Monday, April 24, 2006

Double Take

I love studies in evolutionary biology. Inevitably we find that, though totally screwed up in interpretation, Freud had it right in the fundamentals - it's all about sex and death.

A friend tipped me off to this Nature article (thanks Jamie), in which we learn that men lose a large negotiating edge immediately after seeing pictures of attractive women in bikinis.

Now, to me, this seemed obvious. A bit like conducting a study to see if people grew nervous when confronted with an axe-wielding lunatic.

But, as I read further, it turns out there were some interesting new revelations. (And no, that's not a pun. I'm trying to give those up.)

It seems that the level of impact on negotiating ability in men is related to the man's level of testosterone. More testosterone - bigger impact. (The article doesn't mention whether or relative blood flow to the head was measured before and after seeing the pictures. And stop that - I said I'm giving up on puns!)

"Pictures of landscapes or elderly women, or handling a t-shirt, had no effect on the men's steely bartering power," according to the article. (Again, details were lacking. Was this a wet t-shirt? Were the elderly women Mrs. Robinsons? Were there any Miami Beach landscape shots?)

And although the data is clear, interpretation is varied.

Do men with high testosterone just get stupid when aroused? (I asked one of my cute friends this question, and she just giggled, patted my arm, and whispered breathily into my ear, "I don't think you're stupid." I lost track of what she said right after that.)

The study's authors come to a slightly different conclusion.
The sight of a potential mate might therefore actually make men more sensible, Van den Bergh says. "Since a few coins is better than no coins at all, men thus become more economically rational after exposure to lingerie or sexy women," he says.
So really, Freud almost had it right.

Sex. Death. And Money.

Understand those, and you understand men.

(And women, according to my post the other day...)


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