What is this?

This is the archive for the Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast, a twice monthly science show that covers the most interesting and cutting edge research on the psychology of attraction and relationships.

The podcast is produced by Dr. Rob Burriss, a research fellow at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, you can browse podcast transcripts here.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Skin colour and the menstrual cycle. 30 June 2015

Swollen bums and flushed faces: we know that chimpanzees and other primates advertise their fertility with conspicuous physical transformations, but what about humans? In this episode we look at skin colour and the menstrual cycle.

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Read the transcript! Do Women’s Faces Change Color Over the Menstrual Cycle?

I and my collaborators photographed women multiple times over their cycle and analysed patches of cheek skin for colour changes. Image modified from a photo by Alix Klingenberg.

The articles covered in the show:

Burriss, R. P., Troscianko, J., Lovell, P. G., Fulford, A. J. C., Stevens, M., Quigley, R., Payne, J., Saxton, T. K., & Rowland, H. M. (2015). Changes in women’s facial skin color over the ovulatory cycle are not detectable by the human visual system. PLoS One. Read paper

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Pregnancy and desire, and are bigger breasts best? 16 June 2015

We know that pregnant women get cravings for unusual foods, but does pregnancy also affect what women desire in a man? We also look at a new experiment that shows once and for all whether men prefer larger or smaller breasts. You'll be surprised by the results!

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Are Bigger Breasts Best?
Pregnancy and Desire

This guy looks hot now, but will he still look hot once she's popped her sprog? Well, yes, obviously. Look at him! But sometimes what women want in a partner changes when they get pregnant, according to new research.

The articles covered in the show:

Dixson, B. J., Duncan, M., & Dixson, A. F. (in press). The role of breast size and areolar pigmentation in perceptions of women’s sexual attractiveness, reproductive health, sexual maturity, maternal nurturing abilities, and age. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Limoncin, E., Ciocca, G., Gravina, G. L., Carosa, E., Mollaioli, D., Cellerino, A., et al. (in press). Pregnant women's preferences for men's faces differ significantly from nonpregnant women. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Read summary

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Male rivalry: sex, money, and morality. 2 June 2015

Decisions, decisions. We find out how our rational minds go all screwy when we're faced with attractive rivals or sexual competitors. Three new experiments show how sexual rivalry primes men to be cruel, self-centred, and prone to risk.

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Handsome Men Make Other Men Want to Gamble
Competition Piques Men’s Interest in Sex
How Does Competition Affect Men’s Morality?

Arm wrestling is a bit daft, but it doesn't do any harm, right? Perhaps not. New research shows that competition can influence men's psychology in unexpected ways.

The articles covered in the show:

Chan, E. Y. (in press). Physically-attractive males increase men's financial risk-taking. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Gorelik, G., & Bjorklund, D. F. (in press). The effect of competition on men’s self-reported sexual interest. Evolutionary Psychological Science. Read summary

Trémolière, B., Kaminski, G., & Bonnefon, J.-F. (2015). Intrasexual competition shapes men's anti-utilitarian moral decisions. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1(1), 18-22. Read summary

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Beer goggles and penis arrows. 19 May 2015

We strap on our beer goggles and find out how alcohol influences attractiveness. Also, you have a penis! Well, half of you do, and we discover what happens to men’s sexual thoughts when they’re reminded of what they’re packing in their tighty whities.

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Paying Attention to your Genitals Changes the Kind of Relationships you Seek
Reverse Beer Goggles

This cool dude is probably experiencing high 'genital salience'. Ladies looking for commitment should steer clear.

The articles covered in the show:

Fetterman, A. K., Kruger, N. N., & Robinson, M. D. (2015). Sex-linked mating strategies diverge with a manipulation of genital salience. Motivation and Emotion, 39(1), 99-103. Read summary

Van Den Abbeele, J., Penton-Voak, I. S. A., A. S., Stephen, I. D., & Munafò, M. R. (in press). Increased facial attractiveness following moderate, but not high, alcohol consumption. Alcohol and Alcoholism. Read summary

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Is beauty contagious? 5 May 2015

Is beauty contagious? How the average attractiveness of a group of people is influenced by its members. Also, how the ratio of men to women in our social group meddles with our mating psychology.


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Why a Skewed Chinese Sex Ratio Doesn't Spell Disaster
Attractive Friends Make You Look More Attractive


One man and four women: new research shows how our 'mating strategies' (how we seek partners and what we find attractive) are influenced by the relative numbers of men and women we encounter.

The articles covered in the show:

Schacht, R., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2015). Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans. Royal Society Open Science, 2, 140402. Read summary

van Osch, Y., Blanken, I., Meijs, M. H. J., & van Wolferen, J. (in press). A group’s physical attractiveness is greater than the average attractiveness of its members: The group attractiveness effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Read summary

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

How parents meddle in their children's love lives. 21 April 2015

Meet the parents! Two new experiments show how choosing a partner can send shockwaves across the generations. We’ll find out how parents meddle in their children’s love lives, and how sexy sons lead to handsome fathers.


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Sexy Sons Make Fathers Seem Sexier
How Parents Meddle in Their Kids’ Love Lives


Robert De Niro kept a close eye on Ben Stiller in the Focker movie franchise. But how successful are meddling parents at interfering in their children's love lives?

The articles covered in the show:

Apostelou, M., Kasapi, K., & Arakliti, A. (2015). Will they do as we wish? An investigation of the effectiveness of parental manipulation of mating behavior. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1(1), 28-36. Read summary

Prokop, P. (in press). The putative son’s attractiveness alters the perceived attractiveness of the putative father. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

How 'coalitional mate retention' tactics prevent your partner cheating. 7 April 2015

With a little help from my friends: How we use 'coalitional mate retention' tactics to prevent our partner cheating. We take a look at two new experiments that uncover how our friends work to keep our partners faithful.


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Friends Help Friends Keep Partners Faithful


New research shows how friends work to keep our partners faithful, and reveals how they decide to expose any infidelities they detect.

The articles covered in the show:

Barbaro, N., Pham, M. N., & Shackelford, T. K. (in press). Solving the problem of partner infidelity: Individual mate retention, coalitional mate retention, and in-pair copulation frequency. Personality and Individual Differences. Read summary

Pham, M. N., Barbaro, N., Mogilski, J. K., & Shackelford, T. K. (2015). Coalitional mate retention is correlated positively with friendship quality involving women, but negatively with male-male friendship quality. Personality and Individual Differences, 79, 87-90. Read summary

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Alex Jones on make up and 'facial contrast'. 24 March 2015

Why do women wear make up? I interview Alex Jones of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania about his new research into cosmetics and 'facial contrast' (follow @AlexJonesPHD on Twitter). Also, how did Kim Kardashian break the Internet? Was it her massive bum, or the pronounced curvature of her lower back?


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How Kim Kardashian’s Curvy Back Broke the Internet.


Why do women wear make up? I interview Alex Jones of Gettysburg College PA about his new research that suggests make up works by enhancing female-typical 'facial contrast'.

The articles covered in the show

Jones, A. L. (2015). Cosmetics alter biologically-based factors of beauty: evidence from facial contrast. Evolutionary Psychology, 13(1), 210-229. Read summary

Jones, A. L., & Kramer, R. S. S. (2015). Facial cosmetics have little effect on attractiveness judgments compared with identity. Perception, 44, 79-86. Read summary

Lewis, D. M. G., Russell, E. M., Al-Shawaf, L., & Buss, D. M. (in press). Lumbar curvature: A novel evolved standard of attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

The images Alex and I mentioned in the show

Richard Russell's "The Illusion of Sex" placed third in the 2009 Illusion of the Year Contest. Most people perceive the face on the left as female, and the face on the right as male. In fact, the photographs show the same face (a computer-generated androgynous face): the only difference is that the contrast of the face on the left is higher than the that of the face on the right. The effect is so strong, it is difficult not to see a woman and a man.

A figure from Alex's paper. The white lines encircle the 'features' (eye, eyebrow, and mouth) and the black liines the surrounding areas. It was the contrast between the features and the surrounding skin that Alex measured. He confirmed that facial contrast is higher in women than in men. His other research showed that women exaggerate these sex differences with make up.


This figure is from the Lewis paper, and shows how he manipulated back curvature. Men preferred a curvature of around 45 degrees. Listen in to find out why.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Beautiful leaders - undermining democracy with a pretty face. 10 March 2015

How democracy is undermined by the psychology of attractiveness: we discover why good looking candidates have an advantage come polling day, either because their beauty distracts from their extreme policies, or (if they're very lucky) because their constituents are ill.


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Remember David Cameron's allegedly airbrushed poster from 2010? Well, he might have been onto something...

The articles covered in the show:

Herrmann, M., & Shikano, S. (in press). Attractiveness and facial competence bias face-based inferences of candidate ideology. Political Psychology. Read summary

Zebrowitz, L. A., Franklin, R. G., & Palumbo, R. (2015). Ailing voters advance attractive congressional candidates. Evolutionary Psychology, 13(1), 16-28. Read summary

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Lingerie, chocolate, and shopping. 24 Feb 2015

Consumer psychology meets the psychology of attraction: how female fertility influences desire for variety in products. And look but don’t touch: observing male behaviour in lingerie stores.


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More chocolate is always better than less chocolate. But new research shows that women are more interested in getting a good variety of chocolate (and other consumer products) when they're most fertile.

The articles covered in the show:

Moule, K. R., & Fisher, M. (2014). You can look but you cannot touch: Male behaviors observed in lingerie stores. Human Ethology Bulletin, 29(4), 4-17. Read paper

Durante, K. M., & Rae Arsena, A. (in press). Playing the field: The effect of fertility on women’s desire for variety. Journal of Consumer Research. Read summary

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Killing the 'thin ideal'. Jan 2015

Why do women have sex? We find out, using the YSEX? questionnaire. Also, how to stop the ‘thin ideal’ messing with our minds. And forget Star Wars - it’s time for Sperm Wars: are men turned on by pornography that depicts ‘sperm competition’?


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Why Do Women Have Sex?
How to Kill the Thin Ideal
What Kind of Porn do Men Prefer?


Most women in the media are skinny, and consumers are taking this 'thin ideal' to heart. But what happens if we tell them that men prefer larger women?

The articles covered in the show:

Armstrong, H. L., & Reissing, E. D. (in press). Women’s motivations to have sex in casual and committed relationships with male and female partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Meltzer, A. L., & McNulty, J. K. (in press). Telling women that men desire women with bodies larger than the thin-ideal improves women’s body satisfaction. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Read summary

Prokop, P. (2015). Perception of intensity of sperm competition on the part of males. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 99-103. Read summary

Friday, 26 December 2014

Sexy footballers earn more money. Dec 2014

We all know the stereotype of the handsome jock who scores on and off the field, but is there a real link between beauty and ball skills? Also, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but what can a person's food preferences tell you about the kind of relationships they're after? And we find out how to use science to craft the most effective internet dating profile. Score!


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Ronaldo scores loads of goals and is handsome as a Ken doll fresh from the factory. But are his ball skills and his beauty linked?

The articles covered in the show:

Rosar, U., Hagenah, J., & Klein, M. (in press). Physical attractiveness and monetary success in German Bundesliga. Soccer & Society. Read summary

Al-Shawaf, L., Lewis, D. M. G., Alley, T. R., & Buss, D. M. (in press). Mating strategy, disgust, and food neophobia. Appetite. Read summary

Strassberg, D. S., & English, B. L. (in press). An experimental study of men’s and women’s personal ads. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary