Science Sides with Captain Obvious: Unsurprising Study Results

I love scientific studies. I read study reports before reading study reports was my job, and I continued afterward just for kicks. In the piles of new innovation and breakthroughs, though, there always seem to be a few that make me wonder why the topic warranted study at all—sometimes, it seems, science sets out to confirm the obvious. Here are a few such results, in no particular order.

Women Prefer Men Who Look Badass

What’s that you say? Chicks dig the swagger? We like the dark, broody type? Yes, we know. But, in case there was doubt, a study published in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion indicates that women find men who look powerful or moody more sexually attractive than smiling men. Conversely, men in the same study find smiling women most attractive, and are least likely to find powerful- or confident-looking women appealing.

Theories about why this is true rely on data from other studies, which report that male expressions of pride accentuate masculine features that women find most drool-worthy, whereas men find amiable, happy women most enticing, aligning with the traditional role of women as “submissive and vulnerable.” It seems feminism and gender equality haven’t been around long enough to change the way our brains work. It also explains why Don Draper is dead sexy even though he's such a jerk.

Gossip Changes the Way We See People

If people are talking smack about you, chances are they probably see you differently than they see others. I mean, duh, right?  Think about it: you probably see between dozens and hundreds of people in a given day, but you don't notice them all. If, however, a person is preceded by a bit of bad gossip, your brain will pick him or her out of a crowd. But why? To determine whether someone is a friend or foe, according to Science Now.

To test this, researchers showed different images to each subject’s left and right eye at the same time, effectively pitting them against each other in a contest for the brain's attention. The viewer has to register one image before the other; the winner is the picture with priority granted by the brain. Every picture (all of people) was given a bit of information: "threw a chair at a classmate" or "helped an elderly woman with her groceries," or similarly negative/positive statements. The negatively noted face reached the subjects' consciousness about half a second faster than the nice person's face, essentially spotting a foe or rival with

So, in short: if you think a person might be worth avoiding, you can spot them in a crowd pretty quickly. This sounds pretty much like high school to me, but it's nice that it's been confirmed.

Crying Women Turn Guys Off

Huh. Really. This is one of the least surprising no-brainers in this list, I think, for no other reason than I can't imagine a situation in which the opposite (or anything like it) might be true. But it's not the snotty nose or hiccuping wail that makes men hightail it for the door--it's the smell of your tears, woman.

Even if the scent isn't detectable on a conscious level, the chemical signal of weepy eyes will temporarily send testosterone plummeting in nearby men. You can blame pheromones for this one; tears produced as a result of emotional turmoil are chemically different than, say, eyelash-in-the-eye tears. And the worst part may be that men who sniffed a woman's sad tears were not only not attracted to her, they were also less empathetic. Yeesh.

The study's reverse--testing the female reaction to the emotional tears of men--hasn't been conducted yet. It seems getting men to cry voluntarily, even for science, is not an easy task

People Find Scientific Conclusions Obvious

That's right. Scientists know that people will find their conclusions a matter of common sense. Hindsight bias is a bit like the Guess Which Number I'm Thinking Of game; you have no idea which number I'm thinking of, but when I say "42!" you think, "Ugh, I knew that!"

The brain is a place that likes to keep its contents organized. So when you learn new information, you tend to lose previous contradictory ideas that would muddy-up the works. You thought I was thinking of 17, then maybe 4, then maybe 291. But when I tell you I've been thinking of 42 the entire time, you toss out your old ideas about it and replace those ideas with memories graced with hindsight. You know now what I was thinking, so you knew then, too. Or so you tell yourself. You Are Not So Smart explains it like this:

You are always looking back at the person you used to be, always reconstructing the story of your life to better match the person you are today. You have needed to keep a tidy mind to navigate the world ever since you lived in jungles and on savannas. Cluttered minds got bogged down, and the bodies they controlled got eaten. Once you learn from your mistakes, or replace bad info with good, there isn’t much use in retaining the garbage, so you delete it.  This deletion of your old incorrect assumptions de-clutters your mind. Sure, you are lying to yourself, but it’s for a good cause.

If hindsight bias holds true, everything on this list was news to me when I read it the first time, and in looking back, I'm replacing my previous ideas about what women like and how men react to emotional outbursts with what I know now.

But I knew that already, of course. It's so obvious.

Image credits: g4r37h, AMC, iStockphoto, 0-26Survivor


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I don't buy the story about smelling the tears. Has this study been repeated? I think this study might be flawed and I am strenghtened in this opinion when I read they seem to be relying on pheromones which have not yet been proven to work for humans.
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It depends on why a man is crying. The ones who cry too easily are annoying.
The ones who cannot bust a tear even when their own dog dies or their best friend dies are frustrating.

As usual moderation and appropriate behaviour is the key.
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Here I think is an easy way to understand male/female sexuality and prowess:

Men are Sadists
Women are Masochists

Just generally speaking; women are attracted to sadistic behavior in men. They want a man with power, influence, control, and a small circle of concern (mainly her).

Men are attracted to naivity, innocence, "purity", "divinity". They want something which they can take ownership and control over.

But there is a vicarious role reversal that occurs too; where the woman actually seeks control and power over the man through her aesthetic charm and need of constant approval, she winds up trapping the man in a mesh of necessary conditions to satisfy her insecurity. So he becomes the submissive one, submitting to her demands, all-the-while maintaining the appearance of the sadist. Meanwhile she continues to appear to be the masochist who is dominated by the man.
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Can't find a man who has the ability to cry voluntarily? Either grab a televangelist or John Boehner and you've got your tears-on-demand problem solved!
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