The Role of the Brain in Human Attraction – We really do not know why we pick certain physical characteristics in our quest for mates, but scientists are getting closer to accurate answers. They have measured every angle of the human face, the symmetry of the bodies of modern dancers, and crafted formulas from the bodies of exotic dancers. As far as outward features are concerned, the body type for women that is most desired by men is the hour glass shape. Women work out to preserve that coveted 10 to 12 inch difference between bust-to-waist and waist-to-hip. Women most prefer that upside down pyramid shape for men, which includes broad shoulders and a cinched waist. (Look at how men are depicted in an exaggerated fashion on cartoons.) Of course, we want a potential mate to possess a positive disposition, but we see the physical attributes before getting to know the personality characteristics. Psychologist Devindra Singh, from the University of Texas studies the waist to hip ratio as it relates to picking mates. The scientists at UT have manipulated the numbers of enough hips to develop the desired ratio. I will spare you all of the statistics. Now this does men that an apple-shaped man or women will not find love. We are discussing why we like the mates we like.
For those of you who have siblings, think about their past girlfriends or boyfriends. You should see some similarities in their choices of mates. If your brother always dates tall, red-headed girls, that is suggestive that there is rhyme and reason to the laws of attraction. We have all heard the saying, “Opposites attract.” This old cliché has scientific basis. MHC or major histocompatibility complex is a term used in microbiology and immunology. We are all attracted to people with a particular set of genes, known as HMC. Most of us prefer an HMC that is dramatically different from our own. This plays an important part in the development of our immune systems. A mate with a different HMC will allow us all to have strong and robust offspring. Have you ever seen a very tall man with a short woman or a man of average height with a tall woman? I have seen computer guys with an affinity for model types. Opposites do attract.
Women can be very choosey in finding a partner, because they are being competed for. In the most primitive sense, women looked for stability and men looked for a mate that could reproduce and send their seed into the next generation. A woman needs a mate who will stick around after she gives birth. Humans no longer dwell in caves, but the basic rationale behind selecting a mate is very simple. We all desire to thrive and survive. Survival truly belongs to the most fit.
I am not here to determine whether or not you subscribe to any Darwinian notions. However, it is difficult to have a scientific discussion without paying homage to the ideas and philosophies of Charles Darwin. Let’s set some ground rules. Evolution simply means a transformation. The world is constantly evolving or transforming. Aren’t we different since 9/11? So, we agree that we have evolved. I have just saved you an email or a phone call. You do not have to debate me about my usage of the scientific term ‘evolution’. (My faith is intact and works very well for me. Even my spirituality has evolved since becoming an adult. I certainly do not hold all of the views I held at age 18.)
The goal of these lectures is to explore every angle that science, particularly neurobiology plays in selecting a mate. Our next discussion will explore how smell can decide who is right for you. I hope you have fun with this series and apply the scientific facts as you search Match.com or the singles seminar sponsored by your place of worship!
Other topics to explore:
Chemicals contained in saliva (Science is involved in an innocent kiss!)
The brain scans of people madly in love are similar to the mentally ill (Yes, you can be love sick.)
Prostaglandins in sperm (Beware of being promiscuous. You can fall in love with a man who has nothing in common with you. Intercourse leads to attraction at the cellular level. Those sperm cells are crafty.)
Brain scans after a traumatic break-up