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Kevin Lewis

September 30, 2017

Is Romantic Desire Predictable? Machine Learning Applied to Initial Romantic Attraction
Samantha Joel, Paul Eastwick & Eli Finkel 
Psychological Science, forthcoming 

Matchmaking companies and theoretical perspectives on close relationships suggest that initial attraction is, to some extent, a product of two people’s self-reported traits and preferences. We used machine learning to test how well such measures predict people’s overall tendencies to romantically desire other people (actor variance) and to be desired by other people (partner variance), as well as people’s desire for specific partners above and beyond actor and partner variance (relationship variance). In two speed-dating studies, romantically unattached individuals completed more than 100 self-report measures about traits and preferences that past researchers have identified as being relevant to mate selection. Each participant met each opposite-sex participant attending a speed-dating event for a 4-min speed date. Random forests models predicted 4% to 18% of actor variance and 7% to 27% of partner variance; crucially, however, they were unable to predict relationship variance using any combination of traits and preferences reported before the dates. These results suggest that compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.

The Facial Width-to-Height Ratio Predicts Sex Drive, Sociosexuality, and Intended Infidelity
Steven Arnocky et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming 

Previous research has linked the facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) to a host of psychological and behavioral characteristics, primarily in men. In two studies, we examined novel links between FWHR and sex drive. In Study 1, a sample of 145 undergraduate students revealed that FWHR positively predicted sex drive. There were no significant FWHR × sex interactions, suggesting that FWHR is linked to sexuality among both men and women. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings in a sample of 314 students collected from a different Canadian city, which again demonstrated links between the FWHR and sex drive (also in both men and women), as well as sociosexuality and intended infidelity (men only). Internal meta-analytic results confirm the link between FWHR and sex drive among both men and women. These results suggest that FWHR may be an important morphological index of human sexuality.

Women's Attraction to Benevolent Sexism: Needing Relationship Security Predicts Greater Attraction to Men who Endorse Benevolent Sexism
Emily Cross & Nickola Overall
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Benevolent sexism prescribes that men should cherish and protect women in intimate relationships. Despite the romantic tone of these attitudes, prior research indicates that benevolent sexism undermines women's competence, ambition and independence. Ambivalent sexism theory proposes that benevolent sexism is able to incur these costs because the promise of a chivalrous protective partner offers women security in their intimate relationships. We tested this key proposition by examining whether women who intensely need relationship security — women higher in attachment anxiety — are more attracted to men who endorse benevolent sexism. Highly anxious women (N = 632) rated men described as endorsing benevolent sexism as relatively more attractive, and reported greater preferences for partners to hold benevolently sexist attitudes. These results advance understanding regarding the underlying reasons women find benevolent sexism appealing and identify who will be most vulnerable to the potential costs of benevolent sexism.

The Abercrombie & Fitch Effect: The Impact of Physical Dominance on Male Customers’ Status-Signaling Consumption
Tobias Otterbring et al.
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Consumer lay theory suggests that women will spend more money than men in the presence of a physically dominant male employee, while theories of intrasexual competition from evolutionary psychology predict the opposite outcome. A retail field study demonstrates that male customers spend more money and purchase more expensive products than their female counterparts in the presence (vs. absence) of a physically dominant male employee. This effect has a more powerful impact on male customers who lack bodily markers of dominance (shorter stature or measures linked to lower levels of testosterone). When confronted with other physically dominant (vs. non-dominant) men, these male customers are particularly prone to signal status through price or logo size. Their elevated feelings of intrasexual (male-to-male) competitiveness drive them to spend more money on status-signaling, but not functional products, and to prefer and draw larger brand logos. As pictorial exposure is sufficient for the effect to occur, these findings are not limited to in-store interactions with dominant male employees, but have broad implications for marketing and advertising.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained: People anticipate more regret from missed romantic opportunities than from rejection
Samantha Joel, Jason Plaks & Geoff MacDonald
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming 

Romantic pursuit decisions often require a person to risk one of the two errors: pursuing a romantic target when interest is not reciprocated (resulting in rejection) or failing to pursue a romantic target when interest is reciprocated (resulting in a missed romantic opportunity). In the present research, we examined how strongly people wish to avoid these two competing negative outcomes. When asked to recall a regrettable dating experience, participants were more than three times as likely to recall a missed opportunity rather than a rejection (Study 1). When presented with romantic pursuit dilemmas, participants perceived missed opportunities to be more regrettable than rejection (Studies 2–4), partially because they perceived missed opportunities to be more consequential to their lives (Studies 3 and 4). Participants were also more willing to risk rejection rather than missed romantic opportunities in the context of imagined (Study 4) and actual (Study 5) pursuit decisions. These effects generally extended even to less secure individuals (low self-esteem, high attachment anxiety). Overall, these studies suggest that motivation to avoid missed romantic opportunities may help to explain how people overcome fears of rejection in the pursuit of potential romantic partners.

Facial First Impressions of Partner Preference Traits: Trustworthiness, Status, and Attractiveness
Jennifer South Palomares & Andrew Young
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming 

This research used the minimal exposure paradigm to examine facial first impressions of traits of trustworthiness, status, and attractiveness, considered important in verbal models of partner preferences. Heterosexual participants rated opposite-sex faces comprising either naturalistic images or youthful-looking averaged faces on trustworthiness, status, and attractiveness following 33, 100, and 500 ms masked presentation. The pattern masks were phase scrambled to provide the same overall color composition, brightness, and spatial frequency content as the presented faces. Trustworthiness, status, and attractiveness judgments were all reliable at above-chance levels even at 33 ms presentation, and extra time (100 or 500 ms) only led to modest improvement in the correspondence with an independent set of time-unconstrained judgments. The increasing prevalence of online images and internet-based relationships make these findings timely and important.

Misattribution of musical arousal increases sexual attraction towards opposite-sex faces in females
Manuela Marin et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2017

Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

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