The Rules of Attraction

Article excerpt

Single white female seeks thirtysomething male for companionship. Must enjoy long walks on the beach and dinners by candlelight. Should have healthy glow, strong immune system, and slightly feminine face. Those who look like my brothers need not apply ...

Personal ads of the future may dig a bit deeper than those of today, if several recent studies are any guide. Though the evolutionary take on human attraction is the stuff of basic biology textbooks, plenty of researchers spent at least part of the past year taking a closer look at the way gene-fueled urges duck and weave through our blind dates, blossoming relationships, and breakups. "Sexual attraction and desire evolved to direct our attention to sexual behavior with high-quality, attractive partners, on the whole, because our ancestors with this trait left more offspring," said psychologist Michael R. Kauth, editor of a forthcoming book on attraction. In 2005, Kauth's field was ablaze with new research, of which the following barely scratches the surface.

The wimps win one: In a study at the University of Liverpool, women who rated themselves as attractive were more attracted to the thick eyebrows and square jaws of classic masculine faces--overall indicators of high testosterone levels and good genes. Men with feminine facial characteristics, on the other hand, hit it big with all of the nonsupermodels in the study. Because more women see themselves as Average Joannes than Towering Tyras, less-macho guys therefore have a wider choice of potential partners.

Catty is as catty does: Psychologists at York University in Toronto showed heterosexual students photos of faces and found that women at their most fertile judged other women's appearances more harshly. …