Kevin Lewis

December 11, 2021

Physiological synchrony is associated with attraction in a blind date setting
Eliska Prochazkova et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming

Humans are social animals whose well-being is shaped by the ability to attract and connect with one another, often through brief interactions. In addition to physical features, a choreography of movements, physical reactions and subtle expressions may help promote attraction. Here, we measured the physiological dynamics between pairs of participants during real-life dating interactions outside the laboratory. Participants wore eye-tracking glasses with embedded cameras and devices to measure physiological signals including heart rate and skin conductance. We found that overt signals such as smiles, laughter, eye gaze or the mimicry of those signals were not significantly associated with attraction. Instead, attraction was predicted by synchrony in heart rate and skin conductance between partners, which are covert, unconscious and difficult to regulate. Our findings suggest that interacting partners’ attraction increases and decreases as their subconscious arousal levels rise and fall in synchrony. 

The Role of Gendered Entitlement in Understanding Inequality in the Bedroom
Verena Klein & Terri Conley
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Five studies (using U.S. samples) examined whether men’s higher entitlement contributes to a sexual pleasure gap that disadvantages women. Participants indicated that men receive more sexual pleasure from their partners, whereas women provide more pleasure (Study 1a). Participants believed that men have more of a right to experience orgasm in both hook-up and relationship encounters and attributed higher negative affect to the male target than to the female target when the target did not experience an orgasm in a sexual scenario (Study 1b). In concert with the idea that pleasure is a privilege that men are perceived as being more entitled to, participants preferred men’s orgasm when forced to choose between the male and the female partner in an orgasm allocation task (Study 1c) and in an experiment (Study 2). Study 3 examined why people believe that men are more entitled to pleasure than women. Men’s higher sense of entitlement as an obstacle to gender equality in sexuality is discussed. 

Debunking Lesbian Bed Death: Using Coarsened Exact Matching to Compare Sexual Practices and Satisfaction of Lesbian and Heterosexual Women
David Frederick et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, November 2021, Pages 3601–3619

The current study examined the prevalence and correlates of over 50 sexual practices in a national survey of heterosexual and lesbian women in relationships. Coarsened exact matching was used to create comparable samples of heterosexual (n = 2510) and lesbian (n = 283) women on six demographic factors, including relationship length. Heterosexual and lesbian women were equally likely to be sexually satisfied (66% heterosexual women vs. 68% lesbian women). Compared to heterosexuals, lesbians were more likely to report having sex 0–1 times per month (11% vs. 23%) and were less likely to report having sex greater than once per month (89% vs. 77%). Among women who had been in relationships for longer than 5 years, heterosexual women were less likely than lesbian women to report having sex 0–1 times per month (15%; 42%). This steeper drop in sexual frequency among lesbian women than heterosexual women has pejoratively been labeled lesbian bed death. Rather than accept the label “lesbian bed death” as characterizing these sexual relationships, we turn our attention to what we call lesbian bed intimacies: the myriad ways that lesbian women incorporate behaviors promoting emotional connection, romance, and mood setting, as well as relying on a wide variety of specific sexual acts (e.g., use of sex toys) and sexual communication. Compared to heterosexual women, lesbian women were more likely to usually to always receive oral sex during sex in the past month (28%; 47%) and to use sex toys in the past year (40%; 62%). In their last sexual encounter, lesbian women were more likely to say “I love you” (67%; 80%), have sex longer than 30 min (48%; 72%), and engage in gentle kissing (80%; 92%). These intimacies likely help explain why sexual satisfaction was similar in these groups despite notable differences in sexual frequency. 

Credit and the Family: The Economic Consequences of Closing the Credit Gap of US Couples
Olivia Kim
MIT Working Paper, November 2021 

Closing disparities in credit access between spouses can help reduce consumption inequality in the household. The 2013 reversal of the Truth-in-Lending Act increased the borrowing capacity of secondary earners in equitable-distribution states but not in community-property states, where division-of-property laws superseded the policy change. Using a matched difference-in-differences design and administrative financial-transaction records measuring the credit and consumption of each spouse, I show that this reversal increased secondary earners’ credit card limits by $1,025. In turn, spouses shared consumption more equally, closing their pre-reversal consumption gap by 10 percent. Household spending shifted toward goods that benefit both spouses. Delinquency rates were not measurably impacted, suggesting that household financial standing did not worsen. These results are consistent with a model of joint decision-making under limited commitment, in which credit causes a shift in marital bargaining power. 

Is Marriage A Normal Good? Evidence from NBA drafts
Jiaqi Zou
University of Toronto Working Paper, December 2021

Despite globally declining marriage rates in recent decades, little is known about whether improvements in male economic status increase marriage. This paper tackles lack of data on permanent income shocks for men by examining a natural experiment surrounding the NBA’s annual player drafts. I exploit two institutional features: well-defined initial salaries decreasing monotonically by draft order and high-quality draft predictions that inform player expectations. To isolate the causal effect of male earnings on marriage outcomes, I show that disparities between predicted and actual draft ranks exogenously shift player salaries. This setup provides novel income treatments that are not only large and individual-specific but also opportunely occurring early in career and adult life, before family formation takes place. Constructing a new dataset tracking players’ major family decisions, I am the first to show men are indeed more likely to marry when their earnings increase, despite modern-day normalization of cohabitation. For the 2004-2013 draft cohorts, a 10% increase in initial five-year salary raises likelihood of marriage by 8.9%. Excluding superstar draft picks yields larger and more significant results, reasonably suggesting lower income men are more responsive to income shocks. 

Known by the company she keeps: Women's friendship preferences influence interpersonal evaluations
Hannah Bradshaw, Katja Cunningham & Sarah Hill
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

The current research examined the factors that impact women's preference for male (vs. female) friends and how these preferences, in turn, impact how women are evaluated by others. Studies 1–2 demonstrated that women who prefer male (vs. female) friends reported greater mating and sexual success, placed less trust in female friends, and held more hostility towards other women. Study 2 also showed that women's distrust of female friends is predicted by greater perceived aggression from female peers, which in turn predicted greater preference for male friends. Studies 3–5 revealed that women (but not men) reported greater distrust of female targets who prefer male (vs. female) friends. Study 5 further found that women's decreased trust in female targets who prefer male (vs. female) friends was predicted by expectations that these targets possess more socially undesirable traits, more hostility towards other women, and greater sexual unrestrictedness. Together, results suggest the relationship between women's friendship preferences and other women's evaluations may be bidirectional. Women's preference for male friends was predicted by perceived aggression from and lack of trust in other women, and other women distrusted and inferred negative traits about women who preferred male friends.


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