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Topic 1: Attraction 

1. Find 2 empirical studies (empirical means based on research and data collection) about physical attraction. Go to Google Scholar to do your search or go to PCC Library – Database – PsychInfo – and enter your keywords into Search. 

2. Summarize the findings and provide citations.

3.  Are looks important to you.

4.  What is your opinion on the biological/evolutionary predisposition for attraction? 

5. Provide your thoughts and arguments in support AND  against the statement that “Attraction is one of the most unspoken forms of discrimination.” 


Topic 2: Sexuality

1. Provide at least 3 facts that you learned from the Evolutionary Psychology about male and female differences in mating and courtship. Indicate what you agree/disagree with and why. Relate the information to your personal life when appropriate.

2. We proposed in class that sexuality is complicated and that perceptions of sexual behaviors and practices depend on historic time and specific cultures. Please elaborate on changes in attitudes towards sexual practices from prehistoric (hunter and gatherers) societies to agricultural societies.

3. What was the reason for rise of control over female sexuality? We watched this clip in class; you can review again to better answer question 2 and 3  

4. Do you agree or disagree with this historic/anthropological account given by Dr. Christopher Ryan? (see the clip above)

5. Do you think that currently (with all the technological advancements e.g. DNA testing, birth control) we are going through another shift in attitude towards sexuality? Are we coming back to what sex originally meant for humans, claiming its “social function” and rejecting culturally induced restrictions? Can current research findings on fluidity of sexuality be an indication of this change? We watched this clip on sexual fluidity in class 



https://youtu.be/m2rTHDOuUBw (only 9:08-28:58)

Interpersonal Attraction

1. Physical Attributes

2. Confidence

3. Affect

4. Proximity

5. Similarity

6. Reciprocity

Reproductive vs Social Function

Traditionally study of “attraction” had and still has a very strong heterosexual bias

Physical Attraction

 Binary definitions of sex and gender are not scientific

 Variation in attraction (e.g. gay woman can be attracted to transgender

man or straight woman attracted to gay man)


 Heterosexual & homosexual men ranked younger sex partners

higher than older ones on “good looks”

 Heterosexual, but not homosexual women ranked older men higher


 Waist-to-chest ratio: primary component of attractiveness for

heterosexual & gay men. But, gay men had a stronger preference for a

more developed upper-body build

 Not all gay man look toward muscularity and athleticism as the primary

components of attractiveness

 Same-sex and different-sex

relationships are more alike than


 Same-sex couples: positive

coping skills and strategies to

deal with challenges of minority

stress and thrive

 Sexual Identity Uncertainty: which

sexual identity label best captures

one’s attractions & behavior

 Sexual identity uncertainty may result

from social pressure to fit into binary


 Individuals who are attracted to more

than one gender (nonmonosexual)

may be perceived as unsure whether

they are gay or heterosexual

Interpersonal Attraction

1. Physical Attributes

2. Confidence

3. Affect

4. Proximity

5. Similarity

6. Reciprocity

Physical Attractiveness

Physical Attractiveness

 Most people deny that looks are


 Looks are more important

 during the initial meeting

 early stages of relationship

 for short-term, less involved

 As involvement increases the emphases

shifts to personality and


 Attractive companions increase our


 In happy marriages, people see their

partners as more attractive than they

really are

Reasons we Prefer Attractive People

 People are attracted to a smell of

attractive people

Beauty is Intoxicating

 Evolutionary explanations: we are

hardwired to prefer some but not


 Newborn infants prefer faces of

attractive people

Evolutionary preference for “beauty”

Natural Selection
Survival / reproduction of organisms as a

function of their physical attributes

Sexual Selection

1. Females

Choose males based on elaborate

ornamentation or male behaviors

Handicap Principal:
suggested in 1975 by biologist Amotz Zahavi

Handicap signals fitness

2. Males

Competition: for access to

females (e.g., horns)

Develop sensitivity to females’’


Females drive the course of

sexual selection

Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype
Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals Nancy L. Etcoff, Shannon


Lauren E. Haley, Sarah A. Vickery, David M. House

1. Likability

2. Competence

3. Attractiveness

4. Trustworthiness


women with makeup: rated more positively

Photos were shown quickly

ratings went up

• Competent

• Likable

• Attractive

• Trustworthy

Dramatic makeup:

• Likable

• Much more attractive

• Competent, but

• Less trustworthy

Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype
Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals Nancy L. Etcoff, Shannon Stock,

Lauren E. Haley, Sarah A. Vickery, David M. House

Heterosexual men tend to find the faces of women with larger pupils more

attractive even when they’re unaware of the reason for their preference.

“bella donna”

from Italian and

means “beautiful


What Attracts Us – Symmetry

What Attracts Us – Body Shape

What Attracts Us: Height

What Attracts Us: Hight

119,000 individuals aged between 40 and 70 in the UK Biobank

Men: shorter height is linked to lower levels of

▪ education

▪ job status

▪ income

Women: higher BMI is linked to lower

▪ income

▪ greater deprivation

Possible complex interactions with self esteem, stigma, positive


What Attracts Us: Movement

Why We Prefer Attractive People

1. Evolutionary preference for “beauty”

2. Halo effect

 Assumption that good-looking people

possess more desirable characteristics

Attractive people

are assumed

 to be exiting dates

 be more sensitive & kind

 sexually warm responsive

 poised

 sociable

 outgoing and confident

 have better characters

Attractive people have

 More social & professional success

 Little happier in general

 More fulfilling lives

Halo Effect

 Preferred as friends

 More popular

 More likely to be hired after a
job interview

 Receive higher pay

 Make better impression &
receive leniency when
defendants in court

 Attractive attorneys earn higher
incomes & more likely to

become partners in their firms

Attractive people

Experiment: Self-Fulfilling Nature of Beauty

 All male participants

 Phone conversations

 3 groups: photo attractive, not attractive & no photo

 “Attractive” woman: rated as more poised,

humorous, and socially adept

 Ratings of men who didn’t have a photo

 more attractive

 more confident

 more animated

 warmer than the woman who though to be unattractive

Halo Effect

Physical Appearance

“Frizzy wig” experiment
▪ When woman was attractive: her positive and negative

evaluations of interaction mattered

▪ When she was not attractive: her comments didn’t matter

Gorgeous People

▪ Assumed to be more vain & promiscuous

▪ People lie to attractive people about their

▪ interests, personalities, income

▪ Gorgeous people may discount praise given

▪ by those who see them

▪ Unattractive people value praise more if people see them

Contrast effect: View self negatively when encounter gorgeous

people of the same sex

Cameron Russell: “I won a genetic lottery”

Primary & Secondary Dimensions of Diversity



















Religious Beliefs

“Unattractive” People

 Unattractive people are rated

more negatively

 Unattractive men have less

interaction with women

 Plain women spent a lot of

time interacting with men in

groups while attractive

women get more dates

 Older women: considered

less attractive (Jane Elliott)





Transformation can change be mandated?

Interpersonal Attraction

1. Physical Attributes

2. Confidence

3. Affect

4. Proximity

5. Similarity

6. Reciprocity

What Causes Attraction: Confidence

Super confident:

is it Attractive?

▪ Blunder Effect or

Pratfall Effect

What Causes Attraction?

3. Emotional State (Affect)

The Associated Effect – Misattribution

Aroused by something unrelated to a person

we are with feel


to that person

Misattributions of Physiological Arousal for Attraction

What Causes Attraction

Misattributions of physiological arousal

Hot Drink may Influence how Likable You are

Negotiations: people who sit on hard chairs (vs soft) are harder negotiators

A study by Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John A. Bargh of Yale University

Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth

What Causes Attraction

4. Proximity

physical closeness between two

individuals with respect to where

they live, where they sit in a

classroom, where they work,

and so on

The Propinquity Effect:

increased likelihood that two people will

come into repeated contact, feel

positive affect, and develop mutual


The Propinquity Effect

Location Exposure Familiarity Attraction

Propinquity effect is stronger

when people are not aware of

the exposure

The effect does not happen

when people’s initial reaction is

very negative. In this case,

familiarity can result in more


What Causes Attraction – Do Opposites Attract?

5. Similarity

Similarity-dissimilarity effect:

 respond positively to people who are similar

to us & negatively to people who are


What do we think about people who are

SIMILAR to us?

 more intelligent,

 more informed,

 more moral, and

 better adjusted than people who are


Similarity: Liking those who are like us

Demographic similarity:
▪ age, race, education, religion, SES

▪ Attitudes
▪ Values
▪ Personalities

▪ Attractiveness

▪ Intelligence

The strongest correlation is for similarity in education

6. Reciprocity
Liking those who like us

We are more likely to
approach those who offer

Men’s dopamine receptiors
are activated:
▪ If an attractive woman

makes an eye contact
▪ The same findings for

gay men

Intellectual Diversity

• All opinions are welcomed, but it does

not mean that they are facts

• We don’t take other peoples’ opinions


• BUT free speech does not mean

disrespecting other people

• Fundamental orthodoxy: Be like us OR

be excluded

• Putting an end to the patriarchal and

toxic way of thinking

• Intellectual terrorism

• Intellectual humility

Biological Perspective

▪ Complicated

▪ Sex & Procreation

▪ Non-Reproductive Function of


▪ Homosexuality

▪ Sexual Fluidity

▪ Gender Fluidity

Sexuality &

Interpersonal Relationships

David Halperin
Distinguished Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality

University of Michigan

Degree: Ph.D., Stanford


▪ has no history

▪ hardwired into most species

▪ grounded in the functioning of the body


▪ naming, assigning meaning, categorizing

▪ sexual acts and

▪ those who practice those acts

▪ historical phenomenon

▪ should be studied as such

Ph.D. in psychology

Focus on the prehistoric roots of

human sexuality

The book was praised but also criticized for

“biased reporting of data and problematic

assumptions” by anthropologist Ryan


Christopher Ryan

In opposition to the “standard narrative”

on “sex for procreation”

Non-Reproductive Function of Sex

Dr. Lisa M. Diamond

Professor of developmental & health psychology at the University of Utah

More Sex doesn’t Lead to Increased Happiness

Carnegie Mellon University

Journal of Economic Behavior

& Organization

▪ Some studies indicate: people who have more sex are also happier

▪ Being happy in the first place, might lead someone to have more sex

▪ Experiment:

▪ 2 goups: some couples to have more sex than others

▪ Observed happiness over a 3 month period

▪ Conclusion: simply having more sex did not make couples happier

Evolutionary Psychologists:

Sex is Everything

Wisdom of the Ancient World: India

Sex is Bondage


Sanskrit: Tan = “expansion“

Tra = “liberation”

Goal of human life:

▪ Strive for absolute peace

▪ Control sexual instincts

Sex is the energy of creation

Lust & Creativity

Vladas Griskevicius University of Minnesota



▪ Asexuality is distinct from celibacy

▪ Some asexuals do have sex, despite lacking a desire for it

In Humans – Rate of asexuality: 1%?

– Lack of sexual attraction or of interest & desire for sex

Hypersexual “Disorder”

“Excessive/Maladaptive Sexual Appetite”

APA did not approve hypersexual disorder for the DSM-5

Biological Perspective

▪ Complicated

▪ Sex & Procreation

▪ Non-Reproductive Function of Sex

▪ Homosexuality

▪ Sexual Fluidity

▪ Gender Fluidity

Sexuality &

Interpersonal Relationships

1) Ultimate causation:

A reason why it is there on

the first place

2) Proximate Causation:

A reason why do you do it NOW

▪ Constantly replenished

▪ 1,500-per-second production rate (average)

▪ 85 million sperm per day per testicle,

▪ Decreases with age

▪ Average ejaculation: 100-500 million sperm

Males: Short-Lived Sperm

The Ancient Egyptian

Pharaoh Ramesses II:

▪ 96 sons and 60 daughters

▪ He married 3 of his own daughters

Most prolific father of all time:

Emperor of Morocco,

Mulai Ismail (1646-1727)

In 1703 he had

▪ 342 daughters

▪ 525 sons

In 1721:

▪ 700 sons

Males’ Brain & Sex
Frontal cortex – guides sexual behaviors along socially

acceptable norms (both


s & females)

Males: Amygdala & Frontal Cortex

Males: Role of Testosterone in Mating

▪ 400,000 follicles/potential eggs (in ovaries)

▪ The same amount of sperm produced in 2.5 min in 2 testicles

▪ Formed before birth

▪ About 480 of these “eggs” will ever be released

Females: How Many Eggs?

Females: How Many Children?

The most prolific mother in history: a Russian peasant (18 century)

▪ 69 children, 67 of which survived infancy

▪ Between 1725 and 1765: 27 multiple births

▪ 16 pairs of twins

▪ 7 sets of triplets

▪ 4 sets of quadruplets

Females: How Many Children?

The most prolific mother in history: a Russian peasant (18 century)

▪ 69 children, 67 of which survived infancy

▪ Between 1725 and 1765: 27 multiple births

▪ 16 pairs of twins

▪ 7 sets of triplets

▪ 4 sets of quadruplets

The modern record

▪ Leontina Albina from San Antonio, Chile

▪ Now in her mid-sixties, claims 64 children

▪ 55 are documented

Most prolific father of all time:

Emperor of Morocco,

Mulai Ismail (1646-1727)

In 1703 he had

▪ 342 daughters

▪ 525 sons

In 1721:

▪ 700 sons

1. Resist sexual encounters until the

male has “proven his commitment”

Go Out Go to Apt. Go to Bed

Men were even
more likely to say
“yes” to the sexual







Not a single
woman said
“yes” to the

About half of
both sexes
said “yes” to
the date.






Clark & Hatfield

Traditional View: Women

are monogamous


Intelligence & Desirability

• What is the minimum percentile of intelligence you would accept
in considering someone for:

– A date

– A sexual partner

– A one night stand

– A steady dating partner

– A marriage partner?


Men’s criteria are
considerably lower for
sexual partners


And the differences are even
more pronounced for one-
night stands.

1. Resist sexual encounters until the male has

“proven his commitment”

2. Select strongest, sexiest, most dominant


Dominance: Is it Attractive?


▪ Although women are initially

attracted to sex-typed

dominant males, over time

less sex-typed men are

easier to get along with

▪ To be attractive to a woman:

dominance must be

accompanied by







• When the man was disagreeable, women found him undesirable as
a date, regardless of whether he was dominant or non-dominant.

Disagreeable Agreeable

as a date







When men were agreeable, women found them desirable as a date

Desirability was enhanced if men were also dominant

Disagreeable Agreeable


as a date

▪ Waitresses that were ovulating during their work shift – received more tips

▪ Lap dancers in stip clubs get more tips

Social Monogamy Vs Sexual Monogamy

Living arrangement proximity (social monogamy) without inferring any sexual interactions or

reproductive patterns (sexual monogamy)

Please watch these clips, in which Christopher’s Ryan suggests that sex has a social function In opposition to the “standard narrative” of “sex for procreation.”

He focuses on the prehistoric roots of human sexuality.

His book “Sex at Dawn” was praised but also criticized for “biased reporting of data and problematic assumptions” by anthropologist Ryan Ellsworth.

Please use your critical thinking and extra research to come to your own conclusions about human sexuality.


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