Thursday, August 04, 2005

Looking good

I'm usually not one to cite David Buss, but these results Ezra's talking about are interesting:

On a scale of 1 to 3, the importance men gave to good looks rose from 1.50 to 2.11. But for women, the importance of good looks in men rose from 0.94 to 1.67. In other words, women in 1989 considered a man’s looks even more important than men considered women’s looks 50 years earlier.

Women caring more about how men look, I think, is a symptom of a good development that's taken place over the past 50 years. Women are far more financially independent now than they were back then, and they don't have to care as much about whether their man makes a lot of money. So they're able to focus less on earning potential and more on things like physical attractiveness. Sure, it'd be nice if they focused more on philosophical ability or the ability to dance in novel ways, but all in all it's an improvement.


Justin said...

Maybe I'm being dense, but I'm not getting what the evolutionary psychology angle is here. Painting with a super broad brush, here's how a debate often gets played out: humanities or social science people point to some phenomenon X and say that X arose because of certain peculiar features of our (or whoever's) culture, while evolutionary psychologists say no, it isn't just our culture, it's something that evolution built into human nature. This was explicitly the thesis of Pinker's "Blank Slate", but it's a pretty general theme. From this (to be sure, over simplified) framework, the discovery that people have attached more importance to physical attractiveness as television and other visual media has exploded would seem to be more congenial to the "culture" folks than evolutionary psychologists. Am I missing something? Is there an evolutionary psychology hypothesis that this finding is supposed to support?

Neil Sinhababu said...

No, I don't see what the evo-psych hypothesis is either.

Mary said...

Attractiveness is sometimes an indicator of health (for example, the guy goes to the gym on a regular basis, and perhaps because of that interest in health, also goes to the doctor.)If he stays healthy, he can stay in the work force longer. We all know by now that research indicates better-looking people tend to get better jobs and make more the emphasis on attractiveness does not mitigate the interest in earning potential--from an evolutionary fitness standpoint, the ability to help me take care of my children to the point where they can produce my grandchildren. I think the evolutionary stuff is influenced by the cultural stuff. We look for things on this gut level, but have more cultural sophistication about how it works, maybe.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Yeah, I'm on board with the view that what counts as attractive is heavily influenced by selection pressures. But it's hard to see how a change in the perceived importance of attractiveness over a 50-year period relates to any hypothesis in evolutionary psychology.