Tag Archives: research study

Move Over Cupid, Proximity is the New Matchmaker

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When I’m not near the one I love, I love the one I’m near.

—E. Y. Harburg, Finian’s Rainbow

Proximity and Repeated Exposure

We never really think about it, but is it really surprising that students who take the same courses, sit next to each other in class, or live side by side in dorm rooms tend to develop closer friendships than those who don’t? Sales people in large department stores form closer friendships and ties with those who work alongside them in the same department than with people who work just several yards away in another area.

Are humans just natural love-magnets that attract people who are physically close to us? Or, is there some other explanation for the strong positive effect of proximity? One of the most interesting explanations was offered by researcher Robert Zajonc, who viewed the positive effect of physical proximity as the result of “repeated exposure.” Repeated exposure, it turns out, increases our liking for practically everything, from the routine features of our lives to clothing choices, foods, music, and people.

People Don’t Like What’s Not Familiar to Them

Humans have an inborn discomfort to people and environments that are not familiar to them. On top this, we are socialized from a very young age to avoid unfamiliar things and people. Do you recall your mom telling you, “don’t touch that, you don’t know where its been” or “don’t talk to strangers”? And even as adults, it’s very unlikely that we would respond positively to a stranger, even though this fear is completely irrational. How would you feel if a guy randomly approached you on the street and told you that he would like to get acquainted with you? Most of us are likely to assume that the stranger is crazy, drunk, trying to sell us something, convince us of something, or even hurt us.

…But They Like What’s Familiar To Them

But what if we have seen this same stranger every time you went shopping at the supermarket or on the bus on your way to school – would you react differently? More likely than not, you would. Repeated exposure tells us that the person, or thing, is not dangerous, and it puts us at ease. This occurs even when we are not consciously aware that we were exposed to a particular person. In a study that demonstrated this, subjects were asked to talk about some neutral topic with two people who were confederates of the experimenter. Before the conversation, a photograph of one of the confederates was flashed on a screen so quickly that the subjects were unaware of it. Despite their lack of awareness of this subliminal exposure, the subjects still responded more favorably toward the familiar person than they did toward the person whose photograph was not flashed.

In another experiment, men and women who did not know each other were asked to look in each other’s eyes for 2 minutes (a long time when you look into the eyes of someone you do not know). The result was that both the men and the women reported an increase in their romantic attraction to the person with whom they locked eyes. Of course, this is not practical in a real life situation. Saying to someone, “let’s look into each other’s eyes for two minutes” would likely be perceived as bizarre rather than romantic.

Repeated Exposure Intensifies All Feelings, Positive and Negative

So let’s say there’s a guy at work you don’t like or you don’t get along with. Should you spend more time with him or ask him to lock eyes with you for two minutes? NOOOOO.

When someone annoys us, repeated exposure, rather than making us like that person more, will intensify our negative feelings. This explains why police records show that most acts of violence do not happen between strangers, but between people who are close, such as husband and wife, family members, friends, and neighbors. In other words, repeated exposure intensifies the dominant emotion in the relationship. When the dominant emotion is anger, repeated exposure enhances the anger.

Suggestions for People Seeking Love

Try to arrange your life in a way that allows you to have many opportunities to meet people you want to engage in a friendship or relationship with regularly through your workplace, residence, or recreational activity. An opportunity to meet and get acquainted is almost a prerequisite for the development of a romantic relationship. But, meeting once is not enough. Don’t count on “love at first sight” because that rarely happens. Repeated exposure is much more powerful and reliable than waiting for someone to pop up out of the blue and confess their love to you.

But keep in mind, meeting repeatedly does not guarantee love. Just as much as repeated exposure can increase positive feelings of you in someone, a negative impression can be exacerbated by repeated exposure as well. If the first impression is negative, it is best to cut contact, let the first impression dissipate, and then give the relationship another chance. In such a case, repeated exposure will not change the initial dislike or disdain into love but will most likely increase them.

Sources:

Kellerman, J., Lewis, J., & Lard, J. D. (1989). Looking and loving: The effects of mutual gaze on feelings of romantic love. Journal of Research in Personality.

White, G. L. & Shapiro, D. (1989). Don’t I know you? Antecedents and social consequences of perceived similarity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Bornstein, R. F., Leone, D. R., & Galley, D. J. (1987). The generalizability of subliminal mere exposure effects: Influence of stimuli perceived without awareness on social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Pierce, C. A., Byrne, D., & Aguinis, H. (1996). Attraction in organizations: A model of workplace romance. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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Does The Clothes You Wear Influence People’s Behavior?

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Clothes really do make a difference.

Today, I’ll focus on clothes and the color red: Red conveys energy, passion, and sex. It makes men more attractive to women. It makes women more attractive to men. The abstract from one of the studies explains:

In Experiment 1, men who viewed an ostensible conversation partner in a red versus a green shirt chose to ask her more intimate questions. In Experiment 2, men who viewed an ostensible interaction partner in a red versus a blue shirt chose to sit closer to her. These effects were observed across participants’ perceptions of their own attractiveness (Experiment 1) and general activation and mood (Experiment 2). Our findings suggest that red acts as a basic, non-lexical prime, influencing reproduction-relevant behavior in like manner across species.

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and another:

We demonstrate that women perceive men to be more attractive and sexually desirable when seen on a red background and in red clothing, and we additionally show that status perceptions are responsible for this red effect. The influence of red appears to be specific to women’s romantic attraction to men: Red did not influence men’s perceptions of other men, nor did it influence women’s perceptions of men’s overall likability, agreeableness, or extraversion. Participants showed no awareness that the research focused on the influence of color. These findings indicate that color not only has aesthetic value but can carry meaning and impact psychological functioning in subtle, important, and provocative ways.

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For those who hitchhike: 

In a different study, researchers found that wearing red helps hitchhikers get picked up. Women who were wearing red solicited a higher response in the number of male drivers who stopped to offer them a ride. Unfortunately,  the same effect could not be replicated with female drivers.   

For athletes: 

According to Hill and Barton’s study, published in the prestigious science journal Nature in 2005, athletes dressed in red had a measurable advantage. This was particularly the case with Taekwondo, where competitors who were assigned to be on the red side or team won 57 percent of all match-ups.  They found similar results for boxing as well, with boxers wearing red gloves and red shorts having a 55 percent victory quotient.

I think it’s pretty clear what we need to do now: Go out and buy some red clothes!! 

Sources:

“Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men.” Journal of Experimental Psychology. (2010)

“Red and romantic behavior in men viewing women.” European Journal of Social Psychology. (2010)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7040/abs/435293a.html

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/col.20651/pdf

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Politics of Homosexuality: Can Men Stop Being Gay? What About Women?

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These days, nothing seems to polarize a crowd faster than the issue of sexual orientation (other than gun control). Religious fundamentalists believe homosexuality is a matter of choice made consciously by people. The opposite side argues that gays are “born this way,” and thus any effort to change their orientation is ineffective, not to mention cruel and demoralizing.

Gays Are Not Born this Way (Sort of)

From a strictly technical and somewhat pedantic standpoint, gay people aren’t really “born that way” in the sense of having same-sex attractions from the moment of birth. Sexual orientation cements around puberty, and according to Gerulf Rieger, a sexual orientation researcher at Cornell University, “it is quite possible that there are several influences on forming a homosexual orientation.” Genes do appear to contribute, but so do other factors, including a fetus’ level of exposure to certain sex hormones in the womb, and possibly early life experiences.

Some of the newest evidence that has come out of researching the human genome suggests that the gay gene simply does not exist. Scientists who worked on the Human Genome Project hypothesize that homosexuality is not written in our DNA sequence itself, which explains why they have failed so far to find any “gay genes,” despite intensive investigations. Instead, they believe it is written in how our genes are expressed: that is, in certain modifications to how and when DNA is activated. “It’s not genetics. It’s not DNA. It’s not pieces of DNA. It’s epigenetics,” says Sergey Gavrilets, a researcher at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Epi-marks regulate the expression of genes according to the strength of external cues, such as hormone levels. In other words, genes are basically the instruction book, while epi-marks direct how those instructions get carried out. They can determine, for example, when, where, and how much of a gene gets expressed.

If Sexual Re-Orientation Was Possible, How Would It Be Done? (Hint: you can’t pray it away, obviously)

To date, there have been no verified cases of formerly gay people completely ridding themselves of same-sex attraction. However, some new research suggests that it does appear possible for some people who are predisposed to same-sex attraction to expand their sexual repertoire – develop attractions for opposite-sex partners and even opt for the opposite sex exclusively.

Heather Hoffmann, a professor of psychology who chairs the neuroscience program at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, affirms that “highly motivated people can change their behavior, and they can clearly change their label.” Hoffmann’s research has demonstrated that sexual arousal is subject to Pavlovian conditioning, the method of repeatedly pairing one stimulus with another until, eventually, the first triggers an expectation of the second. Her work shows that both men and women can be conditioned to become sexually aroused by exposure to a cue, such as an odor or an object.

It Never Fails, Go Watch Fu*king Quails 

Sexual experiences affect our arousal patterns by altering what activities or features of sexual partners arouse us. But can we ever be conditioned to become aroused by members of our non-preferred sex? In one experiment, male quails were hormonally altered so as to allow other “sexually naive” (virgin) male quails to have sex with them. After this learning experience, the latter group of quails maintained a sexual preference for males, suggesting that they were being sexually oriented through learning. However, their natural predilection for females was not lost: Another experiment showed it was much easier to reorient those male quails toward females through “reverse learning” than it was to try and reorient males who had already had sex with females toward other males.

Another example that captures this phenomenon quite well is the Sambia tribe of Papa New Guinea. If you’ve ever taken a class on human sexuality or anything similar, you’ve probably learned or read about the interesting ritual that Sambian males participate in. The tribe engages in a unique ritual meant to transform boys who are considered feminine into fierce, strong, male warriors. They believe that in order for a boy to become a man, he must first be brought up on mother’s milk and nurtured by her until the age of 7 or 8. At this point, in order for the boy to reach puberty, he needs to continue drinking milk, but from this point forward, from a man. The boy is taken away from their mother and lives communally with other boys until the age of 17 or 18. In this exclusive community, pre-pubescent boys fellate post-pubescent boys until they climax and drink their ejaculate. Once they reach puberty several years later, they switch roles where they are fellated by younger boys. One would think that engaging in this type of homosexual behavior for so many years before and after puberty would make all Sambian men gay, but that obviously does not happen (otherwise the tribe would become extinct). Once the older boys leave the community, they find a girl, get married and live completely heterosexual lives thereafter! This demonstrates two important things. First, it shows that sexual orientations are indeed malleable and can be manipulated to a certain extent. But at the same time, when given the opportunity, both humans and quails revert back to their “default” orientation.

Women: Fluid Sexuality Or Merely Bisexual?

As in many areas of sexuality, research on women’s sexual arousal patterns has lagged far behind men’s, but the limited research on the subject does suggest that, compared with men, women’s sexual arousal patterns may be less tightly connected to their sexual orientation.

To examine sexual arousal differences in men and women, researchers at Northwestern University measured the psychological and physiological sexual arousal in homosexual and heterosexual men and women as they watched erotic films. They were shown three types of erotic films: gay porn (featuring only men), lesbian porn (featuring only women) and straight porn (featuring male and female couples). As with previous research, the researchers found that men responded consistent with their sexual orientations, i.e., gay men found gay porn to be the most sexually arousing. In contrast, both homosexual and heterosexual women showed a bisexual pattern of psychological as well as genital arousal. In other words, heterosexual women were just as sexually aroused by watching female erotica as by watching male erotica, even though they prefer having sex with men rather than women. This explains why most women with same-sex predispositions report better success adjusting to heterosexual lifestyles than gay men do, but switching to a “straight” identity doesn’t mean that their former attractions are wiped completely. Hoffmann reiterates, “sexual fluidity is more of a broadening of your attraction pattern rather than erasing your original pattern. I think men may have this capacity, too, but I think it may be more prominent in women.” 

Conclusion:

It is currently still unknown whether some combination of Pavlovian conditioning, learning processes and hormone therapies could enable truly motivated individuals with a same-sex predisposition to adapt to heterosexual lifestyles, whether for religious, cultural or personal reasons. Will there be a day in the near future where some clinical therapy will be developed for sexual re-orientation?

Perhaps.

Sure, we may one day be able to condition ourselves to become aroused to the opposite sex, but is this something we really want? Why is it so hard to accept peoples’ differences? Why should my moral character be immediately diminished based on who I love?  

If only more people would realize that our energy is better spent trying to reduce the misunderstanding, discrimination, and hostility that exists towards homosexuals instead of focusing on trying to change an aspect of our humanity that may very well be immutable, I think the world would be a slightly better place to live in. 

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Sources:

Hoffman, H. “The Role of Classical Conditioning in Sexual Arousal.” The Psychophysiology of Sex. (2007)

Schachtman , T.R., & Reilly, S. “Hot and bothered: Classical conditioning of sexual incentives in humans.” Associative Learning and Conditioning Theory: Human and Non-Human Applications. (2011)

http://www.canyons.edu/faculty/labriem/psych230/sexdifferencesinspecificitysexualarousal.pdf

Rice, W.R., et. al. “Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development” The Quarterly Review of Biology. (2012)

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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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Book Recommendation #2

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

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Humans Are A Real Pain in the Ass To Study

The best way to study something is through direct observation. But finding people who are willing to have scientists poke and prod at them during sex or disclose their deepest and darkest desires to them are few and far between. Radio waves may be invisible, but they don’t try to deceive curious physicists and they’re incapable of self-deception. Humans are guilty of both.

Enter, The Internet

With a visit to an adult video site like Xtube, you can see more naked bodies in a single minute than what a normal person would see in their entire lifetime in real life. And since we no longer have to interact with anyone to obtain erotica, women who fell too mortified to be seen in an adult video store are finally empowered to explore their erotic interests in privacy and comfort. Gay men who were previously isolated in rural neighborhoods can now pursue a hook-up without leaving their chair. Billions of people around the planet are free to satisfy their most secret erotic desires by thinking, clicking, and typing—all while remaining cloaked by the anonymity of the Internet.

But then how do we observe people’s sexual activities on the Web if they are indeed anonymous? The fact is, our online behavior is rarely untraceable;  we leave behind a trail of digital footprints everywhere we go on the internet. Let’s say, for example, you did a search for Taylor Lautner’s abs in Google Images and then browsed for dress shirts on Express’s online store. Don’t be surprised if Groupon sends you an email telling you of a great round-trip deal to San Francisco. (They know you’re gay. I mean, no heterosexual man would look at another guy half-naked and then nonchalantly go online shopping for clothes) Or, have you recently searched for “ways to reduce smell of weed” after posting on Facebook how stupid the English homework assignment is? Facebook will show you ads of sites promising “Quality Vaporizers with Free Shipping!” (They know you’re probably an underage, spoiled, stoner looking to get high in your parents’ home with your friends without getting caught) The point is that search engines and social media know a lot about us, in fact, maybe a little too much…but that’s great news if you’re a researcher!

The authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts attempt to analyze this untapped goldmine of information and apply psychological and sociological research to try and answer these questions: What turns us on? How does it differ from your friends or the person living in Japan or Norway? Or does it even differ? Why is what we desire so diverse yet so predictable? A fascinating read for those who are sex geeks like me. It’s a clever, entertaining and informational book worth reading.

Reviews:

“I am 42, married for 16 years and learned more about women and men’s differences by reading this book than I did in 16 years of marriage. I found it fascinating. This book could be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands!”  – Bernie

“Smart, readable and handles even the most bizarre fetishes with both humor and respect.”  -Salon.com

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Are You More Interested In Someone Who Is Already Taken?

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Highly likely. 

A new study provides evidence for what many have long suspected: women are much keener on pursuing a man who’s already taken than a singleton.

Researchers from Oklahoma State University conducted this mate-poaching study by asking 184 heterosexual students at the university to participate in a study on sexual attraction and told the volunteers that a computer program would match them with an ideal partner. Half the participants were single and half were attached, with equal number of men and women in each group.

Unknown to the participants, everyone was offered a fictitious partner who had been tailored to match their interests exactly. The photograph of “Mr. Right” was the same for all women participants, as was that of the ideal women presented to the men. Half the participants were told their ideal mate was single, and the other half that he or she was already in a romantic relationship. Everything was the same across all participants, except whether their ideal mate was already attached or not.

The most striking result was in the responses of single women. Offered a single man, 59 per cent were interested in pursuing a relationship. But when he was attached, 90 per cent said they were up for the chase. Men were keenest on pursuing new mates, but weren’t bothered whether their target was already attached or not. Attached women showed least interest and were slightly more drawn to single men.

A Stamp of Approval

Burkley and Parker, the researchers of the study, speculate that single women may be more drawn to attached men because they’ve already been “pre-screened” by other women and found to be satisfactory as a mate, whereas single men are more of an unknown quantity. But what else motivates women to pursue “taken” partners? Apart from the explanation of “pre-screening”, another possibility, they say, is that in US society, women are socialized to be competitive, so they derive self-esteem by mate poaching from rival women.

Implications for Gay Couples

While this was conducted with heterosexual couplings, it’s not hard to extrapolate these findings to male-male or female-female couples as well since the concept of “pre-screening ” is not hetero-exclusive. And going by the conclusion the researchers offer, gay men should be even more likely to pursue these semi-unattainable mates because they are socialized, more so than women, to be competitive.  

Source: “Who’s chasing whom? The impact of gender and relationship status on mate poaching” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2009.

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Is Facebook Making You Feel More Lonely?

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Depends on what you bring to it.

A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon followed 1,200 Facebook users and came to these conclusions. People who received composed communication became less lonely, while people who received one-click communication, i.e., using the “like” button, experienced no change in loneliness. Non-personalized use of Facebook— like scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, also known as “passive consumption” and “broadcasting”—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness. Wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear is not emotionally satisfying.

So the next time your friend posts an Instagram photo of what they’re eating, tell them how delicious it looks. Whenever you realize that its one of your FB friends’ birthday, send them a nice personal message. When someone posts pictures from their vacation, tell them how nice it looks. That’s what we all want to hear. It’s a sad, lonely world out there; is it not worth 5 seconds of your life to make someone else feel good?

In a another study, researchers looked at the connection between the loneliness of subjects and the relative frequency of their interactions via Facebook, chat rooms, online games, dating sites, and face-to-face contact. The results were very clear. The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are.  The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.

But that doesn’t mean using Facebook will inevitably make you feel lonelier. Remember that Facebook is merely a tool, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on how you utilize it. So if you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact, that’s great!  If you’re using social media, for example, to organize a basketball game among your friends, that’s healthy. If you’re turn to social media instead of playing basketball, then we have a problem. 

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

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What’s The Quickest Way to Feel More Attractive?

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Have a drink. Or just think you’re having a drink.

The study examined the role of alcohol consumption on self-perceived attractiveness. Study 1, carried out in a bar, showed that the more alcoholic drinks customers consumed, the more attractive they thought they were. 

In Study 2, 94 non-student participants in a bogus taste-test study were given either an alcoholic beverage (target blood alcohol level= 0.10 g/100 ml) or a non-alcoholic beverage, with half of each group believing they had consumed alcohol and half believing they had not (balanced placebo design). After consuming beverages, they delivered a speech and rated how attractive, bright, original, and funny they thought they were. The speeches were videotaped and rated by 22 independent judges. Results showed that participants who thought they had consumed alcohol gave themselves more positive self-evaluations. However, ratings from independent judges showed that this boost in self-evaluation was unrelated to actual performance.

Moral of the story: “Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beer Holder”  Alcohol makes you act and feel more attractive but you’re not perceived that way by others. But if you’re already a cool person to begin with and just have a low self-esteem or shyness problem, then alcohol will boost your esteem and oust that shyness temporarily. Amazing. 

Source: “‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’: People who think they are drunk also think they are attractive” from British Journal of Psychology
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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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What does research say about how we “click” with someone?

soul-mates-squareYou just can’t put your finger on it, but you just… “click.”

The book Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do discusses a few of the most common causes of connection like proximity and similarity but their emphasis on vulnerability is quite striking.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. In doing so, other people reciprocate by being more open and vulnerable themselves. When both of you let your guard down, it helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection. When you both make yourselves vulnerable from the outset and are candid in revealing who you are and how you think and feel, you create an environment that fosters the kind of openness that can lead to an instant connection — that click.

Vulnerability is also the element of clicking you have the most control over and can therefore use to improve how often and how deeply you connect with others.

There’s a hierarchy of vulnerability in the types of communication we have, each one being more open and more likely to lead to a solid connection:

  • Phatic: These statements have no emotional content: “What are you doing?”
  • Factual: These share information, maybe personal information, but no strong opinions or emotions are involved: “I live in Orange County.”
  • Evaluative: These statements show opinions, but they’re not core beliefs: “That cafe has amazing lattes.”
  • Gut-level: The first three are thought-oriented, while gut-level communication is emotionally based. It’s personal, and says something deeper about who you are: “I’m sad that you’re not here.”
  • Peak: Peak statements share your innermost feelings and convey the most emotionally vulnerability. These are “…feelings that are deeply revealing and carry the most risk in terms how the other person will respond,” : “I guess at heart I’m terrified I’m going to lose you.” 

To sum it up, we can engender magical connections simply by elevating the language we use from the phatic to the peak level.  

Bonus: Interestingly, one of the most popular TED talks of all time is Brené Brown’s presentation on vulnerability.

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