Brooding, Proud Guys Score High on Sex Appeal

Brooding, Proudl Guys Score High on Sex Appeal We are all familiar with media advertisements in which sullen looking men, often accompanied by a beautiful women, project an aura of sexuality and decadence. The ‘picture’ sells the product, whatever the product may be. The perceptions created by the ads may be accurate as investigators discover women find happy guys significantly less sexually attractive than swaggering or brooding men. University of British Columbia researchers say the findings may help explain the enduring allure of “bad boys” and other iconic gender types. The study — which may cause men to smile less on dates, and inspire online daters to update their profile photos — finds dramatic gender differences in how men and women rank the sexual attractiveness of non-verbal expressions of commonly displayed emotions, including happiness, pride, and shame. Authors point out that very few studies have explored the relationship between emotions and attraction, and this is the first to report a significant gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles. Another key contribution of this study is the unique inquiry into the attractiveness associated with displays of pride and shame. The study is published online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion. “While showing a happy face is considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction – few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, attractive,” said psychologist Dr. Jessica Tracy. “This study finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles.” In a series of studies, more than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes). The study found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men, preferring those who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident. “It is important to remember that this study explored first impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex,” said Alec Beall, a UBC psychology graduate student and study co-author. “We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife – we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction.” He said previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in a relationship partners. Tracy and Beall said that other studies suggest that what people find attractive has been shaped by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces. For example, evolutionary theories suggest females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring. According to Beall, the pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity. “Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women,” he said. The researchers say more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness, but suggest the phenomenon can also be understood according to principles of evolutionary psychology, as well as socio-cultural gender norms. For example, past research has associated smiling with a lack of dominance, which is consistent with traditional gender norms of the “submissive and vulnerable” woman, but inconsistent with “strong, silent” man, the researchers said. “Previous research has also suggested that happiness is a particularly feminine-appearing expression,” Beall added. “Generally, the results appear to reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures,” Tracy said. “These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we’ve moved beyond.” Displays of shame, Tracy said, have been associated with an awareness of social norms and appeasement behaviors, which elicits trust in others. This may explain shame’s surprising attractiveness to both genders, she said, given that both men and women prefer a partner they can trust. While this study focused on sexual attraction between heterosexual men and women in North America, the researchers say future studies will be required to explore the relationship between emotions and sexual attractiveness among homosexuals and non-Western cultures. Overall, the researchers found that men ranked women more attractive than women ranked men. Source: University of British Columbia

Does Computer Use Undermine Reading Skills?

Does Computer Use Undermine Reading Skills?A provocative new study suggests increased leisure use of computers by children leads to poorer reading ability. Swedish researchers said this effect is being played out in both Sweden and the United States. Monica Rosén, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg, analyzed differences between different countries over time in order to explain change in reading achievement among 9- to 10-year olds. Rosén and her colleagues have studied how pupils’ reading skills have changed since 1970 in Hungary, Italy, the U.S. and Sweden. Reading ability has improved steadily in Italy and Hungary, while it has fallen rapidly since 1991 in both the U.S. and Sweden. During this period, many factors within the school system have changed, as as society in general and the after-school activities of children in particular. The Swedish and American pupils described a large increase in the use of computers in their free time during this period, while a similar increase was not reported in Hungary or Italy. “Our study shows that the entry of computers into the home has contributed to changing children’s habits in such a manner that their reading does not develop to the same extent as previously,” Rosén said. “By comparing countries over time we can see a negative correlation between change in reading achievement and change in spare time computer habits which indicates that reading ability falls as leisure use of computers increases.” Researchers also found the frequency of leisure reading and the number of leisure books borrowed from the library have both fallen as computer use in the home has increased. Thus, it is not the computers in themselves or the activities they are used for that impair reading skills, but rather that computers have stolen time from leisure reading. According to the researchers, the new computer habits do not promote the development of reading ability in the same way as leisure reading of books does. Reading of printed media has fallen also among adults. In many homes, especially among younger adults, researchers say it is uncommon for an individual to sit down and read. “We have shown that the poorer results are principally caused by a fall in the skills of those from the center of the ability range and upwards. It is not that case that there are more less-gifted readers or that the skills of these readers have become poorer. What has happened is that there are fewer high-performing children,” Rosén said. Rosén pointed out that it is very difficult to measure and compare reading skills over time. “It is important that we do not jump to the conclusion that the complete explanation for poorer reading is deficiencies in education,” she said. “On the contrary, the way in which computers undermine reading shows very clearly that leisure time is at least as important when it comes to developing high-quality reading skills.” Source: University of Gothenburg

Breaking the Rules May Be a Power Trip

Breaking the Rules May Be a Power TripHave you ever noticed that many people with power seem to flaunt their presumed authority by being rude? A new study investigates this observation and discovers people with power seem to act the part by smiling less, interrupting others and speaking in a louder voice. Researchers determined that when people do not respect the basic rules of social behavior, they lead others to believe that they have power. According to the experts, people with power experience the world in a different way than the rest of us. The powerful have fewer rules to follow, and they live in environments of money, knowledge and support. Most of us live within the written and non-written expectations of what is right and  wrong, knowing that punishment and established limits are delineated. A research team lead by Gerben Van Kleef, Ph.D., of the University of Amsterdam studied the question: Because the powerful are freer to break the rules, does breaking the rules seem more powerful? In the study, subjects read about a visitor to an office who took a cup of employee coffee without asking or about a bookkeeper who bent accounting rules. The rule-breakers were seen as more in control, and powerful compared to people who didn’t steal the coffee, or didn’t break bookkeeping rules. Acting rudely also seems to be perceived as powerful. People who saw a video of a man at a sidewalk café put his feet on another chair, drop cigarette ashes on the ground and order a meal brusquely thought the man was more likely to “get to make decisions” and able to “get people to listen to what he says” than the people who saw a video of the same man behaving politely. Nevertheless, what happens when a “regular” person has to interact with a rule breaker? Van Kleef and colleagues had people come to the lab, and interact with a rule follower and a rule breaker. The rule follower was polite and acted normally, while the rule breaker arrived late, threw down his bag on a table and put up his feet. After the interaction, people thought the rule breaker had more power and was more likely to “get others to do what he wants.” “Norm violators are perceived as having the capacity to act as they please,” the researchers concluded. Power may be corrupting, but showing the outward signs of corruption makes people think you’re powerful. The study is found in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Source: Sage

Crossing Arms Confuses Brain, Relieves Hand Pain

Crossing Arms Confuses Brain But Relieves Hand PainIf your hand hurts, simply cross your arms; it will confuse the brain and reduce your pain intensity, according to scientists at University College London. Researchers believe this happens because of conflicting information between two of the brain’s maps: the one for your body and the one for external space. Since the left hand typically performs actions on the left side of space (and the right hand performs on the right side), these two maps work together to create powerful impulses in response to stimuli. When the arms are crossed, however, the two maps are mismatched and information processing becomes weaker — resulting in less pain. “Perhaps when we get hurt, we should not only ‘rub it better’ but also cross our arms,” said lead author Giandomenico Iannetti of the UCL department of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience. Using a laser, scientists produced a four millisecond pin prick of “pure pain” (pain without touch) on the hands of a small group of eight volunteers.  It was then repeated with their arms crossed. The partipants’ brain responses to the pain were measured through electroencephalography (EEG); the volunteers also gave a rating on how much pain they felt during each circumstance. The results from both the EEG and the participants’ reports revealed that the perception of pain was weaker when the arms were crossed. “In everyday life you mostly use your left hand to touch things on the left side of the world, and your right hand for the right side of the world — for example when picking up a glass of water on your right side you generally use your right hand,” said Iannetti. “This means that the areas of the brain that contain the map of the right body and the map of right external space are usually activated together, leading to highly effective processing of sensory stimuli. When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being perceived as weaker.” According to the scientists, this new research could lead to novel clinical therapies to reduce pain that exploit the brain’s way of representing the body. The study is published in the journal PAIN. Source: University College London
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