Thursday, August 06, 2009

Evolutionary psychology: Forget that. If you want to be attractive, be NICE!

After reading this typical ooga! ooga! evolutionary psychology story about credit cards, I was hardly surprised to "learn" that
What men want is controlled by "evolution" and is thin women:

Despite another recent study that found modern men are more interested in intelligent, educated women than in decades past, in the new study men tended to base their attractiveness ratings on women's physical features, giving stellar marks to those who looked thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive.
The big problem with modern education is that we must spend so much time learning what ain't so that we hardly get any time to learn what might be so.

A psychologist friend offered some suggestions about studies of this type:
This is the modus operandi of academic psychologists with an evolutionary bent in writing up their research.

1). Tell a story about evolutionary history

2). Report the data from an empirical study of behavior (obviously conducted in the present time)

3). Tell another story about evolutionary history

4). Conclude that the behavior observed ... indicates something hardwired, applies to everyone, and has relevance to real-world situations

And so what is the truth?

1. A study was conducted. [Frm Denyse: Hmmm.}

2. Pictures were used, not people. [From Denyse: Many men have decided not to marry a woman after listening to her seriously for two minutes. And vice versa, believe me.]

3. The data are necessarily limited to what people find physically attractive [From Denyse: Yes, attractive in a given environment today. Thinness, lauded by study participants, is a valued quality ONLY in societies where people get lots to eat whenever they wish, so they can merely choose not to eat. In less wealthy societies, thinness signals impending disaster. In many societies today, people still prefer to be fat, hence the current public health uproar about the worldwide epidemic of obesity.]

4. The subjects knew they were taking part in an experiment. [From Denyse: Which means that they were factoring in what elite opinion expects. That's really important. How many guys claim to prefer a thin girlfriend to a plump one - unless they know they are being monitored, and anyway no actual girlfriend is in sight?]

My friend writes, "Of course this study necessarily ignores the fact that ideas about attractiveness have changed enormously throughout history, but that's okay, we'll call it hardwired anyway. In other words, they ignore known history in favor of fairytales about eons ago."

Yes indeed. Body piercings have become a rage in Toronto.

In my view, the key to being attractive is, be nice. Niceness is underrated. Yes, it is bland, but it works, if all you want is a seat in the dress circle or some face time with an important official. Cinderella and Snow White weren't wrong about everything.