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The Beauty Race
July 28, 2009 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Researchers have found that beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern.
posted by monospace (111 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
their attractiveness was assessed from photographs taken during the study

which were what, posted on HotOrNot?

I'm not snarking I'd really like to know how they went about separating the women into two distinct groups. Was it just a lonely scientist sitting around looking at headshots?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:05 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I bet you that these researchers' definition of "beautiful women" is so far off from mine that it totally invalidates their findings.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If women are getting more beautiful, it follows that men must be getting relatively uglier. Also that more beautiful women are settling for ugly men. That's good news for most of us, I think.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


They, obviously, did not look in Tennessee.
posted by dov3 at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2009


The measurements include objective assessments of physical attractiveness.

what
posted by jquinby at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


Are men evolving to be richer?
posted by nasreddin at 1:08 PM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


*adjusts tie*
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nooooo make it stop.

Obviously time for Evolutionary Psychology Bingo!
posted by jokeefe at 1:10 PM on July 28, 2009 [34 favorites]


So someday all the plain and ugly people will actually be outnumbered by beautiful people and they'll have to live on reservations just to keep them alive just so we can see how savage we used to be?............wait a minute...........wasn't there a show on Bravo about this???????
posted by doobiedoo at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2009


These findings are disputed.
posted by shadow vector at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


You know, I flagged this as "other" because there is no flag for "stfu stupid 'science'". Maybe there should be?
posted by jokeefe at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


This settles it. Polish women are the future overlords of Great Britain.
posted by martens at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2009


The older I get the more attractive women I seem to meet. Here, I thought it was because as I got older I started appreciating the beauty in older women more, but apparently it's because of all the successive generations of hot chicks that are being born. Hot damn!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:14 PM on July 28, 2009


Yes! I've finally found a use for my time machine!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:16 PM on July 28, 2009


This settles it. Polish women are the future overlords of Great Britain.

According to that article, the jealous British girls bullied the beautiful Polish girl so much that she developed "Crone's Disease." I imagine she now lives in a gingerbread house somewhere.
posted by banishedimmortal at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


SPOILER: I guess this also explains why all the human women in Planet of the Apes were hot even though they lived an unwashed ape-like existance.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:19 PM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


jokeefe: Obviously time for Evolutionary Psychology Bingo!

You know, I flagged this as "other" because there is no flag for "stfu stupid 'science'". Maybe there should be?


OF COURSE HUMANS ARE IMMUNE TO YOUR PATHETIC SCIENCE GOD AND FEMINISM SAY SO
posted by spaltavian at 1:24 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I imagine she now lives in a gingerbread house somewhere.

Exactly. If you strike them down, they become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
posted by martens at 1:25 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's a race in the notion of an arms race or other intentional escalations. It is (supposedly) the natural order of things. That said, this sounds like psuedo-science built upon hazy hypothesis:
In a study released last week, Markus Jokela, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, found beautiful women had up to 16% more children than their plainer counterparts. He used data gathered in America, in which 1,244 women and 997 men were followed through four decades of life. Their attractiveness was assessed from photographs taken during the study, which also collected data on the number of children they had.

This builds on previous work by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who found that good-looking parents were far more likely to conceive daughters. He suggested this was an evolutionary strategy subtly programmed into human DNA.
Assessing beauty from pictures and suggestions of "evolutionary stratigies subtly programmed into human DNA" doesn't sound like the material of a scientific study, but IANAScientist.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on July 28, 2009


Crone's disease! Brilliant! At least she didn't get Chrome Disease.
posted by Mister_A at 1:28 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


OF COURSE HUMANS ARE IMMUNE TO YOUR PATHETIC SCIENCE GOD AND FEMINISM SAY SO


..... what?
posted by jokeefe at 1:30 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I was attending university I was often approached while studying in the library to take part in studies, usually by Psych. students. A few of these studies involved rating photos of people as either "attractive" or "unattractive". I imagine a similar mechanism of polled results were used in this research to determine attractiveness.
posted by rocket88 at 1:32 PM on July 28, 2009


Assessing beauty from pictures and suggestions of "evolutionary stratigies subtly programmed into human DNA" doesn't sound like the material of a scientific study, but IANAScientist.

Whenever you see the name "Satochi Kanazawa" in one of these evopsych-bullshit-of-the-week links, you can be sure that you're not dealing with science.
posted by nasreddin at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Disputed" is a funny synonym for "thoroughly punked out and dismantled"

In statistics, you can’t prove a negative. “Beautiful parents have more daughters” is a compelling headline; the sounder statement is a less appealing headline: “There is no compelling evidence that beautiful parents are more or less likely to have daughters.” As a result, public discourse can get cluttered with unproven claims, which perhaps will lead to a general skepticism that will, in boy-who-cried-wolf fashion, unfairly discredit more convincing research.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I must be butt-ugly. or maybe the premise of this 'theory' is.
posted by supermedusa at 1:34 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Attractiveness is like porn; you know it when you see it.
posted by monospace at 1:35 PM on July 28, 2009


I believe it. I see 18 yo's I swear they are a lot hotter than when I was 18. And that was only ten years ago. Evolution sure works fast.
posted by yeti at 1:38 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, wait... attractive women have more children... and as has been discussed-to-death before, less-educated people have more children than those more-educated.

Good news, everyone! We have a beautiful, stupid future ahead!

The marketing guys are gonna love this.
posted by rokusan at 1:38 PM on July 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


It would be nicer if this were padded out with the study on how men tended to cluster more tightly in agreement on women they found attractive, but not so much the other way around.

I don't think this is very contentious from a scientific aspect — other species have selection criteria, too. We like to think we're above that, we're unique, we're not like all of those shallow critters with their preferred songs, and nest-building displays, and dances, and explosions of attractive but often useless feathers, but we are.

We come hardwired with a lot of things, and while they can be struggled against, they're present from the get-go in most people. Nature is neither democratic nor fair. Fairness is the very last thing Nature, if Nature had a mind, would consider. Nature is lazy, random, capricious; the best in any given generation may not necessarily win, and often "just a tiny bit better" will win out in the long haul over just "good enough."

We fight and we rage against it and we look for ways to nitpick, but it boils down to evolution, like the universe as a whole, having no special respect for humans and how we feel, at all.
posted by adipocere at 1:39 PM on July 28, 2009


Studies like this are why we can't have nice science any more.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:40 PM on July 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


I just want to know who funded the study. Lancome?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In 2006 he [Satochi Kanazawa] published an article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, claiming that attractive people are 26% less likely to have male offspring.[3][4] However, flaws were later identified in the statistical analysis, with the number actually estimated to be 8%, which due to the multiple comparisons problem, could not be regarded as statistically significant.[5] -- [wikipedia]

Rocket science.
posted by benzenedream at 1:45 PM on July 28, 2009


Dude this study was underwritten by the Hustler Institute for Lookin' at Broads–how dare you impugn that shit, mo'fucker?
posted by Mister_A at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]



We fight and we rage against it and we look for ways to nitpick, but it boils down to evolution, like the universe as a whole, having no special respect for humans and how we feel, at all.


I agree with this to a point, but we can't dismiss the roles of culture or society with the idea that at the bottom of every human interaction is evolutionary biology - besides, it seems like 'attractiveness' is so trend-biased that anything to be deduced would be statistically moot
posted by Think_Long at 1:50 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was about to point out that "beauty" has a strong correlation with "appears to be fertile" (and it could be argued it's really just a socially-formalized version of the same thing), and so more beautiful people reproducing more is... well, it's pretty much the evolutionary outcome one would expect in any system, whether we discuss it, study it and dissect it on the Internet or not.

If there's any "news" here, I suppose it would be that civilization and technology haven't changed the natural trend. Which is also, like... not very surprising. Our furs and clubs may have evolved, but we're still the same animals.
posted by rokusan at 1:57 PM on July 28, 2009


it seems like 'attractiveness' is so trend-biased that anything to be deduced would be statistically moot

Actually there has been an awful lot of research into "attractiveness," and it really, really, isn't "all in the eye of the beholder." Yes there is variability and yes there are outliers, but in fact there is remarkably broad agreement (even cross culturally) about which faces are "attractive" and which are not.

This particular study seems to be bogus because of poor statistical work. There's nothing inherently bogus about the hypothesis, however. It would definitely be possible to divide a sample of people up according to how "attractive" they are to the average observer and then to look at how many kids they have (controlling, of course, for some pretty predictable confounders).
posted by yoink at 2:01 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In a study released last week, O'wa Tagu Siam, a researcher at the University of Betcha, found beautiful women had up to 16% ruder children than their plainer counterparts. He used data gathered in America, in which 1,244 women and 997 men were followed through four decades of life. Their attractiveness was assessed from nude photographs taken while they were showering in various hotel bathrooms after cheating on their spouses. The rudeness quotient of the children was determined by the ratio of the number of times a total stranger wanted to slap them, over the number of actual physical assaults recorded.

This builds on previous work by Dr. Heywood Jablomi, an evolutionary sykeologist at the London School of Freaconomics, who found that good-looking parents were far more likely to pimp out their daughters to the media or to random strangers claiming to be scientists. He suggested this was an evolutionary strategy subtly programmed into human DNA to allow the majority of the population to tolerate beautiful people by profiting from their vanity.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:01 PM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Just casually looking about, some would Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A meta-analytic and theoretical review," J.H. Langlois, L. Kalakanis, A.J. Rubenstein, A. Larson, M. Hallam, & M. Smoot, Psychological Bulletin, 2000, 126, 390-423 disagree. Some agreement exists across cultures as to what is attractive, so the evolutionary stuff is probably not entirely drowned out in the noise of various trends. Heck, babies can pick out "attractive" faces, and it isn't like they would have the time to have huge cultural indoctrination. Both of these point to hardwired biases which run deeper than who is dishing out the latest, greatest nose at Tom's Rhinoplasty.
posted by adipocere at 2:02 PM on July 28, 2009


Beautiful women get more action. Holy shit, you can knock me over with a feather.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2009


So is there some point of perfection where you can't get any more beautiful? Because if so, we'll be there one day, and then we can stop worrying about how we look as every one of us will be perfectly beautiful. If not, it's all relative, and nothing really changes as the pretty are still pretty and the ugly are still ugly, just constantly moving forward in beauty. I'm sure some men will think that good enough in itself, and would be happy to have a beautiful partner even if an even more beautiful potential existed. But as we live too short a span to see evolution in motion, men will always be inured to the fabulous beauty around them, having grown up always with supermodels always in eyeshot. The average woman in a thousand years' time may be hotter than fresh muffins, but totally meh to the men of the future.
posted by Sova at 2:13 PM on July 28, 2009


Think_Long: I agree with this to a point, but we can't dismiss the roles of culture or society with the idea that at the bottom of every human interaction is evolutionary biology

Where do you think "culture" comes from? Sociobiology may not be popular with the nuture crowd, but that's irrelevant.
posted by spaltavian at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2009


So is there some point of perfection where you can't get any more beautiful?

The young Myrna Loy?
posted by yoink at 2:19 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So if you watch the Wizard of Oz, Glinda the Good Witch says to Dorothy that "Only bad witches are ugly." This is notable, because not a few sentences before, she asks Dorothy "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" So presumably Glinda thinks Dorothy is ugly, but recognizes her judgement is subjective, so figures she'd better find out without tipping her hand by saying "You are obviously a bad witch."

yes, my kids have started watching that movie obsessively, why do you ask?
posted by davejay at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whatever. I think this is supposed to make me feel bad, like being Angelina Jolie and pumpin' out babies was my true destiny, but instead, I'm an evolutionary fail.

Personally, I think money has a heckuva lot more to do with how many kids you have (that survive to adulthood) than prettiness; but then, rich women can get lots of plastic surgery, and rich dudes can probably find hot women to marry, blah blah oversimplified EvoPsych strikes again.

And there's that whole patriarchy thing, you know, the very recent situation in human history, still ongoing in most of the world, by which women were reduced to property and judged on physical attributes and reproductive fitness, enslaved, forbidden to learn, and otherwise denied any agency. That might still be having a bit, just a bit, of a warping effect on how people choose mates, or have chosen them in all the generations prior to this one.

I mean, this whole idea that male and female standards of attractiveness (and mate choices) aren't still heavily influenced by millennia-old notions about gender roles, but are some immutable natural law, highlights huge blind spots in ridiculous studies like this one.

Women's rights (such as they currently are) aren't magically retroactive, erasing all the effects of oppression that were occurring up to yesterday, historically speaking. Gloria Steinem did not open a space-time wormhole that transported her speeches back to the dawn of human history and caused women to rise up and seize their rights and nip patriarchy in the bud.

Though that would have been awesome.
posted by emjaybee at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Rather than rely strictly on the Times, here's the abstract (via Jezebel, which, yes it's Jezebel but at least they cared enough to track down some background on the survey rather than just take the Times word). Key point:
the study was conducted on "1244 women, 997 men born between 1937 and 1940." Feminist Law Profs also reports [link] that the basis for attractiveness was yearbook photos from the 1957 graduating classes at Wisconsin high schools. But people on average married earlier in 1957 and they do now, and had children earlier, so whether you were "hot in high school" may have had much more to do with your "reproductive success" than it does today. The study didn't track the women's attractiveness as they got older, nor did it study women from later generations, who may have had more options to confound the purported link between attractiveness at age 18 and popping out lots of kids.
There's some further debunking of Kanazawa in the Jezebel post, as well.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:30 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was about to point out that "beauty" has a strong correlation with "appears to be fertile" (and it could be argued it's really just a socially-formalized version of the same thing), and so more beautiful people reproducing more is... well, it's pretty much the evolutionary outcome one would expect in any system, whether we discuss it, study it and dissect it on the Internet or not.
rokusan has it exactly. This study is begging the question (the original meaning). Beautiful women don't have more children because they're beautiful. They're considered beautiful because they are more fertile, and have higher levels of whatever hormones contribute to both fertility and what men are programmed to see as beauty.
posted by rocket88 at 2:35 PM on July 28, 2009


Ok, so whether or not this article has been published, it certainly isn't in any of the obvious locations. Author's website? Nope. How about his workgroup, where you can download tons of published papers from him and his cohorts, as well as get information about current unpublished projects? Nope.

He's got great publicity, I'll give him that, and his science sounds like just the thing that is interesting enough, but different enough for the lay person to easily incorporate into their worldview. That alone usually sends up a warning flag, but the fact that I can't find his paper leads me to nearly reject his result out of hand. Where exactly is this "recently published paper?" The article doesn't mention it and honestly, the fact that it's so difficult to find bodes ill for the science inside.
posted by scrutiny at 2:35 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


No JoeScienceFilter?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2009


Thank you, evolutionary psychology, for perpetuating the gender stereotypes that a woman's value is based on her beauty and a man's value is based on how rich he is.
posted by too bad you're not me at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2009


Thank you, evolutionary psychology, for perpetuating the gender stereotypes that a woman's value is based on her beauty and a man's value is based on how rich he is...

...when we all know that a person's true value is based on their mineral composition.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:45 PM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


...which would render this whole study moot. And by "render," I mean, literally, render.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also, I suppose I should add that typically measurements of "objective attractiveness" are in fact measurements of facial symmetry. Granted, facial symmetry is correlated with average subjective measures of attractiveness from large samples of the population, but this does not mean it is a substitute for some objective measure of attractiveness. If what these researchers measure is in fact facial symmetry, then they should report their effect as a function of facial symmetry. As it stands, "objective measure of attractiveness" is a total oxymoron and if that's what they claim to measure, then I have no idea what they are talking about.
posted by scrutiny at 2:47 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, my mother was beautiful (which she was) and I am female (which I am) so therefore -- I must be beautiful?

*Checks Mirror*

Nope, still ugly.
posted by jrochest at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I will say, the one universal-beauty standard (for both sexes) that I find compelling is symmetry, if only because that does seem a good indicator of health. Likewise, having lots of energy, strength and agility, as well as surviving with relatively few scars or injuries to reproductive age bespeaks a good bet, reproductively speaking, if you've got nothing but appearance to go on. Ironically, "big" hips and breasts may not actually indicate either a broad birth canal or superior lactation ability, though lots of people have assumed they do. But they do indicate being well-fed, which is favorable to health.

You could go another route, and make a good case that "more attractive" women by these standards (symmetry, youth) versus the looser/different standards applied to men were an indicator that in segregating men and women from friendship or interaction in public life, men were left with only a primitive mechanism like appearance for deciding whether to mate. Whereas women either didn't have a choice, or were choosing men who had the chance to develop other attributes, such as wealth, education, and hell, charm.

And the situation we have now is the messy descendant of all these factors.
posted by emjaybee at 2:54 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So if you watch the Wizard of Oz, Glinda the Good Witch says to Dorothy that "Only bad witches are ugly." This is notable, because not a few sentences before, she asks Dorothy "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" So presumably Glinda thinks Dorothy is ugly,

Um, no. "Only bad witches are ugly" does not mean "all bad witches are ugly," just that "no good witches are ugly." It is possible that there are ugly bad witches and beautiful bad witches.

Witch science faces enough scepticism from the general public without you bringing these tired stereotypes into the discussion.
posted by yoink at 2:54 PM on July 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


There's an interesting article in a recent American Scientist about this exact study.

Unfortunately, it's only available online to subscribers, but I can parrot the author's two main points. First, they argue that the wide body of sociological evidence holds that no matter what factors you take into account, sex ratios of newborns do not vary more than 1% in response to any given effect, and that Kanazawa's claim is contrary to the overwhelming indication of existing data.

They also point out that in cases such as these, the sample size is far too small to produce a valid result. By convention, we regard any result less than two standard deviations from the mean as being statistically insignificant. However, it's always possible to get a result that could be deemed "statistically significant" while still being due to random variables - it just happens 5% of the time. They go on to argue that since the preponderance of evidence, both biological and sociological, strongly indicates that it's not possible to have a gender discrepancy of more than 1%, any study involving only a couple thousand people will never produce a statistically significant result that could be considered valid, unless you used a technique that allowed you to integrate existing data into your result ( ie, bayesian inference )

In a word, like most pop-culture evolutionary psychology articles, this is bunk. I can't speak to Jokela's results, but the article is very light on details.
posted by heathkit at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


6 o' clock news: Beauty makes you more desirable to mates.

Though I wonder why a greater proportion of their children are female.
posted by kldickson at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I suppose I should add that typically measurements of "objective attractiveness" are in fact measurements of facial symmetry.

No, they're not. You should read up on contemporary research into attractiveness, it's very interesting. Symmetry plays a part, but it really isn't the be all and end all. Averageness--ironically--is very important, for example (especially for women); the closer to average the proportions of the face are (average distance between the eyes, average distance between cheekbones etc etc.) the higher the face will generally be rated. But there are interesting exceptions to that, too.

There are also interesting, and predictable, changes in the way women rate the attractiveness of men depending on what stage they are in in their menstrual cycles, as well as strong variations in the way men respond to women depending on whether they are ovulating or not (true fact: strippers receive far higher tips when they're ovulating than when they are menstruating).
posted by yoink at 3:05 PM on July 28, 2009


One of the big problems I have with this study is the idea that beautiful women somehow naturally have more children. Um, no, by any measure: the number of children a woman has tends to be, worldwide, linked to how much education and access to birth control she has, and to her autonomy as an individual, not to her looks. As for the West, even if there is a correlation between beauty and how many children a woman has (which is nonsense), this could be explained through wealth and status: wealthy people can afford to have more children, just as they can afford health care and the kind of grooming that we tend to read as signalling "beauty".

"Beauty" defined as clear skin, etc., may be an indicator of fertility, but it's only potential fertility. Not every beautiful woman has even one child, let alone more than other women her age. Also, this particular study? Based on class photos between 1947 and 1950? The ideal of beauty then was highly artificial, faces heavily made up, hair dressed and curled. Does this study then show that women who used lipstick had more children? If the numbers did indeed add up-- which I doubt-- all it proves is that these women married young and contraception wasn't readily available.

Finally, even if-- and it's still an 'if'-- symmetry and so on are naturally favoured by human beings, so what? We have sentience and culture, and can choose our mates acccordingly. Beauty may give some people early advantages, but it doesn't translate into lifelong success on its own--especially for women.
posted by jokeefe at 3:25 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beautiful women ... have more children because they're beautiful.

The more I think about this the less sense it makes.

1. Plenty of ugly people reproduce. Go to a Kings Dominion Water Park if you don't believe me. Or a high school on parents day. Or any bar at bar time. Being funny looking doesn't make you totally undesirable, there are other traits that attract people to each-other once they lower their standards inhibitions. (Thank god.)

2. If you are a REALLY beautiful woman, like preternaturally, why would you get married at all? People will give you stuff, and you can have any man you want, or woman if you're Lindsey Lohan but then you'll get jealous and camp out on her porch all night doing coke to cry at her in the morning but either way I'm saying you're not popping out sprats at 19, and GOD FORBID you have more than 2 because come on how are you supposed to stay beautiful working as a baby farm no way buster.

3. Being really traditionally beautiful is often a function of upbringing too--time to work out in a gym, teeth-fixin, good diet, skin care etc. Yet rich peoples have less kids than poor people (ibid).

QED this study is bollacks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:26 PM on July 28, 2009


There are also interesting, and predictable, changes in the way women rate the attractiveness of men depending on what stage they are in in their menstrual cycles, as well as strong variations in the way men respond to women depending on whether they are ovulating or not (true fact: strippers receive far higher tips when they're ovulating than when they are menstruating).

And the 'studies' which purport to demonstrate these 'facts' are about as reliable as the one in the FPP. Which is to say just a bit more credible than astrology.
posted by jokeefe at 3:27 PM on July 28, 2009


Or what jokeefe said without all the bad jokes. Bollacks to this study.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:27 PM on July 28, 2009


I liked your comment better than mine, because it was truly entertaining.
posted by jokeefe at 3:30 PM on July 28, 2009


And the 'studies' which purport to demonstrate these 'facts' are about as reliable as the one in the FPP. Which is to say just a bit more credible than astrology.

Do you have something more than: "This study has conclusions that don't meet my preconceptions; therefore it is bogus!" to go on here? The stripper study, I'll accept, doesn't seem to have been replicated (meaning not that people have tried and failed but that they have not yet tried). The general claim about attractiveness varying predictably over the menstural cycle appears to have been borne out in multiple peer-reviewed studies. In fact there have been studies of reactions to body odor and voice varying in relationship to the menstrual cycle.

In other words, most scientists working in the area would, I assume, be more surprised if the stripper findings were that tips remained invariant with regard to the cycle. But if this is your area of expertise I'll be happy to stand corrected. I've only got a lay interest (man, there's some puns crowding in on that one) in this stuff.
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Science requires objective measurement. Since beauty is not an objective concept, no science can be made upon it. However, lots of researchers can get woodies.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:41 PM on July 28, 2009


Oh, I meant to include some links in that last post.

Here's a study on facial attractiveness and the menstrual cycle.

Here's one on voice attractiveness.

Here's one on body odor.

Here's one on gait.

Here's one on how women rate men's attractiveness differently depending on their stage in the menstrual cycle.

Here's the stripper study (pdf).
posted by yoink at 3:44 PM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Science requires objective measurement. Since beauty is not an objective concept, no science can be made upon it.

I think that's why they mostly talk about "attractiveness." For that, all you need is a reasonable sample size and a questionnaire. No one is saying that we can objectively decide whether Audrey Hepburn is "more beautiful" than Claudette Colbert. They're saying that it's possible to predict which kind of face, on average, will be rated as more attractive than another.
posted by yoink at 3:46 PM on July 28, 2009


Okay yoink: say it's all true. My question is: so what? So what if "attractiveness", as determined by the subjective measure of some small study group, varies during menstrual cycles? Who cares? What's the point?

Our reactions to people will at first be affected by appearance; no doubt about that. The thing is that we as human beings quickly move past that to know and appreciate, even to love, the unsymmetrical among us: the unbeautiful, the plain, the ordinary. Our social bonds don't rise or fall on something as simple as beauty-- beauty being biologically simple but very socially complicated. Beauty may be a biological fact: again, so what? What's far more interesting is how beauty works as a social fact (and that's not what these studies are about).

Again: what's the point of "proving" that strippers get higher tips when they are ovulating (assuming the study is not as terminally flawed as so many of its ilk are)? What does it add to the sum of human knowledge in any useful sense?
posted by jokeefe at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2009


Okay yoink: say it's all true. My question is: so what? So what if "attractiveness", as determined by the subjective measure of some small study group, varies during menstrual cycles? Who cares? What's the point?

Our reactions to people will at first be affected by appearance; no doubt about that. The thing is that we as human beings quickly move past that to know and appreciate, even to love, the unsymmetrical among us: the unbeautiful, the plain, the ordinary. Our social bonds don't rise or fall on something as simple as beauty-- beauty being biologically simple but very socially complicated. Beauty may be a biological fact: again, so what? What's far more interesting is how beauty works as a social fact (and that's not what these studies are about).

Again: what's the point of "proving" that strippers get higher tips when they are ovulating (assuming the study is not as terminally flawed as so many of its ilk are)? What does it add to the sum of human knowledge in any useful sense?


Careful. You might be opposing a pretty laughable scientism, and as far as that goes I agree with you, but talking about "the sum of human knowledge" is even more reactionary. You might prefer not to read or study such things, which you are free to do. But suggesting that something shouldn't be done based on its supposed lack of usefulness is crossing a pretty dangerous line. For one thing, if we were to go by utility as a criterion, a large proportion of humanities scholarship would disappear. (I'm speaking as a humanities graduate student here.)
posted by nasreddin at 4:19 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's look at the premise of the facial attractiveness article, for example:

The lack of obvious visible manifestations of ovulation in human females, compared with the prominent sexual swellings of many primates, has led to the idea that human ovulation is concealed. While human ovulation is clearly not advertised to the same extent as in some other species, we show here that both men and women judge photographs of women's faces that were taken in the fertile window of the menstrual cycle as more attractive than photographs taken during the luteal phase. This indicates the existence of visible cues to ovulation in the human face, and is consistent with similar cyclical changes observed for preferences of female body odour. This heightened allure could be an adaptive mechanism for raising a female's relative value in the mating market at the time in the cycle when the probability of conception is at its highest.

What they postulate here really makes no sense. If human beings evolved hidden ovulation, then why assert that it isn't actually hidden, but is obvious on some visual level-- so much so that it's obvious even in photographs? Hidden ovulation is a fascinating thing, biologically, and there are many theories about why human women don't signal fertility, all of which are more interesting than a study which purports to show, using the subjective ratings of a series of photographs, that it doesn't really exist at all.

The other problem is the unexamined leap between "attractiveness" and ovulation, which is supposedly recognized by both the men and women in the study. Going purely on the kind of logic generally put forward in such studies, why would a woman find ovulation in another woman to be attractive? Wouldn't it rather be seen as a threat, as competition for resources? I mean, you can go around and around with guesses and so on, but in the end, it's all really hugely speculative.

Not to mention, as I said earlier: so what? What does this type of study really tell us about what it means to be human, particularly when the ideas put forward tend to be defeated quite quickly when one looks at actual human behaviour? It is most certainly not only Venus and Adonis who mate and bear children; any excursion to your local park or pool or anywhere else that parents and children gather can prove that.

So yeah, excuse me if I don't find any of these attempts to, and I have to say it, reduce women to their breeding capacity as determined by ratings of "attractiveness" to be entirely convincing. Society just isn't that simple.
posted by jokeefe at 4:22 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But suggesting that something shouldn't be done based on its supposed lack of usefulness is crossing a pretty dangerous line.

Oh come on, nasreddin, that's a pretty hyperbolic statement.
posted by jokeefe at 4:23 PM on July 28, 2009


say it's all true.... Who cares? What's the point?

I have zero opinion on the actual substance of this conversation, because I'm super busy and just have time to skim. But I had to comment on this. Without respect to the veracity of any given claim, I tend to trust science more when it doesn't have a point. Except when the scientists make a big point of pointing out that they weren't trying to make a point. In which case, hey: protest too much much?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on July 28, 2009


Oh come on, nasreddin, that's a pretty hyperbolic statement.

I should have said "researched" rather than "done," of course. Anyway, I don't mean that it's dangerous in the "OMG holocaust" way, just in the "if you want to play that game..." way. It is likely that none of the research I will do or have done in my academic career will be useful to anyone, strictly speaking--so I don't like it when arguments based essentially on aesthetics and subjective preference are turned into normative statements about utility, because if that were the criterion, a lot of thought-provoking and high-quality work (I'm not talking about myself here) would be impossible.
posted by nasreddin at 4:32 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


IFRH, I absolutely support pure research, believe me; my protest in relation to the Ev Psych stuff is that every (badly devised, small subject group, media attracting) experiment seems to come up with results which do nothing but reinforce the status quo: or, in the awesome Bingo card I linked to, that "the gender dynamics of our savannah ancestors looked curiously like those of 1950s America". I question the premises of these studies because there seems to be a lack of, shall we say, rigour in their construction and execution. The data is questionable, and there seems to be an inability to draw conclusions that aren't highly enmeshed with all the subjectivity of modern mores. Saying "who cares and what's the point" is a signal of my frustration with the kind of attention and funding that this work garners, when there's so many other projects and questions that could be looked at (what about that hidden ovulation thing, anyway)?

Don't accuse me of trying to shut down genuine and legitimate enquiry; obviously I don't have that sort of power and I wouldn't advocate it. But I think the bulk of these studies are worthless, and I'm allowed to say so.
posted by jokeefe at 4:35 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


jokeefe, you refute your own point.

Hidden ovulation is a fascinating thing, biologically, and there are many theories about why human women don't signal fertility, all of which are more interesting than a study which purports to show, using the subjective ratings of a series of photographs, that it doesn't really exist at all.

You tell me that "hidden ovulation is a fascinating thing" and then turn around and tell me that you can see no point in a study which shows that human ovulation is not in fact hidden. You're saying that scientists should continue to work on the assumption of truly "hidden ovulation" regardless of convincing scientific evidence to the contrary?

Or perhaps your idea of science is sticking with whatever "feels right" regardless of the data?
posted by yoink at 4:35 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't accuse me of trying to shut down genuine and legitimate enquiry; obviously I don't have that sort of power and I wouldn't advocate it. But I think the bulk of these studies are worthless, and I'm allowed to say so.

It would help if you would point to actual methodological errors in all of these many, many studies that continue to find the same results. At the moment you sound exactly like a creationist saying that they refuse to believe evolutionary science because it gives them a result they happen not to like.
posted by yoink at 4:37 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


nasreddin, can I possibly suggest that you might have misread me? The last thing I believe I am is somebody who judges enquiry only by its eventual utility, and who thinks that every question must have an answer and a 'real world' result. I find the pursuit of knowledge and research for its own sake to be nothing short of heroic; my respect for genuine science is a great deal of what is driving my anger at this shallow pseudo-research. I like it about as much as I do seeing Ayn Rand being taken for a real philosopher, for example.
posted by jokeefe at 4:40 PM on July 28, 2009


or, in the awesome Bingo card I linked to, that "the gender dynamics of our savannah ancestors looked curiously like those of 1950s America".

Ah yes, I too fondly remember that episode of "Leave it to Beaver" in which Wally's crush on the young French exchange student Francoise Menarche goes horribly awry when he sees her when she's on the rag and can't understand why he no longer finds her attractive.

Interestingly enough the title for that episode was "Leave it to Beaver" as well.
posted by yoink at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


You tell me that "hidden ovulation is a fascinating thing" and then turn around and tell me that you can see no point in a study which shows that human ovulation is not in fact hidden.

That study shows no such thing. By what mechanism is ovulation visible, so visible to some part of our brains that it can be registered even in photographs? Do the researchers posit some sort of magic way that ovulation is in fact visible? The "why" of hidden ovulation is indeed a fascinating thing, and the study is dubious in its claims that it is not.
posted by jokeefe at 4:43 PM on July 28, 2009


IFRH, I absolutely support pure research, believe me; my protest in relation to the Ev Psych stuff is that every (badly devised, small subject group, media attracting) experiment seems to come up with results which do nothing but reinforce the status quo: or, in the awesome Bingo card I linked to, that "the gender dynamics of our savannah ancestors looked curiously like those of 1950s America". I question the premises of these studies because there seems to be a lack of, shall we say, rigour in their construction and execution. The data is questionable, and there seems to be an inability to draw conclusions that aren't highly enmeshed with all the subjectivity of modern mores. Saying "who cares and what's the point" is a signal of my frustration with the kind of attention and funding that this work garners, when there's so many other projects and questions that could be looked at (what about that hidden ovulation thing, anyway)?

Don't accuse me of trying to shut down genuine and legitimate enquiry; obviously I don't have that sort of power and I wouldn't advocate it. But I think the bulk of these studies are worthless, and I'm allowed to say so.


Look, I've opposed naive versions of evopsych for a while, but at this point it's clear that studies that try to link biology and society are here to stay. Thus far neither you nor myself nor anyone in these threads who has taken the standard liberal-humanist position has ever pointed to a study of this kind that they would support. This sort of united-front thinking means that people who really do care about challenging science to complicate its concepts of gender and culture are rendered outside the pale of society/biology discourse. Every time we retrench behind a "takedown" or offer generic dismissals like yours, we look less and less like good-faith participants in intellectual debate and more and more like latter-day Lamarckians. Each of these studies deserves a careful, critical look, and none deserves to be dismissed because of the field's association with people like Kanazawa.
posted by nasreddin at 4:47 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't accuse me of trying to shut down genuine and legitimate enquiry

IRFH: Why would think that's what I was trying to-
jokeefe: SHUT UP!!!

/obvious joke bearing no relation to what jokeefe is actually saying

I didn't mean that at all, jokeefe. I was mostly making an observation on my perception of the difference between science for the sake of science and the kind of "science" that always seems to start out with a disclaimer: "Nothing personal, but..."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:48 PM on July 28, 2009


By what mechanism is ovulation visible, so visible to some part of our brains that it can be registered even in photographs? Do the researchers posit some sort of magic way that ovulation is in fact visible?

The fact that these multiple studies do not determine the exact mechanism in each case has exactly zero to do with whether or not they reveal ovulation to be not completely hidden. They show that males respond differently to women depending on whether they are ovulating or not (they respond differently to the voice, to the gait, to the body odor, to photographs of faces etc. etc. etc.), and that women both behave differently towards men AND see men differently depending on whether they are ovulating or not. These are absolutely fascinating findings. They overthrow centuries of "common sense" understanding of homo sapiens sapiens indifference to women's menstrual cycles.

These studies are purely empirical. They need not be taken up by evolutionary psychology; indeed they are a slap in the face to many of the central tenets of evolutionary psychology, which has always been premised upon the assumption of the absolute invisibility of ovulation. Your objections seem bizarrely unmotivated to me.
posted by yoink at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I really have to take a second kick at this can:

That study shows no such thing. By what mechanism is ovulation visible, so visible to some part of our brains that it can be registered even in photographs?

This really is perfect nonsense. "My hypothesis says that women's faces would show no consistent differences depending on the state of their menstrual cycle therefore it is clearly irrelevant that this experiment found that people do, in fact, perceive consistent differences depending on the state of the menstrual cycle."

Imagine if science were that easy: "My experimental data were completely unexpected. Luckily my hypothesis says that they shouldn't have come out that way, so we may safely proceed on the assumption that they didn't."
posted by yoink at 5:05 PM on July 28, 2009


Not to mention that this claim:

So yeah, excuse me if I don't find any of these attempts to, and I have to say it, reduce women to their breeding capacity as determined by ratings of "attractiveness" to be entirely convincing. Society just isn't that simple.


is just out of line. Read the studies yoink linked, not the Kanazawa study. There's no "reduction" going on there unless you're somehow invested in seeing it.
posted by nasreddin at 5:05 PM on July 28, 2009


(And the female scientists working on these studies would no doubt be very insulted to hear that you think their work reduces them to their breeding capacity.)
posted by nasreddin at 5:08 PM on July 28, 2009


So is there some point of perfection where you can't get any more beautiful?

Peak Beauty?
posted by Bonzai at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2009


These studies are purely empirical.

The evidence for this empiricism? Questionaires filled out by the subject groups. Forgive me if I don't find that particularly reliable, or open to all sorts of uncontrolled variables.

The fact that these multiple studies do not determine the exact mechanism in each case has exactly zero to do with whether or not they reveal ovulation to be not completely hidden.

Why don't posit some mechanism? That's what I'm curious about. If these results are so certain and are replicated in dozens of other studies in all sorts of different large groups from varying countries and cultures, then why don't the researchers at least speculate on how hormonal states are communicated (and with such potency that they are visible in photographs)?

They overthrow centuries of "common sense" understanding of homo sapiens sapiens indifference to women's menstrual cycles.

What? I'm assuming that this is just an unfortunate word choice, because you can hardly assert that human beings, and human society, has been indifferent towards menstruation.
posted by jokeefe at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2009


Here's a study on how women's sexual activity varies with their menstrual cycles.

Here's one on eating, exercise, health and sleep patterns.

Here's a really fascinating one on changes in women's responses to male courting behaviors depending on their position in their cycles.

Can all these be dismissed as bogus as well because they don't match your gut feelings, jokeefe?
posted by yoink at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shitty, unsubstantiated study is shitty and unsubstantiated.

I wish people did better research in this field; way too many folks come into it with a burning need to tell Just So Stories.

The "children respond positively to facial symmetry" study is interesting and thought-provoking; why not more of that, rather than this shit?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:12 PM on July 28, 2009


What? I'm assuming that this is just an unfortunate word choice, because you can hardly assert that human beings, and human society, has been indifferent towards menstruation.

Oh, heavens, just ignore the 50.4 percent of homo sapiens who experience menstruation. After all, it's not femina sapiens, amirite?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:13 PM on July 28, 2009


What? I'm assuming that this is just an unfortunate word choice, because you can hardly assert that human beings, and human society, has been indifferent towards menstruation.

Yeah, I noticed the possible double meaning in that phrase. I assumed I was talking with an adult who would be capable of recognizing that it applied in this particular context in a certain way ("indifferent" in relationship to courting and, with the exception of actual menstruation in many cases, sexual behavior). I see I was being overly generous.
posted by yoink at 5:14 PM on July 28, 2009


The evidence for this empiricism? Questionaires filled out by the subject groups. Forgive me if I don't find that particularly reliable, or open to all sorts of uncontrolled variables.

What does this mean? If you're referring to the fact that attractiveness is subjective, well, yeah. In fact, these studies could have worked just as well with a cohort of Martians who prefer women with cylindrical bodies. The point is the difference in relative attractiveness between ovulating and menstruating women, not absolute attractiveness. It doesn't even matter what the word "attractiveness" means to the raters--it could mean "hair color." What matters is that some measurement changes in a readily detectable and significant way in a woman who is ovulating versus one who is menstruating.
posted by nasreddin at 5:17 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


The evidence for this empiricism? Questionaires filled out by the subject groups.

Yes. Questionnaires are empirical. Do you perhaps need some help with the definition of the word "empirical"?
posted by yoink at 5:18 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are some deeply weird assumptions being made in that article.

That said, this thread displays some of the worst bad-faith arguing and interpretation I've seen in some time. Bravo.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:24 PM on July 28, 2009


I really don't understand why anything to do with a woman would have any impact on how many girls they give birth to. The genetics of reproduction are pretty clear, are they not? The sperm is what determines whether you have a girl or a boy. Seems pretty far fetched to say that men with a larger amount of X-sperm reproduce with more beautiful women.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:52 PM on July 28, 2009


I see 18 yo's I swear they are a lot hotter than when I was 18.

"That's the thing about these high school girls man.... I keep getting older... and they stay the same age."
posted by rokusan at 5:55 PM on July 28, 2009


It would help if you would point to actual methodological errors in all of these many, many studies that continue to find the same results.

Not to get back on topic or anything, but this is exactly the problem with the FPP article in question. I have no idea what they did and it seems impossible to find out.

Also, I suppose I should add that typically measurements of "objective attractiveness" are in fact measurements of facial symmetry.
No, they're not. You should read up on contemporary research into attractiveness, it's very interesting. Symmetry plays a part, but it really isn't the be all and end all. Averageness--ironically--is very important, for example (especially for women); the closer to average the proportions of the face are (average distance between the eyes, average distance between cheekbones etc etc.) the higher the face will generally be rated. But there are interesting exceptions to that, too.
Sorry I had only mentioned one type of something correlated to attractiveness for simplicity's sake. Obviously there are other things. However, there still don't seem to be any objective measurements of attractiveness, only objective representations of something that is inherently subjective.

Getting past that, you haven't linked to any papers detailing what actually does correspond to beauty on average, which seems rather important as it comprises the meat of your response. I assume that all the cited papers use some beauty metric, but I'm just as sure that there are even more that are not included in those papers. Who is to say what's best? Do you know of a large study that accurately samples from the general population and finds a variable that (not just significantly, but near-perfectly) correlates with mean attractiveness? If so I would certainly like to see it, because at the moment I don't think such a thing exists, and without such a variable claiming to measure objective attractiveness is sensationalist and quite un-scientific.

Regardless, the actual point stands that whatever the authors are measuring is not, in fact, "objective attractiveness." It is something imperfectly correlated with average estimates of subjective attractiveness.
posted by scrutiny at 6:19 PM on July 28, 2009


Wally's crush on the young French exchange student Francoise Framboise Menarche goes horribly awry when he sees her when she's on the rag and can't understand why he no longer finds her attractive.


FTFY.
posted by benzenedream at 6:19 PM on July 28, 2009


Sorry I'm late to the thread; just wanted to say..

Women are getting more beautiful
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor A MALE

..In a study released last week, Markus Jokela, a MALE researcher at the University of Helsinki, found beautiful women had up to 16% more children than their plainer counterparts. He used data gathered in America, in which 1,244 women and 997 men were followed through four decades of life. Their attractiveness was assessed from photographs taken during the study, which also collected data on the number of children they had.

This builds on previous work by Satoshi Kanazawa, an MALE evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who found that good-looking parents were far more likely to conceive daughters...


That said, I'm sure there are FEMALE scientists out there studying hot men out there somewhere.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 6:29 PM on July 28, 2009


I really don't understand why anything to do with a woman would have any impact on how many girls they give birth to. The genetics of reproduction are pretty clear, are they not? The sperm is what determines whether you have a girl or a boy. Seems pretty far fetched to say that men with a larger amount of X-sperm reproduce with more beautiful women.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:52 PM on July 28 [+] [!]


I haven't read the article; this is just speculation. Also I'm a man and have therefore never ovulated, am ignorant of what a cycle is really like, etc. I'm not a doctor and have no special knowledge of biology. In short, take this with a grain of salt.

When a woman is ovulating (or close to ovulation), her sex drive may be higher than otherwise; this may (by virtue of her initiating sex more often during these intervals) influence the timing of sex towards ovulation.

When a woman is beautiful, then this may induce her partner to initiate sex more often. But males' variation in sex drive has no a priori reason to coincide in any systematic way with ovulation. So attractiveness may serve to spread the timing of sex out around the woman's entire cycle.

Now, fertilization occurs within a certain window of time; the egg has only so long to live- and crucially, sperm also live for only some small amount of time. When sex introduces sperm into the female near the time of ovulation, there is some baseline proportion of X-carrying and Y-carrying sperm that end up fertilizing the egg. The longevity of the sperm shouldn't matter too much in this case- any sperm that can live long enough to get to the egg has a chance at fertilization.

But what about sex that happens long enough before ovulation? The sperm have to be able to survive inside the female until the egg is released. If X-carrying sperm could live longer than Y-carrying sperm, then they would be better at leveraging the matings that happened before ovulation.

So that's a guess at why more attractive women could end up with more daughters. Their attractiveness induces their male partners to have more sex with them at times unrelated to the woman's cycle- including times that require long-lived sperm for fertilization; X-carrying sperm might live longer than Y-carrying sperm, so they can leverage those matings better. It was pulled out of my ass, but it sounds vaguely plausible.
posted by Jpfed at 6:42 PM on July 28, 2009


This seems true for Sweden but not for England, Ireland or the USA.
posted by tarvuz at 7:49 PM on July 28, 2009


It's really disappointing to read comments from people so opposed to the study's conclusion that they a priori reject it, or even go so far as the flag the post.

Yes, I see how this can be upsetting (god knows I'm not the shiniest penny in the cash register), and how its implications seemingly may undermine (our shared) liberal and feminist beliefs.

But it only undermines your world-view if you believe that the "is" should imply "ought", that is, if the bedrock of your moral system is to be found in nature rather than what is ethically right.

And that tendency to ground morals in what you receive, be it from nature or god's "prophets", and the resulting desire to just shut down these studies and discussions of them, really reminds me of the way creationists react.

The study maay be wrong, it may be right, but I'd rather we search for the truth than take comfort in truisms.
posted by orthogonality at 10:17 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Right, this is NOT rocket science, this is rocket in yer pocket science.
posted by Oyéah at 10:17 PM on July 28, 2009


I really don't understand why anything to do with a woman would have any impact on how many girls they give birth to. The genetics of reproduction are pretty clear, are they not? The sperm is what determines whether you have a girl or a boy. Seems pretty far fetched to say that men with a larger amount of X-sperm reproduce with more beautiful women.

Yes, but: there are numerous fascinating ways genes can influence which sperm gets to fertilize the egg. Or, if the egg is fertilized by the "wrong" sperm and thus develops into the "wrong" gender, there are genes that will kill that embryo (or change its sex, or render it sterile), in order to ensure that more of the gender the gene "prefers" make it into subsequent generations. (The preference is usually for the chromosome that gene resides in, but more complicated scenarios involving cooperating "rebel" genes also occur.)

In more general terms, segregation distortion occurs when some mechanism causes certain genes (including but not limited to sex-determining genes) to be overrepresented (relative to a chance distribution) in offspring.

In some cases, this is caused by the female's genome, in some cases by the male's, and most fascinatingly, sometimes by parasitic genes that may be reproduced along with the one parent's genome but are not strictly "part of" that genome.

(I've long wanted to do an FPP about this, but I haven't been able to find sufficiently simple expositions on the web.)
posted by orthogonality at 10:52 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I lament that I left the field of scientific enquiry before I learned about stripper field-research studies. I lament that shit hard.
posted by Mister_A at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2009


Thanks for the responses Jpfed and orthogonality. Obviously I didn't consider these things, and I am always happy to learn something new.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2009


It's really disappointing to read comments from people so opposed to the study's conclusion that they a priori reject it

There are good reasons to a priori reject the study given the principal investigator's history of crap science. And even if you aren't aware of that, you can tell it's bad science because it's comparing biological apples (human reproductive fitness) with cultural oranges (yearbook photographs).

Yearbook photographs are manipulated artifacts. It's possible, for instance, that the difference in appearance in the yearbook photographs is down to the split between those whose parents were wealthy enough to pay for airbrushing and those whose parents were too poor to pay for airbrushing (which cost money back in the pre-Photoshop era).
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:14 AM on July 29, 2009




"Science is only right when it agrees with my pre-conceived notions on how the world should be."
posted by Zambrano at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2009


Getting past that, you haven't linked to any papers detailing what actually does correspond to beauty on average, which seems rather important as it comprises the meat of your response.

If you're interested in that question, here's an excellent website that goes over a lot of the research (and allows you to participate in some online experiments!
posted by yoink at 5:50 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should add that at the above website they show some interesting research on symmetry which suggests that it plays a much smaller role in determining attractiveness than some earlier studies suggested.
posted by yoink at 5:51 PM on July 29, 2009


Interesting discussion, thanks. As the mother of three daughters though I gotta totally support this study.
posted by saucysault at 5:26 AM on August 4, 2009


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