Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ideal Female Body Shape: Role of Body Weight and Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Overall, this article is about female body fat distribution which correlated to attractiveness, youthfulness, health, and need to lose weight. Drawing of females with different body styles (heavier females with high waist to hips ratios and heavier females with low waist to hip ratios) were shown to females. Within the packet they were ask what was their approximate body composition, the ideal body composition, how similar they are to their ideal female body compositions (0-4, 4 being identical) then how happy they were with their body shape (scale 0-4, 4 being extremely happy). On top of this they were then asked to rank the figures in order of attractiveness, youthfulness, health, and need to lose weight.

From the results the ideal female body composition was a heavier female with the lowest waist to hip ratio (65% and 71%). Then comparing these results with men they determined that they ranked the body compositions similarly to that of the females.
I was very intrigued with this experiment. I found that girl and guys actually think alike when they picture the “ideal” body composition. I have always believed that women always want to be extremely thin, while it seems that men are usually fine with their partner’s physique. I go to the gym frequently and always wonder if I am subconsciously working out to work towards my ideal or to become healthy. I always convince myself I am doing it to become healthy, as for many of my friends they would say the same thing.

Personally, I would like to see this study on males because, males have such a wide range of anatomical builds that it would seem extremely hard for women or men to have an “ideal”.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I forgot my citation.

Hare, Brian, and Michael Tomasello. "Human-like social skills in dogs?" Trends in Cognitive Science (2005): 439-44.

Human-like social skills in dogs?

This article starts out by talking about an evolutionary trait found in domesticated dogs. When something is hidden under one of two cups and a human points at the correct cup, an untrained puppy will unwaveringly knock it over to retrieve the treat. This seems simple enough, but when placed in the exact same situation, a chimpanzee, a much smarter animal, has no clue which one to pick. This is evidence in favor of evolution through the selection of desired traits in dogs (domestication).

It goes on to talking about a farm in Russia in which they have, since 1959, been domesticating foxes. The traits that were selected for were non-aggressiveness and non-fearfulness towards humans. After a few generations, they began noticing certain traits in the foxes, such as narrower jaws, smaller size, and increased sex-drive, similarly, traits like these have supposedly been seen to evolve in humans as civilization has advanced. There is speculation in the article that we have self-domesticated ourselves and that docility is a prerequisite for civilization, however there is no substantial proof to back up this claim.

Perhaps the most interesting component to this article, at least in my eyes, was that they actually determined what, biologically, causes this increase in docility in the foxes and in humans. Serotonin. The levels of serotonin in the blood of the domesticated foxes was substantially higher than that of the wild ones. This is also the case in humans. Aggressive people have less sensitive receptors for serotonin in their brains, and in turn, less serotonin in their blood.

I found this article especially interesting because it gives a biological explanation for the difference in temperament amongst animals. I always figured that things like temperament and emotions were simply acquired throughout ones life, and were not related to the biology of an organism. It was eye-opening to find out that how aggressive you are can actually be determined by how the receptors for such a small particle in your brain work.

One thing I found peculiar was the suggestion that we self domesticated ourselves. Not so much that we did, i guess, but more of the traits that we supposedly selected for. I have heard multiple times that some of the traits that a woman looks for in a man are the exact opposite of the traits that were seen in the population of foxes. I think it has been shown that men with broader shoulders and a wider jaw are more desirable, but these are traits that signify a higher level of testosterone, and in turn aggressiveness. It seems counter instinctive to select for narrower jaws and smaller proportions.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This May or May Not be Your Brain on Politics

The 2008 presidential election excited many people, including psychologists. Marco Iacobani, Joshua Freedman, and Jonas Kaplan of UCLA published an op-ed article in the New York Times entitled “This Is Your Brain on Politics.” This article was based off of their non-peer reviewed psychology experiment published in 2006 which scanned the brains of Democrats and Republicans in order to determine a connection between party affiliation and neural activity during the 2004 election.

Twenty registered voters, 10 Democrat and 10 Republican, from Los Angeles participated in the original experiment. There were 5 females and 5 males in each group and they were matched for age. The experiment consisted of the participants having their brain scanned while viewing images of George Bush, John Kerry, and Ralph Nader. After the experiment, the participants filled out a “feeling thermometer” where they rated their feelings on each candidate from 1 to 10.

According to the UCLA clan, there were interesting results. For instance, Republicans felt more positive after viewing George Bush than Democrats did. Another big surprise showed that Democrats felt more positive after viewing Kerry’s face than Republicans.

In anticipation of the 2008 election, the scientists did their experiment again with swing voters. More interestingly, they “found” that when they showed the participants the words “Republican,” “Democrat,” and “Independent,” the amyglada, which relates to anxiety, lit up. Mit Romney also seemed to excite some nerves among the participants. John Edwards had a problem- he caused peoples’ insulas to light up which means that they were downright disgusted. The group couldn’t make up their mind when they saw Hillary Clinton. Their anterior cingulate cortex’s, which aid in decision-making, were aflame.

Sometimes my mom used to reprimand me because I would only hear what I wanted to hear. If she said she would take me shopping, it didn’t mean that she would take me right then. Now, I know what she meant. Obviously, these psychologist’s mothers forgot to tell them that they need to pay attention to everything and not just what they want to hear.

The amyglada, which the men claimed related to anxiety, also relates to anger, happiness, or sexual excitement. How do we know that the group got nervous when the saw Romney and not sexually excited? Maybe the swing voters got all heated up to the words “Republican” or “Democrat,” too. Also, John Edwards might have been able to run for presidency again (had he not been involved in the affair and all). People might not have been disgusted when the saw his face; the insular cortex also relates to happiness, among other things. And Hillary may actually have been getting some sympathy from the participants as the ACC relates to that as well as reward-anticipation.

Also, using a feeling thermometer brings in other problems. Participants rated candidates from 1, “very unfavorable,” to 10, “very favorable.” It has been shown that feeling thermometers are very problematic in polls. If someone has no opinion on the candidate they get confused as to where to place him on the scale. Would the candidate be a “1” or a “5?” It has also been shown that more often than not, people will rate subjects on certain increments like multiples of 2 or 5. For instance, if there was a feeling thermometer from 1 to 100, a person would be more likely to rate a subject as a 45 than as a 47.

Basically, this study teaches us nothing. Or perhaps that if we ever become New York Times worthy psychologists, we better get our stuff reviewed by our peers- before we publish it nationwide.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Sidebar

The list of articles on the sidebar is what I come across daily in the news. Some are legit sciency articles while others are sometimes just silly. If you're looking for something interesting to write about you might want to browse some of those.

Politics and the Brain

Some potentially interesting topics:

Papers to consider on attraction

These papers may interest those of you wanting to focus on attraction:

(I haven't found the original paper though)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Symmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness

Within this experiment the University of St. Andrew’s Psychology Department ran three experiments to see asymmetrical or symmetrical faces were more or less attractive to the viewer. In experiment number one they took 30 Caucasian individuals (15 males and 15 females) who were clean shaven with no jewelry. They manipulated the photos to make a set of normal and symmetrical images. These images were then shown to 49 raters which resulted in 58% for symmetrical faces. Then the experimenters created experiment number two which 30 faces once again (15 males and 15 females) and manipulated them by creating an even coloration and texture. The results of this experiment were the same as the first in which 72.9% of the raters preferred symmetrical faces. Lastly, the experimenters created a last set of faces. These faces included 16 normal and 16 symmetrical. The raters then had to grade them on a 1-7 point scale 7 being the most attractive. From here they took the means and the symmetrical faces scored higher than normal faces.

I was really amazed by the results of this experiment. I never really thought about how my mind might find others more attractive because of their symmetry. I am very interested in other features that my mind might almost find attractive. I have always found to be very attracted to girls because of their eyes and would be interested in finding my so called “favorite”.

I would like to see further research in certain regions of the face. Including eyebrows, eye shape, mouth, nose, and ears to see if we could create an image of the perfect female or male! I’m sure it would use similar methods and I would hope that we could use a wider range of individuals and races.

Article -

Tuesday, February 10, 2009