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)

Jan 13

Have you been scared lately? If your fears come back again and restrict your daily life, this could be a phobia, a specific form of anxiety disorders. The main symptom of a phobia is an intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, objects, animals or people – but usually this fear is irrational, and often there was no specific previous experience that could have triggered the phobia. Phobics often try to the utmost to avoid the fear-prone situations – often to such an extent that their fear begins to interfere with daily life and increasingly dominates their thinking.

A former client would feel uncomfortable in normal social situations such as parties or business meetings and tried to avoid them if possible. Also, the eating and drinking in public was a problem for him and led to great internal stresses. This special form of phobia is called ‘social phobia’, as it relates to other people or social situations. Performance anxiety (the fear of giving speeches or performing on a stage), is something that affects many people and also a form of social phobia.

The difficulty to get rid of phobias is that rational explanations and efforts of relatives and friends almost never help, but sometimes even increase the internal pressure. Also, ‘exposure therapy’, which is a popular for TV shows on the topic -, showed only limited long term success for most people. Good success, however, can be achieved with modern psychotherapeutic approaches, like methods of hypnotherapy and solution-oriented counseling. In severe cases of phobia, medication can help get started in therapy and counseling. Thereafter, continuous work on the problem is crucial to avoid falling back into the old patterns of fear.

(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)

Sep 07

His heart starts to beat stronger with every minute, sweat starts to run down on his back and it becomes more and more difficult to get air, it is as if his lungs were blocked. Suddenly his heart begins to burn – is he finally having his first heart attack? He panics, he might die right here on the street if he doesn’t get immediate help – unbearable fear is climbing up his spine…

The effects of a panic attack vary – most sufferers feel intense fear they are having a heart attack, might ‘go crazy’ or have a nervous breakdown. Experiencing a panic attack can feel like one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life.
But unlike many might think, panic attacks are not necessarily related to high stress, but can even hit people with a very relaxed lifestyle. However, panic attacks are often indicators of anxiety disorders, depression or other psychological conditions that had been untreated (or treated improperly) for a long time. Other potential causes are side effects of medications, alcohol, medication or drug withdrawal or chronic illness.

If panic attacks are untreated, agoraphobia might develop, where a person develops a fear of having panic attacks in certain places. Concerned that they might feel trapped or run into a panic attack, they increasingly avoid any situation that might put them at risk, might avoid open spaces, to drive or even to leave their homes at all. It can also be related to social anxiety, where the fear revolves around social situations, interactions with others, or being evaluated or scrutinized by other people. This can result in one of the most harmful side-effects of panic disorder, as it can prevent sufferers from seeking treatment in the first place or to develop psychological dependence of drugs. However, treatment is possible and usually consists of regular psychotherapeutic sessions over an individually advised amount of time, sometimes combined with complimentary medication. That way, more than 90% of agoraphobics can achieve a full recovery.

(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