Why we love (and flirt)

Time magazine has a couple of articles on the psychology of love, sex and attraction. The first looks at the science of love, from thoughts to hormones, and the second at what we know about flirting.

The love article is a more in-depth look at the topic of the two articles, and touches on studies that have taken place everywhere from the delivery room to the brain scanner.

It’s a little basic in places (e.g. it uses the dopamine = reward line a little uncritically), but is otherwise an interesting read.

A deep voice, also testosterone driven, can have similarly seductive power. Psychology professor David Feinberg of McMaster University in Ontario studied [pdf] Tanzania’s Hadza tribesmen, one of the world’s last hunter-gatherer communities, and found that the richer and lower a man’s voice, the more children he had. Researchers at the University of Albany recently conducted related research [pdf] in which they had a sample group of 149 volunteers listen to recordings of men’s and women’s voices and then rate the way they sound on a scale from “very unattractive” to “very attractive.” On the whole, the people whose voices scored high on attractiveness also had physical features considered sexually appealing, such as broad shoulders in men and a low waist-to-hip ratio in women.

This suggests either that an alluring voice is part of a suite of sexual qualities that come bundled together or that simply knowing you look appealing encourages you to develop a voice to match. Causation and mere correlation often get muddied in studies like this, but either way, a sexy voice at least appears to sell the goods. “It might convey subtle information about body configuration and sexual behavior,” says psychologist Gordon Gallup, who co-authored the study.

The flirting article is, rather predictably, a bit more light-hearted and largely talks about theories rather than evidence.

You’re probably better off trying your luck with the guide to flirting from the Social Issues Research Centre that looks at what sociology can tell us about being playfully alluring.

Link to Time article ‘Why we love’.
Link to Time article ‘Why we flirt’.
Link to Social Issues Research Centre guide to flirting.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled onto Mindhacks a few days ago and absolutely love it! I was waiting for your take on the Time issue..I’d blogged about it too, though in my standard incoherent style. Lots of fun stuff here. Great blog.


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