Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Forces of Attraction...Give Me More...

(Disclaimer: The photo is of a complete stranger and is only there to illustrate my points concerning attraction:)

Good morning! I’m in full force now with teaching, advising my active club at school, church choir, and an eleven year old daughter who might as well be thirteen. I am sitting at the computer, telling her whatever pleases her in response to her question as to what bag she should use to carry gym clothes, and she’s shouting, “Oh, my God.”

My sentiments exactly.

Now, to move away into my happy place and write rather than deal with a ‘tween. I’m working on a series of blogs having to do with research on the forces of attraction. Today, I’m going to do a quick overview of the quick judgments we make.

Of course, there’s physical attraction and the almost universal traits people, shall we say, appreciate. Across the planet, women enjoy signs of high testosterone and men drool over physical traits associated with greater doses of estrogen. In men, that means a strong chin and nose. When shopping for a woman, men like women who appear childlike, have smooth skin, small noses, and high cheekbones. Oh, and both sexes drool over a fit body and symmetrical facial features.

Researchers used to find that whites prefer thinner figures and blacks prefer curvier. While this may still be true to some extent, my students’ research indicates young people at least are looking for mediums: medium-sized figures and medium skin tone. Some African-Americans still look down on darker blacks while, surprise, whites tend to think too white is pasty.

I mentioned, or implied, weight in the above paragraph, but what about height? In speed dating studies, a woman’s desirability is determined to a large extent by thinness (as long as she doesn’t hit anorexic in people’s minds) while every inch of height gives a man an edge. In the real world, we still rarely see a shorter man and taller woman.

Even if a man isn’t that tall, if he walks tall, that matters. In fact, our brains register posture before we judge beauty. We can tell how proud someone’s walking from a further distance. If someone looks relaxed, the neurons fire—safe and protector. There are actually mirror neurons—if someone looks relaxed, we’re triggered to copy that emotion.

We’re put at ease and on the road to love.


Savanna Kougar said...

Thank you, Lexie...fascinating, especially about medium figure and medium skin tone for your students. From what I can tell each generation has its overall preferences.

Evonne Wareham said...

As Savanna says - facinating. The thing about a tall man seems to be age old - always on a woman's agenda when looking for a mate, but physical style in women is so much a matter of fashion - think of Rueben's ladies and the curvy stars of 40's films.

Lexie O'Neill said...

I, too, think it's fascinating how each generation changes. Older sources (as in past 5 years ago) argue that the thinner, the better. I don't think so, not any more.
I also think it's part of the increased interaction between races...
So much to learn,
and enjoy,

Lexie O'Neill said...

I think it's very interesting about the perceptions of women. Of course, they change with the perceptions of women in other ways...a woman who can be pampered can be shall we say, curvy, but one who needs to be strong can't.
Anyway, if nothing else, doing this research is giving me more ideas and ways to describe my characters!

Trish Milburn said...

Interesting stuff, Lexie. Have to admit, I like tall guys. :)

Isn't it interesting how what people think of as attractive changes over time. I mean, ladies of a certain class used to purposely stay out of the sun so they'd have a pale complexion. To have tanned skin meant you were working class. Now people pay to go to tanning beds and bask at the beach.

Anonymous said...

Ladies, we're not alone in the animal kingdom. I saw a nature show a couple years back where researchers demonstrated female lions have a preference for males with darker manes. Apparently a dark mane says virility to a lioness. No luck for the blond boys on the Serengheti. Guess the attraction of tall, dark and handsome isn't confined to our species. That's something us shapeshifter writers might want to think about.