So I'm going to start a series of blogs that are my take on a few stories clipped from the Times!
First up, yesterday's (6/6/15) reporting on a study that looked at how men behaved after they were 'shown' to be weak.Researchers tweeked the data they presented to 50 male participants after they had them do a hand strength test, telling half they were average and the other half they were below average, the same as the average woman. The test subjects had been informed that the test was of "the effects of exertion on decision making." They then had to fill out a form about themselves, which had some interesting results. Those who were told they had thee strength of a woman exaggerated their heigh by ~0.78 inches and reported twice as many previous relationships as the other group, in addition they claimed higher levels of aggressiveness and athleticism.
This is a really cool study that shows that slights to a man's masculinity can result in him overcompensating. As the researchers point out, this is not just an interesting aspect of our behaviour but something that has everyday impacts in the world. In many societies men wield a large amount of power and how they perceive slights effects their behaviour. There are probably a number of evolutionary reasons for this relating to intrasexual conflict, but that's a can of evolutionary psychology worms that I will steer clear of!
Story two, ugly men can get good looking women but they have to be persistent (and vice versa)! Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found that when a couple was asymmetric in attractiveness that it took longer from their first meeting to their first date. Couples who had 'love at first sight' were usually very closely matched in attractiveness, while those who took more than 9 months to get together didn't correlate at all. This is interesting as it raises lots of questions about the different features that inform mate choice in humans, do we perform assortative mating? and when we don't what are the features that we use, money? social status? or more intangibles like humour? or smell? This gives me the very tangential opportunity to link to a cool study that showed a link between physical ability and attractiveness!
Final story, spiders at sea.This was a cool little piece about why spiders are so good at colonizing new places, as they are frequently the first colonizers of new land. They do this by ballooning (video of it LINK), where they let out strands of silk that carry them away. Ballooning can result in spiders landing on water, be it lakes or the sea, but new research has shown that spiders are not only able to balloon but they can sail too! By dropping spiders from 21 species onto water researchers found that the spiders 'sailed' using their raised front legs to slide across the water, or 'anchored' themselves by releasing silk to stop themselves being blown away. Species that used ballooning more frequently to disperse were 'more eager' to using sailing. This is just some cool natural history that helps in understanding dispersal.
Hope some of those stories were interesting.