Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Women Prefer Prestige Over Dominance in Mates

A new study in the journal Personal Relationships reveals that women prefer mates who are recognized by their peers for their skills, abilities, and achievements, while not preferring men who use coercive tactics to subordinate their rivals. Indeed, women found dominance strategies of the latter type to be attractive primarily when men used them in the context of male-male athletic competitions.


Jeffrey K. Snyder, Lee A. Kirkpatrick, and H. Clark Barrett conducted three studies with college women at two U.S. universities. Participants evaluated hypothetical potential mates described in written vignettes. The studies were designed to examine the respective effects of men’s dominance and prestige on women’s assessments of men.


Women are sensitive to the context in which men display domineering behaviors when they evaluate men as potential mates. For example, the traits and behaviors that women found attractive in athletic competitions were unattractive to women when men displayed the same traits and behaviors in interpersonal contexts. Notably, when considering prospective partners for long-term relationships, women’s preferences for dominance decrease, and their preferences for prestige increase.


“These findings directly contradict the dating advice of some pop psychologists who advise men to be aggressive in their social interactions. Women most likely avoid dominant men as long-term romantic partners because a dominant man may also be domineering in the household.” the authors conclude

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Researchers revisit male bisexuality

The landmark "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" report revealed major insights into bisexual behavior and orientation -- without even using the word "bisexual" -- when it was published 60 years ago by pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and his research team at Indiana University.

The iconic "Kinsey Report" unveiled the seven-point Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, commonly known as the Kinsey Scale, as a tool to gauge a person's sexual orientation or experiences with both sexes.

While the Kinsey Scale has become a fixture in sexuality textbooks and even popular culture, the rating system and Kinsey's findings regarding male bisexuality, and cultural influences on male sexuality in general, have largely been overlooked by today's sex researchers, according to an article in the December issue of the "Journal of Bisexuality."

For this article, which is part of a special issue recognizing the 60th anniversary of the first "Kinsey Report," sex researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU collaborated with Paul H. Gebhard, an original member of Kinsey's research team and later a long-time director of The Kinsey Institute at IU, to reflect on research involving male bisexuality since the "Kinsey Report" and potential directions for future research.

"Overall, Kinsey would be disappointed," Gebhard told the researchers, Michael Reece and Brian Dodge, director and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Kinsey believed that culture plays a key role in a person's sexual behavior. Gebhard said Kinsey and his research team avoided looking for causes for sexual orientation out of concern that the findings could be used against people. Through sexual history interviews, they instead sought to capture snapshots of human sexual experience, which proved to be fluid, according to their research, with individual sexual preferences or orientation often moving along the heterosexual-homosexual scale during one's lifetime.

Since Kinsey's day, Gebhard noted that many researchers have moved to a medical model of sex research -- looking for genetic causes of homosexuality, often conducting research solely in the context of sexually transmitted disease transmissions or in an attempt to define what is "normal," usually using heterosexuality as the reference point. The place for bisexual individuals in sexuality research is vague, with research generally categorizing people either "homosexual" or "heterosexual," giving scant recognition to the continuum described by the sexual orientation scale.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing that research is evolving," Dodge said. "Biology and genetics, of course, are part of the picture. But we seem to be swinging in the direction where some scientists are using these as universal explanatory constructs and trying to minimize, or even negate, the role of an individual's culture and environment, aspects that Kinsey thought were most important."

Gebhard, 92, is the last living member of the original Kinsey research team. He is professor-emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at IU and served as director of the Kinsey Institute from 1956-1982, when it was called the Institute for Sex Research. He lives in southern Indiana.

He and his co-authors offered the following suggestions for future research focusing on male bisexuality:

*Move away from a disease-focused lens. Dodge said the medical model of sexuality research has established heterosexuality as the norm even though Kinsey's findings indicated it was natural for people to move across the Kinsey Scale throughout their lives.

*Improve sampling methods for bisexuality research. Dodge acknowledged that finding "bisexual" participants for studies is often challenging but important, requiring innovative techniques. All too often, however, researchers recruit participants from predominantly "gay-identified" venues, like bars, which are considered convenient yet lack the bisexual individuals that researchers seek.

*Revive the concept of the Kinsey continuum. Dodge suggested the need for a revival of the discussion surrounding this concept in research circles, as well as popular culture. "The implications of Kinsey's findings with regard to this scale are significant," Dodge said. "People should not be pigeon-holed into social categories, such as homosexual, heterosexual or even bisexual. This scale comes as close as anything I've seen to help with an understanding of where people are currently and across the lifespan."

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For more information about the scale, visit http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/ak-hhscale.html.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Link between aggression, status and sex

Have you ever wondered why it seems like the littlest things make people angry? Why a glance at the wrong person or a spilled glass of water can lead to a fist fight or worse? University of Minnesota researcher Vladas Griskevicius has three words to explain why people may be evolutionarily inclined to make a mountain out of molehill: aggression, status and sex.

Although hostility or belligerent acts might not immediately appear to be linked to reproduction, new research forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that mating goals may underlie behaviors such as aggression. Griskevicius, a marketing professor at the U of M's Carlson School of Management, and his co-authors, have found conclusive evidence that merely activating a desire for status can trigger aggression. Aggressive displays, which may result in enhanced status, indirectly boost an individual's ability to attract a mate and, thereby, reproduce.

"It all boils down to the fact that status for men typically equals sex. Across different cultures and time, the higher status men have, the more sex or better-quality partners they may have," said Griskevicius. "At the gene-level, nobody wants to go down in an evolutionary blaze of glory--no one wants their genes to become extinct. Additionally, unlike low-status women, low-status men are in serious danger of not reproducing, since they make especially undesirable mates."

To listen to Griskevicius describe his research, go to http://mediamill.cla.umn.edu/mediamill/embed/22978

"Think of it this way," said Griskevicius, "For men, fighting for status is akin to fighting for the survival of their genes. Not caring about status, which can be implied by backing away from a fight, can be evolutionary suicide. Aggression can lead to status. A higher status leads to sex, and that leads to more or higher-quality offspring."

The evolved pull of aggression was shown in a series of three studies. Results showed that if men have status or sex on their minds (e.g., they are thinking about a promotion at work or an attractive opposite-sex individual), they will more quickly respond aggressively to a trivial insult. The slight seems much more substantial when a man has sex or status on his mind. Men are especially likely to respond aggressively when there are other men around to watch the situation, suggesting that much of aggression is about display, rather than self-defense.

Statistics reinforce this idea; police reports show that "trivial altercations" is the leading reason for homicide. But Griskevicius warns that his work should not suggest that people are attracted to aggression. Rather, "it is all about status--the one who wins the game--he's the one that gets the girl. And at the end of the day, if those genes are passed on, the aggressor is the ultimate winner."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Myth about 'dirty old men' supported by science

Middle-aged men want younger women, often touting their intelligence and their high income; this is shown in research at Gothenburg University and Oxford University that studied 400 lonely hearts ads to see how men and women choose partners

Middle-aged men want younger women, often touting their intelligence and their high income. This is shown in research at Gothenburg University and Oxford University that studied 400 lonely hearts ads to see how men and women choose partners.

Research in the theory of evolution includes a number of accepted theories about how men and women choose their partners. Among the more established ones is that men place more emphasis on attractive appearance, whereas resources and social status are more important to women.

By examining lonely hearts advertisements, researchers at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Oxford have now tested how valid these presumed preferences are when modern individuals choose partners.

In the study, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, the researchers looked at 400 lonely hearts ads in the Swedish newspapers Göteborgs-Posten and Aftonbladet and on the Websites Spraydate and match.com.

To some extent, the findings support established theories:

Women, more than men, look for solid resources and social status. As a result men also offer this in their ads, through formulations like 'large house' and 'economically independent.'
Men in all categories prefer younger partners. Of a total of 97 men who mentioned age in their ads, only three were looking for an older partner – among men aged 40 to 59, only one out of 67.
Younger women, on the other hand, prefer older men: fully 14 of 16 women aged 20-39 were looking for an older partner. Among women over 60, however, the majority were looking for a younger man.
Another point of departure for the study was that men are more fixated on appearance than women are. This turned out not to be the case.

"When it comes to physical characteristics, it turned out that men and women were the same. Both used words like, 'athletic,' 'beautiful,' 'pretty,' 'tall,' 'handsome,' and 'trim' to the same extent, and this goes both for their descriptions of themselves and for the characteristics they were looking for in a partner," says Jörgen Johnsson at the Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg, one of the researchers behind the study.

"This might indicate that men have learned to respond to women's interest in looks, therefore stressing to the same extent their attractiveness in the ads. The fact that both sexes focus on looks may also be influenced by our times, with the great fixation on appearance in the media."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Changes in Marital Satisfaction in Late Middle Age

Is Empty Nest Best? Changes in Marital Satisfaction in Late Middle Age

The phrase “empty nest” can conjure up images of sad and lonely parents sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for their children to call or visit. However, a new study, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that an empty nest may have beneficial effects on the parents’ marriage.

University of California, Berkeley psychologists Sara M. Gorchoff, Oliver P. John and Ravenna Helson tracked the marital satisfaction of a group of women over 18 years, from the time they were in their 40s to when they were in their early 60s.

The results of this study revealed that marital satisfaction increased as the women got older. Marital satisfaction increased for women who stayed with the same partners and for women who remarried.

What was most striking about the results was that women who had made the transition to an empty nest increased more in marital satisfaction than women who still had children at home. Even more interesting, it was shown that an empty nest does not increase levels of marital satisfaction simply because the parents have more time to spend with each other. Instead the results suggest that women whose children had left home enjoyed their time with their partners more compared to women whose children were still at home. In other words, it was an increase in the quality, and not the quantity, of time spent together once children moved out, that led to increases in marital satisfaction.

Gorchoff is quick to point out that the results do not suggest that all children should be sent away to boarding school for the sake of their parents’ marriage. Rather, she notes that “this research does suggest that women should not wait until their children leave home to schedule enjoyable time with their partners.”

Too much commitment unhealthy for relationships?

Too much commitment may be unhealthy for relationships, UH psychology professor says

Relationship-contingent self-esteem can trigger depression and anxiety, eroding bonds

Romantic relationships establish special bonds between partners. Oftentimes, passionate rapport leads to permanent partnerships, and ultimately, the start of families.

Sometimes, however, one or both partners place too much emotional weight on their relationship. As a result, men or women may tend to evaluate their self-worth solely based on the outcomes of their romantic interactions. This is what psychologists term as relationship-contingent self-esteem (RCSE), and, according to University of Houston researcher Chip Knee, it's an unhealthy factor in romantic relationships.

"Individuals with high levels of RCSE are very committed to their relationships, but they also find themselves at risk to become devastated when something goes wrong -- even a relatively minor event," said Knee, UH assistant professor of psychology and director of the university's Interpersonal Relations and Motivation Research Group. "An overwhelming amount of the wrong kind of commitment can actually undermine a relationship."

Knee added that RCSE can trigger depression and anxieties during even the most minor or common relationship-based incidents, such as miscommunication, short spats over noncritical matters or a critique of one's personality or appearance.

It also factors into one or more partners developing manic, obsessive (or needy) behaviors with regard to love.

RCSE might place one at risk for serious mood changes after break-ups, divorce or threats to one's relationship. Identifying it during the early stages of a relationship can prevent such negative outcomes or help partners recognize that they are incompatible.

Knee and a group of researchers observed the impact of RCSE among heterosexual college students in a series of studies. Their findings were presented in the paper "Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem - The Ups and Downs of Romantic Relationships," published in the flagship Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Collaborating with Knee were Amber L. Bush of UH, Amy Canevello of the University of Michigan and Astrid Cook of Idiro Technologies.

Included in these studies was a 14-day diary procedure in which 198 participants recorded the most positive and negative events in their romantic relationships.

Also documented in this daily diary were participants' feelings about themselves and their relationships.

"What we found with this particular study was that people with higher levels of RCSE felt worse about themselves during negative moments in their relationships," Knee said. "It's as if it doesn't matter why the negative occurrence happens or who was at fault. The partners with stronger RCSE still feel badly about themselves."

Individuals with RCSE also are prone to react more emotionally to relationship-based situations, Knee added. Instead of taking a step back, analyzing a situation and determining how to best address it, those with RCSE respond immediately and impulsively.

"When something happens in a relationship, these individuals don't separate themselves from it," he said. "They immediately feel personally connected to any negative circumstance in a relationship and become anxious, more depressed and hostile."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More teens, young adults: anal intercourse

PROVIDENCE, RI – A new study by researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center suggests that the incidence of heterosexual anal sex is increasing among teens and young adults – particularly those who have recently had unprotected vaginal sex. These findings mirror recent data that show anal sex rates among adults doubled between the years 1995 and 2004.

The study, published online by the American Journal of Public Health, is among the first to report on the little-known factors associated with heterosexual anal intercourse among adolescents and young adults.

"The topic of anal intercourse is often considered taboo – especially when discussed in the context of youth relationships – even though we know that this behavior is a significant risk factor for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. It's critical that we recognize that more and more young people are engaging in anal sex so we can open the lines of communications and help them protect their sexual health," says lead author Celia Lescano, PhD, of the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center (BHCRC).

Researchers assessed the sexual behavior of 1,348 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 who had unprotected sex in the previous three months. They found that 16 percent had engaged in heterosexual anal intercourse within the timeframe, with condoms being used just 29 percent of the time.

Females who had heterosexual anal sex were more likely to be living with their partners, to have two or more sexual partners and to have previously experienced coerced intercourse. Males who engaged in heterosexual anal intercourse were more likely to identify themselves as being homosexual, bisexual or undecided.

"These findings suggest that the factors associated with anal intercourse among females in the study relate to the context and power balance of sexual relationships," says Lescano, who's also an assistant professor of psychiatry (research) at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "We must teach teen girls and young women how to be assertive in sexual relationships, such as refusing unwanted sexual acts and negotiating for safer sex, whether it's anal or vaginal."

However, there were several factors related to anal intercourse that were consistent in both genders. In general, those who felt that using condoms decreased the pleasure of sex and those who used drugs at the time of intercourse engaged in riskier behaviors, suggesting that interventions should emphasize that sex can be both pleasurable and safe.

"An open dialogue between health care providers and their young patients about anal intercourse is becoming increasingly important, and clinicians should ask about anal sex during discussions about vaginal intercourse and protection – regardless of the patient's gender or reported sexual orientation," says Lescano.

Study participants in Atlanta, Miami and Providence completed a self-interview designed to measure sexual risk behaviors, relationships, sexual risk attitudes, substance use and mental health. The majority of the group (92 percent) defined themselves as being heterosexual. Overall, 56 percent were female; approximately half of the participants were African American, 24 percent were Hispanic and 20 percent were white.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sexual intimacy and breast cancer survivors

An Indiana University study found that young, female breast cancer survivors often suffer from sexual and intimate relationship issues and are interested in using sexual enhancement products to treat these problems.

The study, "Young Female Breast Cancer Survivors: Their sexual function and interest in sexual enhancement products and services," was published Nov. 4 in the journal Cancer Nursing.

The study was funded by The Patty Brisben Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering research related to women's sexual health.

The study found that a significant number of women reported vaginal dryness, genital pain, premature menopause, fatigue and fertility problems. In addition, survivors experienced significant problems related to sexual arousal, desire and orgasm.

"Although previous work has documented the sexual difficulties faced by young breast cancer survivors, strikingly little work has addressed strategies women might take to address these sexual problems," said Debby Herbenick, lead researcher and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Herbenick adds that more than 2 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"Given advances in early detection and treatment, more women survive breast cancer, which requires researchers to focus on important relationship and quality of life issues for survivors," said Jessica Johnston, executive director of The Patty Brisben Foundation.

Most of the women surveyed reported interest in using personal lubricants and massage lotions/oils to help treat these issues. Half of the women surveyed were interested in using vibrators or dildos and more than one-third were interested in sex games.

The women in the study also indicated comfort in purchasing sexual enhancement products through in-home parties held in someone's own home or during one's regular breast cancer support group meeting, and to a lesser extent from adult Web sites and adult bookstores or novelty stores. Researchers conclude that these venues might be possible places for nurses, doctors and support group leaders to refer their clients.

"Documenting the sexual problems experienced by survivors is important, but we also need to understand the broad and diverse ways that women want to address these sexual problems so that they can experience their intimate lives in ways that feel comfortable, pleasurable and that enhance their relationships," said Herbenick. "Many women expressed interest in these products, which makes sense given that so many had experienced genital pain, vaginal dryness, low desire or lack of orgasm."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Serial Cohabiters Less Likely Than Others to Marry

A new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that serial cohabiters are less likely than single-instance cohabiting unions to result in marriage. Similarly if serial cohabiters marry, divorce rates are very high.


Daniel T. Lichter of Cornell University and Zhenchao of Ohio State University used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to track the experiences of serial cohabiters, or women who have cohabited with more than one partner.


Serial cohabiters were less likely than couples who cohabited only once to end in marriage. If serial cohabiters did marry, divorce rates were very high – more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands.


Results indicate that only a minority of cohabiting women (15 to 20 percent) were involved in multiple cohabitations. Also, serial cohabitations were overrepresented among economically disadvantaged groups, especially those with low income and education.


“Understanding the myriad motivations of cohabiters may be more important than ever, especially if cyclical serial cohabiting couples with children have increased among recent cohorts as a percentage of all cohabitations,” Lichter notes.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sexual problems in women: What, me worry?

While prevalent, sexual problems in women not always associated with distress

The largest such study ever published finds that, while about 40 percent of women surveyed report having sexual problems, only 12 percent indicate that those issues are a source of significant personal distress. The report led by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) physician appears in the November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

"Sexual problems are common in women, but problems associated with personal distress, those which are truly bothersome and affect a woman's quality of life, are much less frequent." says Jan Shifren, MD, of the MGH Obstetrics and Gynecology Service, who led the study. "For a sexual concern to be considered a medical problem, it must be associated with distress, so it's important to assess this in both research studies and patient care."

Several studies and surveys of sexual problems in women have found problems with low desire, diminished arousal or difficulties with orgasm in approximately 40 percent of women, but few of those have asked about levels of distress associated with those problems. The current study surveyed 32,000 women aged 18 to over 100 from across the U.S. using a well-established survey of sexual function supplemented by a validated measure of a woman's distress related to her sex life – including feelings of anger, guilt, frustration, and worry.

Some level of sexual problem was reported in 43 percent of respondents – with 39 percent reporting low levels of desire, 26 percent problems with arousal and 21 percent difficulties with orgasm. But distress related to any of these problems was reported by only 12 percent of study participants. Although the prevalence of sexual problems was highest in women over 65, that group reported the lowest levels of distress, while distress was reported most frequently in women aged 45 to 64. The youngest group – those from 18 to 44 – had lower levels of both problems and distress. Women with depression were more than twice as likely to report distress over any type of sexual problem as those not suffering from depression.

"Although sexual problems were very common in women over age 65, these problems often weren't associated with distress," Shifren says. "Several factors could be behind the lower levels of distress in the oldest group. If their partners also have low desire, it may not be looked on as a problem, or additional health issues could be of greater concern.

"While distressing sexual problems are much less common in women than sexual problems overall, they still affect approximately one in eight adult women," she adds. "As part of a thorough health assessment, it's important that health care providers ask their female patients if they have sexual concerns and if those problems are associated with distress. Although this study did not examine treatments for sexual problems, effective options are available – including relationship counseling, treatment of associated medical conditions and sex therapy." Shifren is an associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Weight does not affect women's sexual behavior

Oregon and Hawaiian researchers have found that a woman's weight does not seem to affect sexual behavior. In fact, overweight women are more likely to report having sex with men than women considered to be of "normal weight."

The study, published in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, is based on data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth that looked at sexual behavior of more than 7,000 women. Dr. Bliss Kaneshiro, an assistant professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii, was a student at Oregon Health & Science University at the time. Oregon State University professor Marie Harvey helped Kaneshiro with her research because of Harvey's background and expertise in women's sexual and reproductive health issues.

Some studies have suggested that obese and overweight women have a higher risk of unintended pregnancy than do normal weight women, according to Kaneshiro. Although multiple factors, including contraceptive use and its efficacy, may increase the risk of unintended pregnancy among these women, sexual behavior and the frequency of intercourse could also be a factor.

Kaneshiro's objective was to study the impact of body mass index on sexual behavior. It is important to understand this relationship because preexisting physician biases can affect how heavy women are counseled about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases prevention. Kaneshiro studied the relationship between body mass index and sexual behavior, including sexual orientation, age at first intercourse, number of partners, and frequency of intercourse.

"Our analysis demonstrated that obese and overweight women do not differ significantly in some of the objective measures of sexual behavior compared to women of normal weight," said Kaneshiro. "This study indicates that all women deserve diligence in counseling on unintended pregnancy and STD prevention, regardless of body mass index."

The study seems to contradict widely held stereotypes that overweight and obese women are not as sexually active as other women. If anything, the researchers concluded the opposite seems to be true.

"I was glad to see that the stereotype that you have to be slender to have sex is just that, a stereotype," Harvey said.

Kaneshiro said the data showed that overweight women were more likely to report having sexual intercourse with a man, even when she controlled for age, race and type of residence. Ninety-two percent of overweight women reported having a history of sexual intercourse with a man, as opposed to 87 percent of women with a normal body mass index.

"These results were unexpected and we don't really know why this is the case," Kaneshiro said.

Harvey said the important part to take away from the study is that physicians and others who work in women's medical health should never make assumptions about sexual behavior based on outward appearances.

"Some medical practitioners may not do appropriate follow-up with women who are overweight, they might assume they aren't having sex unless they are told otherwise," Harvey said.

Other coauthors on the study include Jeffrey Jensen, Mark Nichols and Alison Edelman of Oregon Health & Science University and Nichole Carlson of the University of Colorado Denver. Kaneshiro's study was awarded first prize at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' annual meeting this year. The abstract can be viewed at: http://www.greenjournal.org/cgi/content/abstract/112/3/586

Romantic relationships are complex

Personality researchers have long known that people who report they have certain personality traits are also more (or less) likely to be satisfied with their romantic partners. Someone who says she is often anxious or moody, for example, is more likely than her less neurotic counterpart to be dissatisfied with her significant other.

In a new analysis, researchers at the University of Illinois found that measuring the quality of romantic relationships is more complex than these earlier studies suggest. While personality has been found to be predictive of perceived relationship satisfaction and success, other measures of relationship quality may offer additional insight into how a romantic relationship is functioning.

“Obviously there are going to be strong links between how you perceive your relationship and how you perceive yourself,” said Ashley Holland, a doctoral student in developmental psychology who led the research as part of her master’s thesis. “But maybe there are not going to be such strong links between how you perceive yourself and how well you actually interact with your partner.”

“Our question was whether personality traits get reflected not just in how people perceive their relationships, but actually how they’re behaving toward one another – and how their bodies respond while they interact,” said Illinois psychology professor Glenn Roisman, a co-author on the study.

The researchers began by giving dating, engaged and married participants a questionnaire about their own and their partners’ personalities and the quality of their relationships. The participants had to indicate where they fell on a spectrum of each of the “big five” personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience.

This part of the analysis confirmed some of what other studies had found: How an individual describes his own personality characteristics corresponds to how satisfied or dissatisfied he is in his romantic relationship.

The researchers also included two other measures of their subjects’ relationship quality. The researchers’ goal was to compare the self-reported data to that obtained by observation and specific physiological measures. This is the first such study to use all three approaches.

Trained observers watched videotapes of study participants as they discussed disagreements and agreements in their relationships. The observers coded each person on his or her positive and negative behaviors, such as smiling or scowling, avoiding or making eye contact, and so on. Each participant was given a final score that reflected the balance of positive and negative behaviors and attributes observed.

The researchers also measured participants’ heart rate and skin conductance during their interactions. Skin conductance is a gauge of how much a person sweats. Other studies have established that sweating is a sign that the person is making an effort to control his or her own behavior. If a person sweats a lot when engaged in a conversation with her partner, it’s a sign that she is becoming aroused or agitated in a way that requires self-control.

“Both heart rate and skin conductance have been linked to a host of important outcomes in interpersonal relationships, including the likelihood of divorce,” Roisman said. “It’s a problem if you need to inhibit yourself greatly while having a conversation with your partner about the kinds of things that you would ordinarily be talking about and trying to resolve in your daily lives.”

The researchers found that the way the participants described themselves and their relationships was not strongly linked to how they behaved toward one another in the laboratory. This suggests that those who study relationships might need to look deeper than what individuals report about themselves and their romantic partners, Roisman said.

“Romantic relationships are complex and multi-faceted, and, therefore, measuring the quality of romantic relationships should probably include a variety of approaches in order to get a more nuanced view of how the relationship is functioning,” Holland said.

The paper, “Big Five Personality Traits and Relationship Quality: Self-reported, Observational and Physiological Evidence,” appeared this month in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Men are better at detecting infidelities

UNFAITHFUL women beware. Chances are your male partner is on your case. In fact, he is likely to suspect infidelities even when you have kept to the straight and narrow. The flip side is that to counter this constant vigilance, women may be better than men at concealing illicit liaisons.

Paul Andrews at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and colleagues gave 203 young heterosexual couples confidential questionnaires asking them whether they had ever strayed, and whether they suspected or knew their partner had strayed. In this, 29 per cent of men said they had cheated, compared with 18.5 per cent of women.

The men were better than women at judging fidelity. "Eighty per cent of women's inferences about fidelity or infidelity were correct, but men were even better, accurate 94 per cent of the time," says Andrews. They were also more likely to catch out a cheating partner, detecting 75 per cent of the reported infidelities compared with 41 per cent discovered by women (Human Nature, vol 19, p 347). However, men were also more likely to suspect infidelity when there was none.

Andrews says this makes evolutionary sense because unlike women, men can never be certain a baby is theirs. "Men have far more at stake," he says. "When a female partner is unfaithful, a man may himself lose the opportunity to reproduce, and find himself investing his resources in raising the offspring of another man."

"This adds to the evidence that men have evolved defences to detect their partner's infidelity," says David Buss at the University of Texas, Austin. He adds that it demonstrates a "fascinating cognitive bias that leads men to err on the side of caution by overestimating a partner's infidelity".

Andrews suggests that women have countered this by becoming better at covering up affairs. Complex statistical analysis of the data hinted that a further 10 per cent of the women in the study had cheated on top of the 18.5 per cent who admitted to it in the questionnaires, whereas the men had been honest about their philandering.

NEW SCIENTIST IS THE SOURCE http://www.newscientist.com

Gender Affects Perceptions of Infidelity

A new study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy explored how men and women perceive online and offline sexual and emotional infidelity. Results show that men felt sexual infidelity was more upsetting and women felt emotional infidelity was more upsetting.


Monica T. Whitty and Laura-Lee Quigley of Queen’s University Belfast surveyed 112 undergraduate students and asked them questions about sexual and emotional infidelity both offline and on the internet.


When given the choice, men were more upset by sexual infidelity and women were more upset by emotional infidelity.


Additionally, “men were more likely to believe that women have sex when in love and that women believe that men have sex even when they are not in love. It was not, however found that either men or women believe that having cybersex implied the other was also in love or that being in love online implied they were having cybersex.”


“Given the newness of the internet, the rules have still not been clearly defined as to what are acceptable online encounters,” the authors note. “Our results support a social-cognitive model as they demonstrate that social shifts have led men and women to think differently about sex and love.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Factors that influence condom use among teenagers

Teens' failure to use condoms linked to partner disapproval, fear of less sexual pleasure

Approximately one in four teens in the United States will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts believe a major contributing factor is the failure of many teens to use condoms consistently and routinely. Now a new study provides some insight into some of the factors that influence condom use among teenagers.

Researchers from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and three other institutions surveyed more than 1,400 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 who had unprotected sex in the previous 90 days. They found that teens who did not use condoms were significantly more likely to believe that condoms reduce sexual pleasure and were also more concerned that their partner would not approve of condom use. The findings appear in the September/October issue of Public Health Reports.

"It's clear that we have to address these attitudes, fears and concerns that many teens have regarding condom use, if we want to reduce their risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection," says lead author Larry K. Brown, MD, of the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center. "The good news is that these attitudes may be easily influenced and changed through clinical and community-based interventions."

Study participants in Atlanta, Miami and Providence completed an audio computer-assisted interview to gather information about sexual risk behaviors including condom use within the previous 90 days. Questions included attitudes and perceptions about condom use, and communication and negotiation with partners about condom use. The group included 797 females and 613 males. Approximately half were African American, 24 percent were Hispanic and 19 percent were white.

Nearly two-thirds of adolescents did not use a condom the last time they had sex. Participants also reported an average of two partners and about 15 incidents of unprotected sexual activity within the 90-day period. In addition to concerns about reduced sexual pleasure and partner disapproval, teens who did not use condoms were also less likely to discuss condom use with their partners. These findings held true across racial/ethnic groups, gender and geographic locations.

Based on the study's findings, the authors recommend clinicians carefully monitor and routinely assess the sexual risk behaviors of adolescents and address some of the common attitudes and concerns influencing condom use. For example, clinicians can teach teens how to effectively and respectfully communicate with their partners about using condoms or counsel them about finding condom brands and sizes that provide optimal fit, comfort and sensation.

"These kinds of interventions, including community-based programs, can play a major role in increasing condom use, particularly among high-risk adolescents, and promote their sexual health," says Brown, who is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Factors that influence condom use among teenagers

Teens' failure to use condoms linked to partner disapproval, fear of less sexual pleasure

Approximately one in four teens in the United States will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts believe a major contributing factor is the failure of many teens to use condoms consistently and routinely. Now a new study provides some insight into some of the factors that influence condom use among teenagers.

Researchers from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and three other institutions surveyed more than 1,400 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 who had unprotected sex in the previous 90 days. They found that teens who did not use condoms were significantly more likely to believe that condoms reduce sexual pleasure and were also more concerned that their partner would not approve of condom use. The findings appear in the September/October issue of Public Health Reports.

"It's clear that we have to address these attitudes, fears and concerns that many teens have regarding condom use, if we want to reduce their risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection," says lead author Larry K. Brown, MD, of the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center. "The good news is that these attitudes may be easily influenced and changed through clinical and community-based interventions."

Study participants in Atlanta, Miami and Providence completed an audio computer-assisted interview to gather information about sexual risk behaviors including condom use within the previous 90 days. Questions included attitudes and perceptions about condom use, and communication and negotiation with partners about condom use. The group included 797 females and 613 males. Approximately half were African American, 24 percent were Hispanic and 19 percent were white.

Nearly two-thirds of adolescents did not use a condom the last time they had sex. Participants also reported an average of two partners and about 15 incidents of unprotected sexual activity within the 90-day period. In addition to concerns about reduced sexual pleasure and partner disapproval, teens who did not use condoms were also less likely to discuss condom use with their partners. These findings held true across racial/ethnic groups, gender and geographic locations.

Based on the study's findings, the authors recommend clinicians carefully monitor and routinely assess the sexual risk behaviors of adolescents and address some of the common attitudes and concerns influencing condom use. For example, clinicians can teach teens how to effectively and respectfully communicate with their partners about using condoms or counsel them about finding condom brands and sizes that provide optimal fit, comfort and sensation.

"These kinds of interventions, including community-based programs, can play a major role in increasing condom use, particularly among high-risk adolescents, and promote their sexual health," says Brown, who is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New research on why people cheat

Probability of cheating during the course of a relationship varies between 40 and 76 percent

The probability of someone cheating during the course of a relationship varies between 40 and 76 percent. "It's very high," says Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, PhD student at the Université de Montréal's Department of Psychology.

"These numbers indicate that even if we get married with the best of intentions things don't always turn out the way we plan. What interests me about infidelity is why people are willing to conduct themselves in ways that could be very damaging to them and to their relationship."

The student wanted to know if the type of commitment a person has with his or her loved ones is correlated to the desire of having extra-marital affairs. "The emotional attachment we have with others is modeled on the type of parenting received during childhood," she says.

According to psychologists, people with avoidant attachment styles are individuals uncomfortable with intimacy and are therefore more likely to multiply sexual encounters and cheat. But this has never been proved scientifically, which is what Beaulieu-Pelletier attempted to do in a series of four studies.

The first study was conducted on 145 students with an average age of 23. Some 68 percent had thought about cheating and 41 percent had actually cheated. Sexual satisfaction aside, the results indicated a strong correlation between infidelity and people with an avoidant attachment style.

The second study was conducted on 270 adults with an average age of 27. About 54 percent had thought about cheating and 39 percent had actually cheated. But the correlation is the same: people with an avoidant attachment style are more likely to cheat.

"Infidelity could be a regulatory emotional strategy used by people with an avoidant attachment style. The act of cheating helps them avoid commitment phobia, distances them from their partner, and helps them keep their space and freedom."

Both these studies were followed up by two other studies that asked about the motives for infidelity. The will to distance themselves from commitment and their partner was the number one reason cited.

Her studies revealed no differences between men and women. Just as many men and women had an avoidant attachment style and the correlation with infidelity is just as strong on both sides. "Contrary to popular belief, infidelity isn't more prevalent in men," she says.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gait may be associated with orgasmic ability

A new study found that trained sexologists could infer a woman's history of vaginal orgasm by observing the way she walks. The study is published in the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine and the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health.

Led by Stuart Brody of the University of the West of Scotland in collaboration with colleagues in Belgium, the study involved 16 female Belgian university students. Subjects completed a questionnaire on their sexual behavior and were then videotaped from a distance while walking in a public place. The videotapes were rated by two professors of sexology and two research assistants trained in the functional-sexological approach to sexology, who were not aware of the women's orgasmic history.

The results showed that the appropriately trained sexologists were able to correctly infer vaginal orgasm through watching the way the women walked over 80 percent of the time. Further analysis revealed that the sum of stride length and vertebral rotation was greater for the vaginally orgasmic women. "This could reflect the free, unblocked energetic flow from the legs through the pelvis to the spine," the authors note.

There are several plausible explanations for the results shown by this study. One possibility is that a woman's anatomical features may predispose her to greater or lesser tendency to experience vaginal orgasm. According to Brody, "Blocked pelvic muscles, which might be associated with psychosexual impairments, could both impair vaginal orgasmic response and gait." In addition, vaginally orgasmic women may feel more confident about their sexuality, which might be reflected in their gait. "Such confidence might also be related to the relationship(s) that a woman has had, given the finding that specifically penile-vaginal orgasm is associated with indices of better relationship quality," the authors state. Research has linked vaginal orgasm to better mental health.

The study provides some support for assumptions of a link between muscle blocks and sexual function, according to the authors. They conclude that it may lend credibility to the idea of incorporating training in movement, breathing and muscle patterns into the treatment of sexual dysfunction.

"Women with orgasmic dysfunction should be treated in a multi-disciplinary manner" says Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine."Although small, this study highlights the potential for multiple therapies such as expressive arts therapy incorporating movement and physical therapy focusing on the pelvic floor."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Contraceptive pill influences partner choice

The contraceptive pill may disrupt women's natural ability to choose a partner genetically dissimilar to themselves, research at the University of Liverpool has found.

Disturbing a woman's instinctive attraction to genetically different men could result in difficulties when trying to conceive, an increased risk of miscarriage and long intervals between pregnancies. Passing on a lack of diverse genes to a child could also weaken their immune system.

Humans choose partners through their body odour and tend to be attracted to those with a dissimilar genetic make-up to themselves, maintaining genetic diversity. Genes in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which helps build the proteins involved in the body's immune response, also play a prominent role in odour through interaction with skin bacteria. In this way these genes also help determine which individuals find us attractive.

The research team analysed how the contraceptive pill affects odour preferences. One hundred women were asked to indicate their preferences on six male body odour samples, drawn from 97 volunteer samples, before and after initiating contraceptive pill use.

Craig Roberts, a Lecturer in Evolutionary Psychology who carried out the work in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, said: "The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odours.

"Not only could MHC-similarity in couples lead to fertility problems but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners."

Causes for sexual dysfunction change as people age

Earlier experiences with multiple partners and STDs take their toll

Sexual dysfunction is not an inevitable part of aging, but it is strongly related a number of factors, such as mental and physical health, demographics and lifetime experiences, many of which are interrelated, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that a history of sexually transmitted disease also has an impact on sexual health later in life. People who had an STD are also more likely to have had sexual experiences over their lifetimes that included more risks and multiple sex partners.

"Having had an STD roughly quadruples a woman's odds of reporting sexual pain and triples her lubrication problems," said Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at the University, and lead author of the paper, "Sexual Dysfunction Among Older Adults: Prevalence and Risk Factors from a Nationally Representative U.S. Probability Sample of Men and Women 57 to 85 Years of Age," published in the current issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Men are more than five times as likely to report sex as non-pleasurable if they have previously had an STD.

Laumann was joined in writing the paper by University researcher Aniruddha Das, and Linda Waite, the Lucy Flower Professor in Sociology at the University.

The study showed that women may be more likely than men to experience sexual dysfunction because of health issues. The most common problem for men is erectile dysfunction, a problem that increases with age.

"The results point to a need for physicians who are treating older adults experiencing sexual problems to take into account their physical health and also consider their mental health and their satisfaction with their intimate relationship in making any assessment," Laumann said.

The study is based on interviews with a national sample of 1,550 women and 1,455 men, ages 57 to 85, who were part of the 2005-2006 National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, a nationally representative survey of community-dwelling older U.S. adults. The survey collected data on social life, sexuality, health, and a broad range of biological measures.

The study is a companion to a 1999 study Laumann led that looked at sexual dysfunction among men and women, ages 18 to 59. That study found that physical health was a bigger predictor of sexual problems for men than it was for women. For that younger age group, having an STD did not increase the odds of experiencing sexual dysfunction.

The new study found that among older women, a common factor correlated with sexual dysfunction was urinary tract syndrome, which was associated with decreased interest in sex, as were mental health issues such as anxiety.

Among men, mental health issues and relationship problems contributed to a lack of interest in sex and the inability to achieve orgasm, while being treated for urinary tract syndrome was associated with trouble maintaining and achieving an erection.

Daily alcohol consumption seems to improve a woman's sexual health, increasing her interest and pleasure in sex. Among men, there was no reported impact of alcohol consumption.

Demographic characteristics and cultural factors also are related to sexual performance, the study found. Hispanic women were twice as likely to report pain during intercourse. Among men, blacks were twice as likely to report a lack of interest in sex and more likely to report climaxing too early.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Negative feelings after one-night stands

The sexual and feminist revolutions were supposed to free women to enjoy casual sex just as men always had. Yet according to Professor Anne Campbell from Durham University in the UK, the negative feelings reported by women after one-night stands suggest that they are not well adapted to fleeting sexual encounters. Her findings1 are published online in the June issue of Springer’s journal, Human Nature.

Men are more likely to reproduce and therefore to benefit from numerous short-term partners. For women, however, quality seems to be more important than quantity. Also for women, finding partners of high genetic quality is a stronger motivator than sheer number, and it is commonly believed that women are more willing to have casual sex when there is a chance of forming a long-term relationship.

Professor Campbell looked at whether women have adapted to casual sex by examining their feelings following a one-night stand. If women have adapted, then although they may take part in casual sex less often than men because of their stricter criteria when selecting partners, they should rate the experience positively. To test the theory, a total of 1743 men and women who had experienced a one-night stand were asked to rate both their positive and negative feelings the following morning, in an internet survey.

Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. Men were more likely than women to secretly want their friends to hear about it and to feel successful because the partner was desirable to others. Men also reported greater sexual satisfaction and contentment following the event, as well as a greater sense of well-being and confidence about themselves.

The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been “used”. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships.

According to Professor Campbell, although women do not rate casual sex positively, the reason they still take part in it may be due to the menstrual cycle changes influencing their sexual motivation. Indeed, during the ovulatory phase (between days 10 to 18 of their cycle), women report increased sexual desire and arousal, with a preference for short-term partners.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Society = little impact on choice of sexual partner

A unique new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute (KI) suggests that the attitude of families and the public have little impact on if adults decide to have sex with persons of the same or the opposite sex. Instead, hereditary factors and the individual's unique experiences have the strongest influence on our choice of sexual partners.

The study is the largest in the world so far and was performed in collaboration with the Queen Mary University of London. More than 7,600 Swedish twins (men and women) aged 20-47 years responded to a 2005 - 2006 survey of health, behaviour, and sexuality. Seven percent of the twins had ever had a same-sex sexual partner.

"The results show, that familial and public attitudes might be less important for our sexual behaviour than previously suggested", says Associate Professor Niklas Långström, one of the involved researchers. "Instead, genetic factors and the individual's unique biological and social environments play the biggest role. Studies like this are needed to improve our basic understanding of sexuality and to inform the public debate."

The conclusions apply equally well to why people only have sex with persons of the opposite sex as to why we have sex with same-sex partners. However, the conclusions are more difficult to transfer to countries where non-heterosexual behaviour remains prohibited.

Overall, the environment shared by twins (including familial and societal attitudes) explained 0-17% of the choice of sexual partner, genetic factors 18-39% and the unique environment 61-66%. The individual's unique environment includes, for example, circumstances during pregnancy and childbirth, physical and psychological trauma (e.g., accidents, violence, and disease), peer groups, and sexual experiences.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Challenges Associated with Vulvar Pain Disorder

Together Couples Address Challenges Associated with Vulvar Pain Disorder

Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (vvs), a vulvar pain disorder, affects approximately 15 percent of women. A new study in the journal Family Process reviews the experiences of couples in which the woman has a diagnosis of vvs and explores coping strategies that aid in the subsequent emotional, relational, and sexual challenges. There is no known cause or decisive treatment.

Researchers including Jennifer J. Connor, PhD, LMFT, Bean Robinson, PhD, LP, LMFT, and Liz Wieling, PhD, LMFT, interviewed thirteen heterosexual couples. The study investigated how both partners developed shared meaning about vvs through their experiences, observations, and conversations with each other.

The study found that both women and men identified their sexual relationship as bearing the largest burden from vvs, highlighting the importance of treating the couple, not just the woman.

Eight respondents reported experiencing tension in their intimate relationship, especially prior to receiving a vvs diagnosis. However, the diagnosis helped remove doubts, distrust, and blame, and helped couples communicate more positively and develop a mutual understanding of the syndrome.

These couples stressed mutual support and acceptance as well as alternatives to intimacy that did not involve vaginal intercourse. All couples adapted their sexual lives to cope with pain, and they developed an emotional bond by going through these experiences together.

The couples’ communication led them to develop a shared sense of meaning about vvs, allowing women to share feelings of guilt and men to develop identities as supportive partners. The researchers found that as men learned more about vvs and how it affected their partner, that knowledge helped them recognize that their partner was not rejecting them personally.

“Encouraging couples to discuss their stories and experiences with medical professionals on their path towards arriving at an accurate diagnosis of vvs can be an important part of therapy,” Connor notes. “We hope our research provides physicians and therapists with useful strategies enabling them to provide interventions that are respectful, supportive, and helpful to couples with vvs.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

MEDICAL DEFINITION OF PREMATURE EJACULATION

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Despite the fact that it has long been a major concern for men, an evidence-based definition for premature ejaculation has not existed until now. In October 2007, the International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM) gathered the world’s leading sexual health experts to develop an evidence-based definition of premature ejaculation.

The ISSM has defined premature ejaculation as “a male sexual dysfunction characterized by ejaculation which always or nearly always occurs prior to or within about one minute of vaginal penetration; and, inability to delay ejaculation on all or nearly all vaginal penetrations; and, negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy.”

“For something that has such a profound effect on men young and old, there needs to be a definitive measure to diagnose premature ejaculation,” said Ira D. Sharlip, M.D., the study’s main author. “The hope is that more people with these symptoms will understand this is an actual health condition and seek treatment. They no longer need to suffer in silence.”

The ISSM panel of experts agreed that the constructs that are necessary to define PE are: time to ejaculation, inability to delay ejaculation and negative consequences from PE. The panel concluded that the definition could also apply to men with premature ejaculation who engage in sexual activities other than vaginal intercourse, although the definition does not apply to acquired premature ejaculation.

Monday, May 5, 2008

It Might be True That 'Men Marry Their Mothers'

Whether a young man's mother earned a college degree and whether she worked outside the home while he was growing up seems to have an effect years later when he considers his ideal wife, according to a study by University of Iowa sociologist Christine Whelan.

High-achieving men -- those who earn salaries in the top 10 percent for their age and/or have a graduate degree -- are highly likely to marry a woman whose education level mirrors their mom's.

Nearly 80 percent of the high-achieving men whose mothers had college degrees married women with college degrees, and 19 percent of them married women with graduate degrees. Of men whose moms had graduate degrees, 62 percent tied the knot with graduate degree holders, and 27 percent said "I do" to women with college degrees.

Sixty-eight percent of high-achieving men agreed with the statement, "Smart women make better mothers."

"Successful men in their 20s and 30s today are the sons of a pioneering generation of high-achieving career women. Their mothers serve as role models for how a woman can be nurturing and successful at the same time," said Whelan, a visiting assistant professor of sociology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "One man I interviewed put it like this: 'If your mother is a success, you don't have any ideas of success and family that exclude a woman from working.' This Mother's Day, I think we should thank those moms for leading the way toward gender equality for a younger generation."

Whelan is the author of "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" (Simon & Schuster, 2006), the first book to shatter the myth that success and spinsterhood go hand in hand. (Visit http://www.whysmartmenmarrysmartwomen.com for details.)

With UI graduate student Christie Boxer, Whelan continues to analyze data from a Harris Interactive survey of more than 3,700 Americans conducted for her book in January and May 2006. The January survey included a nationally representative group of 1,629 high-achieving men and women ages 25-40. The May survey involved a nationally representative group of 2,073 adult Americans.

The researchers discovered that 72 percent of mothers of high-achieving men worked outside the home after they had children. Among those men, three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Men are more attracted to women who are successful in their careers." Men who grew up with working moms were almost twice as likely to marry a woman who makes $50,000 or more per year.

"These young men saw their mothers as smart women who could choose to work outside the home, and now that they're making decisions about what they want in a wife, it seems that they are choosing similar types of women," Boxer said.

Sixty-two percent of high-achieving single men disagreed with the statement "Women who are stay-at-home parents are better mothers than women who work outside the home." Almost three-quarters of the high-achieving men disagreed with the statement, "It is usually better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family."

The study reinforces findings from others in the field: "Younger men are much more egalitarian about marriage in general. They grew up with working mothers. Fifty-four million women work and an awful lot of those women are mothers. Their sons aren't looking for 'Leave It to Beaver' in their own house," said researcher Randi Minetor, author of "Breadwinner Wives and the Men They Marry."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

College Men Hear 'Yes' When Women Mean 'No'

Faulty male introspection may explain why men so often misinterpret women's indirect messages to stop or slow down the escalation of sexual intimacy, according to new research by UC Davis communication professor Michael Motley.

"When she says 'It's getting late,' he may hear 'So let's skip the preliminaries,'" Motley says. "The problem is that he is interpreting what she said by trying to imagine what he would mean -- and the only reason he can imagine saying 'It's getting late' while making out is to mean 'Let's speed things up.'"

Motley calls it the "introspection" explanation: "Males' inferred meanings for women's indirect sexual resistance messages are more similar to the meanings males would have intended by those same messages than to the meanings women intend."

The research appears in "Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication" (Sage Publications, 2008), a new book edited by Motley. The book is due on academic bookshelves soon.

Previous research has found that up to 85 percent of college women have had at least one experience in which a man attempts to escalate physical intimacy beyond the point that she has said "stop," experiences they usually regard as unpleasant.

Motley's research during the past decade suggests miscommunication is a significant reason for the problem in many cases. (The research does not address rape or other situations in which a man indeed understands "no" but ignores it.)

In one study, Motley gave 30 female and 60 male UC Davis undergraduates a multiple-choice questionnaire that asked about 16 common "female resistance messages." The messages ranged from very direct -- "Let's stop this" -- to very indirect -- "I'm seeing someone else." Four potential interpretations were listed for each message; only one was "stop."

For "I'm seeing someone else," for example, the following four interpretations were listed:

a) You want to go further but you want him to know that it doesn't mean that you're committed to him;

b) You want to go further but you want him to be discreet, so that the other guy doesn't find out;

c) You want to go further but you want him to realize, in case you end up "going together," that you may do this with someone else while you're seeing him;

d) You don't want to go further.

The women in the study were asked to recall a time when they used one of the messages, and to choose the answer that best matched what they meant when they said it. Half of the men were asked to recall a time when they were with a woman who communicated each message, and to choose the interpretation that best matched what they thought the woman meant when she said it. The other 30 men were instructed to choose the interpretation that best matched what they would mean if they were to communicate the messages.

The questionnaire study showed that men were accurate at interpreting direct resistance messages like "Let's stop this." But they were as apt to interpret "Let's be friends" to mean "keep going" as to mean "stop." And few of them would mean "stop" if they were to deliver any of the indirect messages themselves.

In related studies, Motley has also shown that most women use indirect messages out of concern that men will be offended or angered by direct messages -- but that most men actually accept direct resistance messages easily and without negative reactions.

"Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication" also reports Motley's research into the behaviors and conditions that determine the fate of platonic friendships when one party develops unrequited romantic feelings for the other. Chapters by other researchers explore such topics as interpersonal guilt, how to give advice so people will listen to it, and what constitutes effective emotional support.

While intended as an academic text, the book contains practical conclusions and recommendations. For example, Motley's chapters lay out these lessons from his research into unwanted escalation of sexual intimacy:

- Men need to be aware of the many ways that women may say "stop" without using the word "stop."

- When a man asks himself during intimacy, "Why did she say that?" he should not try to answer the question by imagining what he would mean if he said the same thing.

- When in doubt, ask. "So it's getting late; does that mean we should stop?"

- Women should use direct messages.

- A woman who cannot be direct should at least work a direct message into the indirect one: "It's getting late, so I'd like to stop."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CAUSES OF SEXUAL DIFFICULTIES IN WOMEN

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction are shedding light on why some women experience sexual problems and others do not.

A study published in the April issue of the journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior" found connections between personality traits such as sexual inhibition and sexual problems.

While previous studies have explored the role demographics such as age, education and socio-economic status play in sexual functioning among women, few have explored the role differences in personality play in predicting current and lifetime sexual problems. In this study, women's sexual inhibition tendencies were more important than other factors in predicting sexual problems.

"Although further research is needed to confirm these findings with other samples, particularly clinical samples of women seeking help for sexual problems, these findings suggest that high scores on sexual inhibition may help predict which women are vulnerable to experience sexual problems," said Cynthia Graham, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and co-author of the paper. "They may also be used as prognostic factors in treatment studies."

Researchers studied the responses of 540 women on the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women that rated current and sexual problems, lifetime arousal difficulty and lifetime problems with low sexual interest. The strongest predictors of reports of sexual problems were women's sexual inhibition scores. Below are some of the findings:

Sexual inhibition scores were the strongest predictor of current and past sexual problems including lifetime arousal difficulty and low sexual interest. They were better predictors than demographic and background factors such as age, socio-economic status, and whether or not women were in a sexual relationship.
"Arousal Contingency" or the ease with which arousal can be disrupted by situational factors, and "Concerns about Sexual Function" were the two most predictive of women's sexual problems.
The Kinsey Institute has been developing, testing and fine-tuning the dual control model of sexual response, which is the basis for the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women used in this study. This theoretical model reflects the idea that sexual response in individuals is the product of a balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes. Researchers believe these two systems operate somewhat independent of each other and are different in each person.

Researchers are using the dual control model to better understand such complex issues as sexual difficulties, sexual compulsivity and high-risk sexual behaviors. Prior studies have found that while sexual inhibition plays an important protective role in restraining sexual responses, individuals who score highly in inhibition might be more likely to experience sexual problems.

This particular study aimed to gain insight into the role of inhibition and excitation proneness in predicting sexual problems in a non-clinical sample of women.

SOME MEN ARE FROM MARS, OTHERS FROM VENUS

WHEN IT COMES TO SEX, SOME MEN ARE FROM MARS, OTHERS FROM VENUS

A study by researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University finds that men report a variety of different experiences involving sexual desire and arousal.

Men participating in focus groups expressed a range of experiences and feelings relating to such matters as the relationship between erections and desire, the importance of scent and relationships, and a woman's intelligence. The Kinsey Institute study, appearing in the April issue of the journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior," is unique because few studies so far have examined how closely the findings of decades of laboratory studies on sex actually reflect the experiences of men.

"We have a lot of assumptions about how men think and feel and behave sexually," said Erick Janssen, associate scientist at the Kinsey Institute. "We use all kinds of methods to measure men's sexual responses; in addition, we use questionnaires and surveys to ask about sexual behaviors. It's less common to sit down with men and ask them to talk about their experiences."

The focus groups involved 50 men divided into three groups based on their age (18-24 years, 25-45 years and 46 and older). Below are some examples of the different experiences reported by the men:

Some factors, such as depression or a risk of being caught having sex, were reported by some men as inhibiting sex, while other men found that they can enhance their desire and arousal.
An erection is not the main cue for men to know they are sexually aroused. Most of the men responded that they can experience erections without feeling aroused or interested, leading researchers to suggest that erections are not good criteria for determining sexual arousal in men.
Many men found it difficult to distinguish between sexual desire and sexual arousal, a distinction prominent in most sexual response models used by researchers and clinicians.
The changes in the quality of older men's erections had a direct effect on their sexual encounters, including, for some, a shifting focus to the partner and her sexual enjoyment. Older men also consistently mentioned that as they aged, they became more careful and particular in choosing sexual partners.
The sexual history of women also mattered to the men -- but differently for different age groups. Sexually experienced women were considered more threatening by younger men, who had concerns about "measuring up," but such women were considered more arousing for older men.
Janssen and his colleagues at the Kinsey Institute have been working for more than 10 years on a theoretical model that focuses on sexual excitation and sexual inhibition. They refer to this as the dual control model of sexual response. It holds that separate and relatively independent activating and suppressing sexual systems exist within the central nervous system and that the balance between these two systems determines a person's sexual response in any particular situation. Janssen relates this to the gas and break pedals in a vehicle -- both can influence a car's behavior (you can slow down by letting go of the gas or by pressing the brake) but they do so in different ways.

This model is used around the world by sex researchers in studies on topics as varied as sexual dysfunction and sexual risk taking. To measure the propensity for sexual excitation and inhibition, the researchers designed a questionnaire.

The original questionnaire was developed for men, leading researchers at the Kinsey Institute to conduct focus groups with women in an effort to create a similar questionnaire that would be more relevant for women. Janssen said the success of women's focus groups led him and his colleagues to conduct the focus groups with men.

The findings of this latest study ultimately could lead to a more effective questionnaire for the dual control model but also can inform research efforts to better understand the variability in sexual behavior.

"One of the main conclusions of the focus group study is that, just like women, men are different," Janssen said. "Sex researchers tend to focus a lot on differences between men and women, while not giving as much attention to the differences that exist among men, and women. This research is part of a larger agenda at the Kinsey Institute of looking at individual differences. This dates back to Alfred Kinsey's original research, but in our current research we not only try to capture the variations in men and women's sexual experiences -- we also try to understand better what explains variations in those experiences."

Friday, April 11, 2008

People trade sex for resources

Just like penguins and other primates, people trade sex for resources

Female penguins mate with males who bring them pebbles to build egg nests. Hummingbirds mate to gain access to the most productive flowers guarded by larger males.

New research shows that even affluent college students who don't need resources will still attempt to trade sexual currency for provisions, said Daniel Kruger, research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The exchange of resources for sex---referred to by scientists as nuptial gifts---has occurred throughout history in many species, including humans, Kruger said. The male of the species offers protection and resources to the female and offspring in exchange for reproductive rights. For example, an arranged marriage can be considered a contract to trade resources.

However, the recent findings suggest that such behaviors are hard wired, and persist no matter how much wealth, resources or security that people obtain.

"It's remarkable to find these patterns in the students in the study," Kruger said. "We have seen many examples where people do this out of necessity, but we still see these tendencies in people who are already well provided for."

In addition, there are predictable, sexual differences in the types of exchanges attempted. Men are more likely to attempt to exchange investment for sex, females were more likely to attempt to exchange sex for investment, Kruger said.

For the study, researchers interviewed 475 U-M undergraduate students to discover if they attempted exchanges in reproductively relevant currencies outside of dating or formally committed relationships, and if they were aware of attempts others tried with them. While the study population was limited to students, these types of exchanges happen all over the world in different cultures and species, he said.

The majority of students were well aware of their own attempts to trade reproductive currency, Kruger said. However, if they were in committed relationships, they did not view the partnership as trading in reproductive currencies, he said.

Overall, the strategy of attempting to exchange investment for sex is only successful about 25 percent of the time, the paper found. Some of the attempted trades included: tickets to the U-M versus Ohio State game; studying assistance; laundry washed; a Louis Vuitton bag; and voice lessons among other things.

Students in the study were 18-26 years old. For exchange attempts made, 27 percent of men and 14 percent of women reported attempts to trade investment for sex, 5 percent of men and 9 percent of women reported attempts to trade sex for investment. Of exchange attempts initiated by others, 14 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported that someone else attempted to trade investment for sex with them, and 8 percent of men and 5 percent of women reported that someone else attempted to trade sex for their investment.

A sample of older individuals, especially one that is more representative of the general population, would likely report higher frequencies of experiences, Kruger said. The assumption is an older population would have more unmet needs and would be more sexually active.

In fact, Kruger said the findings were remarkable in that any exchanges were reported at all, considering the subjects' youth and affluence---in other words, they don't want for much yet they still attempt these exchanges.

"The confirmation of hypothetical predictions regarding these exchanges once again demonstrates the power of an evolutionary framework for understanding human psychology and behavior," Kruger said.

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The paper "Young Adults Attempt Exchanges in Reproductively Relevant Currencies," appears this month in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

Monday, April 7, 2008

How much housework does a husband create?

Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women, according to a University of Michigan study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. families.

For men, the picture is very different: A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week.

The findings are part of a detailed study of housework trends, based on 2005 time-diary data from the federally-funded Panel Study of Income Dynamics, conducted since 1968 at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"It's a well-known pattern," said ISR economist Frank Stafford, who directs the study. "There's still a significant reallocation of labor that occurs at marriage—men tend to work more outside the home, while women take on more of the household labor. Certainly there are all kinds of individual differences here, but in general, this is what happens after marriage. And the situation gets worse for women when they have children."

Overall, the amount of housework done by U.S. women has dropped considerably since 1976, while the amount of housework done by men has increased, according to Stafford. In 1976, women did an average of 26 hours of housework a week, compared with about 17 hours in 2005. Men did about six hours of housework a week in 1976, compared with about 13 hours in 2005.

But when the researchers looked at just the last 10 years, comparing how much housework single men and women in their 20s did in 1996 with how much they did in 2005 if they stayed single versus if they got married, they found a slightly different pattern.

Both the men and the women who got married did more housework than those who stayed single, the analysis showed. "Marriage is no longer a man's path to less housework," said Stafford, a professor in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from time diaries, considered the most accurate way to assess how people spend their time. They supplemented the analysis with data from questionnaires asking both men and women to recall how much time they spent on basic housework in an average week, including time spent cooking, cleaning and doing other basic work around the house. Excluded from these "core" housework hours were tasks like gardening, home repairs, or washing the car.

The researchers also examined how age and the number of children, as well as marital status and age, influenced time spent doing housework.

Single women in their 20s and 30s did the least housework—about 12 works a week on average, while married women in their 60s and 70s did the most—about 21 hours a week. Men showed a somewhat different pattern. Older men did more housework than younger men, but single men did more in all age groups than married men.

Married women with more than three kids did an average of about 28 hours of housework a week. Married men with more than three kids, by comparison, logged only about 10 hours of housework a week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Confusing sexual interest with friendliness

New research from Indiana University and Yale suggests that college-age men confuse friendly non-verbal cues with cues for sexual interest because the men have a less discerning eye than women -- but their female peers aren't far behind.

In the study, appearing in the April issue of the journal Psychological Science, men who viewed images of friendly women misidentified 12 percent of the images as sexually interested. Women mistook 8.7 percent of the friendly images for sexual interest.

Both men and women were even more likely to do the opposite -- when viewing images of sexually interested women, men mistakenly called 37.8 percent of the images "friendly." Women mistook 31.9 percent of the sexual interest cues for friendliness.

Scientist have long known that young men are more likely than women to confuse friendly non-verbal cues with cues for sexual interest but the explanation for the gender difference has been less clear. The more popular of two competing theories attributes this to a tendency by young men to over-sexualize their social environment. The less popular theory -- and the one supported by this new study -- claims that women have an advantage when it comes to interpreting facial expressions and body language expressing a variety of emotions, thus are more likely to accurately ID cues for sexual interest. Young men are simply less literate when it comes to non-verbal cues.

"Relative to women, men did not oversexualize the image set in our study," said lead author Coreen Farris, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington. "Both men and women were reluctant to state that ambiguous cues were 'sexual interest.' In fact, men and women utilized nearly identical thresholds for the degree of sexual interest that must be perceived before they were willing to go out on a limb and state that the nonverbal cues were sexual in nature."

Farris said it is interesting that their study found no evidence to support the first theory.

"In many ways, the results point to a more general explanation for why young men make the decisions they make," she said. "The observed advantage among women in ability to discriminate between friendliness and sexual interest extends to processing of sad and rejecting cues. This suggests that the increased tendency among young men to incorrectly read sexual interest rather than friendliness may simply be an extension of a general disadvantage in reading nonverbal cues, rather than a process unique to sexual signaling."

The study involved 280 heterosexual college-age men and women, average age of 19.6. Seated in a private computer room, the men and women each categorized 280 photo images of women (full body, fully clothed) into one of four categories -- friendly, sexually interested, sad or rejecting. Images were selected for each of the categories based on an extensive validation process.

The study found that both men and women were least accurate at correctly identifying the photos indicating sexual interest. Farris, whose research focuses on sexual aggression in men, noted that the results reflect average differences.

"The data don't support the idea that all men are bad at this or that all women are great at this," she said. "It's a small difference."

The authors wrote in Psychological Science that in most cases, the "negative consequences of sexual misperception will not extend beyond minor social discomfort." However, among a small group of men, sexual misperception is linked to sexual coercion, and thus, is an important process to understand in order to improve rape prevention efforts on university campuses. Farris said studies such as this should help establish a better understanding and a baseline for young men's perceptions of sexual intent and contribute to efforts aimed at preventing sexual aggression.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Good sexual intercourse lasts minutes, not hours

Satisfactory sexual intercourse for couples lasts from 3 to 13 minutes, contrary to popular fantasy about the need for hours of sexual activity, according to a survey of U.S. and Canadian sex therapists.

Penn State Erie researchers Eric Corty and Jenay Guardiani conducted a survey of 50 full members of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, which include psychologists, physicians, social workers, marriage/family therapists and nurses who have collectively seen thousands of patients over several decades.

Thirty-four, or 68 percent, of the group responded and rated a range of time amounts for sexual intercourse, from penetration of the vagina by the penis until ejaculation, that they considered adequate, desirable, too short and too long.

The average therapists’ responses defined the ranges of intercourse activity times: "adequate," from 3-7 minutes; "desirable," from 7-13 minutes; "too short" from 1-2 minutes; and "too long" from 10-30 minutes.

"A man’s or woman’s interpretation of his or her sexual functioning as well as the partner’s relies on personal beliefs developed in part from society’s messages, formal and informal," the researchers said. “"Unfortunately, today’s popular culture has reinforced stereotypes about sexual activity. Many men and women seem to believe the fantasy model of large penises, rock-hard erections and all-night-long intercourse. "

Past research has found that a large percentage of men and women, who responded, wanted sex to last 30 minutes or longer.

"This seems a situation ripe for disappointment and dissatisfaction," said lead author Eric Corty, associate professor of psychology. "With this survey, we hope to dispel such fantasies and encourage men and women with realistic data about acceptable sexual intercourse, thus preventing sexual disappointments and dysfunctions."

Corty and Guardiani, then-undergraduate student and now a University graduate, are publishing their findings in the May issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, but the article is currently available online.

The survey’s research also has implications for treatment of people with existing sexual problems.

"If a patient is concerned about how long intercourse should last, these data can help shift the patient away from a concern about physical disorders and to be initially treated with counseling, instead of medicine," Corty noted.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do attractive women want it all?

New study reveals relationship standards are relative

Although many researchers have believed women choose partners based on the kind of relationship they are seeking, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin reveals women’s preferences can be influenced by their own attractiveness.

David Buss, psychology researcher at the university, has published the findings in “Attractive Women Want it All: Good Genes, Economic Investment, Parenting Proclivities and Emotional Commitment” in this month’s Evolutionary Psychology.

Previous researchers argued that what women value depended on the type of relationship they were looking for. Women looking for long-term partners want someone who will be a good provider for them and their children, but women seeking short-term flings care more about masculinity and physical attractiveness, features that may be passed down to children.

Buss and Todd Shackelford, psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, found women ideally want partners who have all the characteristics they desire, but they will calibrate their standards based on their own desirability.

“When reviewing the qualities they desire in romantic partners, women gauge what they can get based on what they got,” Buss said. “And women who are considered physically attractive maintain high standards for prospective partners across a variety of characteristics.”

The researchers identified four categories of characteristics women seek in a partner:

good genes, reflected in desirable physical traits,
resources,
the desire to have children and good parenting skills, and
loyalty and devotion.
Most women attempt to secure the best combination of the qualities they desire from the same man, but the researchers said a small portion of women who do not find a partner with all the qualities may trade some characteristics for others.

Although women’s selectivity across categories reflected how attractive they appeared to other people, the researchers found the characteristics men desired in a partner did not vary based on their own physical attractiveness.

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To read the journal article, visit www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP06134146.pdf

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Teens, Romance, and ... Contraception?

New Research: The Quality of Teen Relationships Influences Decisions About Contraception

New research from Child Trends indicates that teens in strong, positive romantic relationships are more likely to use contraception. The study finds:
- Teens who identify their relationships as "romantic" and who spend more time with their partners in dating activities are more likely to use contraceptives.
- Female teens who discuss contraception with their partners before sex are twice as likely to practice safe sex.
- Female teens whose partners are similar to themselves, particularly in age, are more likely to use contraception.
- Teens continue habits from previous relationships. Those who used contraception consistently in an earlier relationship (either on their own initiative or from a partner) are more likely to also do so in a current relationship, indicating that teens may learn from their experiences across relationships.
A new fact sheet summarizes the findings of the study, which was published in the journal Demography and analyzes survey data from high school students to identify contraceptive use patterns. Among the other findings:
- Many teens use contraception inconsistently. In four out of 10 relationships, teens never or only inconsistently used contraception.
- Teens' contraceptive consistency varies across their sexual relationships. In other words, teens may use contraception every time they have sex with one partner, but may use contraception only sometimes or not at all with a different partner.
- Teens who engage in a high number of relationships are less likely to consistently use contraceptives across these relationships than their peers who have fewer relationships.
"Inconsistent use of contraceptives puts teens at a high risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies," said Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D., one of the study's authors. "Pregnancy prevention programs should pay more attention to the importance of partners and relationships in teens' sexual decision making and should consider integrating the multiple dimensions of sexual relationships into role-playing exercises to help teens learn how to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners."
Child Trends' analysis is based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative survey of youth in grades seven through twelve.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What men and women want in a partner

When it comes to romantic attraction men primarily are motivated by good looks and women by earning power. At least that’s what men and women have been saying for a long time. Based on research that dates back several decades, the widely accepted notion permeates popular culture today.

But those sex differences didn’t hold up in a new in-depth study of romantic attraction undertaken by two Northwestern University psychologists.

In short, the data suggest that whether you’re a man or a woman, being attractive is just as good for your romantic prospects and, to a lesser extent, so is being a good earner.

“Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Revisited: Do People Know What They Initially Desire in a Romantic Partner"” was published in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

For a month, the romantic lives of study participants were scrutinized, including their prospects within and outside of a speed-dating event.

What people said and did in choosing romantic partners were two different matters.

“True to the stereotypes, the initial self-reports of male participants indicated that they cared more than women about a romantic partner’s physical attractiveness, and the women in the study stated more than men that earning power was an aphrodisiac,” said Paul Eastwick, lead author of the study and graduate student in psychology in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

But in reality men and women were equally inspired by physical attraction and equally inspired by earning power or ambition.

“In other words good looks was the primary stimulus of attraction for both men and women, and a person with good earning prospects or ambition tended to be liked as well,” said Eli Finkel, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern. “Most noteworthy, the earning-power effect as well as the good-looks effect didn’t differ for men and women.”

Participants’ preferences based on their live romantic interactions contrasted with the ideal sex-differentiated preferences that they reported 10 days before the speed-dating event.

“We found that the romantic dynamics that occurred at the speed-dating event and during the following 30-day period had little to do with the sex-differentiated preferences stated on the questionnaires,” said Finkel.

The speed dating methodology gave the researchers an opportunity not available to earlier generations of researchers to compare stated romantic preferences with actual choices participants made about a series of potential partners.

The discrepancy between what people did and said in this dating situation fits with other research that shows that people often do a poor job explaining why they do things, often referring to accepted cultural theories to explain their own behavior.

The speed-dating methodology allowed the Northwestern researchers to move beyond the abstract world of romantic ideals to see how people actually rated a number of flesh-and-blood people regarding physical attractiveness, ambition and earning power.

“If you were to tell me that you prefer physically attractive romantic partners, I would expect to see that you indeed are more attracted to physically attractive partners,” said Eastwick. “But our participants didn’t pursue their ideal in this way. This leads us to question whether people know what they initially value in a romantic partner.”

What about the academic argument that men are primed much more than women to highly value beauty in romantic partners in an evolutionary quest for health, fertility and preservation of the gene pool" The new Northwestern research poses at least as many questions as it answers about the differences between the sexes. Is it possible after all that, when it comes to romantic attraction, men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus" The new study suggests that both sexes have similar romantic responses to each other right here on planet Earth.