Kevin Lewis

August 03, 2019

A scent of romance: Human putative pheromone affects men's sexual cognition
Chen Oren, Leehe Peled-Avron & Simone Shamay-Tsoory
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Previous studies suggest that the putative human pheromone estratetraenol affects several systems underlying human functioning and appears to activate neural systems that are known to affect sexual behavior. In this study we investigated whether exposure to estratetraenol affects men's social cognition abilities. In the first experiment, men performed the Interpersonal Perception Task while being exposed to estratetraenol and to a control solution. Men performed the task with better accuracy while being exposed to estratetraenol. This improvement was evident especially in the Intimacy category where participants evaluated romantic relationships. In a second experiment, we exposed a different sample of men to estratetraenol and to a control solution while performing a task that implicitly measured their emotional reaction to photos depicting two humans either romantically-touching or not, with a control condition of two inanimate objects either touching or not. We found that the participants' emotional reaction to touch was stronger under exposure to estratetraenol. Together, these results suggest that exposure to estratetraenol may trigger a change in men’s social cognition, especially in sexually-related situations.

The Bitter Pill: Cessation of Oral Contraceptives Enhances the Appeal of Alternative Mates
Gurit Birnbaum et al.
Evolutionary Psychological Science, September 2019, Pages 276–285

Hormonal contraceptives change women’s natural mate preferences, leading them to prefer nurturing but less genetically compatible men. Cessation of contraceptives reverses these preferences, decreasing women’s attraction to current partners. Two studies examined whether women who had used contraceptive pills at relationship formation and stopped doing so were more vulnerable to desire attractive alternatives, primarily around ovulation, as compared to women who had not used pills at relationship formation or had used pills then but did not stop using them. In Study 1, participants watched videos of attractive and average-looking men and described imaginary dates with them, which were coded for desire expressions. In Study 2, we measured attention adhesion to attractive and average-looking men. Results showed that women who stopped using pills and were currently in high-fertility phase were especially likely to attend to, and express desire for, attractive alternatives, suggesting that cessation of contraceptives motivates the pursuit of more suitable mates.

Espousing Patriarchy: Conciliatory Masculinity and Homosocial Femininity in Religiously Conservative Families
Melanie Heath
Gender & Society, forthcoming

Drawing on in-depth interviews with individuals in current and former plural Mormon fundamentalist families, I demonstrate how gender is structured relationally in plural marriage, dependent on noncoercive power relations. Men perform a “conciliatory masculinity” based on their position as head of the family that requires constant consensus-building skills and emotional labor to maintain family harmony. This masculinity is shaped in relation to women’s performance of “homosocial femininity” that curbs men’s power by building strong bonds among wives to deflect jealousies and negotiate household duties. I argue for the importance of studying masculinities and femininities together as a relational structure to better understand specific religious and family contexts.

Sexual selection for low male voice pitch among Amazonian forager-horticulturists
Kevin Rosenfield et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Pitch is the most perceptually salient feature of the voice, yet it is approximately five standard deviations lower in men than in women, a degree of sexual dimorphism exceeding that of all extant nonhuman apes. Evidence from Western samples suggests that low-frequency vocalizations may have augmented male mating success ancestrally by intimidating competitors and/or attracting mates. However, data are lacking from traditional societies living under conditions more similar to those in which our traits evolved. We therefore investigated sexual selection on male pitch (measured by fundamental frequency, f0) in a population of Bolivian forager-horticulturists, the Tsimané. We found that experimentally lowering f0 in audio clips of men speaking increased perceptions of fighting ability but did not affect perceptions of prestige and decreased their attractiveness to women. Further, men with lower speaking f0 reported higher numbers of offspring, and this was mediated by the reproductive rates of men's wives, suggesting that men with lower f0 achieved higher reproductive success by having access to more fertile mates. These results thus provide new evidence that men's f0 has been shaped by intrasexual competition.

Experimentally Inducing Disgust Reduces Desire for Short-Term Mating
Laith Al-Shawaf et al.
Evolutionary Psychological Science, September 2019, Pages 267–275

Short-term mating strategies involve casual sex, multiple partners, and short-time intervals before initiating intercourse. Such strategies should be difficult to implement in the presence of high levels of sexual disgust. Researchers have therefore suggested — and found evidence for — the hypothesis that individuals with a stronger proclivity for short-term mating have lower levels of sexual disgust. Here, we suggest a related hypothesis: inducing sexual disgust should reduce desire for short-term mating. Experiment 1 (N = 341) and experiment 2 (N = 361) investigated the effects of disgust induction on desire for short-term mating. Both studies found that inducing disgust reduces desire for short-term mating, and that the effect of sexual disgust is particularly strong. These results support the novel hypothesis advanced here and corroborate the broader hypothesis that reduced sexual disgust is a previously undiscovered design feature of short-term mating strategies.

Fertility-Dependent Acoustic Variation in Women’s Voices Previously Shown to Affect Listener Physiology and Perception
Melanie Shoup-Knox et al.
Evolutionary Psychology, April 2019

Previous research demonstrates that listeners perceive women’s voices as more attractive when recorded at high compared to low fertility phases of the menstrual cycle. This effect has been repeated with multiple voice recording samples, but one stimuli set has shown particularly robust replications. First collected by Pipitone and Gallup (2008), women were recorded counting from 1–10 on approximately the same day and time once a week for 4 weeks. Repeatedly, studies using these recordings have shown that naturally cycling women recorded at high fertility are rated as more attractive compared to voices of the same women at low fertility. Additionally, these stimuli have been shown to elicit autonomic nervous system arousal and precipitate a rise in testosterone levels among listeners. Although previous studies have examined the acoustic properties of voices across the menstrual cycle, they reach little consensus. The current study evaluates Pipitone and Gallup’s voice stimuli from an acoustic perspective, analyzing specific vocal characteristics of both naturally cycling women and women taking hormonal contraceptives. Results show that among naturally cycling women, variation in vocal amplitude (shimmer) was significantly lower in high fertility recordings compared to the women’s voices at low fertility. Harmonics-to-noise ratio and variation in voice pitch (jitter) also fluctuated systematically across voices sampled at different times during the menstrual cycle, though these effects were not statistically significant. It is possible that these acoustic changes could account for some of the replicated perceptual, hormonal, and physiological changes documented in prior literature using these voice stimuli.


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