Tag Archives: Mating

Analysis Is Far Skeptical

People famously tend to disagree more about politics, religion, and romance, Which makes sense – I’ve argued that disagreement is due to by a near-far bias, and that politics, religion, and love are far topics. It should be especially clear that religion is a far topic, dealing with fundamental values and big grand things like Gods over vast space and time scales.

Since creative metaphor is far, and analysis is near, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that inducing an analytical frame of mind tends to induce “religious disbelief”, i.e., disbelief in gods, devils, and angels:

Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. (more)

You could point to this as evidence against religious beliefs, but the same analysis primes probably also induce more skepticism on common political and romantic beliefs. They might even induce more skepticism on the mulitverse, string theory, or the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, all of which have big grand aspects.

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Friends Vs. Family

A French couple recently told me that they would feel more affiliation for a king that a president or premier. Asking around I found that many others feel similarly. Which is curious because you might expect people to feel more affiliated with leaders they can choose.

But then if you think about it, people tend to feel more affiliated with family relative to friends. This might be due to people being more intrinsically similar to family, but then again it might not. Westerners find it hard to believe that couples in arranged marriages often feel very attached and intimate, but people from cultures with arranged marriages consistently report this.

You might think that when an employee gets tied more to a job, so that it gets harder to leave, he or she might resent this dependence. But this doesn’t seem to happen often. You might think we’d similarly resent friends that we’ve come to depend on, but in fact I think we like such friends more. And of course most folks feel attached to their parents, even though we couldn’t choose parents and were very dependent on them for a long time.

While we might resent depending on others, we may be comforted to know others are stuck with us, and so won’t leave us, and this second effect may usually dominate.

Contrary to what many say, I’d guess most people really did love their king, really do love their partners in arranged marriages, and feel comforted by their connection to longtime neighbors, friends, and employers when the relation would be costly to break on both sides. Because we are most stuck with them, we tend to love family most of all.

So, does this effect tend to make slaves love their masters? How much does that reduce welfare losses from slavery?

Added 1p: We like presidents more when they oversee more war deaths:

A strong predictor of [perceived American presidential] greatness is the fraction of American lives lost in war during a president’s tenure. (more)

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On Being Self-Aware

Diane Rehm yesterday, interviewing an expensive matchmaker:

REHM: And, Janis, you said that your clients are men. So you don’t take women who may have lots of money looking for a male?
SPINDEL: No, thank you.
REHM: Tell me why.
SPINDEL: Been there, done that.
REHM: Well, tell me why.
SPINDEL: To be honest with you, when I first started in business I had lots and lots and lots of fabulous women clients, really great women. And they seem to be needy and very high maintenance and you can never satisfy them.
REHM: Interesting.
SPINDEL: We would introduce them to amazing men. They’re not available, which is one of the biggest problems that I hear about women. See, I own the minds of men. I know what they want and I know what women do wrong. I could literally do this in my sleep. Men are very simple. You deliver exactly what they’re asking for and you leave the rest up to chemistry and the universe.

I have to admit this is somewhat at odds with my suggesting:

We should expect men to be more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about short-term sexual attractions. … In contrast, women should be more more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about long-term pair-bonding.

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Sex Ratio & Violence

After some prodding by TGGP, I tried to dig into data studies on the relation between violence and sex ratios. Alas this seems to be one of those areas where results are all across the map:

More men make more violence: here, here,

More men make less violence: here, here, here.

Mixed results: here, here.

I quit, and tentatively conclude the evidence is unclear.

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Sex Ratio Signaling

Nicholas Eberstadt on a “Global War Against Baby Girls“:

An ominous and entirely new form of gender discrimination, … skewing the sex ratios for the rising generation toward a biologically unnatural excess of males, … sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls. … From a collision of three forces: first, local mores that uphold a truly merciless preference for sons; second, low or sub-replacement fertility trends, … and third, the availability of health services and technologies. … The total population of the regions beset by unnaturally high SRBs [= sex ratio at birth] amounted to 2.7 billion, or about 40 percent of the world’s total population.

Matt Ridley agrees, and is “pessimistic” about this “distortion.” But neither of them object to the lower fertility that is a contributing cause, nor to the morality of the act of abortion. So what exactly is the problem? A simple supply and demand analysis says that selective abortion both expresses a preference for boys and causes a reduction in that preference as wives become scarce. In South Korea this process is mostly complete, with excess boys down from 15% in the 1990s to 7% today (with ~5% as the biologically natural excess).

Eberstadt elaborates:

The consequences of medically abetted mass feticide are far-reaching and manifestly adverse. …[This] establishes a new social reality that inescapably colors the whole realm of human relationships, redefining the role of women as the disfavored sex in nakedly utilitarian terms, and indeed signaling that their very existence is now conditional and contingent.

What “new social reality”? A preference for boys was there and clear to all before selective abortion came on the scene.

Moreover, enduring and extreme SRB imbalances set the demographic stage for an incipient “marriage squeeze.” …  Unmarried men appear to suffer greater health risks than their married counterparts. …. A steep rise in the proportion of unmarried and involuntarily childless men begs the question of old-age support for that rising cohort.

But these are all about things getting worse for men, which is exactly how supply and demand solves such a “problem.” Finally, Eberstadt invokes some externalities:

The “rising value of women” can have perverse and unexpected consequences, including increased demand for prostitution and an upsurge in the kidnapping and trafficking of women. … Such trends could quite conceivably lead to increased crime, violence, and social tensions — or possibly even a greater proclivity for social instability. All in all, mass sex selection can be regarded as a “tragedy of the commons” dynamic, in which the aggregation of individual (parental) choices has the inadvertent result of degrading the quality of life for all.

Now more voluntary prostitution in such a context is not obviously a bad thing. Yes, kidnapping and crime are bad, but there is little mixed evidence such things are increasing due to having more males. There is, however, good evidence that males now compete more by increasing their savings rate, which is overall good for the world.

This topic offers a good example of a conflict between sending desired signals and getting desired outcomes. Since parents who selectively abort girls show favoritism toward boys, it can feel quite natural to signal your opinion that women have equal value by condemning such parents, and favoring policies to discourage their actions. Not doing so can make you seem anti-female. Yet since via supply and demand the abortions chosen by these parents directly increase the value of women, then all else equal discouraging their abortions reduces the value of women. So if you want women to have higher value, your signal is counter-productive.

Of course it is far from clear that the relative value of males and females should be the main consideration here. One might instead argue that if male lives are more pleasant overall, it is good that we create more of them instead of female lives. Yes, supply and demand may eventually equalize the quality of male and female lives, but until then why not have more lives that are more pleasant?

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The Puberty Puzzle

Time magazine considers a big important puzzle:

By the 1980s, the onset of puberty, if not actual menstruation, had gone into free fall–a change so sudden and pronounced that something more than normal evolution must have been at work. In a landmark 1997 study of 17,000 [US] girls … more than 10% of white girls and an astonishing 37.8% of black girls were showing early breast development by age 8. … Later studies, one in 1998 and another in 2010, included Hispanics and produced similar results. On average, 2 out of every 10 white girls, 3 out of 10 Latinas and 4 out of 10 black girls are showing breast development by age 8. (more)

They consider some possible explanations:

Obesity, a well-established puberty accelerant, is high on the list of suspects. … Data from China and India similarly indicate that race by itself isn’t a factor but general prosperity is. Onset of puberty is on a downward march in those countries too. … But even in Europe, where the standard of living has been high for decades and diets haven’t changed much, something strange is going on. A study of girls conducted in Denmark in 2008 found that the average age of breast development there is 8.86 years, which … is a full year earlier than it was for Danes as recently as 1993. … Some investigators are focusing on environmental contaminants like PBBs and … bisphenol A … A number of studies have found that overweight boys may, if anything, suffer from delayed puberty.

Oddly they don’t even mention divorce and out-of-wedlock birth, factors that some theory suggests are crucial:

Father absence is indicative of the degree of polygyny (simultaneous and serial) in society. Polygyny of both kinds creates a shortage of women in reproductive age, and thus, early puberty will be advantageous. Available comparative data indicate that the degree of polygyny is associated with a decrease in the mean age of menarche across societies, as is the divorce rate a presumptive index of serial polygyny, in strictly monogamous societies. (more)

This theory has some empirical support:

As specified by evolutionary causal theories, younger sisters had earlier menarche than their older sisters in biologically disrupted families (n = 68) but not biologically intact families (n = 93). This effect was superseded, however, by a large moderating effect of paternal dysfunction. Younger sisters from disrupted families who were exposed to serious paternal dysfunction in early childhood attained menarche 11 months earlier than either their older sisters or other younger sisters from disrupted families who were not exposed to such dysfunction. (more)

I heard of this theory a while ago, but until now I hadn’t realized its radical implication: humans may have evolved adaptations to make major body/life features conditional on our social environment! If girl brains can order hormones to induce early puberty after seeing lots of nearby polygyny, how else might our bodies be contingent what our brains see about our social world? Do young brains see the level of violence,  prosperity, or work complexity around, and adjust hormone-induced plans for body size, immune system strength, or brain resources? Could this adjustment explain recent trends in mortality, height, or intelligence? So many possibilities to consider!

Anthropologists often say that it is a mistake to look for “the” ancestral human environment or lifestyle, that what most defines humans is variety and adaptability. I’m going to take that view a lot more seriously from now on.

Added 4p: Why are people so much more willing to use strange chemicals to explain earlier puberty that other trens like increasing IQ, lifespan, and height? Is it because chemicals are bad, and therefore can only explain bad things?

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(Fem) Sex Is Selfish

Based on a previous study … that elicited … personal accounts of sexual motivations … Meston, a sexual psychophysiologist, and Buss, an evolutionary psychologist compiled a list of 237 distinct [sex] motivations … In researching the [2009] book [Why Women Have Sex] they asked over one thousand women to give a description of actual sexual encounters associated with any of these 237 reasons, mostly via online survey. These reasons are discussed in relation to the underlying motivations they point to and the likely evolutionary benefits they gave our ancestral mothers.(more)

The book Why Women Have Sex has many fascinating tidbits, and provoked many thoughts in me. For example, I noticed that the vast majority of the female sex motives discussed in the book are selfish, i.e., primarily intended to benefit oneself, as opposed to one’s partner. For example, even pity sex seems mainly selfish:

Here is how one woman described sex as a way of boosting her self-confidence:

I had sex with a couple of guys because I felt sorry for them. These guys were virgins and I felt bad that they had never had sex before so I had sex with them. I felt like I was doing them a big favor that no one else had over done. I felt power over them, like they were weaklings under me and I was in control. It boosted my confidence to be the teacher in the situation and made me feel more desirable.

The main altruistic sex motive is a part of “love”:

Of the more than two hundred reasons given for having sex, love [#5, to express my love, #9, I was in love] and emotional closeness [#12] were ranked in the top twelve for women. …

According to the well-known … “triangular theory of love,” love consists of the distinct components of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy is the experienced of warmth toward another person that arises from feelings of closeness and connectedness. It involves the desire to give and receive emotional support and to share one’s innermost thoughts and experiences. … Here is how one woman in our study experienced this [intimacy] dimension of love:

I fell that sex can be one of many physical expressions of love, though sex is not always an expression of love. When I make love with my husband, it is an intimacy, trust, and exposure of myself that I share only with him … because I love him. Sex can be a way of fulfilling my husband’s needs (physical, emotional, psychological) that can’t be achieved any other way and [it] lets him know that I love him and vice versa. …

Passion … refers to intense romantic feelings and sexual desire for another person, … “a hot intense emotion” characterized by an intense longing for union with another. …

Commitment … requires decision-making. … The long-term decision involves a willingness to maintain the relationship through thick and thin. Many women talked about how commitment was an essential component of love for them. In fact, some said that they used having sex as a way to try to ensure commitment from a partner they felt loved them.

So, out of the of 237 female reasons for sex, love is in #5,9. “Please my partner” is #11 (its #10 for men). On love, only one of its three parts, intimacy, has an clearly altruistic component. Six desired effects of intimacy are mentioned: experiencing warmth, giving support, receiving support, sharing experiences, showing love, and being shown love. Of these, only one, giving support or meeting needs, seems clearly altruistic (though even this could be selfish). So one of the six desired effects of one of the three parts of love, mentioned twice in the top ten reasons for sex, seems altruistic. Direct clear altruism is #11. Not nothing, but not a lot either.

People often complain that economists assume selfishness too often, and point to intense close relationships as clear evidence of altruism. But if even in this case our motives seem overwhelmingly selfish, economists’s usual approximation looks pretty good.

FYI, here are the top 15 female sex reasons, from that original survey:

1. I was attracted to the person
2. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure
3. It feels good
4. I wanted to show my affection to the person
5. I wanted to express my love for the person
6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release
7. I was ‘‘horny’’
8. It’s fun
9. I realized I was in love
10. I was ‘‘in the heat of the moment’’
11. I wanted to please my partner
12. I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy)
13. I wanted the pure pleasure
14. I wanted to achieve an orgasm
15. It’s exciting, adventurous

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Charity And Temptation

Bryan Caplan responded to John Marsh:

Nearly two-thirds of poor children … reside in [single-parent] homes. … “If poor mothers married the fathers of their children nearly three-quarters would immediately be lifted out of poverty.”

In a world of cheap, reliable contraception, any woman can easily avoid single motherhood with near-certainty. Simply use birth control until you find and marry a reliable man. Avoiding single motherhood, to be blunt, is a choice.

Bryan further commented:

b. Sex with birth control, unlike abstinence, does not lead to chronic burning lust.
c. Potentially poor women who delay child-bearing have a high chance of finding a reliable man before becoming infertile.

Karl Smith took issue:

Baby lust is quite real, almost certainly genetically determined and probably explains a fair fraction of the differences in outcome among women. … Potentially poor women [do not] have a high chance of finding a reliable man before becoming infertile. … There is a serious dearth of reliable men. .. Bryan’s prescription of promiscuous birth-controlled sex lowers a women’s rank in the marriage market. … My natural assumption [is] that poor single mothers are engaging in utility maximizing behavior. This implies that the alternatives to being a poor single mother are worse and that people accept this fate because they have low endowments in the marriage market.

Let me first make two points:

  1. The reliability of men is only an issue because we have weakened the commitment of marriage. Most farmer societies made marriage into a strong commitment, and encouraged young women to hold out for it. This led to an equilibrium where most women, even poor ones, married, so that most kids had two parents. Men now choose to be unreliable more often because we have greatly lowered its penalties.
  2. Even with weak marriage it is possible to identify reliable poor men. If you can’t tell, ask your parents, grandparents, or their siblings. But the hypergamous mating preferences of women typically lead them to prefer other men, especially in a relatively rich society like ours.

What to do? First, why not offer the option of a strong marriage commitment? More women would end up with reliable husbands if couples could choose between strong marriage, weak marriage, or no marriage. But surely even with this option, many women in our rich society would still choose single parenthood, and the relative poverty it implies. What then?

Now Bryan is clearly right — this is in fact a choice. But Karl is also right — it is a choice made in the face of relatively strong desires. The key question is: how weak do temptations have to be to make the choices they influence unworthy of charity? We feel only weak inclinations to help people who choose poverty, and could easily have chosen otherwise. But we feel much stronger inclinations to help folks who could have avoided poverty only via quite unusual levels of self-control and determination. Where in this spectrum does the temptation to single parenthood lie?

Given forager sharing norms, forager fathers only needed to reliably help kids for a few years. But farmers, who shared less, had to set a higher self-control bar for charity eligibility. A farmer could quickly starve by being too generous with neighboring charity cases. Now that we are richer, we can be more indulgent, but it seems to me an open question whether we should. I tend to agree with Bryan that very poor foreigners seem more deserving of aid that self-indulgent not-so-poor natives.

Added 5p: Karl Smith responds:

Central to Byran and somewhat shockingly to me – Robin’s – thinking is whether or not the single parents deserve charity.
On Facebook I think Robin framed the question as “how weak do temptations have to be before they make people less deserving of charity”
My clear answer would be that there is no level so low. Human suffering is bad. Reductions in human suffering are good.
Why humans are suffering is of concern to us in knowing when our interventions might be productive but it doesn’t affect whether they are warranted.

If we commit ahead of time to making our help contingent on certain behavior, that can have good effects in inducing such behavior. This is probably the origin of our intuitions that certain behaviors make folks less worthy of help.

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Who Cheats

Many folks just love to hear that, among heterosexual men, it is homophobic men who are most aroused by gay male porn. “They are just trying to deny their feelings,” they might say. I’ll bet such folks will similarly love to hear that men who feel more sexual performance anxiety tend to cheat more on their spouses. “For women its about feeling connected, but for men its all about ego,” they might also say. The Post:

For women, they found low relationship satisfaction was often tied to infidelity. Women who were unhappy in their relationships were 2.6 times more likely to cheat than women who were satisfied. And women who reported being incompatible with their partner in terms of sexual values and attitudes were 2.9 times more likely to have an affair.

One of the findings that surprised Milhausen most was that men who reported higher rates of sexual inhibition because of performance anxiety were more likely to cheat. “If you have sex with someone outside of your relationship, you’ll never have to see them again,” she says. “You won’t have those problems with wounded pride or ego.” …

Men and women who were less concerned about the consequences of their sexual behavior were more likely to cheat, as were people who could be easily aroused. … Her take-away from the report is that people who want to avoid affairs should be as honest as possible about their needs.

Now if you look at the actual study, you’ll find some discrepancies with this summary.  Not only won’t you find any support for this last claim about honesty, you’ll also find that easy sexual arousal does not predict cheating in women, and that sexual performance anxiety has exactly the same effect on women as on men. Interesting that the female reporter (Ellen McCarthy) left that last bit out.

Even more interesting, you’ll find that, after controlling for other factors, none of the following significantly predicts who cheats: age, importance of religion, being married, sexual satisfaction in the relationship, and compatibility on the importance or frequency of sex. When they don’t control for other factors, older, less religious, and fully employed folks cheat more.

So to sum up, both men and women cheat more when they are less afraid of getting caught, when they tend to do things they later regret, and when performance anxiety tends to inhibit them in sex. For men another cheating predictor is easy sexual arousal, while for women added predictors are overall relationship unhappiness and feeling incompatible on ‘‘attitudes towards (or values and ideas) about sex” (which, after controlling for compatibility on sex frequency and importance, sounds to me like another proxy for relationship unhappiness).

Some previous results on cheating: Continue reading "Who Cheats" »

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Hypocrites Have Flings

Interesting clues about short vs. long term mating:

Participants accurately identified an opposite sex person’s sociosexuality (i.e., how comfortable one is in engaging in short-term mating), … by attending to how often the individual gazed at a confederate, how much time they spent trying to solve a puzzle (as opposed to looking at the confederate), and the number of eyebrow flashes the target displayed. … A few behaviors led participants to misidentify sociosexuality … includ[ing] smiling, laughing, closeness to the confederate, and the confederate’s attractiveness and provocativeness of dress. …

The Big Five traits of extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience were positively correlated with short-term mating, while agreeableness and conscientiousness were negatively correlated with short-term mating. …

Self-monitoring … measures one’s ability to change his or her behavior depending on the particular situation; thus, it refers to responsiveness to social and interpersonal cues of situations. A high self-monitor would be a person who easily changes with the situation, while a low-self monitor tends to be very consistent across situations. …

Individuals with high self-monitoring tend to not establish committed relationships and maintain an unrestrictive sexual orientation. … High self-monitors seek to obtain mates who can provide rewarding outcomes such as social approval, status, or new opportunities. In contrast, low self monitors, seek mates for mutual satisfaction, and aim to derive pleasure from simply being with their partners. … This correlation leads high self-monitors to prefer partners with high social status, physical attractiveness, financial resources, and sex appeal, and low self-monitors to prefer partners with loyalty, honesty, kindness, and similar beliefs and education. (more; HT Rob)

So those who are better able to read and respond to subtle social clues are more likely to engage in short term mating, which presumably includes a fair bit of cheating on concurrent long term mates. What else would you expect from homo hypocritus?

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