The Science of Sexism

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Abstract of new evo psych study based on yearbook photos taken in 1957 of graduates of Wisconsin high schools:

“Physical attractiveness has been associated with mating behavior, but its role in reproductive success of contemporary humans has received surprisingly little attention. In the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (1244 women, 997 men born between 1937 and 1940), we examined whether attractiveness assessed from photographs taken at age ∼18 years predicted the number of biological children at age 53–56 years. In women, attractiveness predicted higher reproductive success in a nonlinear fashion, so that attractive (second highest quartile) women had 16% and very attractive (highest quartile) women 6% more children than their less attractive counterparts. In men, there was a threshold effect so that men in the lowest attractiveness quartile had 13% fewer children than others who did not differ from each other in the average number of children. These associations were partly but not completely accounted for by attractive participants’ increased marriage probability. A linear regression analysis indicated relatively weak directional selection gradient for attractiveness (β=0.06 in women, β=0.07 in men). These findings indicate that physical attractiveness may be associated with reproductive success in humans living in industrialized settings.”

Now here’s how it got reported by the TimesOnlne:

“FOR the female half of the population, it may bring a satisfied smile. Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.

“The researchers have found beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern.

“Over generations, the scientists argue, this has led to women becoming steadily more aesthetically pleasing, a”beauty race”that is still on. The findings have emerged from a series of studies of physical attractiveness and its links to reproductive success in humans. …

… Women may take consolation in the finding that men are subject to other types of evolutionary pressure.

Gayle Brewer, a psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, said:”Men and women seek different things in their partners.

“For women, looks are much less important in a man than his ability to look after her when she is pregnant and nursing, periods when women are vulnerable to predators. Historically this has meant rich men tend to have more wives and many children. So the pressure is on men to be successful.””

–Ann Bartow

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