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Washington, Feb 9: A University of Notre Dame sociologist has tried to study the impacts of physical attractiveness and age on mate selection and the effects of gender and income on relationships.

Elizabeth McClintock's research offers new insights into why and when Cupid's arrow strikes.

In one of her studies, 'Handsome Wants as Handsome Does,' McClintock examines the effects of physical attractiveness on young adults' sexual and romantic outcomes (number of partners, relationship status, timing of sexual intercourse), revealing the gender differences in preferences.

"Couple formation is often conceptualized as a competitive, two-sided matching process in which individuals implicitly trade their assets for those of a mate, trying to find the most desirable partner and most rewarding relationship that they can get given their own assets," McClintock said.

"This market metaphor has primarily been applied to marriage markets and focused on the exchange of income or status for other desired resources such as physical attractiveness, but it is easily extended to explain partner selection in the young adult premarital dating market as well," she said.

McClintock's study shows that just as good looks may be exchanged for status and financial resources, attractiveness may also be traded for control over the degree of commitment and progression of sexual activity.

According to her findings, very physically attractive women are more likely to form exclusive relationships than to form purely sexual relationships; they are also less likely to have sexual intercourse within the first week of meeting a partner.

Presumably, this difference arises because more physically attractive women use their greater power in the partner market to control outcomes within their relationships.

For women, the number of sexual partners decreases with increasing physical attractiveness, whereas for men, the number of sexual partners increases with increasing physical attractiveness.

For women, the number of reported sexual partners is tied to weight: Thinner women report fewer partners. Thinness is a dimension of attractiveness for women, so is consistent with the finding that more attractive women report fewer sexual partners.

The study is published in the journal Biodemography and Social Biology. (ANI)

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