Dec 27

Many clients tell me of difficulties finding the right relationship partner. Of course such problems almost always have psychological reasons – in one way or another, these persons sabotaged themselves, they suffer from forms of social anxiety or (in my experience, this is the most common reason) have low self-esteem.

The issues around dating, attraction and sexual attraction have inspired researchers and artists since the beginnings of mankind. Under this – rather ironic – article headline, I will summarize the results of relevant studies and research – and continuously expand and update this collection as soon as there are new findings.

But beware: I’ll not guarantee for the plausibility – or especially success – of any of these hints! 😉

Attractiveness and mate selection

  • “Attractive bodies and faces are symmetrical” – when selecting a partner, we jump on aesthetic impressions indicating a good state of health and fitness, including reproductional capabilities (Source).
  • People with symmetrical physique receive more positive attention when dancing and during mate selection” (source)
  • Women without ideal measurements are stronger, tougher and more resistant to crises” – in Western countries, women with a greater waist-hip ratio than 0.7 are considered to be less attractive than in other world regions, but better prepared for times of crisis (Sources: [1, 2, 3])
  • Estrogen makes women’s faces look more attractive.’ –  during their fertile days, the faces of women obviously look more attractive (Source)
  • Women tend to be selected if they are beautiful, men are more likely to be selected if they act dominantly‘ – this actually refers to political elections, but then, maybe not .. if you consider the other research results mentioned in this blog entry (source)
  • Beauty makes insecure.‘ – this, and that attractive men and women usually find it more difficult to find partners than averagely attractive people, would be a possible conclusion from the so-called ‘sidewalk experiment’ by James Dubbs u. Neil Stokes (‘Beauty is Power: The Use of Space on the Sidewalk’, 1975): on a sidewalk, pedestrians altered their walking direction more often to give space to men rather than for a woman, for 2 people rather than for just 1, and for pretty than for  unattractive women. Their theory was that attractiveness, group size and gender are signals of power which involves territorial claims causing the aforementioned evasive behavior (Source).
  • Other attributes for attractiveness will be judged based on attractiveness of the clothing‘ – attractively dressed subjects were judged as more competent and social than non-attractively-dressed individuals, and, as the researchers suspected, probably as physically more attractive as well (source).
  • Taller men are sexually and socially better off than shorter ones. ‘ – men seem to have their greatest difficulties when dealing with strong, attractive and wealthy competitors, but the taller they are, the less of a role these attributes play in dealing with them. Little men tend to be most jealous. In women, however, the taller and shorter ones are more jealous than the ones of average size. Average-sized women are most shaken by tall and socially dominant rivals just as by other women’s  persuasiveness (link)
  • women prefer older men, older men prefer younger women.’ – a possible explanation for the biological causes of this phenomenon was provided by a study that found that women with a four-year-older partner, and men with a six years younger partner show the greatest reproductive success (source).
  • Man perhaps lost his body hair because it was sexy to the opposite sex.’ – new hope for bald people? (source)
  • Results of an econometric analysis of online dating behavior showed that men who reported that they were in search of a long-term relationship achieved much more success in online dating than those who were merely out on an affair. For men, the appearance of women is of outstanding importance; for women, the man’s income is of utmost importance: the richer the man, the more emails he receives. Income increases the attractiveness of a woman for men as well, but only up to a certain height. [..] Men are attracted by female students, artists, musicians, veterinarians, and celebrities, and they avoid secretaries, retired women and women who work in the military or the police. Women prefer soldiers, policemen and firemen as well as lawyers and financial experts in a management position, but they avoid laborers, actors, students [..]. The data analysis of about 30,000 users also revealed that men have significant drawbacks when they are short. For women, obesity is fatal. That’s probably why many online daters ‘adjust’ these parameters relatively often: male online daters are slightly taller than the average man while the typical female online dater is 10 kg lighter than its real counterpart. In the book Freakonomics in which the results can be read in detail, the authors described their findings, obtained by mathematical methods, as follows: ‘In the world of online dating, a head full of blond hair has about the same worth for a woman as a college degree.’
  • “‘Nasty’ men not only get most women, but also the most beautiful ones.” – in most studies on this subject, these men showed distinctive combinations of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
  • Men should not act as if they were ‘carried away’: uncertainty about the feelings of the opponent increases his/her attractiveness (Source: E. et.al in Whitchurch: “Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction”, Psychological Science, 01/2011).


Sexuality

  • ‘The mere presence of a woman increases the testosterone levels’ – regardless of her appearance, the testosterone levels in men sitting in the same room as a woman increased by 8% within 300 seconds (Sources: [1],[2])
  • The frequency of female orgasms increases with the income of their partner ‘ – sex with wealthy or powerful men probably feels more exciting by women because it may help to obtain access to wealth and power, or to keep this access up (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
    Addendum 04/2010: a counter study was published that shows different results.
  • The more attractive women consider themselves to be, the greater demands they make on their sexual partners – in men, this correlation doesn’t exist, which could mean that they are less picky or less inclined to enter into permanent relations aiming at reproduction (Sources: [1], [2])
  • (indirect) relationship between voice and sexual activity’ – volunteers with a voice perceived as attractive had about equally long fingers on both hands (reference to the context of attractiveness by symmetry, see above), their first sex at a younger age, more sexual partners and more affairs (Sources: [1], [2])
  • Women respond differently to male body odor.’ – their brains can differ normal male perspiration from perspiration resulting from sexual arousal (Source)
  • Women’s tears put off men and reduce their testosterone level. (Source: Shani Gelstein et.al, “Human tears contain a chemosignal” in: Science 01/2011, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331)

Family / Children / Fertility

  • ‘Correlation between wealth and reproductive success‘: a British study found higher reproductive success for wealthy men; in women, the number of children declines with increasing education and income (Source)

(First published in German language (‘Wissenschaftliche Aufriss-Tipps’) in 01/2008; continuously updated. Last update: 12/2011)

May 03

When blood pressure rises, neck veins swell – and the rational mind is suspended. Aggression ‘beams’ us back to an early stage of our development … but once the adrenaline rush is gone, we often feel repentance over the damage we’ve done in our rush of emotions (be verbally or physically).

There are basically two categories of aggression: Affective Aggression (revenge, hostility, the tendency toward impulsive and uncontrolled behavior) and Instrumental Aggression (hunting, goal-oriented, deliberate behavior,). Empirical studies show that most people who have a tendency to Affective Aggression also have a lower IQ than those who do not.

Aggression is not synonymous for violence – but it can trigger violence. And there are cultural differences in the ways aggression is expressed. Studies have shown that people from the Southern states of America turn to physical violence more often than those in the Northern states than the Japanese, which prefer verbal conflict resolution. The same applies to people living in Northern and Southern countries of Europe. The murder rate is higher in these regions as well, and there is also a link between the tendency to violence and socialization. People who grow up in families with a high potential for aggression (verbal, mental or physical abuse experiences), adjust their behavior accordingly and have a tendency to outbursts of aggression later in their lives as well.

The same applies for the social acceptance of violence, such as violence against specific ethnic groups: a dynamic that is probably responsible for the never-ending spiral of violence in the Middle East. Many people also react aggressively when they feel they are not understood or taken seriously, or when they can’t achieve their goals and hopes. From a psychological perspective, this is mostly rooted in low self-esteem.

Many relationships are burdened by inappropriate expressions of aggression. Studies show that men are more likely to express aggression physically and directly, while women do it more verbally and indirectly. Relationship criseses often lead to escalating patterns – starting with a verbal exchange of blows, and at some point one partner loses control of himself/herself and injures the other one either physically or psychologically. The more regularly such processes occur, the more difficult it may be to resolve the conflict patterns in couples therapy, which again proves that the earlier professional help is sought, the more promising the results!

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011; Image src:allhealthsite.com)

Oct 28

The term ‘messie syndrome’ first appeared in the media when an American woman published how she had turned into a ‘messie’ during the 1980s and how difficult it was for her to change her behavior and get control over her life again.

Messies accumulate objects that have become worthless and useless in their apartments. Slowly, these places will become less and less habitable, in extreme cases they can just be crossed by narrow corridores between stacks of filled plastic bags, storage boxes or heaps of old magazines or books; they might even become a hygienic issue due to insect infestation or bad odor. Still, a messie can not just throw these things out, as he or she feels that they have important emotional value or that one day, they might need them again or that some of them belong to a certain collection they want to keep.

The deeper psychological problem of ‘messies’ is that they have serious difficulties to maintain or achieve order and to organize themselves. While they are often aware of the problem and develop plans on how to get rid of their ‘mess’, they fail at putting these plans into action, which leaves them even more frustrated. This also has an impact on their self-esteem and quite often results in refraining from social contacts, at times resulting in chronic isolation.

It is not a solution to force affected persons to organize themselves and get rid of what we see as ‘rubbish’, they would see that as violent, rude, and a serious intrusion into their privacy. Messies are often very intelligent and sensitive people, they easily perceive if someone doesn’t take them seriously. They just lack the automatism that old stuff has to be chucked away.

Today, a well-proven approach to help messies to slowly solve their problem, is a combination of psychotherapy and if possible, to find peer exchange in self-help groups. In severe cases, social workers might have to be involved. The affected persons will learn how to develop and apply strategies that will eventually work out better than what they themselves have tried so far. It might be something that takes some time, but at the end, the former ‘messies’ will gain personal freedom and remarkably improve their self esteem.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)

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06.01.16