Tag Archives: dating

Love is a Mental Illness: Part 2 – An Evolutionary Adaptation

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What is Love? vs. What is Love for?

Let’s take a brief look at Darwin’s theory of evolution. His theory suggests that traits and characteristics that arise from random genetic mutations are passed on from one generation to the next if these traits are advantageous to the survival of the species. In competitive environments, those who are better equipped to survive are more likely to produce offspring. Thus, beneficial traits will gradually appear with greater frequency, while useless or redundant traits will gradually diminish and eventually disappear. Memory, language, emotion and consciousness all serve some sort of function, resulting from the many millions of years of natural selection. All of these traits had to have some sort of beneficial advantage over those who did not possess these abilities or traits. The psychological state of mind that we call love should also, therefore, serve some kind of function to make us more adaptive.

Men and women are fundamentally different from one another. But please, before you whip out that feminist cudgel and start beating me with it, keep in mind that I’m speaking strictly in the sense of biological reproduction, not social roles in society. The optimal strategy for reproductive success is not the same for men as it is for women and so, some conflict of interest is inevitable. A male can increase his chances of reproductive success by simply having more sex and impregnating more women. A women’s reproductive success, on the other hand, is severely limited by biological factors. She has a very limited number of eggs compared to the amount of sperm men produce, and she cannot carry more than one fetus in the womb at a time (usually). In a hunter-gatherer society that humans lived in for most of their existence, resources were ridiculously scarce. Since women were going to be nearly incapacitated when she is carrying for a child, both in the womb and several years afterwards, she needed to be picky and choose that one mate that would give her the best odds of delivering and nurturing a healthy offspring.

Although, it may seem like men are less inclined to be faithful than females, the human race has evolved such that both males and females have to expend a great deal of energy on their young in order for them to survive. A pattern of promiscuous couplings and swift departures would have translated into less reproductive success for human males. Genes that produced promiscuous behavior would be strongly associated with infant mortality, which would translate into fewer offspring, and effectively diminishing them from the gene pool. In contrast, monogamous pairs that direct and expend their energy into one mate and one offspring have a higher likelihood of raising their vulnerable offspring into sexual maturity. Thus, natural selection has shaped us into a predominately monogamous species.

Love Helps Our Species Survive

Love organizes our behavior in such a way that compliments monogamous pairings, which, as mentioned before, increases the likelihood of reproductive success. One of the most prominent symptoms of people who are in love is obsession. The most obvious similarity between someone with OCD and people who have fallen in love is their inability to govern the contents of their own mind. Thoughts and images of loved ones enter our awareness and cannot be dismissed. Lovers ruminate, worrying excessively about the relationship not ‘working out,‘ or read into every little detail of their partner for hints of infidelity to the point of paranoia. But how is this adaptive?

We tend to view obsession in modern times as problematic and disruptive, it is actually an evolutionary advantage. Obsession works so that we do not easily forget our mate and makes us focus our energy and resources on that one person. Resource allocation is vital to both parties and if the male cannot remember which woman is carrying their progeny, well, he has other problems. But the bottom line is that if he cannot focus his energy on one mate and spreads his resources thin, the chances of him having a successful offspring are greatly reduced.

Sources:

Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness

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Where’s A Great Place to Find A Date?

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The Gym. Seriously. 

Why? Here’s some background:

The technical term is “misattribution of arousal.” In one study, heterosexual men walked across either a very high and unstable suspension bridge (an anxiety-inducing experience) or a bridge that was closer to the ground and wasn’t scary at all. In the middle of the bridge, each man was approached by an attractive female research assistant, who gave them a survey to fill out. Upon completing the questionnaire, she provided the man with her phone number and asked him to give her a call later that night if he had any questions about the study. It turned out that the men who walked across the shaky bridge were much more likely to call the woman than the men who walked across the stable bridge.

What’s happening? When the men who crossed the safe bridge saw the research assistant, most of them looked at her and saw just that, a studious research assistant. But for the men who crossed rickety, unstable bridge, anxiety and adrenaline translated into a heightened romantic interest in the assistant. 

In a more related study, male participants were asked to run on a treadmill for either a few minutes or a few seconds. Afterward, they rated their degree of sexual and romantic attraction toward a female college student they observed in a video. Results indicated that the men who exercised longer were more attracted to the woman than the men who did not get their blood pumping as much. That is, when there are competing explanations for the arousal (you aren’t sure if your heart is pounding because you just exercised or because you just met someone really hot), people seem to err on the side of attributing it to the new person. Wonderful.

So get out there, work up a sweat, and approach that hot guy or girl who is equally working hard. You’re more likely to make a stronger first impression than somewhere more sedated and they might even make the mistake of attributing some of the arousal from the workout to you! Plus, going to the gym is like killing two birds with one stone. You get in better shape, which increases your overall physical attractiveness and there’s the added bonus of potentially finding a date. Just go already! 

To learn more about how (irrationally) our minds work and how to take advantage of them, I recommend these two great books: Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home.

Sources:

Dutton, Donald G.; Aron, Arthur P. “Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (1974)
White, G. L., & Kight, T. D. “Misattribution of arousal and attraction: Effects of salience of explanations for arousal.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, (1984)
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Is Having Sex Early In The Relationship Harmful in the Long Run?

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Keep reading below.

A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research concludes that the sooner a couple starts having sex, the lower the quality of their relationship. And not surprisingly, media outlets are quick to pick up these findings and publish headlines along the lines of “First-Date Sex May Harm Couples. or “How Leaping into Bed Harms Relationships

This study, conducted by researchers at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University (your BS meter should be on high alert at this point)* asked participants in an online survey about when they started having sex with their partner and completed several measures of relationship functioning (e.g., satisfaction, communication). Participants were then lumped into one of four groups based upon timing of first sex: Predating Sex (hooking-up before becoming a couple; 9.9%), Early Sex (sex on the first date or two; 35.5%), Delayed Sex (sex after a few weeks; 47.9%), and No Sex (couples who were still abstaining; 6.6%). Results revealed that people who waited longer to have sex scored the highest on all measures of relationship quality. Based upon these findings, the authors concluded that dating couples who have sex therefore have “poorer” outcomes than couples who abstain and that timing of sex represents an important “turning point” in the relationship.

But is this really the case? 

What every single media failed to report was that the average levels of satisfaction, communication, and commitment were high for both men and women no matter when they started having sex. For instance, looking at relationship satisfaction, which was rated on a scale ranging from 0 to 12 in this study, the midpoint for this scale was 6, which means that anything above that represents satisfaction and anything below that represents dissatisfaction. For women, those who had sex in the first month had a satisfaction score of 7.9, while those who waited six or more months had a score of 8.5. For men, the numbers were 8.2 and 8.5, respectively. Thus, average levels of satisfaction were high for all groups. 

So where is the “harm” and all of the “unhappy” couples? There aren’t any, at least in this study. Indeed, the people in the survey who delayed sex in their relationship were happier, but that does not mean people who had sex sooner were unhappy. This study simply does not provide any evidence that abstaining from sex is a better recipe for success than having sex whenever you and your partner feel most comfortable.

Will jumping into bed sooner truly hurt your chances at a lifetime of happiness? No. Just do it when you’re both comfortable.

*If you didn’t already know, Brigham Young University is a Mormon-controlled university. Mormons aren’t allowed to have sex before marriage so it’s no surprise that studies like this support their irrational doctrine through more legitimate and scientifically accepted methods. Unfortunately for them, I could sense their bias from a mile away.

Sources:

Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., & Busby, D. M. Differing relationship outcomes when sex happens before, on, or after first dates. The Journal of Sex Research (2012)

Sassler, S., Addo, F. R., & Lichter, D. T. “The tempo of sexual activity and later relationship quality,” Journal of Marriage and Family (2012)

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What Determines Who You Date?

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Proximity!

We all have a list of qualities we want in a perfect mate. For me, I want someone who is Japanese-American, can speak Japanese well, graduated from an Ivy League university, around my height, around my age, kind, independent, has a slim but not skinny physique, and loves to eat unhealthy food. Will my next date encompass all those traits? Probably not.

A recent research study looked at speed dating and concluded that while individual preferences influence who we date, it’s actually the opportunities that have more sway on who we date. That makes sense, since we can only date and fall in love with people who are around us. Online dating can increase the pool from which we can choose, but we can’t date someone who is halfway across the country or fall in love with them (usually).

“We find that both women and men equally value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that there is positive sorting along age, height, and education. The role of individual preferences, however, is outplayed by that of opportunities. Along some attributes (such as occupation, height and smoking) opportunities explain almost all the variation in demand. “

According to the book The Logic of Life it’s a staggering 98%! Ninety-eight percent of who we date depends on “market conditions.” Dating someone tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, or uneducated are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s offered that night. In the battle between the cynics and the romantics, the cynics win hands down.

Who you propose a date to depends mostly on who happens to be sitting in front of you.

Source: “Can Anyone Be “The” One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating” from IZA Discussion Papers

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Is it a good idea to believe in Soulmates?

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Yes and No.

Soul mates are defined by couples who share the belief that their meeting was fate and that only one person in the world exists whom they are destined to be with.

Two psychologists decided to put such couples to the test to see whether those who endorse soul mate relationships are more fulfilled than those who believe in more practical pairings. What they found was that a combination of traditional union ideologies (such as marital permanency, division of labor, etc.) coupled with a soul mate mantra (you are the perfect one for me) lead to the most fulfilling unions.

There is a longitudinal study known as the PAIR project, which examined 168 couples since the early 1980’s for several years and provided fascinating insights into predictors of divorce. Couples who maintain idealized, romanticized, and unrealistic expectations (i.e. soul mates) about married life were more likely to divorce when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Also, those who believe in only “one” compatible person are at risk for staying single forever if no one lives up to their ideal.

Source: W. B. Wilcox and J. Dew (2010) Is Love a Flismy Foundation? Soulmate versus institutional models of marriage. Social Science Research, 39(5), 687-699.

Source: Caughlin, J. P., & Huston, T. L. (2006). The affective structure of marriage. In A. L. Vangelelisti & D. Perlman (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of personal relationships (pp. 131-155). New York: Cambridge University Press.

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What are some Simple Shortcuts to Improve Your Appearance and Dating Performance?

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Maintain Good Posture

Stand up straight. Proper posture will make you look taller, thinner and more confident. It also increases your testosterone levels.

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Wear Dress Shoes

Slipping on some nice suede or leather dress shoes will result in a more polished, gentlemanly look.

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Iron Your Clothes

The difference between a crisp, wrinkle-free shirt and a sloppy, wrinkled one is like night and day.

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Smile

So simple, yet so few men utilize it. Smiling dramatically affects how people interact with you. Even if you dress exceptionally well, a contemptuous or peevish visage will instantly turn people away. Smiling communicates sociability, likability and confidence.

Source: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/st_cuddy/

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How to Achieve the Perfect Kiss

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A kiss conveys passion, love, affection, friendship and total unabashed sexual energy. When timed properly, it is one of the most enjoyable things two people can do with their clothes on.

1. Plan the kiss: If you’re going on a date and you plan on kissing, you need to prepare accordingly. Avoid eating anything pungent that might overwhelm the kiss. If you smoke, try not to smoke during the date. You might be fine with a smoker’s breath but to others, kissing you might seem like they’re kissing an ashtray. If you must, at least carry a mint or gum. Some floss wouldn’t hurt either. In short, be kissable. 

2. Initiating the kiss: Timing the kiss is important. An abrupt kiss will make it seem like you’re desperate and thus, not romantic. Take your time to look into their eyes, smile and lean in closer.  Watch their body language. If they are not ready, they will display subtle cues like looking away, putting their hand in front of their mouth or neck, or crossing their arms to create some distance between you. If this happens, move back a bit and try again.

3. The first kiss: If you succeed and your lips lock, congratulations! But don’t celebrate just yet; you can still screw it up. Don’t hold the first kiss too long and please, no tongue on the first kiss. After the quick peck, see how he reacts. Does he smile? Is he blushing? When you kiss, there is a huge rush of oxytocin that’s released in the brain, which acts similarly to a hit of cocaine. Don’t pounce back on him immediately; let a few moments pass and make him crave your kiss. The ensuing kisses will be much more pleasurable.

4. The second and third kisses: This is when French kissing becomes more appropriate. After the initial kiss, move back a little and look him in the eye and give him another peck with a little bit more ferocity. If this one feels right for the both of you, build up the passion and excitement in the kiss till you are in the throes of wild and very passionate kissing!

5. Don’t forget to use your hands!  Kissing is nice, but it will be so much better if you use your hands. Gently cup his cheeks when you kiss. Or, gently caress his shoulders and lower back.

Finally, kisses should not be confined to just the lips. Every part of his body can be kissed in a way that will drive him into an orgasmic bliss.

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