Figure Out the Science of Attraction

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In her book Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes: Bodies, Behaviour and Brains – The Science Behind Sex, Love and Attraction, Jena Pincott answers some of the most perplexing questions about dating and mating. Here, she tells us why men love blondes, and how much men will have to evolve before smart and funny women come out on top.

Q: So just how relevant is science to our sex lives? Are we guided by forces beyond our control?

A: Absolutely. I think that’s why I wrote the book. It’s all about the hidden, under-the-radar instincts, urges and hormones that go and are influencing us in ways we might not even realize.

Q: And this goes back to early man?

A: Yeah, and even before. A lot of the answers in the book are grounded in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology.

Q: So what is it about blondes and how did they luck out as sex objects?

A: I think some of it’s biology and some of it’s culture. Blonde hair just really stands out more. If blondes have an edge, and some studies indicate they do, it’s really because blonde hair pops out and is more eye-catching. In Scandinavia, men say they prefer brunettes because brunettes are the minority there and are perceived as more exotic.

Q: You talk about subconsciously reading the face of a potential mate. What do we look for and how can we tell?

A: I think symmetry is one of the first things we notice within a glance. Symmetry is tied to health and developmental fitness and all those evolutionary things that make a person a good mate. I think we’re also hardwired to see emotions, which is why eyes are so important. I talk in the book about pupil dilation. People with dilated pupils are more emotional and more sexually aroused, so it’s a cue. Women’s pupils dilate the most when we’re in our fertile window. I also talk about blushing, which is another cue of youth and emotional arousal. When we look at a face we look for all of those cues for sexual receptivity, youth and help.

Q: And remind me again why men love large breasts?

A: There are so many theories about it, but the most plausible is that breasts are linked to fertility. Not surprisingly, estrogen determines where fat accumulates on the body and high-estrogen women tend to have larger breasts.

Q: So it has nothing to do with their mothers?

A: That’s the Freudian take, and no one’s dismissed it completely. Plus, there’s the theory about breasts looking like buttocks and how apes used to enter from the rear.

Q: I can’t think of any part of a man’s body that’s equally fetishized by women.

A: Men are definitely more visual than women, and a lot of these studies have found that. When men look at women their visual cortex is more stimulated – even men in love.

Q: So what do women look for – other than someone who will pick up the cheque?

A: That always comes up, that women look for guys who have resources – but also [guys] who are good fathers and nurturing, too. I write about one study in the book that involves women looking at pictures of men’s faces, and the men have taken a test beforehand to assess how much they liked kids. Women were uncannily accurate in determining which men liked kids. Neither the researchers nor the women could really describe what it was about the man’s face that made them look kid-friendly, but they were accurate anyway.

Q: Evolutionary psychology leads us to pick people based on a lot of physical traits. Do the advantages of having a symmetrical face or big breasts trump having money or a great sense of humor?

A: An evolutionary psychologist would say that women have a few different strategies when it comes to selecting a mate. As far as macho and dominant goes, women tend to prefer those men for short-term relationships. Those non-physical traits that women value – sense of humor, intelligence, creativity – really are for long-term relationships.

Q: What about men, given that they’re so visual?

A: It’s somewhat demoralizing. Even for long-term relationships, study after study shows that men really care about looks. But when they dig deeper a lot of studies have shown that men value intelligence a lot. Many studies also show that cues of receptivity are really important. Body language is crucial. A woman can be a gorgeous and blonde with big boobs, but in bars she’s not going to get asked out on a date if she doesn’t show interest in some way. In fact, women who are less pretty are more likely to get picked up if they make eye contact, smile and position their bodies in a man’s direction.

Q: How many more million years do you think it will take before women who are funny and smart come out on top?

A: Oh, I hope it’s changing already. I really do. And as much as the past does have sway and as much as we may be hardwired, culture really does have a role. I think that as women make just as much money as men, women will be looking for more nurturing qualities in men and men will also look for different qualities in women.

Author by Sarah Treleaven

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