CEO of Caron. “However, the online revolution requires parents to be much more sophisticated in terms of understanding not only how their teens are spending time online, but also what they are talking about.”

Other findings from the study include:

Teen Behaviors
Teens confess that they engage in destructive behaviors when under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
---Teens said that parties are more fun when alcohol is available or if they are already drunk. 1 in 10 messages about alcohol featured teens talking about drinking when partying. They frequently mentioned “pre-game,” a popular term used to describe the practice of getting drunk before parties

---The most prevalent theme in marijuana messages was destructive behaviors, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, cutting class or self mutilation while high.

Teen Relationships
Teens are concerned about how drugs and alcohol affect their relationships with family and friends.

--In those messages that gender was identifiable, more girls than boys discussed alcohol online. Girls talked about romantic relationships and hooking up/having sex when drinking. Boys shared information and stories about drunken experiences.

--Teens were concerned about friends and loved ones who are drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana (This was the second most prevalent marijuana discussion and the sixth most prevalent alcohol discussion). More girls than boys voiced their concern, generally for a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sex, drugs and dating make teens feel older

A Canadian study has confirmed what parents have long suspected: dating, sexual activity and substance use seem to make teens feel older than they really are. And, as adolescents get older, the gap between their chronological age and their self-perceived age widens.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, with assistance from the University of Victoria, surveyed a random sample of nearly 700 adolescents from a medium-sized North American city and asked them questions about dating, sexual experience, smoking, alcohol and drug use. The participants, males and females between 12 to 19 years of age, were also asked how old they felt compared to their same-sex peers. Survey results indicated that, as is typical for teens, the sample felt older than their chronological age.

Kelly Arbeau, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Alberta and co-author of the study, explained that she and her fellow researchers set out to find what’s behind the discrepancy between how old teens feel and how old they really are.

“We found that specific behaviors do have an effect on adolescents’ self-perceived age,” said Arbeau. “For example, having an older dating partner seems to give a teen a higher subjective experience of age.”

Sexual activity, especially starting at an earlier age, was found to have an important relationship to teens’ subjective experience of age (SEA). “Sexual experience is unequivocally the realm of adult behavior,” Arbeau explained. “So, when teens are having sex and their peers aren’t, it can make them feel more adult, more mature than their non-experienced counterparts.”

Smoking (in boys), higher alcohol use and higher drug use were also related to an older SEA. These results suggest an increasing discrepancy between SEA and chronological age across the teen years as young people experience the normative changes associated with adolescence. People in their 20s feel about the age they are or slightly older, but after age 30 and into old age, the average person has an SEA that is younger than his or her chronological age. Adolescence is the only point in the lifespan during which individuals consistently feel older than they are chronologically.

As for the popular wisdom that girls mature earlier than boys, the results of the study seem to support that, with girls more likely to feel older than are boys. This may shed some light on why companies are more likely to target teen girls than teen boys with products once considered only for adults.

The study appears in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of Adolescence.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Circumcision Removes the Most Sensitive Parts?

Does Circumcision Remove the Most Sensitive Parts of the Penis?

The most common medical procedure in the US is infant male circumcision. The long-term-health impact of neo-natal circumcision has received little study while the consequences of circumcision on sexual function in the adult male have received even less attention.

A recent study by M. Sorrels and colleagues from the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Center and Michigan State University mapped the fine-touch pressure thresholds of the adult male penis in circumcised and uncircumcised men and compared the two populations. The study is published in the April 2007 issue of BJU Int.

Adult male volunteers were evaluated with a 19 point Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test to map fine-touch pressure thresholds of the penis. Circumcised and uncircumcised men were compared using mixed models for repeated data, controlling for age, type of underwear worn, time since test ejaculation, ethnicity, country of birth, and level of education.

Analysis of results showed the glans of the uncircumcised men had significantly lower thresholds than that of circumcised men (P = 0.040). There were also significant differences in pressure thresholds by location on the penis (p < 0.0001). The most sensitive location on the circumcised penis was the circumcision scar on the ventral surface. It was remarkable that five locations on the uncircumcised penis that are routinely removed at circumcision had lower pressure thresholds that the ventral scar of the circumcised penis.

This study suggests that the transitional region from the external to the internal prepuce is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. It appears that circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sexual Attitudes Differ Whether One Is in or Outside of a Relationship

So long, Venus and Mars: Once they become a couple, men and women are from the same planet, a new University of Florida study finds.

The study confirms that men are more preoccupied with sex than women are, but both genders get in touch with their inner feelings when they bond in an intimate relationship.

"Men experience a lot of pressure in our society to have sex with a number of different partners, the opposite of what women experience as kind of the gatekeepers of sexuality," said Paul Perrin, a UF graduate student in psychology and one of the study's researchers. "Once they enter a relationship, however, the pressure on men to have sex is not as strong and the pressure on women to not have sex goes away."

Expected gender roles give way to partners' romantic feelings for each other, which turn out to be a lot stronger than society's roles for them, he said.

"People in romantic relationships give more importance to their own feelings and their partners' than they do to social expectations about sexual behavior," he said.

The study, titled 'My Place or Yours?' published in the April edition of the journal Sex Roles, found that men are much more likely than women to find sex personally and physically pleasurable, while women are more inclined to think sex violates social taboos. Too often, these sexually restrictive gender roles become self-fulfilling prophecies, he said.

But the study also found that men and women can change when it comes to conforming to prescribed gender roles. Although men showed significantly greater interest in sex as measured by three of the four categories, when sex was examined in an intimate relationship, men and women were more alike than different, he said.

"One example might be the typical stereotype of a guy in a fraternity who is pressured by his fraternity brothers to sleep with a lot of different women and move on," Perrin said. "If he were in a romantic relationship, he wouldn't feel as much pressure to have sex with multiple partners. Whereas a woman feels freer to engage in sex within a relationship than outside of one because she runs less risk of being called derogatory names and being viewed negatively by a larger society."

The study involved 219 women and 161 men in an introductory psychology course at UF. They answered 160 questions about sexual behavior and attitudes relating to four different areas: whether they considered sex to be personally and physically pleasurable, a benefit in creating positive feelings about oneself, a violation of social injunctions and personally costly in terms of having negative emotional, psychological or physical consequences.

The biggest gender difference was that men were much more likely to find sex personally and physically pleasurable, the study found. "Though not as frequently talked about, gender roles also restrict men to a narrow range of acceptable sexual behavior in the sense that others deem him immature and unmasculine if he doesn't have frequent sex," Perrin said. "Witness the popular 2005 film comedy 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.'"

Men also were more likely to consider sex to be personally costly, perhaps because they engage in more risky sexual behavior, Perrin said. The more partners and the more sex one has, the more likely one is to see the consequences of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, he said.

"Men in our sample appear to walk a fine line between wanting the risky sex that society says they should have and paying the price for having had it," he said.

Not surprisingly, women were more likely to believe that being sexually active had negative social ramifications, Perrin said. "Women endorsed at higher rates waiting longer to have sex and not engaging in premarital sex, consistent with the notion of women as sexual gatekeepers," he said. "Perhaps women are more interested than men are in waiting for the right person and the right moment to have sex."

But attitudes both for men and women changed when attention shifted to how they felt once they were in a relationship. "Because gender roles have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years, we kind of take them for granted and assume this is the way society is and the way men and women should act," he said. "The biggest implication of this study is that we aren't slave to the gender roles that society imposes on us but have a lot more freedom, especially sexually."

Jim O'Neil, a University of Connecticut professor of family studies and educational psychology, praised the study. "How refreshing to review important empirical research that dispels myths, common stereotypes and casual impressions about men's and women's sexual values and relations," he said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Viagra Works!

The findings in a new study on Viagra might seem obvious -- the sexual satisfaction of couples involving a male with erectile dysfunction improved significantly when the man took Viagra. The novelty is that researchers cared what the woman thought.

Sex research involving pharmaceutical treatments, unlike treatments involving therapy, often is limited to effects only on the person taking the medication. One should not assume, however, that partners like or dislike a change in sexual functioning.

"The nice thing about this study is that it reminds us that when people engage in a treatment, even taking a pill, it doesn't stop at the edge of their skin. It can, and often does, affect others," said Julia Heiman, lead author of the study and director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. "In this study, changes in one partner were correlated with changes in another. If one partner improved than so did the other."

Here are some of the key findings:

* For the men with erectile problems, the younger they were, the more their sexual satisfaction improved with the use of Viagra.
* For women, those who were generally satisfied in their overall relationship but dissatisfied with their sexual relationship reported greater sexual satisfaction when their partner used Viagra.
* The women whose partners took Viagra reported a significant improvement in their sexual satisfaction and in their arousal and orgasms.
* Men in the Viagra group showed significant improvement/changes in erectile functioning, intercourse satisfaction, overall sexual satisfaction and frequency of intercourse satisfaction. Their orgasm function did not increase significantly.

"We are always interested in the health effects of sexuality, and the motivations for seeking treatment," said Heiman, whose research over the years has examined the development and impact of different sexual treatments on individuals and couples. "Maybe it's the partner's response that is most important in predicting long-term treatment gains as well as general health gains. It would be worthwhile knowing that."

The study, funded by Pfizer, Inc., involved 176 couples in which the male had erectile dysfunction and the female expressed dissatisfaction with their sex life. The male partner in each couple was randomly assigned to either receive Viagra or placebo for 12 weeks, at the end of which 79 Viagra and 76 placebo group couples actually finished the entire study. The mean age for men was 58, with ages ranging from 30 to 86. Most of the women were postmenopausal, with ages ranging from 20 to 79 and an average age of 58.

The study, "Sexual function and satisfaction in heterosexual couples when men are administered sildenafil citrate (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction: a multicentre, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial," appears in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The article is available online at: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2006.01228.x.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Abnormal sexual behaviors while sleeping

Wide range of sleep-related disorders associated with abnormal sexual behaviors, experiences

A paper published in the June 1st issue of the journal SLEEP is the first literature review and formal classification of a wide range of documented sleep-related disorders associated with abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences. These abnormal sexual behaviors, which emerge during sleep, are referred to as "sleepsex" or "sexsomnia".

"It seems that more and more reports are surfacing of abnormal sexual behaviors emerging during sleep," said Carlos H. Schenck, MD, a senior staff psychiatrist at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis and the lead author of the review. "While people may think this type of behavior is humorous, in reality it can be disturbing, annoying, embarrassing and a potentially serious problem for some individuals and couples. Despite their awareness of the condition, many sufferers often delay seeking help, either because they don't know that it's a medical disorder or for fear that others will instead judge it as willful behavior. This paper highlights the expanding set of sleep disorders and other nocturnal disorders known to be associated with abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences, or the misperception of sexual events. The legal consequences are also described and discussed."

Prior to the writing and publication of the review, Dr. Schenck and his colleagues conducted computerized literature searches of peer-reviewed journal articles and looked through textbooks and other sources for information on sexual activity during sleep or sexual behaviors associated with sleep disorders.

The following is a listing of sleep-related disorders and abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences that Dr. Schenck and his colleagues developed from their searches:

I. Parsomnias with abnormal sleep-related sexual behaviors (sexual vocalizations, masturbation, fondling another person, sexual intercourse with or without orgasm, aggressive sexual behaviors)

A. Confusional arousals, or CAs (with or without obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA)
B. Sleepwalking

C. REM sleep behavior disorder

II. Sleep-related sexual seizures (sexual vocalizations, libidinal hyperarousal, genital arousal, ictal orgasm, sexual automatisms, aggressive sexual behaviors)

III. Sleep disorders with abnormal sexual behaviors during wakefulness and wake-sleep transitions

A. Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), a rare sleep disorder characterized by recurrent and unusually long episodes of hypersomnia.

1. Broad range of hypersexual and deviant sexual arousal and behaviors

B. Severe chronic insomnia

1. Increased libido, genital arousal, compulsive sexual behaviors

C. Restless legs syndrome

1. Masturbation, rhythmic pelvic/coital-like movements
IV. Special Clinical Considerations

A. Narcolepsy

1. Compelling sexual hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations and REM- onset dream attacks, cataplectic orgasm

B. Sleep exacerbation of persistent sexual arousal syndrome

1. Genital-sensory sexual arousal without increased libidinal arousal; sexual behaviors

C. Sleep-related painful erections and increased sexual activity

1. Increased sexual behaviors – masturbation and intercourse

D. Sleep-related dissociative disorders

1. Pelvic movements and other sexualized behaviors, attempted reenactments of past sexual/physical abuse scenarios

E. Nocturnal psychotic disorders

1. Sexual delusions/hallucinations after awakenings

F. Miscellaneous sleep and sex associations

1. Masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations with sleep paralysis

Those who think they might have a sleep disorder, with or without a related sexual disorder, are urged to discuss their problem with their primary care physician, who will issue a referral to a sleep specialist.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Most teens' mental health unhurt by nonmarital sex

Youngest teens who lose virginity most susceptible to depression if in uncommitted relationship

For a decade, the legislative push for "abstinence only" sex education has suggested that nonmarital sex negatively affects a teen's mental health. But a new study shows that the negative mental side effects of a teen's loss of virginity are confined to a small proportion of those who have sex -- specifically, young girls and both boys and girls who have sex earlier than their peers and whose relationships are uncommitted and ultimately fall apart.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Ann Meier, University of Minnesota assistant professor of sociology, studied 8,563 seventh- through 12th-graders over an 18-month period, measuring for depression and low self-esteem. Meier compared the mental health of teens who didn’t have sex to teens who were virgins at the beginning of the study, but who lost their virginity during the 18-month period.

She found that while the majority of teens did not experience depression as a result of first-time sex, some did -- those being the youngest teens (girls who had sex before age 15 and boys who had sex before 14) and whose relationship was not emotionally close and dissolved after sex. Girls in this group were particularly vulnerable to depression.

Meier believes it’s the combination of these factors that make young teens most vulnerable to depression or low self-esteem after first-time sex. "Being female or younger than the average age at first-time sex among your peers increases the chance of depression, as does a lack of commitment or intimacy within the relationship and what happens to the relationship after first-time sex," said Meier. "For girls in uncommitted relationships, ending a relationship with sex has more of an impact on mental health than ending that same relationship if it did not involve sex."

The risk of suffering mental health problems from having sex as a teen is relatively low, but Meier said low risk still represents a large group of teens affected, as half the teen population is having sex. She cautioned that the study does not suggest that positive effects result from first-time sex among teens and said she hopes it will help policy-makers focus help on those most vulnerable rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all approach.

Sexual orientation affects how we navigate

Sexual orientation affects how we navigate and recall lost objects, but age just targets gender

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that sexual orientation has a real effect on how we perform mental tasks such as navigating with a map in a car but that old age does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation and withers all men’s minds alike just ahead of women’s.

The University of Warwick researchers worked with the BBC to collect data from over 198,000 people aged 20–65 years (109,612 men and 88,509 women). As expected they found men outperformed women on tests such as mentally rotating objects (NB the researchers’ tests used abstract objects but the skills used are also those one would use in real life to navigate with a map). They found that women outperformed men in verbal dexterity tests, and remembering the locations of objects. However for a number of tasks the University of Warwick researchers found key differences across the range of sexual orientations studied.

For instance in mental rotation (a task where men usually perform better) they found that the table of best performance to worst was:

Heterosexual men
Bisexual men
Homosexual men
Homosexual women
Bisexual women
Heterosexual women

In general, over the range of tasks measured, where a gender performed better in a task heterosexuals of that gender tended to perform better than non-heterosexuals. When a particular gender was poorer at a task homosexual and bisexual people tended to perform better than heterosexual members of that gender.

However age was found to discriminate on gender grounds but not sexual orientation. The study found that men’s mental abilities declined faster than women’s and that sexual orientation made no difference to the rate of that decline either for men or women.

Want to Improve Your Relationship?

Want to Improve Your Relationship? Do the Dishes Because You Really Want To

If you do something positive for your mate, does it matter why? The answer is yes, according to new research from University of Rochester research assistant professor Heather Patrick. She will unveil a study at a Toronto conference later this month that shows both small sacrifices, like doing the dishes for your partner, and big ones, like moving across the country for a new job he or she really wants, mean more if you do them because you genuinely want to.

Patrick will be one of more than 300 researchers from 25 countries at the University of Toronto this weekend sharing their work within Self-Determination Theory, a groundbreaking psychological theory of human motivation developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, University of Rochester professors of Psychology.

To answer one of the most common conundrums of romantic relationships, Patrick asked 266 men and women in relationships to document either their own or their partner's pro-relationship behaviors (PRB) for two weeks. Pro-relationship behavior can be any sacrifice or accommodation made out of consideration for one's partner or one's relationship.

Patrick found that partners who engaged in PRB because they wanted to—not because they felt pressured or obligated to—were more satisfied in their relationships, more committed to them, and felt closer to their mates following PRB experiences.

But she also found that people who simply perceived that their partners engaged in PRB because they wanted to were also more satisfied and committed to their relationship after a partner's PRB.

Patrick says her research has practical applications. She sees it being used for individual and couples therapy. She says this new information gives couples and psychology professionals insight into why some relationships aren't fulfilling even when everything looks OK on the surface.

"It's important to understand what makes positive relationships positive and what might undermine positive experiences,'' Patrick said.

Along with Patrick, Ryan, who is a professor of psychology, psychiatry and education, and Deci, the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences, a fourth Rochester researcher, Dr. Geoffrey Williams, associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, will present at the conference. He will unveil new findings that demonstrate patient involvement in a quit plan leads to smokers who are more motivated to quit because they genuinely want to, not because they are being nagged or bullied into kicking the habit. Williams said the method has also proved successful for patients managing diabetes, weight loss, and dental care.

Both Patrick's and Williams' research illustrates the crux of Self-Determination Theory: A self-motivated person derives more satisfaction in completing a given task, and is more likely to do it well. The research presented at the conference will explore motivation in human development, education, work, relationships, sports, health, medicine, virtual environments, psychotherapy, and cross-cultural applications.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Older Adults with HIV/AIDs Have Unprotected Sex

One out of three sexually active older adults infected with HIV has unprotected sex, according to a study by Ohio University researchers. A survey of 260 HIV-positive older adults found that of those having sex, most were male, took Viagra and were in a relationship.

AIDs cases among the over-50 crowd reached 90,000 in 2003. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they will account for half of all HIV/AIDS cases in the United States by 2015 because medical intervention has extended the lifespan of those infected with HIV. Additionally, drugs such as Viagra have made it possible for older adults to remain sexually active longer.

Past studies have shown that up to 65 percent of older adults ages 60 to 71 have sexual intercourse. Among older adults who are HIV-positive, according to the Ohio University findings, 38 percent are sexually active.

“Those who are more likely to engage in riskier behavior – for example, those who are using drugs – are more likely to have unprotected sex,” said graduate student Travis Lovejoy, who led the study along with Ohio University health psychologist Timothy Heckman. “What we don’t know yet is whether these individuals are in a monogamous relationship with someone else who is HIV positive and believe there is no risk of infection.”

The study also found that sexual activity was more prevalent among HIV-positive older adults who were not cognitively impaired, were younger and who considered their overall health to be good.

Because many older adults with HIV are not sexually active, those who do have unprotected sex account for just 13 percent of the overall number of infected people who are aged 50 or older. However, one-third of those who are sexually active have unprotected sex, which suggests that prevention efforts may need to be more highly targeted toward these individuals.

The behavioral information was pulled from a survey of 260 HIV-positive older adults who were participating in a study examining support groups. The study was funded by a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Men and women look at sexual photographs differently

Research shows men and women look at sexual photographs differently

Results may take societal expectations by surprise

A study funded by the Atlanta-based Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) analyzed the viewing patterns of men and women looking at sexual photographs, and the result was not what one typically might expect.

Researchers hypothesized women would look at faces and men at genitals, but, surprisingly, they found men are more likely than women to first look at a woman's face before other parts of the body, and women focused longer on photographs of men performing sexual acts with women than did the males. These types of results could play a key role in helping researchers to understand human sexual desires and its ultimate effect on public health.

The finding, reported in Hormones and Behavior, confirmed the hypothesis of a previous study (Stephen Hamann and Kim Wallen, et al., 2004) that reported men and women showed different patterns of brain activity when viewing sexual stimuli. The present study examined sex differences in attention by employing eye-tracking technology that pinpoints individual attention to different elements of each picture such as the face or body parts.

"Men looked at the female face much more than women, and both looked at the genitals comparably," said lead author Heather Rupp, Ph.D., a fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, who conducted the study in partnership with Kim Wallen, Ph.D., a Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

"The eye-tracking data suggested what women paid most attention to was dependent upon their hormonal state. Women using hormonal contraceptives looked more at the genitals, while women who were not using hormonal contraceptives paid more attention to contextual elements of the photographs," Rupp said. Although it is commonly assumed males have more interest in visual sexual stimuli, researchers are working to figure out what characteristics are important to men and women in their evaluations of sexual stimuli.

The answer may lie within a small section of the brain called the amygdala, which is important in the processing of emotional information. In Dr. Hamann and Wallen's previous fMRI study, men showed more activation in the amygdala in response to sexual vs. neutral stimuli than did women. From the fMRI study alone, the cause of the increased activity was unclear, but Rupp and Wallen's study suggests the possibility that higher amygdala activation in men may be related to their increased attention to faces in sexual photographs.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Culture is key to interpreting facial emotions

Study examines how Japan and United States vary in deciphering facial cues

Research has uncovered that culture is a determining factor when interpreting facial emotions. The study reveals that in cultures where emotional control is the standard, such as Japan, focus is placed on the eyes to interpret emotions. Whereas in cultures where emotion is openly expressed, such as the United States, the focus is on the mouth to interpret emotion.

Across two studies, using computerized icons and human images, the researchers compared how Japanese and American cultures interpreted images, which conveyed a range of emotions.

"These findings go against the popular theory that the facial expressions of basic emotions can be universally recognized," said University of Alberta researcher Dr. Takahiko Masuda. "A person's culture plays a very strong role in determining how they will perceive emotions and needs to be considered when interpreting facial expression"

These cultural differences are even noticeable in computer emoticons, which are used to convey a writer's emotions over email and text messaging. Consistent with the research findings, the Japanese emoticons for happiness and sadness vary in terms of how the eyes are depicted, while American emoticons vary with the direction of the mouth. In the United States the emoticons : ) and : - ) denote a happy face, whereas the emoticons :( or : - ( denote a sad face. However, Japanese tend to use the symbol (^_^) to indicate a happy face, and (;_;) to indicate a sad face.

When participants were asked to rate the perceived levels of happiness or sadness expressed through the different computer emoticons, the researchers found that the Japanese still looked to the eyes of the emoticons to determine its emotion.

"We think it is quite interesting and appropriate that a culture that tends to masks its emotions, such as Japan, would focus on a person's eyes when determining emotion, as eyes tend to be quite subtle," said Masuda. "In the United States, where overt emotion is quite common, it makes sense to focus on the mouth, which is the most expressive feature on a person's face."

These findings are published in the current issue of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and are a result from a collaborative study between Masaki Yuki (Hokkaido University), William Maddux (INSEAD) and Takahiko Masuda (University of Alberta). The results also suggest the interesting possibility that the Japanese may be better than Americans at detecting "false smiles". If the position of the eyes is the key to whether someone's smile is false or true, Japanese may be particularly good at detecting whether someone is lying or being "fake". However, these questions can only be answered with future research.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is bigger better? Breast surgery ups self-esteem&sexuality

Women who undergo breast enlargement often see a sizable boost in self-esteem and positive feelings about their sexuality, a University of Florida nurse researcher reports.

Although plastic surgery should not be seen as a panacea for feelings of low self-worth or sexual attractiveness, it is important for health-care practitioners to understand the psychological benefits of these procedures, says Cynthia Figueroa-Haas, a clinical assistant professor at UF’s College of Nursing who conducted the study. The findings — which revealed that for many women, going bigger is better — appear in the current issue of Plastic Surgical Nursing.

“Many individuals, including health-care providers, have preconceived negative ideas about those who elect to have plastic surgery, without fully understanding the benefits that may occur from these procedures,” said Figueroa-Haas, who conducted the study for her doctoral thesis at Barry University in Miami Shores before joining the UF faculty. “This study provides the impetus for future studies related to self-esteem, human sexuality and cosmetic surgery.”

In 2005, 2.1 million cosmetic surgical procedures were performed, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That figure is expected to grow. Consider that the number of breast augmentation procedures alone increased a staggering 476 percent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. More than 2 million women in the United States have breast implants, and this year more than 360,000 American women will undergo breast augmentation.

Figueroa-Haas studied 84 women who were 21 to 57 years old, assessing their perceptions of self-esteem and sexuality before and after cosmetic breast augmentation. Study participants had been previously scheduled for breast augmentation and were undergoing the procedure solely for cosmetic purposes. Eligible candidates were mailed a consent form, a demographic questionnaire and pre-tests asking them to rate their self-esteem and sexuality. They were then mailed a similar post-test two to three months after the surgery.

Improvements in the women’s self-esteem and sexual satisfaction were directly correlated with having undergone breast augmentation. Figueroa-Haas used two widely accepted scientific scales to measure self-esteem and sexuality, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Female Sexual Function Index, which assesses domains of sexual function, such as sexual arousal, satisfaction, experience and attitudes.

The participants’ average self-esteem score increased from 20.7 to 24.9 on the 30-point Rosenberg scale, and their average female sexual function score increased from 27.2 to 31.4 on the 36-point index. Of note, after the procedure, there were substantial increases in ratings of sexual desire (a 78.6 percent increase from initial scores), arousal (81 percent increase) and satisfaction (57 percent increase). Figueroa-Haas did point out that a small number of participants showed no change in their levels of self-esteem or sexuality after surgery.

With a heightened interest in men’s sexuality issues in recent years, the research sheds light on women’s sexuality, and how plastic surgery can improve and enhance this important area of life, Figueroa-Haas said.

“So much attention is directed to men’s sexuality issues; we have all seen countless commercials on drugs and therapy devoted to improving men’s sexuality. Unfortunately, very little is discussed regarding women’s sexuality issues,” Figueroa-Haas said. “I strongly believe that my research shows that interventions such as cosmetic plastic surgery can address these sorts of issues for some women. For example, those women who may have breast changes due to nursing or from the inevitable natural aging process. These women may not feel as attractive, which could ultimately negatively impact their levels of self-esteem and sexuality.”

Figueroa-Haas warned that women should not view plastic surgery as a cure-all for any self-esteem and sexuality woes. In fact, ethical plastic surgeons should screen for this type of behavior and rule out potential patients who may have more serious psychological issues, she said.

“There may be patients who will never be satisfied with their bodies no matter how much surgery they receive or feel that their life will completely change after plastic surgery,” Figueroa-Haas said. “These are not ideal candidates for surgery and should seek further counseling to address their underlying psychological issues. But for women who seek improvements in certain physical areas, plastic surgery can be a very positive experience.”

Further research should be conducted to assess significant psychosocial issues that may arise after plastic surgery, said Figueroa-Haas, adding that her study helps call attention to the need for health-care providers to be able to predict outcomes in this specialized population.

“Since plastic surgery is increasing dramatically, my intention for researching this topic was to evaluate nurses’ attitudes toward cosmetic surgery patients and make recommendations for increasing awareness of the factors surrounding these patients,” Figueroa-Haas said. “Nurses should display compassion and understand an individual’s reason for seeking cosmetic surgery instead of dismissing or stereotyping these patients. This study shows that there are genuine psychological improvements that follow plastic surgery, and these issues must be understood and respected.”

Monday, March 19, 2007

Postnatal sexual problems

Postnatal health and sexual problems persist at 12 months, but races experience different levels

Nearly one in three women still experience painful sexual intercourse a year after their baby is born and more than half have at least one sex-related health problem, according to research in the March issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing.

482 women who had attended maternity units in Birmingham, UK, took part in a self-administered questionnaire at least a year after their most recent birth.

"87 per cent complained of at least one health problem" says Midwife Amanda Williams, who is currently on secondment to the city's Perinatal Institute.

"Asian women, who made up 15 per cent of the survey, were more likely to complain of health problems than white women, as were women who were older and had larger babies and longer labours."

Key findings include:

The three most common problems reported were sex-related health issues (55 per cent) followed by stress urinary incontinence (54 per cent) and urge urinary incontinence (37 per cent).
Painful intercourse was reported by 19 per cent of women who had had caesareans, 34 per cent who had had a normal birth and 36 per cent of women who had an instrument-assisted birth, such as forceps.

Sex-related health problems were highest among instrument-assisted births (77 per cent) and lowest among caesarean births (51 per cent), with 64 per cent of women having normal births reporting at least one problem related to sex.

Women who had an instrument-assisted delivery also took two weeks longer than woman who had had caesareans and normal births to resume sexual intercourse (ten weeks versus eight) with figures ranging from one week to 52.
Forceps deliveries were also associated with higher levels of stress, urge, and continual incontinence.

Having an epidural did not lead to an overall increase in health problems and this study does not support previous research that identified increased stress incontinence and frequent urinating as risk factors.

Asian women reported greater health problems than white women. Perineal pain was more than two times higher (62 per cent versus 28 per cent) and they experienced much higher levels of continual urinary incontinence (35 per cent versus 20 per cent).

However, Afro-Caribbean women displayed similar levels of ill health to white women.

The women surveyed were aged 16 or over and from all ethnic groups. They had had their babies at least 12 months before the survey began and all had a live baby with no congenital abnormalities at the time of the survey.

"Our research has raised a number of issues" says Amanda Williams. "For example, it has highlighted concerns about the long-term health effects resulting from forceps deliveries and the variations in ill health between white and Asian women. Both these areas could benefit from further research.

"It's also important to point out that while women who had had caesareans reported fewer problems with the health issues covered by this study, this delivery method is associated with other problems that have a negative effect on women's quality of life, like adhesions and wound infections.

"We believe that our study points to the need for health professionals to provide ongoing support for women who have given birth, focusing on issues such as perineal problems and sensitive health problems.

"This, coupled with greater public awareness of these issues, will hopefully make it easier for women to get help for both short-term and long-term health problems."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Not as happy as you thought you’d be?

Study shows that disappointment has more impact than unexpected enjoyment

Wonder why half of all marriages end in divorce? According to a new study from the Journal of Consumer Research, we are more likely to pay attention to disappointment than to the ways in which our experiences exceed our expectations.

"Affective misforecasting" is the difference between the way we think we’ll feel and the way we actually do. Vanessa Patrick (University of Georgia), Debbie MacInnis, and C. Whan Park (both, University of Southern California) find that we only pay attention to this difference when something fails to meet our expectations – for example, when married life, which we thought would be so wonderful, starts to lose its sheen.

"This research shows that when we feel better than we anticipated we would, we take it for granted, and it does not influence how we evaluate the product or service," write the researchers. "However, when we feel worse than we thought we would, we sit up and pay attention."

The researchers present the result of two interesting studies. In the first, they told participants that they were about to see a movie and provided them with reviews of the movie. About half received positive reviews (e.g., "Hilarious!" or "Pretty Wild!"), while the others received negative reviews (e.g., "Very boring!" or "Pretty Horrible!!"). They then watched a black-and-white film clip that had been previously tested to generate a neutral response.

Participants who anticipated watching a boring, horrible movie did not pay attention to the ways in which the movie was better than expected. However, those who had read the glowing reviews paid particular attention to the differences between their anticipated and actual feelings and rated the movie much lower.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Study Shows Link Between Early Sex & Delinquency

Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also show higher rates of delinquency in later years, new research shows.

A national study of more than 7,000 youth found that adolescents who had sex early showed a 20 percent increase in delinquent acts one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurred at the average age for their school.

In contrast, those teens who waited longer than average to have sex had delinquency rates 50 percent lower a year later compared to average teens. And those trends continued up to six years.

"We're not finding that sex itself leads to delinquency, but instead, that beginning sexual relationships long before your friends is cause for concern," said Stacy Armour, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University.

Armour conducted the study with Dana Haynie, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State. Their results appear in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

"The findings point out the importance of acting within normal bounds for your age group," Haynie said. "Those who start having sex too young may not be prepared to deal with the potential emotional, social and behavioral consequences of their actions."

The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. An initial survey was conducted in 1994-95 of students from across the country in grades 7 to 12. These students attended 132 high schools and their "feeder" middle schools.

This study included students who reported they were virgins in this first survey. They were then surveyed again one year later, and a third time six years later in 2002.

In this study, the average age of sexual debut -- age at first intercourse -- was calculated for each school in the sample.

"That way, the respondents in the study are compared to the peers in their own school, rather than an arbitrary age that is deemed the average age for everyone," Armour said.

The average age for sexual debut in this study ranged from 11.25 to 17.5 years of age, depending on the individual schools.

Adolescents in the sample who had their first sexual encounter about one year or more before average for their school (the exact length differed for each school) were considered early.

To determine rates of delinquency, students in the survey were asked how often in the past year they participated in a variety of delinquent acts, including painting graffiti, deliberately damaging property, stealing, or selling drugs.

The study found that youth who had their sexual debut between the first and second surveys showed a 58 percent increase in delinquency compared to those who remained virgins. But the increases were more pronounced for those who were younger than their peers when they first had sex.

The researchers found that of those respondents who had their first sexual experience between the first and second surveys, 9 percent had started significantly earlier than their peers, 58 percent were average, and 33 percent experienced sexual intercourse significantly later than others.

The researchers took into account a variety of factors that could affect how long adolescents wait to have sex, including race, family structure, socioeconomic status, school performance, depression, how close the teens felt to their parents, and other factors.

Armour said the link between early sex and delinquency probably has to do with the whole social context of the young adolescents' lives.

"If you're having sex a lot earlier than your friends, you may be hanging out with a new group of kids, ones who are probably older," Armour said.

"Having sex brings with it this feeling of being an adult. They may feel like they can do things older kids do, and for some that may include delinquency."

And these negative effects of early sex may last through adolescence and into early adulthood.

When the same respondents were surveyed again in 2002 -- when most were between the ages of 18 and 26 -- results showed that the age of first sex was still associated with levels of delinquency.

"The timing of events such as sexual activity can have profound consequences for adolescents, particularly when they occur prematurely," Armour said.

On the other hand, delaying sex can have positive effects for adolescents.

"Those adolescents who waited longer than average may be developing friendships and relationships that can help protect them from potentially troublesome behaviors as they become young adults," she said.

"Sex itself is not always a problem behavior," Armour explained. "But the timing of sexual initiation does matter. Adolescents need to be at a stage when they are developmentally prepared for it."

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Measure of Sexual Arousal Found for Both Men and Women

Temperature Changes Measured by Thermography During Sexual Arousal Demonstrate Similar Patterns of Temperature Increases Specific to the Genital Regions


According to a new study published in the latest issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine and conducted in the Department of Psychology of McGill University, thermography shows great promise as a diagnostic method of measuring sexual arousal. It is less intrusive than currently utilized methods, and is the only available test that requires no physical contact with participants. Thermography is currently the only method that can be used to diagnose sexual health problems in both women and men. In fact, women and men demonstrated similar patterns of temperature change during sexual arousal with no significant differences between genders in the time needed to reach peak temperature.


“Using thermography, we also found that women’s subjective experience of sexual arousal corresponded with their physiological genital response; this challenges the common notion that women don’t know their bodies,” says Tuuli Kukkonen, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at McGill University and lead author of the study.


“I predict that the major physiological measure of sexual arousal for most future clinical trials of female sexual arousal disorder will be genital temperature as measured by thermography,” according to Dr. Yitzchak Binik, senior author of the research and Professor of Psychology at McGill and Director of the Sex and Couple Therapy Service of the McGill University Health Center (www.sexandcoupletherapy.com).


“This is a huge breakthrough in the assessment of genital blood flow research in women’s sexual health,” observed Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "Previous testing was invasive and involved placement of measuring instruments in various locations in the genital region and this interfered with the arousal itself. Thermography does not have any such requirements and is very user-friendly. This may be the first test to diagnose blood vessel blockage as a cause of sexual dysfunction in women, and may help identify those patients who may be helped by vasoactive drugs similar to those prescribed for men with erectile dysfunction from narrowed blood vessels.”

Monday, February 12, 2007

Romance, schmomance -- Natural selection continues even after sex

Some breaking news, just in time for Valentine's Day: Researchers have identified something called "sperm competition" that they think has evolved to ensure a genetic future. In sexual reproduction, natural selection is generally thought of as something that happens prior to – and in fact leads to -- the Big Event. This thinking holds, for example, that we are drawn to physical features that tell us our partner is healthy and will give us a fighting chance to carry on our genetic lineage. But a new article in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests that the human male has evolved mechanisms to pass on his genes during post-copulation as well, a phenomenon dubbed "sperm competition."

In their article, Todd Shackelford and Aaron Goetz at Florida Atlantic University describe this as "the inevitable consequence of males competing for fertilizations."

How much more romantic can you get?

For a monogamous species, sperm competition may seem beside the point. But according to the authors, extra curricular copulations (i.e. affairs) appear to be a significant part of our ancestral history and could, evolutionarily speaking, spell disaster. A male whose female partner engages in some off-line dalliances unwittingly may be investing his resources – food, protection, credit rating -- in a genetically unrelated offspring.

Competition may also affect sperm count, say the authors. The more time men spend away from their partners (time that their partners could have spent with other males), the number of sperm in their ejaculate increases upon their next copulation. In one study, the authors note, artificial phalluses constructed to resemble the structure and function of the human penis actually removed an ejaculate-like substance from an artificial vagina. This could indicate that the penis acts as an anatomical squeegee to remove an interloper's calling card.

But sperm competition is not just biology. According to the authors, many sexual behaviors such as deep copulatory thrusting may function to remove rival sperm. Sexual partners report that men thrust more deeply and quickly into the vagina following allegations of infidelity. The same periods of separation that increase sperm number in male ejaculates may also help to explain the increasingly lustful feelings human males develop after long periods of time apart from their mate. That is, the human male may want to copulate as soon as possible as insurance against possible extra-pair copulation.

These latest findings lead us to wonder about what other undiscovered ways humans have evolved in a world dictated by "survival of the fittest." In fact, the authors compare sexual adaptation to a Cold War phenomenon: "Sexual conflict between males and females," Shackelford and Goetz describe, "produces a coevolutionary arms race between the sexes," in which an advantage gained by one gender leads to counteradaptations in the other. They speculate that research may move beyond male adaptations to, for example, see if females have developed biological or behavioral mechanisms to increase retention of sperm from men with the most favorable genes. But that's for another Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 9, 2007

TEEN ROMANCE

Think hard and you might recall your first teenage romance. You couldn't sleep or eat -- you couldn't wait to see each other again. You talked on the phone for hours. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, many parents face a challenging balancing act when their teens, just like adults, want to show and express their feelings for their loved ones. Parents want to validate their children's feelings of love and affection while hoping the romance does not include having sex.

"Discussing sexuality issues with teens can be a difficult conversation to have, let alone even initiate," said Catherine Sherwood-Puzzello, a clinical assistant professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science. Her research and teaching interests include human sexuality and public health education. "The best advice is to become an informed and 'askable parent.'"

Parents cringe at having "that" conversation with their children for many reasons. Sherwood-Puzzello offers some tips to help parents and their children open the lines of communication.

* Become informed. Many parents don't know the answers to their teens' questions or they simply don't know how to answer the question. They might feel uncomfortable with the topic, yet fear their teen will get misinformation from other sources. The first step, Sherwood-Puzzello said, is for parents to become informed so fears can be reduced. These Web sites and books can help: http://www.familiesaretalking.org/resources/rsrc0000.html; http://www.iwannaknow.org/parents/index.html; http://www.greattowait.com/parents/index.html; Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World, by Sol Gordon and Judith Gordon (they coined the term "askable parent"), and Did the Sun Shine Before You Were Born, by Judith Gordon, Vivien Cohen and Sol Gordon.

* Be direct about expectations and limitations. These can include such things as curfews, discussions about the appropriate age for dating, and clearly communicating family values about abstinence. This may mean having frequent discussions about the positive aspects of sexual abstinence to reinforce this expected behavior. Sherwood-Puzzello said parents need to be clear about consequences if the expectations are not met. She said parents need to start talking about their expectations and limitations when their children are very young. Young children challenge family rules on a daily basis just to test their parents and to determine whether the rules have changed -- this "challenge" continues into the teen years.

* Be there. Make sure teens know a parent is available to talk. Talking with teens about sexuality will not encourage them to have sex, Sherwood-Puzzello said. It sends the message that someone cares enough to discuss such a sensitive topic and can develop a stronger bond between parent and child.

* Tune in so they don't tune out. Parents need to prepare their responses when the questions are asked. "That's a really good question," is a good first response, Sherwood-Puzzello said, because it allows for the door to stay open and the conversation to continue. Answer only the question the teen asks -- teens will tune parents out when the discussion turns into a lecture, when yelling or shouting begins, or when the parent answers a question with a question. Establishing trust is critical.

* Be a good role model. Parents can be the best person to show appropriate ways their teen can express love and affection. Parents need to be clear about their own sexual attitudes and values. Parents need to discuss their attitudes about love, affection, intimacy and sex with their teens, while at the same time modeling the family values.

* Romance. Parents can steer their children toward healthier and safe ways to show love, such as putting love notes in unexpected places or sending a loving e-mail. Check out the heart graphic with this tip sheet for more ideas.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Female Students Play Drinking Games As Much As Males, But Stakes Are Higher

College women may be playing drinking games (i.e. Kings, Beer Pong, Quarters) at rates similar to college men, according to a study led by researchers at Loyola Marymount University. This is the first known study to address a potential increase in undergraduate women’s drinking game participation.

Historically, undergraduate men were thought to drink at higher levels than undergraduate women. Similarly, drinking game participation has traditionally thought to be a male-dominated activity.

However, information collected in this latest study indicated that both male and female college students participate in drinking games regularly and that participation in those games leads to increased consumption of alcohol. Results of the study appeared in the November 2006 issue of Addictive Behaviors journal.

The research also showed that drinking games lead to an increase in women’s binge-drinking (four drinks in a row for females, five drinks in a row for males). Further, in the women, but not the men, playing drinking games was related to more severe negative alcohol-related problems (i.e. missing class, driving under the influence, engaging in unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, etc.)

The study looked at 105 coed college students (35 males and 70 females averaging 18.84 years old) and tracked their drinking and drinking game playing habits for a 3-month period. Participants filled out a questionnaire and then, in one-on-one interviews and with a calendar as a visual aid, recalled their drinking indicating how many drinking events they participated in, how many of those involved drinking games, and how many standard drinks they drank each day, etc. (A standard drink is defined as a drink containing one-half ethyl alcohol—one 12 oz. beer, one 4 oz. glass of wine, or 1.25 oz. shot.)

In those 90 days the male students participated in 469 drinking events and 84 of those events involved drinking games. The female students participated in 915 drinking events and 187 of those involved drinking games. 64 percent of women and 57 percent of men participated in at least one drinking game in the 3-month period. While playing drinking games, men binge-drank 94 percent of the time (averaging 7.95 drinks) and women binge-drank 87 percent of the time (averaging 6.29 drinks).

“Motivation for drinking game participation may differ between men and women students,” said Joseph LaBrie, study author, director of LMU’s Heads Up! program, and professor of psychology at LMU. “Men tend to play drinking games for a variety of social reasons including competitiveness, to intoxicate oneself or others, or to bond with other male players. Our study, along with other recent studies on drinking in college students, suggests that women may be copying the heavy drinking behavior of males often in an effort to gain the esteem of male peers.”

The study –whose participants were 59 percent Caucasian, 15 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 15 percent Hispanic, 2 percent African American and 9 percent of “mixed” or “other” ethnicity—also indicated that non-Caucasian students were less likely to participate in drinking games and played fewer games than Caucasian students. However, drinking game participation in both women and non-Caucasian participants was related to negative consequences.

“If drinking games are a factor in increased alcohol-related consequences in women and non-Caucasians, then targeted interventions addressing drinking games may be necessary,” said LaBrie. “College health education and student affairs personnel may improve interventions by addressing drinking games and risky drinking.”

This study, co-authored by Eric R. Pedersen and LaBrie, was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and is one of many campus-drinking studies conducted by LMU’s Heads Up! program.

Heads Up! seeks to change the campus culture with respect to drinking by involving freshmen, student leaders, faculty, staff, and parents in a comprehensive alcohol awareness and prevention program. The Heads Up! staff works closely with LMU students to create awareness about responsible drinking and thoughtful decision-making through outreach programs and events. For more information on Heads Up!, go to www.lmu.edu/headsup.

To read the complete study and other Heads Up! program research papers, go to http://www.lmu.edu/page24935.aspx.

Selectivity is ultimate aphrodisiac

Speed daters who romantically desired most of their potential partners were rejected quickly and overwhelmingly, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Conventional wisdom has long taught that one of the best ways to get someone to like you is to make it clear that you like them. Now researchers have discovered that this law of reciprocity is in dire need of an asterisk in the domain of romantic attraction.

The more you tend to experience romantic desire for all the potential romantic partners you meet, the study shows, the less likely it is that they will desire you in return. (Think too desperate, too indiscriminate.)

In contrast, when you desire a potential partner above and beyond your other options, only then is your desire likely to be reciprocated. (Think hallelujah, finally, someone really gets me.)

In the past, social psychologists have had a difficult time observing initial romantic attraction in action, but the speed-dating methodology used in this study allowed the investigators to take a serious look at the chemistry that has been at the center of so much literature, art and imagination throughout the ages.

"Potential partners who seem undiscriminating are a definite turnoff, and those who evoke the magic of feeling special are a big draw," said Paul W. Eastwick, the lead author of the study and a Northwestern graduate student in psychology. "The wild part is that our speed-daters were negotiating all of these subtleties with only four minutes for each date."

"Selective vs. Unselective Romantic Desire: Not All Reciprocity is Created Equal," by Eastwick and Northwestern's Eli J. Finkel, assistant professor of psychology, will be published in the April issue of the journal Psychological Science. Also contributing to the report are Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"How this all happens is a bit of a mystery," Finkel said. "Put yourself in the position of a speed dater. You're not only able to pick up something about the degree to which that person likes you, but you're able to pick up -- in four minutes -- the degree to which that person likes you more than their other dates. It's amazing."

To explore dynamics in the opening minutes of romantic attraction, the researchers set up seven speed-dating sessions for a total of 156 undergraduate students. Participants had four-minute speed dates with nine to 13 opposite-sex individuals. Immediately following each date, they completed a two-minute questionnaire, answering items such as "I really liked my interaction partner" and "I was sexually attracted to my interaction partner."

After returning home, they recorded on the study Web site whether they would be interested in meeting each person they had speed-dated again in the future. Mutual "yeses" were given the ability to contact one another.

"People who like everyone, unlike in a friendship context where they generally are liked in return, may exude desperation in a romantic context," Finkel said.

"It suggests to us that romantic desire comes in two distinct flavors: selective and unselective," Eastwick added. "If your goal is to get someone to notice you, the unselective flavor is going to fail, and fast."

The need to feel special or unique could be a broad motivation that stretches across our social lives, the study concludes. "Just as this need plays an important role in intimate relationships and friendships, the present study reveals a distinctive anti-reciprocity effect if this need is not satisfied in initial encounters with potential romantic partners."