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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The latest from evolutionary psychology: Hungry men prefer plump women for "evolutionary" reasons

Men who are hungry are more attracted to
plump women and men who are well-fed are more attracted to thin ones, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychology, which offers an explanation:
... although modern western cultures are dominated by images of skinny models, men still have an evolutionary preference for more rounded women.

The results indicated that this preference can still be triggered by pangs of hunger. Viren Swami, a psychologist at Liverpool University's Department of Public Health, said: "Hungry men are much more tolerant and rate obese women more positively than men who have eaten."

Maybe that's simply because the hungry men suspect that plump women know where the kitchen is, but the satiated men don't really care. Strictly speaking, the hungry men could have tumbled to that one if they had evolved only twenty-five years ago.

Culturally, this story is an interesting entry in the annals of evo psycho because it riffs off two key Western cultural values (not just one):

1. The cave man stereotype (the average guy "really" thinks like a Paleolithic cave man, so everything he thinks about reflects that bias. Why so?).

2. You have to be "much more tolerant" to hang out with someone who is "obese". Oh? So everyone in the world is and always has been as obsessed with body shape and image as anorexic, white, middle-class American/European girls?

The article notes the interesting cultural fact that some African women are force-fed milk to fatten them. I'm not surprised. Afrocentric cultures don't glorify anorexia - but then few cultures have. Kathy Shaidle, the "relapsed Catholic" once mentioned on a Behind the Story segment we taped together that the African American girl's cultural equivalent of anorexia was "hair-orexia." She accepts her natural body shape (good for her!), but may focus too much of her life and self-esteem on hair management. Good thing that external hair is biologically dead anyway, so the African American girls have chosen a much safer focus for neurosis.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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