When a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist...
February 10, 2010 9:45 PM   Subscribe



 
You can't argue with z-scores like that.
posted by boo_radley at 9:51 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised they showed women who were "surgically altered". Couldn't they just find people with the correct ratios to begin with?
posted by delmoi at 9:52 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but only if she's five-three.
posted by Jimbob at 9:56 PM on February 10, 2010 [38 favorites]


I'm surprised they showed women who were "surgically altered". Couldn't they just find people with the correct ratios to begin with?

Have you ever been to Georgia?
posted by Justinian at 9:57 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like (~0.7) WHR with redistributed body fat and I cannot lie.

Okay I came up with this before reading the post title and I refuse to not post it so THERE.
posted by griphus at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'm surprised they showed women who were "surgically altered". Couldn't they just find people with the correct ratios to begin with?

I think the idea was that it helped control for variance in other features. One would expect, for example, that the women's faces, chests, and legs would be essentially unchanged pre- and post-surgery. So the only thing that changed was the waist-to-hip ratio. This way the researchers could use a small number of stimuli instead of finding hundreds of women willing to pose nude.
posted by jedicus at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Excuse my ignorance, but what makes 0.7 an "optimal" waist-to-hip ratio?
posted by Dr. Send at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2010


0.7 is about my wife's WHR and I gotta say, it's pretty goddamn optimal.
posted by signalnine at 10:05 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]




The angle of the dangle is proportional to the bootie of the cutie and the heat of the meat.
QED.
posted by mosk at 10:07 PM on February 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


This way the researchers could use a small number of stimuli instead of finding hundreds of women willing to pose nude.

Is these some sort of inversion rule applied to this? Because I haven't yet topped off on the number of stimuli it takes to replace one.
posted by griphus at 10:08 PM on February 10, 2010


> Activate Neural Reward Centers

So that's how all the cool scientists refer to "getting a boner" these days?

Oh great, now I won't be able to have romantic time with my wife without "ACTIVATE NEURAL REWARD CENTERS!!!!" running through my head.

No, the other head.

Wait, am I still typing this out loud?

posted by The Card Cheat at 10:10 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here, using fMRI, we found that males show activation in brain reward centers in response to naked female bodies...

You need fMRI for this? Really?
posted by grounded at 10:11 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Platek cowrote Beauty is in the eye of the plastic surgeon: Waist–hip ratio (WHR) and women’s attractiveness, which is cited in the post's article; unfortunately, it's not available on-line.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:11 PM on February 10, 2010


The "Sticky Moments" thread is one post down, y'all.
posted by darkstar at 10:16 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


what makes 0.7 an "optimal" waist-to-hip ratio?

It's optimal in inducing a favorable response in observing men. As to why that particular ratio is optimal (in that way) you'd have to ask evolution. But it is an observed fact that it is.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:17 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought everyone learned this, especially the 0.7 ratio thing in that awkward Intro. Anthropology/Sociology/Psychology class in high school that you didn't want to take but did so anyway because that senior told you it was easy and your friend will be there and let's face it the alternatives suck even more and NO WAY are you gonna do another semester of french with that awful bitch lady - I bet she lives alone and has no friends - and you never know it might just be fun and WHAT? [class clown] will be there? oh this will be AWESOME! cant wait!!!

wait......what?
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 10:18 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


14 men (Mage = 25.21, S.D. = 6.30) were scanned using fMRI while making attractiveness ratings to randomly and individually presented pictures (one from the rear and one from an oblique rear position for each woman) of seven naked female bodies prior to and after recovery from an elective cosmetic surgical procedure to reconfigure and optimize WHR

Sample size fail.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:22 PM on February 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Obligatory "What WHR do dead salmon respond the most to" comment.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:25 PM on February 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sample size fail.

Be honest, you didn't actually read the whole thing, did you? Or could you explain why specifically you think the methodology was flawed?

At least it wasn't CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION AMIRITE LOL!!!!111!11eleven
posted by Justinian at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


Me, personally, I carry a tape measure and pocket WHR chart on every date, just to make sure my prospective breeding partner "sizes up" properly, as it were.

See, friends, I find it necessary to remind women that the ideal female body is not culturally-defined, but is instead the product of an absolute (or let's say, "golden") mean, whose precise proportions can be discovered only through the careful study of Nature. Or, to put it more crassly: somewhere in the crystalline heavens revolves a booty so fine, you know I got to make it mine.

Scholars conjecture that the formula for the Ideal WHR is to be found inscribed on the wings of flaming eagle whose nest is somewhere in the vicinity of the Coelum Empireum Habitaculum Dei et Omnium Electorum.
posted by ford and the prefects at 10:29 PM on February 10, 2010 [24 favorites]


But it doesn't mean a thing if she's got an awful personality.
posted by bwg at 10:31 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


sooo...she's a 'perfect' 36-25.2-36?
posted by sexyrobot at 10:36 PM on February 10, 2010


Or could you explain why specifically you think the methodology was flawed?

That's always a problem when you present raw scientific articles to a lay audience: how do they evaluate the claims? I know there are ways to tell whether a sample is "big enough" or not, but I don't know what it is, because I haven't taken a statistics course in my life. Could one of our learned friends come to our help?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:37 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought everyone learned this, especially the 0.7 ratio thing in that awkward Intro. Anthropology/Sociology/Psychology class in high school that you didn't want to take but did so anyway because that senior told you it was easy and your friend will be there and let's face it the alternatives suck even more and NO WAY are you gonna do another semester of french with that awful bitch lady - I bet she lives alone and has no friends - and you never know it might just be fun and WHAT? [class clown] will be there? oh this will be AWESOME! cant wait!!!

Actually the 0.7 ratio thing is a recent discovery, less than 10 years old, which is why they're still doing studies confirming it. So actually only very young people learned that in high school.
posted by Caduceus at 10:37 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I look forward to reading about their next study of the optimum brain-to-cock ratio that women look for in a mate. I mean, not to scare you fellas too much or anything... but all the ladies out there know what I'm talking about, amirite?
posted by scody at 10:38 PM on February 10, 2010 [33 favorites]


aka How White Guys Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic-bootied Fat Girl
posted by Juicy Avenger at 10:40 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I won't even consider someone as a potential mate unless he has at least six cocks per brain.
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:42 PM on February 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


I won't even consider someone as a potential mate unless he has at least six cocks per brain.

Error: Divide by zero
posted by griphus at 10:45 PM on February 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


IANANeurophysiologist, so can someone break this down for me? The way I read it, they showed pictures of naked ladies to men, before and after cosmetic surgery. The men found the pictures after surgery more attractive, and this shows up in the fMRI. Isn't this what cosmetic surgery is supposed to do? I would expect them to have a control group of pre- and post- surgery women that do not have the "ideal" ratio after surgery to justify the conclusion that men like WHR=0.7 specifically, but IANAPlastic surgeon either, so I don't know if this ever happens.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:46 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP ARGH
posted by jokeefe at 10:46 PM on February 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Be honest, you didn't actually read the whole thing, did you? Or could you explain why specifically you think the methodology was flawed?

Yeah, I did actually read the whole thing. The most interesting part, for me, was the finding (with particularly low p-values) of the different brain centres activated, depending on whether the WHR was "optimal" or whatever-the-hell-it-was-pre-surgery, plus the finding that BMI had little to do with it.

So, there's problem #1: we have no indication of what the WHRs were before surgery, or at least, none that I could see. Perhaps the women were straight-up-and-down (WHR = 1), perhaps they were convex (WHR>1), being particularly obese around the waist? Who knows? Certainly not us!

But if the seven (!) women were chosen because they specifically opted for this "magical ratio" of 0.7 (again, we don't know this is the case, but footnote 14 at that point strongly points to the idea that plastic surgeons use this gem of wisdom as their insider knowledge when planning surgery) then it just about goes without saying that their more hourglassy versions of themselves are going to appeal more than their less shapely versions, without conclusively showing that the 0.7 ratio is, in fact, as optimal as it is claimed to be.

Next, the authors weasel-word this "finding" as further evidence of some kind of cross-cultural pattern, in spite of a teensy sample size of men, and, again, with zero attempt to control for culture, as far as their stated methodology tells us.

Third, I find the BMI finding a bit dubious, unless they controlled for in-person assessments versus assessments of photographs, because I don't really think that it's possible to get a proper visceral grasp of size from an image - miniscule movie stars are a case in point here. You'd never guess that Salma Hayek is about 5'2", would you?

Anyway, I'd humbly suggest that more than 7 women (coming from & moving towards a range of different WHRs) would be of far greater value for the WHR & BMI findings, and more than 14 men (coming from a range of cultural backgrounds) would be needed before claiming any sort of support for this supposed cross-cultural law.

That's off the top of my head. Would you like any more?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:47 PM on February 10, 2010 [43 favorites]


I look forward to reading about their next study of the optimum brain-to-cock ratio that women look for in a mate. I mean, not to scare you fellas too much or anything... but all the ladies out there know what I'm talking about, amirite?

Especially if it's done in the context of painful, potentially dangerous plastic surgery procedures and before and after pictures! Line up, guys, the measuring tape is waiting....
posted by jokeefe at 10:48 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Violent Femmes had this figured out decades ago.
posted by quadog at 10:49 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


On postview: Dr Dracator said the same point I was making, in regards to controlling for women with WHRs of something other than 0.7 post-surgery.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:50 PM on February 10, 2010


Perhaps I'm just feeling cynical tonight, but I resent this. Women are having plastic surgery to alter their bodies because they aren't good enough in some way, and wow, science shows that men get more excited seeing them naked after the surgery.

Isn't it just as harmful to women portray the hourglass figure as the ideal archetype of a sexy goddess as it is to have Hollywood's presentation of ideal beauty in the form of a skin-and-bones woman? Women who are born skinny, born without this ideal WHR aren't living up, and science can prove it! But boy, that surgery works wonders.
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:06 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Be honest, you didn't actually read the whole thing, did you? Or could you explain why specifically you think the methodology was flawed?

Well for one thing, the vast majority of p-values they report are uncorrected (and the few that are corrected are using a mask which they appear to have conjured up post-hoc). I'm not a professional statistician, so maybe I'm missing something, but why wouldn't they correct for multiple comparisons and then report those values - unless when you correct for the tens of thousands of comparisons typically done in neuroimaging, your results disappear?

I also take issue with the small subject pool (an n of 14 is not the worst I've seen, but it's not great either) and the small sample size (would it really fuss them to find more than 7 women as stimuli?).

I don't know, I'm not saying it's necessarily bull, but unfortunately neuroimaging tends to let you find what you want to find, if you don't use it with strict integrity. And there's a whole cult(ure) of finding what you want to find in evo psych, especially evo psych studying women and sexuality.
posted by shaun uh at 11:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


Also, what UbuRoivas said.
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:09 PM on February 10, 2010


Dev Singh was my psych professor in college and his research on this topic was mentioned in the Weekly World News under a headline like "Men Like Chicks with Big Butts".

I saw the article while reading the rag in line at the grocery store. I bought a copy and took it to him in class. It was one of those large auditoriums. Singh looked at the article, looked at the magazine and said "What are you doing reading this crap?"

I said, "Me? Reading this crap? I'm not the one whose name is in the damn magazine!"

He laughed. Great professor.
posted by Seamus at 11:13 PM on February 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Harmful to women? What the hell are you going on about? It's biology, lady. Deal with it. We don't censor science just because we don't like the things it discovers about the world, or about us.

So yes, the hourglass figure is the frickin' ideal, just like tall and healthy is perceived as better than short and malnourished. You act like this is some grand conspiracy on the part of __(TBD)__ to oppress you and your sisters in frumpiness, when it's just how we were programmed through centuries of evolution- and like all desirable traits we don't all get them handed out to us in equal genetic measure. There's no harm in pointing out that a particular ratio seems to be the ideal, unless you're saying that you feel bad about yourself because you don't have the body of Christina Hendricks and wish God wasn't such an unfair misogynist, apparently.

Besides, I'd hazard you're just as discriminating about the bodies of those you are attracted to, but you don't have the honesty to admit it. It's just a weird wacky and totally unrelated correlation between those "great personalities" and "nice laughs" you claim are the most important thing, and the well-proportioned figures and clear complexions of the men or women to whom you're attracted.
posted by hincandenza at 11:27 PM on February 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


I said, "Me? Reading this crap? I'm not the one whose name is in the damn magazine!"

He laughed. Great professor.


I realize that scientists often have very little control over how their research is presented, but I still think they should bear some responsibility - or feel some shame - when their work is used to perpetuate very harmful ideas. Was it Gregor Mendel's fault that his discovery of genes was later used to justify such horrors as eugenics programs? No, of course not - but I like to think he would have denounced it.
posted by shaun uh at 11:29 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


(And by "discovered" I mean "hypothesized the existence of", just to be clear. I know Mendel live a good century before the discovery of DNA.)
posted by shaun uh at 11:33 PM on February 10, 2010


I don't think she meant it that way, hinc. One can simultaneously be annoyed at evidence that supports an argument one finds dispiriting at the same time as agreeing that said evidence is valid. Me, I'm annoyed by all the research that says nothing can go faster than the speed of light, because of what it implies about interstellar travel. Doesn't mean I'm all Grar! Physics! Burn! about it.
posted by Ritchie at 11:40 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK sure, but I just don't think "thin waist and round butt = good" compares to "kill the weaklings to improve the Aryan race." Maybe it's just me being a dude but c'mon.
posted by msalt at 11:41 PM on February 10, 2010


Harmful to women? What the hell are you going on about? It's biology, lady. Deal with it. We don't censor science just because we don't like the things it discovers about the world, or about us.

You are aware that different cultures have different preferred WHRs? Which suggests that it's not "just biology" - or at least, not only biology?

You're also aware that pointing out that scientists can be biased does not equal "censoring science", of course. I mean, you are aware that scientists are not perfect and can be biased, aren't you?

And also calling someone fat is not a legitimate argument.

But you know these things, right?
posted by shaun uh at 11:43 PM on February 10, 2010 [23 favorites]


So yes, the hourglass figure is the frickin' ideal

Is it the ideal or the mean? Is there a difference?
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:43 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we're here, can someone explain to me why liking big butts has anything to do with an ability to lie? I mean, my opinion on butt sizes of both men and women has nothing to do with my capacity for the truth. Honest.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:44 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK sure, but I just don't think "thin waist and round butt = good" compares to "kill the weaklings to improve the Aryan race." Maybe it's just me being a dude but c'mon.

Making a comparison is not the same thing as asserting equivalency. I don't mean to be hyperbolic, merely to illustrate my wish that scientists finding their work misconstrued speak out against it. Girls starve themselves to death over bad body images, it's not like no one's getting hurt at all here.
posted by shaun uh at 11:46 PM on February 10, 2010


Dev Singh was my psych professor in college

Hey, me too! PSY 350, Fall 1995. Hook 'em, Dev Singh!
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:52 PM on February 10, 2010


hincandenza: yet we don't see a lot of studies that parade a bunch of naked men with different shoulder-waist ratios in front of women and observe their brain activity to determine the "ideal" male body.

Sure, if it's a biological fact, then it's a biological fact, nothing to be done about it one way or another. But biologists don't just go looking for random facts just, you know, just because. The direction their research takes is supposed to be useful in some way. Why do we see a compulsion to determine the "ideal" female figure but not the male? The sorts of facts you decide to look for can reflect an ideological bias.
posted by creasy boy at 11:56 PM on February 10, 2010 [20 favorites]


yet we don't see a lot of studies that parade a bunch of naked men with different shoulder-waist ratios in front of women and observe their brain activity to determine the "ideal" male body.

We don't? I'm fairly certain neither you nor I have performed the painstaking review of ongoing research needed to make such a statement.

Speaking as a guy who is perfectly happy with his current relationship: I'm still interested in knowing what the "ideal" male body's dimensions and proportions are.

At any rate, I'm curious as to where studies like these lead - do we wind up with a vast database that can render out the platonic ideals of men and women for any given culture or demographic? I'd find that pretty interesting, even just as an abstract exercise. Or go one further yet: a program that analyzes *my* appearance, fitness, etc., and returns with what my deviation from ideal is, and lists out the easiest steps I can take to shore up those shortcomings.

No more Cheetos and hit the elliptical tomorrow? Fuck!
posted by Ryvar at 12:13 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is probably a very important subject but it just made me want to listen to the Mother Hips.
posted by kenlayne at 12:14 AM on February 11, 2010


In other news: fucking duh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:16 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


...and the only pictures were of brain scans, pfft, scientists.
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:17 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The most interesting part, for me, was the finding (with particularly low p-values) of the different brain centres activated, depending on whether the WHR was "optimal" or whatever-the-hell-it-was-pre-surgery, plus the finding that BMI had little to do with it.

That was the only part to this study. This was an fMRI study looking at brain activation related to ratings of attractiveness as well as changes in BMI and WHR (pre- and post-surgery for an individual).

Things this study was not about: what the optimal WHR is, WHR being cross-cultural, what participants found more attractive.

If you're going to criticize sample size for a study that found an effect, then you better be able to explain how sample size increases might change the conclusions in a way that matters. Likewise if you criticize the stimulus set. There's been no decent arguments presented on either front so far.

I can't speak much to the stats, but reporting uncorrected p-values is legitimate in that it gives the reader all the same information, while allowing them to see possible variation in the "significance" of individual effects. (Scare quotes because p-value is an indicator of reliability of an effect, not its size. Though I believe in fMRI research it does work in both ways.)
posted by parudox at 12:36 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did they test this using pictures of pear-shaped women who also met the waist to hip ratio? Because I'm pretty sure breast size would also factor into this.
posted by Kris10_b at 12:43 AM on February 11, 2010


Gets out graph paper, draws a female figure.

...

I'll be in my bunk!
posted by moonbiter at 12:53 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eh, I think this is a rather poor study, though. If you have plastic surgery, they're going to try to make the results look good, regardless of the chosen WH ratio.
posted by delmoi at 12:54 AM on February 11, 2010


It seems odd to me that male evolution would zero in on this ideal WHR, engraving it in the male brain, and at the same time female evolution did not zero in on this idea WHR so that nearly all females would embody it. Does natural selection not work as well for women?

Isn't 0.7 suspiciously close to the natural logarithm of 2? Could it be a mathematical law? Also.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:56 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


> yet we don't see a lot of studies that parade a bunch of naked men with different shoulder-waist ratios in front of women and observe their brain activity to determine the "ideal" male body
> The direction their research takes is supposed to be useful in some way.

Precisely.

There are a preponderance of studies on male reaction to female appearance, rather than the reverse, in part because it seems obvious that simple physical beauty has a stronger and more immediate effect on male behavior than on female behavior.

Bluntly, while male beauty usually does have a very strong effect on a woman, her attraction to a man tends to be sharply qualified by an array of factors outside of his height, physique, and facial symmetry-- factors such as that man's social skills, his intelligence, and his wealth. Male looks tend to fit into a larger picture of overall attractiveness-- an accumulation of attractive qualities, a narrative.

For men, by contrast, a woman's attractiveness is immediate and visual. Physical beauty tends to overshadow factors like "compatibility". The potentially massive allure of her physical beauty is primarily modified by her apparent availability-- and even her availability or lack of same may have only minor impact on her perceived attractiveness. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, regardless of her other qualities; a not-beautiful woman is a not-beautiful woman, again, regardless of her other qualities. Particularly at the extremes, male desire tends to take a harshly categorical, binary form.

All of which is to say that, when attempting to understand human social behavior, female physical beauty is a profoundly important, useful variable-- and male physical beauty, rather less so.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:09 AM on February 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


yet we don't see a lot of studies that parade a bunch of naked men with different shoulder-waist ratios in front of women and observe their brain activity to determine the "ideal" male body.

If you scroll down, references 1-6 are about how face shape, face masculinity and shoulder-waist ratios affect how women rate men, and how women's preferences change during their menstrual cycles. Although not linked to from here, there's also solid evidence that women prefer the smell of guys with different HLA types (to do with the immune system), and that this preference also changes throughout the menstrual cycle.

At any rate, I'm curious as to where studies like these lead - do we wind up with a vast database that can render out the platonic ideals of men and women for any given culture or demographic? I'd find that pretty interesting, even just as an abstract exercise. Or go one further yet: a program that analyzes *my* appearance, fitness, etc., and returns with what my deviation from ideal is, and lists out the easiest steps I can take to shore up those shortcomings.

Probably. Reference 17 from that paper is "Wetsman A, Marlowe F (1999) How Universal Are Preferences for Female Waist-to-Hip Ratios? Evidence from the Hadza of Tanzania. Evolution and Human Behavior 20: 219–228." I don't know the answer because I haven't read it yet.

However, you might have seen this before but if you take the average of the population's faces, the composite image gets more and more attractive as rated by members of that population. This seems to work across cultures, and still works if you include all races in your sample set. for example. There was a page with an average of all the "Miss World" contestents from various countries, which was interesting to look at if you can find it.


It seems odd to me that male evolution would zero in on this ideal WHR, engraving it in the male brain, and at the same time female evolution did not zero in on this idea WHR so that nearly all females would embody it. Does natural selection not work as well for women?

The argument is that the WHR (and other indicators like facial symmetry, clear skin, good teeth) are indicators that a person is healthy and had good nutrition when they were children and adolescents. Similarly, for guys being tall is an indicator of good nutrition and general health as a youth, while shoulder-hip ratio and facial masculinity say a lot about the testosterone levels he was exposed in in the womb, which is a good indicator of his mother's health, and that he produced during adolescence, which is a good indicator of his health.

So the hypothesis runs that we're all evolved to aim for these "ideals" but only the healthiest -- and therefore most reproductively viable -- specimens can actually get there.
posted by metaBugs at 1:14 AM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well then I stand corrected on that point.
posted by creasy boy at 1:22 AM on February 11, 2010


In a perfect world, everyone would be able to get huge samples, but fMRI is expensive. An n of 14 is pretty standard. If you shoot to collect 15 or 16, and expect to lose one or two to motion or various technical issues, your sample is robust enough to pass muster in the eyes of most reviewers.

In addition to the high cost of this sort of neuroimaging, availability of the scanner is another limiting factor. At a lot of magnets, it can be extremely difficult to book even three or four hours a week. Solid collaboration across neuroimaging labs can actually alleviate some of the limiting factors on fMRI sample sizes by running multiple similar studies per scanning session.

As to this paper, I buy the nucleus accumbens/ventral striatum activity as a replicable neural correlate of reward, and I think the ACC/OFC findings are neat, but I think there's probably a more interesting story (albeit a stickier one) about what's going on in those regions.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:50 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's really time we got over our fear of the idea that the brain is a biological organ subject to evolutionary pressure.
posted by DU at 2:54 AM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Anyone who thinks there is an ideal of feminine beauty which remains constant across history and across culture should be made to read Angela Carter's take-down of Arthur Marwick, just as a reminder of how silly male academics can look when they start pontificating about female attractiveness:

Marwick’s book is a study in an eroticism of the eye that does not take into account the fact that the eye is not a sexual organ, as such: the eye envies, the eye desires on its own account. He remarks that the model girls who became famous in the Sixties – Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy et al – were beauties who, unlike the fabulous courtesans of the Belle Epoque, led wholly respectable private lives, according to the manners of the time. (In fact, their private lives in those days, involving cohabitation without marriage, would have been sufficiently scandalous at the turn of the century.) Their romances belonged to a different order of fantasy than the liasons of women like Polaire and La Belle Otéro, Cora Pearl, ‘Skittles’ and so on. Twiggy and Justin de Villeneuve, Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey, Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp – these affairs were not the stuff of male erotic reverie but of female fantasy.

And their appeal was primarily to women. However much men may have admired them, it was women who made Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton stars and they modelled for women’s magazines and the women’s pages of newspapers, not for Men Only. They were offering themselves to be looked at by women; even if the photographers who mediated the images were men, the editorial staff who promoted the various ‘faces of the year’ were largely women and the consumers of the imagery almost wholly so. There is a complexity to this that Professor Marwick, with his implicit criterion of beddability, does not explore, even if he is keen to explore the vexed question of Twiggy’s bosom in the days of her early fame and confirms that, yes indeed, she was adequately endowed. ‘Twiggy, with her 31 inch bust, had beautiful, small but perfectly proportioned breasts, as can be seen from the photograph of her in a bikini reproduced III,116.’

It is surely the kindest thing to regard this bizarre trip around yesteryear’s pin-ups as a one-off aberration from a perfectly reputable historian who has stretched out a simple, if debatable proposition – that, through Western European history, all human beings have always fancied the sort of people he fancies – to accommodate a degree of, to me, incoherent theorising which is not without its unintentionally comic side.

posted by verstegan at 2:57 AM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Surgery? Have they no Photoshop?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:25 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with parudox. Sample size is a bit of a red herring. Layman's terms: you can run the numbers to account for sample size.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:30 AM on February 11, 2010


Sample size fail.

Be honest, you didn't actually read the whole thing, did you? Or could you explain why specifically you think the methodology was flawed?


When I saw this was tested on 14 men, I stopped reading as I concluded the sample size was far too small. Isn't it quite obvious that testing something as complicated as this on 14 people is not rigorous?
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 4:17 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I believe Prof Mix A Lot has done much research in this area
posted by Damienmce at 4:35 AM on February 11, 2010


My Neural Reward Centers Activate when the wind blows. Just saying.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:39 AM on February 11, 2010


When I saw this was tested on 14 men, I stopped reading as I concluded the sample size was far too small. Isn't it quite obvious that testing something as complicated as this on 14 people is not rigorous?

No.
posted by parudox at 5:03 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Neural reward centers activation doesn't mean much. They are the sluts of the neural centers.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:23 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


New research shows that exposure to sandwiches activates neural reward circuits! Melted cheese helps! Honestly, isn't there a line to use these machines?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:25 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't give this anything beyond a shrug. The appeal of the .7 ratio for at least some cultures seems pretty well established; proving that not only do men like that ratio but also have their brains light up isn't that exciting. And (if I'm understanding the use of pre- and post-surgery photos correctly), being able to say that the appeal of the .7 ratio is independent of BMI is also not very novel -- I thought that that was the point of a dimensionless ratio in the first place, but perhaps I misunderstand.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's my question:

If they could somehow go back in time and test 14 guys from the Renaissance, when the ideal female figure was zaftig and plump and Rubenesque....would they still get the same results?

In other words, yes, those 14 guys got a boner at that exact hip-to-waist ratio, but are we sure biology wired their brains TO get a boner at that? Or was it culture that did?

And we're back to the nature-vs.-nurture debate once again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


The .7 thing was established science when I was in college psych courses in 1998. Supposedly, that's when a woman's got optimum birthing hips. Which is why it has a physiological basis; it's not about a particular style, nor is it a recent invention. It's about pre-medical infant mortality rates (sorry 'bout your outrage, tho').
posted by Eideteker at 6:07 AM on February 11, 2010


proving that not only do men like that ratio but also have their brains light up isn't that exciting.

there's no difference between liking something and having your brain light up. Your brain "lights up" when you like something. That doesn't mean it's evolutionarily necessary or biologically programmed or anything. It just means you like it. You can't like it without the activity of liking it taking place in your brain.

So basically this is like doing a survey of what guys like with a lie detector that actually works. But it doesn't clear up anything about nature vs nurture.

On preview, what Empress said.
posted by mdn at 6:15 AM on February 11, 2010


Obligatory Jonathan Coulton remix.
posted by zarq at 6:18 AM on February 11, 2010


Sample size? fMRIs are expensive. You're not going to get an n of 400 for a study like this, where the scan isn't being done for diagnostic reasons as well.
posted by gaspode at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2010


I keep on dancing (keep on)
Keep on doing the jerk right now
Shake it, shake it, baby
Come on and show me how you work

posted by telstar at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2010


As has been said multiple times - N=14. Sorry, no.
posted by cashman at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2010


This is your brain.
This is your brain on Optimal Waist to Hip Ratios.
Any questions?
posted by Kabanos at 6:22 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's off the top of my head. Would you like any more?

Thanks. That was a much better comment than your off-the-cuff one-liner.
posted by smackfu at 6:22 AM on February 11, 2010


My understanding was that hip-width is irrelevant to ease of birth - its the size of the pelvic inlet where the baby passes through, and is unrelated to the size of hips. Which is why plenty of ladies with "birthing hips" have to have a c-section and plenty of narrower-hipped women can give birth to good-sized babies just fine.

But, not an expert. Am I wrong about this?
posted by hegemone at 6:22 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This WHR, it vibrates?
posted by oddman at 6:25 AM on February 11, 2010


All of which is to say that, when attempting to understand human social behavior, female physical beauty is a profoundly important, useful variable-- and male physical beauty, rather less so.

Ahahaha. Sorry, but women are just as shallow as men in this regard. Ask my husband about my strong, immediate reaction to David Tennant.

(And before you say, well, you're not married to David Tennant--he's not married to Alyson Hannigan either. This study wasn't meant to study how we pick long term mates; it's meant to gauge immediate, visceral reactions to sexual attractiveness. And, yep, women have those, too.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:30 AM on February 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


In fact, the authors of this study don't find women's reactions to men's attractiveness irrelevant at all:
Variations in men's facial (e.g., symmetry, masculinity) and body (e.g., shoulder-to-hip ratio) morphology are related to women's ratings of attractiveness. Specifically, women tend to rate more symmetrical and masculine faces, and higher SHR[1] as attractive during fertile phases of their menstrual cycle and for short-term mating partners[2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Several recent findings[9], [10], [11], [12] demonstrate that faces that are rated as attractive activate neural reward substrates in females, and that this neural activation is partly modulated by hormonal status of women[11]. These findings support the hypothesis that men's facial and body morphology serves as an honest biosignal to genetic fitness.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:43 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


People like to think that their conscious rational thoughts are ultimately in charge and entirely under their control. It's a little disconcerting to realize we're largely driven by autonomic neurochemical and hormone releases.
posted by rocket88 at 6:45 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


This study can't possibly be valid because it makes me feel insecure.

Eh, I'd love to see similar studies for female -> male attraction, studies across cultures, non-hetero attraction, etc.

With pie charts. I will call them "cutie pies".
posted by LordSludge at 6:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder why they didn't review the limitations of their study.
posted by cashman at 6:52 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bluntly, while male beauty usually does have a very strong effect on a woman, her attraction to a man tends to be sharply qualified by an array of factors outside of his height, physique, and facial symmetry-- factors such as that man's social skills, his intelligence, and his wealth. Male looks tend to fit into a larger picture of overall attractiveness-- an accumulation of attractive qualities, a narrative.

For men, by contrast, a woman's attractiveness is immediate and visual. Physical beauty tends to overshadow factors like "compatibility". The potentially massive allure of her physical beauty is primarily modified by her apparent availability-- and even her availability or lack of same may have only minor impact on her perceived attractiveness. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, regardless of her other qualities; a not-beautiful woman is a not-beautiful woman, again, regardless of her other qualities. Particularly at the extremes, male desire tends to take a harshly categorical, binary form.


I don't understand this comment. When you're describing what women find attractive, you seem to be talking about what women want in a long-term mate (hence social skills, intelligence, and those gold-digging women want wealth too, of course). But for men, you're just talking about physical attraction, minus any other factors. By your comment, you'd think that men regularly marry women they dislike just because they're hot. Some men may do this (some women may do this) but I bet most married men actually like their wives, and consider things like social skills, intelligence, and compatibility before committing to them.

It's like you're comparing who women want to marry to who men want to fuck. Compare who women want to fuck to who men want to fuck if you want to talk about pure physical attraction.
posted by Mavri at 6:56 AM on February 11, 2010 [17 favorites]


Isn't it quite obvious that testing something as complicated as this on 14 people is not rigorous?

Not obvious at all! You can do an extremely rigorous study on an N of 1. 14 is a fine sample size for a study like this.

Read what the authors say: These findings suggest that an hourglass figure (i.e., an optimal WHR) activates brain centers that drive appetitive sociality/attention toward females that represent the highest-quality reproductive partners. This is the first description of a neural correlate implicating WHR as a putative honest biological signal of female reproductive viability and its effects on men's neurological processing.

This is the pilot study, as it were. You can't get grants to do a larger study unless you demonstrate something interesting, like the hypothesis stated above. This is how science is done. You don't start with the giant study-to-end-all-studies, because you have no idea if you're measuring the right things until you do the pilot studies, and no one will pay for that. This is as it should be.
posted by Mister_A at 6:58 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't speak much to the stats, but reporting uncorrected p-values is legitimate in that it gives the reader all the same information, while allowing them to see possible variation in the "significance" of individual effects. (Scare quotes because p-value is an indicator of reliability of an effect, not its size. Though I believe in fMRI research it does work in both ways.)

Yes, but I thought that correcting p-values was absolutely necessary in neuroimaging given the huge number of comparisons being done - on the order of 100,000. A simple bonferonni correction might be too strict, so let's say we're only correcting for 100 comparisons - that still makes the uncorrected results not significant.

I am familiar with neuroimaging but no expert on the stats involved, so I may be totally wrong. I'll do some digging on this issue today, and get back to the thread, if no one else can resolve it.
posted by shaun uh at 7:04 AM on February 11, 2010


But for men, you're just talking about physical attraction, minus any other factors.

Not if this ratio is indicative of things like the chance of successful childbirth.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2010


Supposedly, that's when a woman's got optimum birthing hips.

No, birthing has nothing to do with it - because W-H ratio is variable according to how fat a person is. Your hips (and pelvic opening) can remain the same your whole life while your waist-to-hip ratio swings dramatically up and down. If this preference exists and is not culturally determined, it's not to do with birthing.
posted by Miko at 7:13 AM on February 11, 2010


Their method included 14 men. Let me repeat that: 14 men

Probably all university students, and all from various parts of the US.

Why are crap studies like this still being done. Let me rephrase that: why are crap studies like this still being funded?

These bloody genetic determinists should be scrubbed of tenure and sent back to school to take at least one year of liberal arts so they can get a proper education. That would sure activate my reward centre, I can tell you.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:16 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This study is further confounded by the fact that all the optimal WHR images are post-surgical. That is, they can't rule out the possibility that the areas of the brain they identify aren't responding to potentially unnatural changes wrought by the cosmetic procedure to begin with - think of it as the uncanny valley of hips and asses.

Also, they identify anterior cingulate cortex as a "reward center." It is not. Most often it is referred to as the brain region responsible for detecting errors or processing conflicting behavioral responses. Recent work is finding that ACC is sensitive to reward, but the pattern of activity these studies are finding is way too complex for it to be a pure reward center.

This is a crappy study.
posted by logicpunk at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


bwg: But it doesn't mean a thing if she's got an awful personality.

She ain't pretty, she's just [surgically altered to express an optimal (~0.7) WHR] that way.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:31 AM on February 11, 2010


God this is stupid.
posted by RajahKing at 7:35 AM on February 11, 2010


All right, just to add some information the other way (women -> men), apparently in men, it's all about shoulder to hip ratio.

SHR accounted for more variance in male sexual behavior than WHR, with high SHR men
reporting earlier masturbation and sex, more partners, more EPCs, and more frequently having been EPC partners. Unlike WHR, SHR was unrelated to all measures in females.

For women, WHRs of 0.67–0.80 are perceived as most attractive and healthy, with an
ideal around 0.7 (Singh, 1993). For males, the attractive range is typically 0.85–0.95, with an ideal of 0.9 (Singh, 1995). Low WHR in males is rated as less attractive, and is linked to several diseases associated with reduced testosterone and elevated estrogen production (Singh, 1993). At the other extreme, high male WHR may be indicative of fetal abnormalities and growth retardation (Singh, 1995). When analyzing the male data, we considered deviations in both directions. The closer WHR was to the ideal for males, the earlier the reported ages of first masturbation and first sex, and departures from 0.9 in either direction were associated with later onset of sexual behaviors.


Susan M. Hughes, Gordon G. Gallup, Jr., Sex differences in morphological predictors of sexual behavior: Shoulder to hip and waist to hip ratios, Evolution and Human Behavior 24 (2003) 173–178

Frankly, I have no idea what any of my ratios are, so....
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:37 AM on February 11, 2010


Science doesn't exist without people. It's not a truth written into the universe, slowly being revealed to whatever semi-intelligent consciousness stumbles across it. It's a process that people engage in - prejudiced, flawed, imperfect people, people looking to get grant funding, people trying to get tenure, people with their own biases both subtle and outrageous. Our academic system tries to prevent biases from influencing work, but it's not entirely successful. The lack of focus on replication, the uncertain standards, the pressure to achieve results when you've sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars and months or years of work into a study and if your work isn't significant than you aren't significant. You don't get tenure. You don't get grad students. You don't get your name on a paper in a respected journal and after so much work, that hurts.

And you know, I totally get all that. I sympathize. It's a stupid, stupid system. But it's a noxious mixture when you combine it with sexism, racism, and all the other forms of prejudice you're raised with in our society - all the little biases that cloud our perception and subconsciously motivate our decisions. Scientists aren't immune to that. Why would they be?

And so, science becomes an easy way to justify sexism. Men cheat because they've got a biological imperative to spread their seed. Women are emotional because they evolved to be the social fabric tying tribes together. And men like women who look a certain way because it indicates fertility. Never mind that women make 75 cents on the dollar to men, so when the men cheat, they're less likely to leave. Never mind that an emotional woman is seen as less competent and loses out on opportunities. Never mind that women already feel enough pressure to look certain ways that they spend thousands of dollars a year each on the beauty industry. Never mind that so many women have learned to hate their bodies, that some even die of it.

Never mind all that, though, 'cause this is science, right! We don't censor anyone by doing silly things like picking out the flaws and limitations and confounds and biases. That would be unscientific.
posted by shaun uh at 7:46 AM on February 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


"But for men, you're just talking about physical attraction, minus any other factors."

Not if this ratio is indicative of things like the chance of successful childbirth.


stinkycheese, if you want to make that argument you could flip this around and say that on the same subconscious level, women are attracted to specific physical characteristics in men because of how their children will in turn out. Works both ways.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are aware that different cultures have different preferred WHRs? Which suggests that it's not "just biology" - or at least, not only biology?

Citation, shaun uh? Because your assertions are completely opposite of the clinical studies that I've seen: studies which confirm that WHR is cross-cultural, and therefore probably "just biology".
posted by IAmBroom at 8:31 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


pretty girls are pretty
posted by king walnut at 8:36 AM on February 11, 2010


It seems odd to me that male evolution would zero in on this ideal WHR, engraving it in the male brain, and at the same time female evolution did not zero in on this idea WHR so that nearly all females would embody it. Does natural selection not work as well for women?

Because natural selection isn't part of the equation here. It's not like there are generations of women who failed to reproduce because their waist-hip ratio was less than ideal. Before the last thousand years or so, every fertile woman would reproduce, so there's no selection pressure as such.
posted by jokeefe at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2010


"No, birthing has nothing to do with it - because W-H ratio is variable according to how fat a person is. Your hips (and pelvic opening) can remain the same your whole life while your waist-to-hip ratio swings dramatically up and down. If this preference exists and is not culturally determined, it's not to do with birthing."

How much did people's weight fluctuate historically? I thought that the plenitude that allowed your typical overweight American (or even those fat Romans you see in the movies) did not exist until the last thousand or two years. Were there really fat cavewomen in any significant number?

I know you dislike evolutionary psychology, but there's nothing here that's deliberately antifeminist in this. It's similar to facial symmetry; it's a historical biological fact, not a pronouncement on how to live our lives in this current day and age.
posted by Eideteker at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2010


It's not like there are generations of women who failed to reproduce because their waist-hip ratio was less than ideal. Before the last thousand years or so, every fertile woman would reproduce,

But women with the more desirable ratio could begin mating earlier and more frequently. Evolution is a slow, long process, and there its not unreasonable to assume that natural selection was putting pressure on women to reach the ratio.

Also as someone said above, this is an ideal. Genetic variance means that on average people will approach this ratio, but it definitely doesn't rule out extremes on either side of the ratio.
posted by rosswald at 8:49 AM on February 11, 2010


(if the theory stands)
posted by rosswald at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2010


Never mind all that, though, 'cause this is science, right! We don't censor anyone by doing silly things like picking out the flaws and limitations and confounds and biases. That would be unscientific.

I don't know what to make of this statement. Are you insinuating that because some idiots rebrand "science" in order to justify their sexism (or whateverism), that the scientific process is flawed?
posted by Skot at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2010


This WHR, it vibrates?

No, it jiggles.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody measured a coke bottle yet?
posted by tspae at 9:10 AM on February 11, 2010


Cross cultural my ass!

"I'm a perfect 36, 37, 36"
"Oh my goodness!"
"Don't you love me?"
"I love you baby, I love you"
posted by filthy light thief at 9:13 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bluntly, while male beauty usually does have a very strong effect on a woman, her attraction to a man tends to be sharply qualified by an array of factors outside of his height, physique, and facial symmetry

And thank fucking God, amirite?
posted by felix betachat at 9:14 AM on February 11, 2010


People like to think that their conscious rational thoughts are ultimately in charge and entirely under their control. It's a little disconcerting to realize we're largely driven by autonomic neurochemical and hormone releases.

How are you getting this from the study? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but having your reward centers "activate" doesn't mean you're "largely driven by" them. Tiger Woods notwithstanding. Men can, in fact, control themselves and even not particularly desire women with 0.7 waist-hip ratios. To use a possibly bad analogy, regardless of what my reward centers are doing when I look at a chocolate cake, I'd usually rather not have a slice, thanks, because there are a whole host of other factors at work beyond what my reward centers are doing.
posted by naju at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Were there really fat cavewomen in any significant number?

Don't know about that, but it certainly seems like in the days of cavemen and cavewomen, fat cavewomen were the ideal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on February 11, 2010


Never mind all that, though, 'cause this is science, right! We don't censor anyone by doing silly things like picking out the flaws and limitations and confounds and biases. That would be unscientific.

What does the relative income of women to men have to do with this research ?

My wife has a theory that she surmised during her stint as a women's studies major - sort of a rule 34 of sexism : No matter what it is, there is something anti-feminist about it. (it works really well with song lyrics, BTW)

This study shows a biological, albeit sexual, effect. They didn't go any further than that. Yeah, the numbers are small - for a reason, large fMRI studies are hard to do for a variety of reasons. The field is still very nascent. The observed effect could have alternative or correlated explanations.

But it's a little premature to use this as an example of sexism - even the ancient greeks posited that some proportions are more appealing than others and several other modern studies have demonstrated this as well.

Cause ? Effect ? Both ? Who knows? But being so deeply offended at the pieces of the puzzle so far found seems.... hysterical.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:21 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Citation, shaun uh? Because your assertions are completely opposite of the clinical studies that I've seen: studies which confirm that WHR is cross-cultural, and therefore probably "just biology".

This study of Chinese men and women found a .6 ratio was more preferred. This study of men in Cameroon found a .8 ratio ideal. From another study:

A total of 51 African men in South Africa, 56 British Africans, and 114 British Caucasians rated 12 line drawings that varied in two levels of ethnicity, three levels of WHR, and two levels of breast size. Overall, the results suggested that there were cross-cultural differences in preferred body shape, with the preferred body configuration varying as a function of the ethnicity of the figure being rated.
That's just the first page of results on ebscohost. Would post more, but my web is really slow today. Let me know if you want me to do more digging.
posted by shaun uh at 9:24 AM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Never mind all that, though, 'cause this is science, right! We don't censor anyone by doing silly things like picking out the flaws and limitations and confounds and biases. That would be unscientific.

I don't know what to make of this statement. Are you insinuating that because some idiots rebrand "science" in order to justify their sexism (or whateverism), that the scientific process is flawed?


Yes and no. I'm not saying the scientific method itself is flawed - I'm a scientist, I love that damn thing. I'm just saying that sometimes, science as it is practiced is flawed, and so it's important for us to keep a critical eye and evaluate research in the context of the culture in which it is produced and the effects which it might have. Hell, if anything that is more scientific than doing otherwise.
posted by shaun uh at 9:29 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]



Cause ? Effect ? Both ? Who knows? But being so deeply offended at the pieces of the puzzle so far found seems.... hysterical.


My, coming from someone who has never been a woman, you sure are pretty clear on how our responses to sexism - perceived or otherwise - are just hysteria. Oh, irony.
posted by lydhre at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


What does the relative income of women to men have to do with this research?

I am trying to point out the social context in which these research is done. Science does not happen in a vacuum and scientists are not perfectly objective. I am merely suggesting that in a culture with pervasive, implicit sexism it is possible that a scientist's motives and interpretations might not be 100% pure.

Cause ? Effect ? Both ? Who knows? But being so deeply offended at the pieces of the puzzle so far found seems.... hysterical.

Did you know that the word hysteria was coined when male doctors thought a women had a "wandering uterus", causing her to be upset? Now, this led to the invention of the vibrator, so it wasn't all bad, but since then it has been consistently used to dismiss women's opinions and plays into the stereotype of women as over-emotional fragile creatures. It's a very gendered word and I'd really prefer if you didn't use it. It makes it difficult to assume good intent on your part, especially given some of the other statements in your comment.
posted by shaun uh at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]



> When you're describing what women find attractive, you seem to be talking about what women want in a long-term mate (hence social skills, intelligence, and those gold-digging women want wealth too, of course).

>
Ahahaha. Sorry, but women are just as shallow as men in this regard. Ask my husband about my strong, immediate reaction to David Tennant.

> This study wasn't meant to study how we pick long term mates; it's meant to gauge immediate, visceral reactions to sexual attractiveness.

Actually, it seems to me that long-term mating criteria have a stronger impact on short-term behavior for women than for men-- and I single out behavior , because I was answering the question of whether or not studies of attractiveness are useful.

While it's clearly and obviously the case that women do experience strong, immediate, visceral physical attraction based on purely visual data, my impression is that the impact of female beauty on the male gaze is stronger yet. Susan Fiske's findings that male brains seem to naturally categorize nekkid women as objects and tools-- which tendency, apparently, some actually find surprising-- bears on this. But let's put it this way: my suspicion is that relatively fewer women than men could comfortably decide to have sex with a stranger based on a photograph alone-- that is, with no information about that partner's voice, scent, and movement style, let alone speech patterns, or knowledge of whether the partner is a) a prize-winning astrophysicist or b) a high-school custodian.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2010


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "hysterical"

quite the word choice, given the context.

I think that a big problem here is the conflation of "natural" and "desirable".

In terms of production of viable offspring as a solitary measure, one motivated individual can be a parent to 100 children in a year (if this individual is a male, or an insect). But most people don't really see making large quantities of babies as the only measure of our worth.

I think that one of the main points of being human, if that is in any way better than being any other animal, is our ability to temper our instincts and innate urges with compassion, self awareness, self control, long term perspective, and culture.

I cannot really say much about what gets researched, I don't follow the journals. But I do know that the popular press is especially fond of studies that can be framed to treat women as if they were a baby-making resource that men would seek out, and acquire. It is foolish to ignore the fact that this is compatible with archaic patriarchal values that are the center of significant social friction, and are in a general trend of changing.

And as to claims of "a universal appeal of a 0.7 whr in women" for all men, I disprove it thus.
posted by idiopath at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


regardless of what my reward centers are doing when I look at a chocolate cake, I'd usually rather not have a slice, thanks, because there are a whole host of other factors at work beyond what my reward centers are doing.

And someone else may have similar "other factors at work" but choose to have the cake anyway. Would that be because your reward system was less activated than theirs or because you have more "will power"? How would you know? Your higher conscious thoughts are so affected by your unconscious physiology that you can't separate them.

Our (mens') autonomic sexual response systems are ugly, misogynist, and sexist by modern cultural standards. Our higher ideals and ethics may not like it, but science that shows it to be true isn't necessarily "bad science".

That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't aspire to override our nastier base urges. That's part of what makes us human, after all.
posted by rocket88 at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


A failure of evolution to converge strongly on a 0.7 WHR can be thought (admittedly in "just so" terms) due to both the weak selective impact, as JoKeefe says, and also because evolution is imprecise and always balances many dimensions of fitness at once.

For example, there is a powerful fitness return to liking to eat and to being able to accumulate fat when food is plentiful (for living off of when food is scarce), which could easily lead to a situation where (now that food scarcity is less rare) observed average WHRs might be higher than the "ideal."

(Other failures to converge on optimally attractive phenotypes also admit of similar arguments: for example, a man being short and slight may make him incrementally less attractive, but it can have a great fitness return in terms of reduced childbirth mortality and less susceptibility to famine because of a lower calorie requirement.)
posted by MattD at 9:49 AM on February 11, 2010


"Don't know about that, but it certainly seems like in the days of cavemen and cavewomen, fat cavewomen were the ideal."

Epoch fail (like, an order of magnitude). The oldest cave paintings are what, 40,000 years old? We're talking about something that is phylogenetically probably at least ten times as old.

Seriously, though... I agree that there was also a historical preference for nourished or overnourished women, and I think it's pretty well accepted that the preference for skinny models is a very, very recent development created by a society where surplus is the norm. But according to the research I've read (and yes, this was a decade ago) the .7 thing is a cross-cultural phenomenon. Given two women of equal height and weight, the one with the .7 WHR will more often be found attractive than one with a different distribution of body mass.

So, like all science, it's complicated. And, like all science, the facts themselves are neutral.

posted by EmpressCallipygos

It's like this thread was designed with your behind in mind. Kidding!don't hit me pls
posted by Eideteker at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


my suspicion is that relatively fewer women than men could comfortably decide to have sex with a stranger based on a photograph alone

Yes, but why? I can come up with a thousand reasons why a woman in our culture might be less comfortable with casual sex that have nothing to do with nature, and everything to do with nurture. Women are told that they are bad for having casual sex, they are told that they're endangered by having casual sex, they're told that they're less attractive if they have casual sex. So they're less likely to have casual sex.

Saying "women are less likely to have casual sex for evolutionary reasons" is not only saying something we can't know is true, it's obfuscating all the other reasons why women behave this way. Instead of talking about why women are endangered by casual sex and how we can ensure their safety, we're talking about why women are just naturally different than men and making it okay for sexually frustrated men to blame women for the lack of casual sex they're getting, instead of forcing them to realize that they, themselves, are at fault.
posted by shaun uh at 9:53 AM on February 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


And as to claims of "a universal appeal of a 0.7 whr in women" for all men, I disprove it thus.

Yeah, funny how we accept the idea that sexual orientation can be hardwired, but other, pre-socialized sexual triggers? Never!

As for the idea that the press loves stories that treat women a particular way, this is the first time I've seen HWR not presented next to SWR, framed largely as "this is the starting -- but not ending -- point for opposite-sex attraction".

I would think if you want to work on re-making society into what we want, instead of what nature has handed us, you'd want an uncompromising look first at what cards we've been dealt.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:53 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


"male brains seem to naturally categorize nekkid women as objects and tools"

How do you know it's not the other way around? How do you know they're not treating objects as women, man?
posted by Eideteker at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am merely suggesting that in a culture with pervasive, implicit sexism it is possible that a scientist's motives and interpretations might not be 100% pure.

It doesn't really matter what the scientists views are if the numbers are sound, though. So far I haven't heard a good argument that the study was fundamentally flawed. It's certainly not a conclusive study - it simply points to an interesting and (apparently) unsurprising effect.

Your responses so far, though, to me, have smacked of the same sort of sexism you rail against. "Of course their studies are flawed! They're sexist men!". You don't have any evidence of their sexism, just so much handwaving about some how they are men in a sexist society and so they must be sexist.

I do realize that as a man, I must choose my words very, very carefully. I am defined by the experiences others have had with other men. I need to work with that definition of who I am thought to be in mind at all times. I'm sorry if I offended.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would that be because your reward system was less activated than theirs or because you have more "will power"? How would you know? Your higher conscious thoughts are so affected by your unconscious physiology that you can't separate them.

If we're talking about the infinitely subtle, mysterious ways in which our thought processes interact with our physiologies, fine, we still know practically nothing about this area. In the context of the study, though, I still take enormous exception to the idea that we're "largely governed by" what is essentially our primitive monkey brains saying "dang that's hot!"

Our (mens') autonomic sexual response systems are ugly, misogynist, and sexist by modern cultural standards.

Hmm, I wouldn't call involuntary neural sparks misogynist or sexist by any standard.
posted by naju at 10:10 AM on February 11, 2010


But let's put it this way: my suspicion is that relatively fewer women than men could comfortably decide to have sex with a stranger based on a photograph alone-- that is, with no information about that partner's voice, scent, and movement style, let alone speech patterns, or knowledge of whether the partner is a) a prize-winning astrophysicist or b) a high-school custodian.

That men see women as objects and tools doesn't mean that women don't also.

But really, my suspicion is that what you're saying is a bunch of cultural baggage masquerading as SCIENCE!(tm). And, if your goal is to explain why science hasn't explored what (hetero-)women find attractive in men, well then, that's just silly. Because science has explored that. There are a whole bunch of articles on just that cited in the article linked here. Apparently what is obvious to you isn't obvious to researchers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:15 AM on February 11, 2010


Further info on cross-cultural preferences via a simple Google Scholar search. This .7 body type is not preferred across all cultures.

To re-iterate shaun uh's comment:

I'm just saying that sometimes, science as it is practiced is flawed, and so it's important for us to keep a critical eye and evaluate research in the context of the culture in which it is produced and the effects which it might have.

(That comment, by the way, reads the opposite of hysterical to me. In fact, I have to think that a person suggesting such a comment is sexist is the true hysteric.)
posted by lillygog at 10:18 AM on February 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Don't know about that, but it certainly seems like in the days of cavemen and cavewomen, fat cavewomen were the ideal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on February 11


We know very little about the context surrounding the Willendorf Venus. Your contention is analogous to alien archaeologists unearthing Picasso's "The Weeping Woman" and concluding that, for Earth Men of the 1930's, hideously misshapen ladies were the ideal.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:21 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Saying "women are less likely to have casual sex for evolutionary reasons" is not only saying something we can't know is true, it's obfuscating all the other reasons why women behave this way.

But it is true. I mean, people aren't animals, but throughout the kingdom the males are pretty much ready to have sex whenever, and the females only at certain times. (yes exceptions apply) It's also well understood that various things can affect behavior, mood, and can depress libido as well.

I think one could make the case that there are significant biological forces at play in human sexuality, and that those forces will apply unequally and in different ways to males and females.

Note, I am not denying the cultural component, just refuting that it's the only one that matters.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2010


I'm sorry if I offended.

I do believe that you are not trying to offend, however you still offended. In addition to trying to dismiss me with a gendered word, you also suggested that I call everything sexist:

"rule 34 of sexism : No matter what it is, there is something anti-feminist about it."

You accused me of "reverse sexism":

"Your responses so far, though, to me, have smacked of the same sort of sexism you rail against."

And you top this off by suggesting that the expectation that you not use sexist language makes you a victim who must walk on tip toes at all times instead of simply abiding by a certain level of conversational civility:

I do realize that as a man, I must choose my words very, very carefully. I am defined by the experiences others have had with other men. I need to work with that definition of who I am thought to be in mind at all times.

I find it difficult to debate the methodological merits of this specific study with a person who clearly does not respect me and where I am coming from.
posted by shaun uh at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


But it is true. I mean, people aren't animals, but throughout the kingdom the males are pretty much ready to have sex whenever, and the females only at certain times. (yes exceptions apply) It's also well understood that various things can affect behavior, mood, and can depress libido as well.

Uh, people are animals. Anyway, the fact that exceptions apply to humans here puts a significant chink in this argument. Human females are pretty much always sexual receptive.

(Again, ask my husband!)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2010


I have exactly a 0.7 W-H ratio, but from the front and back I don't really look like it because most of the measurement sticks out behind me in a bubble butt, not out to the sides in curvaceous hips. It's like how an oval-shaped tube would look wider from the front and narrower from the sides, you know? I think maybe digitally enhancing the photos to create the ratio would correct for that, by making sure that the circumference is evenly distributed from the viewer's vantage point.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:30 AM on February 11, 2010


"Prime Numbers"


"it means she's only divisible by one and that one is gonna be me."
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


They used a straight-on butt shot and then a 3/4 shot or something, pseudostrabismus, presumably to represent the structure of the hips and butt in 3 dimensions.
posted by Mister_A at 10:31 AM on February 11, 2010


Human females are pretty much always sexual receptive.

*blinks*
posted by stinkycheese at 10:34 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Sexually receptive, rather.)

For reals, stinkycheese. Unlike most animals, human females don't go through estrous.

If you think you don't get laid much now, imagine if you were, like, an elephant or something. The wikipedias tell me that elephant ladies only like to get it on once every three months!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:37 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to imagine that has something to do with the elephant's 22 month gestational period. Yikes!
posted by lillygog at 10:40 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have exactly a 0.7 W-H ratio, but from the front and back I don't really look like it because most of the measurement sticks out behind me in a bubble butt [...]

Sounds like perfection to me.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:00 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am merely suggesting that in a culture with pervasive, implicit sexism it is possible that a scientist's motives and interpretations might not be 100% pure.

It is not a scientist's job to be 100% anything, nor is that even attainable. Which is why it entertains me when people hold "science!" as the ideal standard by which progress should be measured or attained. If only it were that simple.
posted by hermitosis at 11:03 AM on February 11, 2010


> But really, my suspicion is that what you're saying is a bunch of cultural baggage masquerading as SCIENCE!(tm).

It might very well be. This is why we have SCIENCE!(tm).

And, if your goal is to explain why science hasn't explored what (hetero-)women find attractive in men, well then, that's just silly. Because science has explored that.

No, that's not my goal. Because science has explored that.

My goal is explaining why the study of what attracts visually attracts men is useful: Briefly, understanding this is useful, because female physical beauty, irrrespective of any other consideration, is an enormously powerful and reliable driver for male behavior. Given the choice, a male might pick a pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel; he almost certainly won't pick a not-pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel.

And, just for the sake of landing with a thud on well-trodden ground, I'd suggest that many attractive women might at least entertain the notion of a roll in the hay with Einstein, or Shakespeare, or Bill Gates, or that DJ guy up there on the stage (the successful DJ, whom the crowd adores)-- hell, maybe even Stephen Hawking--, even though these men might not be physically attractive...

whereas the female equivalents of these illustrious men, were they physically ugly, probably wouldn't stand a chance of attracting attractive men.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:16 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My goal is explaining why the study of what attracts visually attracts men is useful:

Your explanation hinges on the idea that similar studies about what visually attracts women are not useful, which isn't reflected in the reality that these studies exist. You can make the same point without drawing (an erroneous) correlation about women, but I'd wager this is flawed, too: unattractive women also attract mates. But this study isn't even about attracting mates. It's about responses that the participants might not even be aware of, irregardless of whether it impacts future behavior about even casual bonking.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2010


It's always interesting that, when we're talking about evolutionary advantages of attractiveness, that we're not simply studying which physiological builds simply produce the most offspring, and with the easiest/healthiest births- we've got decades of hospital records at this point across the globe- but instead wasting time with which forms men find attractive.

But then again, that should tell you where the study bias lies.
posted by yeloson at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


shaun uh: we're talking about why women are just naturally different than men and making it okay for sexually frustrated men to blame women for the lack of casual sex they're getting

We are? Or is it just you? I keep getting the feeling that you are referring to a different conversation than the one here about the .7 WHR study.
posted by msalt at 11:34 AM on February 11, 2010


yeloson, I don't think that the hospitals keep track of things like waist-hip ratio, breast size, etc. for mothers giving birth in their facilities. If they did track these things, they would find that women with huge bellies and relatively large breasts did most of the birthing.
posted by Mister_A at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> hinges on the idea that similar studies about what visually attracts women are not useful, which isn't reflected in the reality that these studies exist.

Actually, I think both are useful, measured absolutely-- I just think studies of what visually attracts men are more useful and more predictive. But my actual point is that the study of what visually attracts men is useful, as opposed to not being useful, which was the original suggestion.

> unattractive women also attract mates

Well, yes, the link confirms that Roseanne Barr did attract Tom Arnold.

But my point was that Brad Pitt would reliably pick Angelina Jolie over Madame Curie... and moreover, for a simple roll in the hay, Tom Arnold could probably easily score with the young waitress, while Roseanne Barr would likely have more trouble with the young poolboy.

But enough Celeb Evo-Psych Weekly; to the questions of whether knowing whether a specific bodily ratio is visually attractive to men-- and other ratios, less so-- is a useful, worthy object of study, I'd suggest that it is, on both counts.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:51 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Point of order to those who, like stinkycheese, are boggling: the observation that "human females are 'always' sexually receptive" does NOT mean the same as "women always WANT it." They are referring SOLELY to biology. Women ovulate once a month -- whereby other animals do so only once or twice a YEAR.

In other words, all "human females are 'always' sexually receptive" means is "human females don't go into heat like cats do". And, physiologically, this is an accurate statement. It does not, however, have anything to do with whether women are always EMOTIONALLY receptive, which is an entirely different issue.

I just thought I could see a couple people boggling at that, but I knew what the point was and wanted to head off any "what the HELL does that mean?" fluffups.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Isn't fMRI the device that showed brain activity in a dead fish?
posted by swashedbuckles at 11:53 AM on February 11, 2010


Wasn't that an e-meter and a large radish?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:56 AM on February 11, 2010


Thanks, EC. It would have been more accurate to say "because of concealed ovulation, human women can and do have sex at any time of the month, regardless of whether conception can occur, unlike other mammals who only have sex during ovulation." But it would have been more to type.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:57 AM on February 11, 2010


msalt: We are? Or is it just you? I keep getting the feeling that you are referring to a different conversation than the one here about the .7 WHR study.

I am trying to put this particular study in a broader context. As a neuroscientist/psychologist, I frequently read studies like these, and as a feminist I find myself noticing patterns in what is studied, how it is studied, and the assumptions that are made. And I think these are legitimate critiques to make - I think it's useful for scientists to consider meta issues such as "Why do we study the things we chose to study?" and "What are the ways we might by biased towards certain results?"

But I can see how if you're just trying to think about this study and only this study, my comments might appear to be missing the point.

hermitosis: It is not a scientist's job to be 100% anything, nor is that even attainable. Which is why it entertains me when people hold "science!" as the ideal standard by which progress should be measured or attained. If only it were that simple.

I can't tell if you're supporting or critiquing my point. If the latter, please feel free to clarify.
posted by shaun uh at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


HI I'M AN FMRI AND I COULD SHOW NEURAL ACTIVITY IN A PLATE OF BEANS!
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


yeloson

Sexually selected traits need not be indicative of which physiological builds produce the most offspring. They often just advertise the health of the individual, in some cases to the determent of that individuals survival. i.e. just because men might find the 0.7 WHR the most appealing does not mean that this is the most ideal ratio for producing healthy offspring.

Mister_A That comment was hilarious.
posted by batou_ at 12:13 PM on February 11, 2010


What does this mean for guys who like women who are a bit heavier? Are they neurologically defective? Because if this study is true and all straight men are supposed to be that way... uh... I'd better see a doctor.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:17 PM on February 11, 2010


I can't speak much to the stats, but reporting uncorrected p-values is legitimate in that it gives the reader all the same information, while allowing them to see possible variation in the "significance" of individual effects. (Scare quotes because p-value is an indicator of reliability of an effect, not its size. Though I believe in fMRI research it does work in both ways.)

Yes, but I thought that correcting p-values was absolutely necessary in neuroimaging given the huge number of comparisons being done - on the order of 100,000. A simple bonferonni correction might be too strict, so let's say we're only correcting for 100 comparisons - that still makes the uncorrected results not significant.

I am familiar with neuroimaging but no expert on the stats involved, so I may be totally wrong. I'll do some digging on this issue today, and get back to the thread, if no one else can resolve it.


As you can see in the first results reported, they get p < .01 corrected for multiple comparisons at the cluster level (not as strict as at the voxel level, but still totally legit) for the effects in lateral occipital cortex and orbitofrontal cortex.

The other effects, at p < .001 uncorrected aren't what got the paper published, though they may be what makes for headlines. These findings are noted as effects of interest and issues important for further exploration. The authors justify calling their effects "reward" by drawing comparisons to a lot of tasks that have implicated OFC in reward/value judgments. Calling it a "reward" region per se is a little iffy in my mind, but everyone's got a different opinion on that front.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


HI I'M AN FMRI AND I COULD SHOW NEURAL ACTIVITY IN A PLATE OF BEANS!

You sure could. That's why we correct for multiple comparisons. You show me a thinking plate of beans with appropriate MC corrections applied, and I'll hang up the ole lab coat.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:38 PM on February 11, 2010


Particularly at the extremes, male desire tends to take a harshly categorical, binary form.

I always love coming into threads like this and finding out how bad I am at being a human male.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks so much for that solipsophistocracy. One more question:

As you can see in the first results reported, they get p <>

I noticed in the heading for figure-1 that the cluster threshold was 3. Does that mean they corrected by excluding any activity that occurred in clusters of voxels of less than 3. And if so - isn't that a little low for cluster thresholding? Especially combined with the .01 significance level? And the fact that few if any of the findings are bilateral?

posted by shaun uh at 1:28 PM on February 11, 2010


I have exactly a 0.7 W-H ratio, but from the front and back I don't really look like it because most of the measurement sticks out behind me in a bubble butt [...]

Sounds like perfection to me.


Your boner, sir, is irrelevant.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:53 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


To clarify, I'm not a luddite who thinks fMRIs are just black boxes that produce mountains of fake data. I just wanted to go for the low-hanging bean joke after people brought up the dead salmon thing.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:21 PM on February 11, 2010


Your boner, sir, is irrelevant.

I have to marvel at some of the responses I get on MetaFilter. I'm afraid we'll have to differ on this point, although I'm willing to concede that it might not be relevant to you. However, I was replying to pseudostrabismus, who seemed concerned that, were she (or someone of similar build) a participant in this study, her favorable WHR might spuriously elicit a false negative from the subject because of her particular physical configuration. But it seems clear to me that, if I were one of the experimental subjects, then, given the design of the experiment, a false negative would not be elicited from me. Indeed, I suspect that the reward centers of my brain would light up with an intensity that would require the researchers to wear a welder's mask when looking at the FMRI display. Following the immortal advice of Strunk and White to "omit needless words", I chose to convey my perspective in a concise, perhaps even pithy, manner. Nonetheless, it was in no way irrelevant. And I don't recall mentioning my "boner". But thanks for your input.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:07 PM on February 11, 2010


And I thought men (whom I love dearly) just liked to look at naked women.
posted by SuzB at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2010


Given the choice, a male might pick a pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel; he almost certainly won't pick a not-pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel.

And, just for the sake of landing with a thud on well-trodden ground, I'd suggest that many attractive women might at least entertain the notion of a roll in the hay with Einstein, or Shakespeare, or Bill Gates, or that DJ guy up there on the stage (the successful DJ, whom the crowd adores)-- hell, maybe even Stephen Hawking--, even though these men might not be physically attractive...

whereas the female equivalents of these illustrious men, were they physically ugly, probably wouldn't stand a chance of attracting attractive men.
posted by darth_tedious


Eponysterical.
posted by jokeefe at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And further, as I'm in a snappy mood today:

he almost certainly won't pick a not-pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel

Well then thank god I'm bisexual, as apparently my chances of ever catching a man's interest are nil. I'm not sure how to explain that it has actually happened within living memory, but there you go.

I'll be honest here: I don't necessarily care if men's brains light up when they see a naked young woman. I care that limited scientific resource budgets are spent on this again and again, and I care that the results of these studies all seem to reinforce and underline existing social biases. But I really care (and this is entirely personal) the tiresome reiteration-- in the guise of SCIENCE!, no less-- that nothing is more important about me than the shape of my body or the youthfullness of my complexion. I'm tired of being told that biology is a bitch, that's just the way it is, sorry ladies.
posted by jokeefe at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


he almost certainly won't pick a not-pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel

And seriously, what a condescending and reductive way to look at men. If I were male, I'd be insulted, you know?
posted by jokeefe at 4:32 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


that nothing is more important about me than the shape of my body or the youthfullness of my complexion.

Please don't attribute these assertions to SCIENCE!, even if other people are attempting to do so.

And yes, I only found out, what, 20 comments ago, that I've apparently never been attracted to (nevermind slept with!) a woman primarily for her intelligence.

I have some phone calls to make. Or Hallmark cards to send. Or something.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:35 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please don't attribute these assertions to SCIENCE!, even if other people are attempting to do so.

Sorry, though the hamburger tag was pretty obvious. I'm a huge fan of science, as imperfectly as it has been practiced on occasion.
posted by jokeefe at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2010


As you can see in the first results reported, they get p <>

I noticed in the heading for figure-1 that the cluster threshold was 3. Does that mean they corrected by excluding any activity that occurred in clusters of voxels of less than 3. And if so - isn't that a little low for cluster thresholding? Especially combined with the .01 significance level? And the fact that few if any of the findings are bilateral?


Well, how solid an answer I can give depends on how far down the fMRI rabbit hole you want to go (which may well be farther than I can offer any insight on). I'll take a crack anyway:

First, the lateralization of function shouldn't have any bearing whatsoever on the statistical analysis of the fMRI data, and the assumption that some functions are, in fact, lateralized (i.e., they only happen on one side) is pretty well supported by many years of research (pre-dating fMRI, for certain). I have no idea about this question in particular, but it wouldn't surprise me if any given brain-behavior relationship only showed activation on one side.

A three voxel cluster threshold might sound small, but since the data has been smoothed with a Gaussian kernel (well, I think it has. I'm not as familiar with preprocessing in FSL, but I think that you have to smooth same as with SPM), three voxels is an acceptable threshold, provided that the voxels are spatially uncorrelated. (Even though you really should correct at both the voxel and cluster level, you can get away with not doing so, depending on who reviews the article.)

For instance, if your alpha was .001 to start with, then your chance of Type 1 error with a three voxel cluster correction goes to .00001 (I'm not exactly sure how that translates for an initial p <>CBU Imaging Wiki has some really great resources that you can use to learn more about fMRI if you feel so inclined, presented in a way that doesn't require advanced stats to understand. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in interpreting these studies.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:20 PM on February 11, 2010


aw. crap. Stupid tags... What I meant to say there at the end was:

I'm not exactly sure how that translates for an initial value of p <>CBU Imaging Wiki: It's awesome. Check it out. Feel free to hit me up with any other questions (either in thread or via MeMail).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:24 PM on February 11, 2010


God damn it.

CBU Imaging Wiki: third time's the charm.

I'm still unsure how initial value of p (less than) .01 translates with a 3-voxel SVC, but I think it's .0001. I'll have to check some other resources...
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:25 PM on February 11, 2010


Thanks, Hardcore Poser, I loves me some Northern Pikes.
posted by bwg at 10:05 PM on February 11, 2010


>>he almost certainly won't pick a not-pretty woman with a 170 IQ and a coruscating wit over an astonishingly beautiful supermodel
>And seriously, what a condescending and reductive way to look at men. If I were male, I'd be insulted, you know?


I am, and I am. (Then again, I always thought coruscating had 2 r's, so maybe I'm just dumb.)

I can't even fantasize about celebs like Jessica Simpson (or back in the day, Bo Derek) because they start saying stupid stuff (in my fantasy) and it ruins everything.
posted by msalt at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2010


I wonder what the overlap is between the people posting in the vein of Darth Tedious here, and those who in a different, yet all too similar thread, would be telling us about how it's so much easier for women to get sex because men are naturally and evolutionarily super virile and programmed to want sex all the time with whomever they can get and any woman any time can go and get herself some sex.

I guess high.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:34 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


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