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, 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

Friday, 12 December 2014

Why do women who have anal sex, have anal sex? Nov 2014

"I’ll have what she’s having": why younger women are more prone to pursuing the partners of their peers. We also find out whether high heels really do put you one step ahead of the competition, and why women who engage in anal sex engage in anal sex. I mean seriously, why??


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Do high heels or flats make a woman more attractive? Nicolas Gueguen took to the streets of France to find out.

The articles covered in the show:


Little, A. C., Caldwell, C. A., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (in press). Observer age and the social transmission of attractiveness in humans: Younger women are more influenced by the choices of popular others than older women. British Journal of Psychology. Read summary

Guéguen, N. (in press). High heels increase women’s attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Reynolds, G. L., Fisher, D. G., & Rogala, B. (in press). Why women engage in anal intercourse: Results from a qualitative study. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Is blonde hair attractive because it's rare? Oct 2014

Is blonde and red hair attractive because of how it looks, or because it’s rare? Also, “my genes made me do it”: can men (or women) blame their cheating ways on their genetic inheritance? And we also continue last month’s foray into the murky world of mate-poaching, and discover the differences between the sexes when it comes to detecting potential partner pilferers.


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Some have theorised that red and blonde hair is attractive because it is rare. New research by Zinnia Janif tests this idea. Image credit: qsimple on flickr.com

The articles covered in the show:

Janif, Z. J., Brooks, R. C., & Dixson, B. J. (in press). Are preferences for women's hair color frequency-dependent? Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. Read summary

Ein-Dor, T., Perry, A., Hirschberger, G., Birnbaum, G. E., & Deutsch, D. (in press). Coping with mate poaching: gender differences in detection of infidelity-related threats. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Zietsch, B. P., Westberg, L., Santtila, P., & Jern, P. (in press). Genetic analysis of human extrapair mating: Heritability, between-sex correlation, and receptor genes for vasopressin and oxytocin. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Monday, 6 October 2014

Why single, sex-hungry men crave an iPhone. Sept 2014

This month we discover which personality traits make a person lucky in love. Also, how men and women respond differently when their partner is complimented, and why single men crave iPhones.


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What kind of man is desperate to buy an iPhone? New research suggests it's not only the kind of man who has the time and inclination to make himself a smartphone hat.

The articles covered in the show:

Hennighausen, C., & Schwab, F. (2014). Relationship status moderates men's conspicuous consumption of smartphones. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 5(2), 13-16. Read summary

Berg, V., Lummaa, V., Lahdenperä, M., Rotkirch, A., & Jokela, M. (in press). Personality and long-term reproductive success measured by the number of grandchildren. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Brown, C. M., Daniels, E. R., Lustgraaf, C. J. N., & Sacco, D. F. (2014). Verbal compliments as a differential source of mate poaching threat for men and women. Evolutionary Psychology, 12(4), 736-756. Read paper


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Brian Mautz on penis size; eat fruit to get a tan. Aug 2014

Stay out of the sun! New research suggests that the skin colour change associated with sun tanning isn't as attractive as the effects of eating carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, pumpkins, and spinach. Can an attractive personality make you appear more attractive? And we find out why when women see red, women see red.

Plus, as a special summer surprise, Hannah Rowland of the Behavioural Ecology and Evolution Podcast interviews Brian Mautz at the ISBE2014 conference about his research on penis size and attractiveness.


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I was interviewed by Prof. Alice Roberts this month for an episode of BBC Radio 4's Inside Science. Click here and skip to 24.40 to hear me defend Evolutionary Psychology with all my (feeble) might!

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Scoff the orange, but scoff it in the shade: new research by Carmen Lefevre shows that the skin colour we get from eating carotenoid rich foods is more attractive than the colour we get from tanning.

The articles covered in the show:

Mautz, B. S., Wong, B. B. M., Peters, R. A., & Jennions, M. D. (2013). Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(17), 6925-6930. Read summary

Lefevre, C. E., & Perrett, D. I. (in press). Fruit over sunbed: Carotenoid skin coloration is found more attractive than melanin coloration. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Read summary

Zhang, Y., Kong, F., Zhong, Y., & Kou, H. (2014). Personality manipulations: Do they modulate facial attractiveness ratings? Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 80-84. Read summary

Pazda, A. D., Prokop, P., & Elliot, A. J. (in press). Red and romantic rivalry: viewing another woman in red increases perceptions of sexual receptivity, derogration, and intentions to mate-guard. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Read summary

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Criminals have more kids. July 2014

This month, crime pays: we discover the link between criminal behaviour and reproduction, and find out why it makes sense to judge your criminal accomplices on their beauty. We also learn what a woman’s bank balance says about her attitude to promiscuity.


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New research shows that criminal offending might be part of an alternative reproductive strategy. That explains why the Godfather was the head of such a huge family, then.

The articles covered in the show:

Yao, S., Långström, N., Temrin, H., & Walum, H. (in press). Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Shinada, M., & Yamagishi, T. (in press). Physical attractiveness and cooperation in a prisoner's dilemma game. Evolution and Human Behavior. Read summary

Price, M. E., Pound, N., & Scott, I. M. (in press). Female economic dependence and the morality of promiscuity. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary