Is beauty contagious? 5 May 2015

Tuesday, May 05, 2015 Rob 4 Comments

Is beauty contagious? How the average attractiveness of a group of people is influenced by its members. Also, how the ratio of men to women in our social group meddles with our mating psychology.

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Why a Skewed Chinese Sex Ratio Doesn't Spell Disaster
Attractive Friends Make You Look More Attractive

One man and four women: new research shows how our 'mating strategies' (how we seek partners and what we find attractive) are influenced by the relative numbers of men and women we encounter.

The articles covered in the show:

Schacht, R., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2015). Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans. Royal Society Open Science, 2, 140402. Read summary

van Osch, Y., Blanken, I., Meijs, M. H. J., & van Wolferen, J. (in press). A group’s physical attractiveness is greater than the average attractiveness of its members: The group attractiveness effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Read summary


  1. Well, preferring long term relationships with women doesn't necessarily mean men will be nice.

    Yanomamo societies suffer a lack of females due to some men having multiple wives and the practice of female infanticide. Men with wives are fiercely possessive of them and regularly beat them to keep them docile and faithful. Men without wives (and those who want more) raid other villages for girls.

    Of course, we're unlikely to see these exact behaviours in a modern society but the instinct to become more violent in the pursuit of females when they're rare still exists men.

  2. True enough, I've read Chagnon's monograph and bought copies of his Noble Savages for others in a bid to win converts. What surprised me about this paper is that it does suggest the opposite effect to what most people have assumed, which isn't common.

  3. I don't mean to be an arsehole but I've noticed that the track numbers in the mp3 files over the past year are wrong. I downloaded all the episodes from the feed and noticed that the track number for the May 2014 episode is 62 when it should be 63. All the episodes after that are out by 1.

    It doesn't bother me but I thought you might want to know.

  4. Damnit! That is *precisely* the sort of thing that bothers me! Unfortunately, I don't think I can fix it now because once the mp3s are uploaded to Archive I don't think it's possible to modify them without the help of an admin. Ah well. I guess I'll just celebrate the 100th episode when I hit 99...


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