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A Woman Is the Best Wingman (2): Your Desirability Is Decreed by Committee?
By Heath Shive
What did Dean Martin sing?
You’re nobody till somebody loves you…
We tend to think of the heart as sacred – or fickle – but often the heart is really just a conformist.
Romantic desire does not originate solely from inside us – but rather there are external cultural influences on who we want as well.
In the last blog, the studies indicated that animals don’t just rely on their instincts to find a mate. Animals also use social cues (external advice) to find out who is the best choice.
Are humans any different?
To the science!
Desirability by Social Decree
In an article in Scientific Reports – an online super-journal of science – a team of researchers experimented on the effect of social cues on what a group of women found attractive.
It was a small study, involving 49 female subjects. They were presented with pictures of men’s faces…and pictures of men’s hands, and of abstract art too.
Faces are a typical reference for desire. The hand-pictures were a way of exploring non-facial attractiveness. The abstract art was used to measure attraction outside the sexual domain (unless that’s your thing?).
First, the subjects were asked to rate the attractiveness of the picture. Then – a short while later – subjects were asked to rate the picture again, but they were also shown the average rating of all the other participants in real time.
Now the subjects knew what the group thought!
The results of the second rating?
On average, a participant changed their initial rating of the facial pictures by 13% towards the group rating!
They moved in the direction of the group decree.
It should be noted that the subjects changed their initial ratings on the face-pictures and hand-pictures and abstract art by roughly the same amount (13% for hands, 14% for abstract art).
The study was really a reflection of the human tendency to conform. People don’t just conform using their clothing styles or jargon. Our ideas and beliefs conform as well.
As noted in the previous blog, we don’t conform to just any old group.
We conform to our specific group – whichever group we identify with.
Conservative or liberal? Religious or agnostic? Old or young? Male or female? Professional versus blue-collar?
Group identity offers many advantages – networking, community resources, solidarity, protection, and support. The group also controls how we will be measured too.
So we come back to same old conclusion as last week. Guys, hang out with more women - because other women will notice. And ladies, hang out with men to be seen as more approachable and social.
Who knows? We might just learn to talk to each other!
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Street, Sally E, Thomas J.H. Morgan, Alex Thornton, Gillian R. Brown, Kevin N. Laland & Catharine P. Cross. Human mate-choice copying is domain general social learning. Scientific Reports 8, 1715 (2018) – Accessed online 3 Feb 2019
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.