It's social psychology and a professor of marketing is as qualified to look at survey results as anyone so let's go with it - actually, applied psychology, like marketing, has proven its worth far more than efforts to make it a theoretical science so marketing people likely have a great deal more credibility. Plus, this study is actually pretty good, at least compared to other social psychology nonsense like interviewing drunk people outside bars and concluding that Republicans are created epigenetically. They also quote legendary Dodgers baseball manager Leo "The Lip" Durocher and his "Nice guys finish last" comment about the hated cross-town rival Giants and it is worth some coverage on Science 2.0 for that reason alone.
In one of their three studies, they showed women (female undergraduates, of course - this is social psychology and they think undergraduates are the only people on planet Earth) online dating profiles of men, one that was clearly 'sexy' and one less sexy but designed to seem 'stable'. They did this when the women doing the viewing had high and low fertility. The women were asked to rate how valuable they believed each of these archetypes would be in helping raise a child; waking up to feed the baby, chores around the house, etc. Women who were ovulating rated the 'sexy' man more likely to help with all that domestic stuff. The second study had them interacting directly with male actors, which sounds like a lot more fun. I was at a Murder Mystery party a few weeks ago and some of these women almost convinced me I was an aged millionaire who committed the crime - maybe they were ovulating.
When seeing real men in a video feed (same guy, an actor portraying the two archetypes) the women again thought the 'sexy' guy would be a reliable partner; if he was her partner. Women are convinced they can change men if the men are sexy enough to be worth the bother, say evolutionary psychologists, which adds to its reputation as the most patronizing-to-women social science (which is really saying something). Yet a quick examination of the information for the actors tells you other things are in play besides pesky faux evolutionary drivers. Here is how the 'reliable' male was portrayed:
To portray the reliable dad, the actors were told to dress casual but not overly fashionable. They were instructed to look away from the camera and not maintain direct eye contact for long periods of time. They were also told to fidget and portray the man as somewhat awkward and not overly confident.Ummmm, no one wants to hang out with that guy, male or female. He's a wimpy, annoying prat, and these were 20-year-old women. And what did they determine these women have in common that made them choose the 'cad' over the 'dad'? Apparently early puberty, along with the recurring hormonal changes.
"Under the hormonal influence of ovulation, women delude themselves into thinking that the sexy bad boys will become devoted partners and better dads," said Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at The University of Texas at San Antonio. "When looking at the sexy cad through ovulation goggles, Mr. Wrong looked exactly like Mr. Right."
Or it may be that when women are ovulating, they have less patience with wimpy people of any gender.
Sexy! (if you are ovulating) Credit: Shutterstock.
They invoke ultimate and proximate explanations for the behavior instead; we have a fear response, for example, because it kept people alive, so that is an ultimate explanation for why we run when we see a lion walking toward us. But they then focus on proximate explanations, completely establishing as a biological imperative that a woman will like a sexy guy who will cheat on her with her sister and they are just trying to figure out how that is manifested.
Not buying it? You'll never be part of the reality-based social science contingent with that attitude. Better to not be labeled anti-science, so go ahead and be a sexy jerk and claim it is your evolutionary mandate.
Citation: Durante, Kristina M.; Griskevicius, Vladas; Simpson, Jeffry A.; Cantú, Stephanie M.; Li, Norman P., 'Ovulation Leads Women to Perceive Sexy Cads as Good Dads', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 14 , 2012, doi: 10.1037/a0028498