Image for post
Image for post

Increasing numbers of us are seeking partners using mobile dating apps. Tinder, the most popular app, has upwards of 50 millions users worldwide.

Relationship scientists, who have spent decades studying how people pair up, have begun wondering whether dating apps like Tinder might be changing what we seek in a partner.

For example, studies of couples who hooked up when Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and the rest were little more than a twinkle in a software engineer’s eye showed that humans tend to ‘assort’. …

Women’s desire for more valuable engagement rings is linked to the availability of potential partners.

Image for post
Image for post

The average American husband-to-be will spend around $6000 on an engagement ring for his partner. Unlike other large purchases, such as a house or car, an engagement ring serves little practical purpose. You can’t live it in, eat it, or use it to get from A to B. Romantics may claim that an engagement ring is a token of love, but to those with a more cold-hearted scientific perspective it seems clear that an engagement ring is a costly signal of a man’s (and it usually is a man’s) willingness to commit.

In other words, dropping thousands of dollars on a pretty but otherwise useless gift is not something a man can do with any regularity, and so, when a man whips out a rock the size of Gibraltar and asks his beloved to marry him, she can be sure he’s serious. …

Scientists investigate the link between perceptions of leadership ability and partner attractiveness.

New Jersey-based management studies professors have found that the perceived competence of leaders is affected by the attractiveness of their spouses. An attractive partner enhances the apparent leadership ability of a man, but female leaders suffer a penalty when their partner is attractive.

Humans are social beings, and we like to come together to solve problems. Often, even when people are working on a minor task, a hierarchy will emerge, headed by a leader. Leaders can also be appointed or elected by the consent of the group based on their perceived suitability for the role.

When groups are large — on the scale of countries or corporations — it becomes more difficult to judge potential leaders. Group members may not have the time or opportunity to observe their leaders in action, at least not up close, and so must rely on rules-of-thumb to determine who should be elevated to a position of power. …

Image for post
Image for post
Tape measures not required. Narcissists believe their heads are bigger than average. Freestocks.

Narcissists, who believe that they are better than their peers, are often colloquially described as big-headed. But do people with over-sized egos really think they have heads to match?

It might sound like an odd question, but there’s good reason to suspect that big-headedness is not just figurative but literal. There is a lay belief that brain volume and head circumference are related to intelligence (recent research suggests that this belief may have a basis in fact), and narcissistic people think they are more intelligent than others.

Minna Lyons, a former winner of the Ig Nobel Prize, an award for research that “first makes people laugh, and then makes them think,” ran a study to find out if narcissism is linked to estimates of head size. Along with her colleagues from the Universities of Liverpool and Sunderland, Lyons recruited over 300 male and female volunteers. The volunteers were asked to estimate the size of five body parts: head circumference, hand size (length from the tip of the middle finger to the wrist), heart weight, brain weight, and lung capacity. As few people have a frame of reference for what constitutes an average head circumference, heart size, and so on, the researchers provided sex-specific population averages. …

Image for post
Image for post
Do spelling mistakes affect how attractive we seem on dating apps? Better check your dictionary! Freestocks

More of us are searching for partners on dating apps than ever before. Even as we shelter in place we can browse Bumble or Tinder for our next virtual date: much safer than crowding into a bar in hopes of meeting The One.

In some ways, searching for a partner on an app rather than in real life isn’t all that different. In both cases, out first impressions are based on appearance. That’s why we make such an effort to take and upload flattering photos to our profiles (although I am sure that none of us would *ever* Photoshop them first, right?). …

Image for post
Image for post
Winning an MMA bout can affect the attractiveness of a fighter’s body odour. Alex Chu/Flickr

Scientists have discovered that the sweet smell of success is more than a mere metaphor: it has a basis in fact.

Humans compete in various endeavours. The most clear cut examples are in combat sports, like boxing, taekwondo, or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Non-human animals also compete, mostly over valued resources such as food, territory, or access to mates. Animals tend not to enter into combat lightly, though. Often individuals are aware of their position in a dominance hierarchy and only challenge a rival if they have a chance of winning (or no other option but to fight).

How do animals determine whether to fight or flee? There are many factors they take into account, including relative body size, ferocity of vocal calls, memory of previous interactions, and odour. For instance, lower ranking male mice avoid the scent-markings of more dominant males. High status males have won before and might win again: best for submissive males to steer clear. …

Two new research studies reveal whether Tinder is making us choose different types of partner or relationships than we otherwise would.

Image for post
Image for post
Do we end up with different partners or in different relationships if we use dating apps like Tinder? Freestocks

Finding love is a perennial problem. In the distant past, our ancestors lived in small social groups and rarely moved far from the places they were raised. Their romantic options were limited. Choosing the right partner may have been the most important decision in their lives.

Today, the decision is no less important but the pool of potential partners is much bigger, partly thanks to the advent of dating apps. With relative ease we can sift through a seemingly endless stream of possibilities. But dating apps are such a radical departure from the now quaint dating practices of the past. Have they changed our thinking and behavior? Affected what we want in a relationship? Who we settle down with? …

Psychopaths exert a strange allure. The fictional psychopath has been a staple of film and television for decades, and the popularity of true-crime podcasts and streaming-service documentary series suggests that our fascination with psychopathy is on the increase.

A curiosity about the psychological precursors of manipulative or violent behavior can be laudable: if we understand psychopathy we will be better able to address its negative consequences. However, interest in psychopaths often appears to be motivated less by a desire to learn than by a desire for the psychopaths themselves.

In the wake of Netflix’s Ted Bundy Tapes, viewers flooded social media to declare that Bundy — a convicted serial killer — was hot. Cinema, too, is littered with portrayals of sexy psychopaths, played by actors such as Christian Bale (American Psycho), Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct). …

Emotional responses to a partner’s involvement with another in monogamous and consensually non-monogamous relationships

Image for post
Image for post
Do people in consensually non-monogamous relationships experience jealousy or compersion? Flickr/Eddy Van 3000

Imagine yourself in this scenario: you are in a long-term relationship, and one day you discover that your partner is pursuing a relationship with someone else. How would you feel?

Many of us would experience jealousy: an unpleasant sensation that can motivate behavior designed to reduce the risk of our loved one leaving us for someone new. These behaviors can be positive, such as redoubling efforts to be a good partner, but are all too often negative, and can include emotional or physical abuse directed at the partner or a love-rival.

However, some readers may have a different answer. Perhaps you wouldn’t feel jealousy, but rather compersion. …

Image for post
Image for post
Theresa May, who seems to follow the lead of former British PM, Margaret Thatcher, in affecting a deeper voice to project authority. Number 10/Flickr

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in the early phase of her political career, struggled to be taken seriously. In an attempt to project authority she cultivated the image of the “Iron Lady”, lowering the pitch of her voice to fit in with her male colleagues in the House of Commons.

Thatcher went on to win three general elections, but it’s impossible to say whether her resonant tones were the decisive factor in her victories (soon-to-be former PM Theresa May also seems to affect a deeper voice, with rather less success). …


Dr. Robert Burriss

Evolutionary psychologist. Studies human attraction and mate choice. More at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store