Sunday, December 31, 2006

How to Attract Mr. Right

10 Secrets to Getting Your Man Hooked On You For Good

It sounded interesting - so I clicked. See, I like to find out whether websites actually present scientifically valid information or the usual b.s. Unfortunately, the catch it and keep him dot com people wanted my email address first. SPAM! No thanks.

The advert appeared at the top of this article that my sister sent me. It reports the results of a new study that found people (undergraduates) judge a man's "dad" vs. "cad" potential based on the way he looks. Guys who have more masculine facial features (prominent jaw and brow ridge) tend to be seen as the type of guy who gets in fights, cheats on his mate, has a wandering eye, etc. etc. Less masculine looking men are seen as more emotionally sensitive, better dads and more caring parents.

Physiognomy (reading personality from faces) typically ranks right up there with astrology and phrenology (reading personality, especially criminal intent, from bumps on the skull) as pseudoscience. However, there is actually some truth to the link between personality and appearance. For the real deal on why the two are linked I highly recommend Reading Faces by Brandeis University psychologist Leslie Zebrowitz. It's an excellent overview of the subject. Suffice it to say, there are compelling scientific reasons to read into a person's face - but only to a point. If you judge a book by it's cover - reject it without opening it, you'll probably miss a lot of very fine stories. So goes with people.

So, in my humble scientific opinion what are ten secrets to getting your guy hooked on you for good?

In no particular order:

1. Choose a man you encounter often, or arrange to cleverly and unobtrusively bump into him frequently. You can take advantage of the mere exposure effect: We like even more those things or people that we encounter more often. A student once asked me in class if that means stalking works. It was one of the better questions and class discussions I've had.

2. Select a guy who is approximately the same level of physical attractiveness as you are.

3. Pick some who is as similar to you as possible. I put this one in bold because it is the most important one. Similarity is the number one reason for long term couple compatibility. Non-negotiable similarities are religion and intelligence. These should match for the best chance of achieving longevity. If you also agree on food, music, activities, movies, childcare, which kind of car to get, whether the toilet seat should be left up or down, which way the toilet paper hangs, etc you will be a lot better off.

4. Really get to know the person before committing. That way you can assess whether you are similar enough to be a good long term match. Don't fool yourself either - if you are passionately sexually attracted to the person you might be willing to overlook the fact that the person eats only vegan food and isn't really a dog person. I think it's best not to commit until after the passion phase subsides so you can realistically see who the person really is. This will take at least a year, if not two.

5. Rule out anyone who is highly neurotic. Neuroticism is one of the five fundamental personality traits (along with openness to new experiences, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) in the Five Factor Model of Personality. A neurotic person is one who tends to be emotionally unstable; they get rattled easily and do not make good life partners.

6. Know how to flirt. There are steps to flirting; if followed in the right order at the right pace (you've got to have a feel for this to avoid coming on too strong) you'll be able to get the person interested so you can judge similarity.

-- Step 1: Make brief eye contact - glance in his direction then look down when his eyes meet yours.

-- Step 2: Give an eyebrow flash. Nothing says come hither to primates like briefly raising your eyebrows in unison. If you are interested in someone this will happen unconsciously. Watch for it - if you receive an eyebrow flash, that's a very good thing!

-- Step 3: Make nonverbal displays of submission. The aim is to appear non-threatening. Expose your neck, give a "coy smile," toss your head, smile, sit with your legs/arms crossed gently with toes pointing in.

-- Step 4: Make extended eye contact. Anthropologist Helen Fisher calls this a "copulatory gaze." Sustained gaze activates the sympathetic nervous system and causes arousal. A little arousal is what you want while flirting. Don't stare - that's creepy.

-- Step 5: Engage in "grooming talk" in which you chit chat about who you are. The aim is to discover similarities (or lack of them).

-- Step 6/7: Break the contact barrier. Here's where "grooming talk" can turn into actual grooming. Picking off lint on his sleeve or something like that can be an excuse for touching the person. Be careful - it might be viewed as being critical of his appearance. Touch should happen spontaneously.

-- Step 7/6. Achieve synchronicity of nonverbal behavior. Watch for mirrored posture, arm movement, taking a drink at the same time. Mirrored behavior is an excellent sign of rapport. You can feign this to a degree, but it's not advised. If you have to fake it, you don't have the kind of chemistry you need to sustain a long term cooperative relationship. Many animals who form pair bonds mirror each other during courtship; it's a great way to test whether they work well as a pair.

7. Avoid a man whose parents are divorced. Statistically speaking people whose parents have been divorced are more likely to get divorced too. It may have to do with seeing divorce as an acceptable way to solve marital problems.

8. Avoid a cheater. This is a man who had parents who cheated on their spouse or who has already cheated on a mate in the past. While it's possible for people to "learn from mistakes," statistically speaking the odds are better for long term relationships if there is no history of cheating. Infidelity, along with infertility, is a leading cause of divorce.

9. Avoid someone who shows contempt while having an argument. Contempt has a very particular appearance - the easiest way to spot it is to look for muscle contraction on only one side of the mouth. This photo shows a fairly subtle contempt face. Psychologist John Gottman found that looks of contempt during arguments predict relationship dissolution.

10. Communicate.
This is easier said than done, of course. It's important to let the other person know what's going on with you. If your potential 'Mr. Right' clams up emotionally when you need to talk, that's a bad sign. Similarly, you've got to be emotionally intimate with your potential Mr Right.

You are going to have arguments and disagreements. You can avoid a great deal of disagreement by choosing someone who is as similar to you as possible, but you will still have arguments over disagreements from time to time. How two people fight says a lot about how they function.

An argument should be about trying to understand the other person and reach an agreement, not an excuse to let off steam and say nasty things in anger. If his way of arguing is to insult you or tell you what you did wrong when you're trying to express what he did that upset you, that's not the right way to discuss the matter.

One of the most common mistakes to make while airing grievances is for the other person to air his too. Resist the temptation to talk about what has been bothering you when your mate talks about what has been bothering him. Instead, listen and show you comprehend what is upsetting him, then do what you can to help. If that thing that you thought about bringing up during the argument really is important, you will remember it later.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Belize Navidad

The Belize Navidad I enjoyed with my favorite man in a little thatched roof cabana on a beach in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye is probably my favorite Christmas. We had Chinese food for dinner that night with our new friends, one a Brit the other Czech. There was a parade down the unpaved, sandy main drag. And I actually got to talk to my grandparents and dad on the phone. That was 8 years ago.

I would love to go back. The only part I'd change is staying a few nights in Belize City. It was a dump. But, I would like to see if any of it has changed at all. I remember there was a cute park on the coast with a little lighthouse and some jungle themed jungle toys for kids to climb on. One was a gorilla. I saw a scissor-tailed flycatcher there for the first time.

The ride into Belize City from the airport should have said it all. It was a an old wood-grained sided station wagon complete with a severely cracked windshield and several coconuts in the back. Our driver said nothing until we spotted a billboard that spelled out VAT and asked him, "What's VAT?" He said three words.

It's a killer.

Later we found out VAT was a tax on just about everything.

Inside Belize City we got the lowdown from a friendly guy with dreds who was associated with our hotel, or at least the bartender who worked there. He told us where it was safe to walk. Basically one block down that way and a few blocks up the other way. Don't go there or there he said pointing off:

They even be chancing on my own self.

We took a speedboat to the Caye. The guy drove without regard to waves - it was fast and furious and very bumpy. A piglet got shoved into a cardboard box which was then sealed up with fruits and whatnot piled on top. The pig squealed loudly and the box jiggled noticeably for a while. Maybe it went to sleep or suffocated.

On the Caye we went snorkeling a few times, ate raw conch right out of the ocean (delicious!), walked around birdwatching a lot, and drank rum with Dr. Pepper on the beach every night. We took a boat ride to see manatees. When they stuck their snouts out of the water to get a breath of air they looked like big dogs.

We rode a boat out to the reef with scuba divers so that we could see Red Footed Boobies. It was well worth the expense and the ride. The boat was in shambles. It rained every night and since we slept on the deck, our mattresses got soaked. We slept on soggy mattresses. The captain had the same philosophy as the water taxi driver who took us to thew Caye - drive as fast a possible, ignore waves. It was a seriously choppy ride. I got a little seasick and so did my favorite guy, so I know it was bad.

By the end of the four day trip the door to the can was hanging on by only one hinge and had a smell to match.

But - the boobies were glorious. We could get so close that one actually crapped on Alasdair's shoulder as we walked by. My own animal encounters were similar, but at least the giant cockroach that fell on me in the middle of the night when I got up to pee and the mouse that ran across my bare leg as I got dressed didn't leave any lasting marks.

On a whim we bought plane tickets to Flores, Guatemala so we could see Tikal. We bought handwoven textiles in tienda typicas, drank cheap beer, and found a wonderful guide who was an excellent teacher. I can almost smell the bark of the allspice tree he cut off for us to smell. The golden glint of the Chestnut-Colored Woodpeckers in full sunlight is a sight! We wondered around the temples and climbed two of them.

We watched a beautiful sunset from the top of one where we met a young guy from Walla Walla who was serving in the Peace Corps there. Small world.

The coatis looked like miniature dinosaurs as they sauntered off into the dim light of the forest. One night we stayed too long in the park and had to walk back half-lost in the dark. It was a full moon that night which added to the drama of walking along in a mostly black jungle where we had just been told about poisonous fer-de-lance snakes that stalk their prey, not to mention the jaguars and ocelots.... which we would be lucky to see in the first place!

After Tikal, we stayed on a ranch in central Belize that is owned by a Montanan - the Banana Bank Ranch. That was a treat. They were excellent, warm, and friendly hosts. I went horseback riding for the first time there which supports to my claim that I am a MT city slicker. We saw boat-billed herons and a jabiru that made the wood storks it stood next too look like crows. Riding around with the rancher was a lot like riding around with my dad. It all made me a little homesick. I would love to stay at the ranch again!

I saw and heard howler monkeys. They really do sound like lions roaring. If you don't believe me, you can listen to them here. And they are LOUD. I didn't mind at all being woken up by them at 3 o'clock in the morning. It added to the experience. I saw spider monkeys too.

We caught a flight on a three seat Cessna to Chan Chich Lodge. Chan Chich is an expensive, luxury lodge situated in the heart of the jungle near the Rio Bravo Conservation Area. The bird watching was spectacular and we were extremely fortunate to be able to go there at such a young age. We were both in our early 20s and by far the youngest people there. While I painted a watercolor postcard form the porch of the lounge I spotted a green hummer. A new bird! I thought to myself and quickly trained my binos on it only to discover it was actually an enormous grasshopper.

We also saw "jesus christ" lizards, pygmy kingfishers, king vultures, jacamars, a red-capped manakin whose neon orange head was so bright it looked cartoonish, bare-throated tiger heron, purple-crowned fairy, ornate hawk eagle, sungrebe, chacalacas, northern jacana, trogons, motmots, aracaris, toucans, oropendulas (who make huge hanging nests!) and my favorite: the full-of-personality and mischievous looking yellow-billed cacique.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blood Diamond

I don't understand about
Diamonds and why men buy them
What's so impressive about a diamond
Except the mining
~ Red Red Red by Fiona Apple

Monday afternoon My Man with Gills and I watched Blood Diamond.

I enjoyed it quite a bit - and know so because I would be happy to see it again in spite of the questionable inclusion of a very brief scene with a young chimp. Any movie with Djimon Hounsou is a movie I am happy to sit through! Leo gives a good performance too - especially the few scenes he speaks Creole. It reminded me of listening to the guys in Belize speaking it. The subtitles were nice, but not totally necessary. The action was intense - the street fighting scenes were appropriately chaotic. I really liked that the diamond they were after was pink, as if it was already tinged by the blood shed over it.

I also liked that the producers/director/DP did not include a love scene between Jennifer Connelly and Leonardo DiCaprio. I wondered why they didn't. The movie was violent enough to warrant an R rating, so it seemed like a given to include a sex scene, and there was indeed a place midway through the movie where one could have been included. Maybe it was filmed but got edited out. Anyhow, I think if they had included one it would have been pandering. I appreciated that the story was appropriately morally legitimate which is to say all of the bad guys more or less get what's coming to them, even McSmuggler.

The only thing that has kept me scratching my head is the inclusion of a juvenile chimp sitting in a tree in the juggle. First, a chimp that young would never just be quietly sitting there all alone. Second, chimps are very rare in West Africa - they are almost extinct save for a few tiny isolated populations. The chimp was not a wild chimp but rather one rented for the hours it took to shoot the scene. There are a number of Hollywood animal providers who rent out exotic animals for movies. I don't think chimps should be used this way, and wondered why the decided to include it.

My stab - perhaps it will make people think about the effect of the illegal diamond trade/civil war on the habitat and livelihood of chimpanzees. There's no doubt that civil war, really any war, is disastrous for the environment. People flee their homes, forests burn down, chimps get eaten as bushmeat. In the Congo when coltan (highly valuable mineral used in electronics, especially cell phones and computers) was discovered, chaos ensued. Gorillas and bonobos who live anywhere near the mining camps suffer. Can cell phones be certified conflict free too?

What's the point of certification anyway besides some vain hope that consumer behavior will actually change corporate policies or international politics? Sure, you can refuse to buy dirty gold and conflict diamonds, but really, are you achieving any more than someone who prays diligently for their relative to be cured from a glialblastoma brain tumor?

What's so impressive about a diamond except the mining?
Why do men buy them?

In an EP nutshell, a diamond is an expensive courtship gift that is a difficult signal to fake, thus, it is an honest signal of a man's commitment, level of investment, and willingness and ability to provide. This assumes a woman who doubts her mate's honesty is smart enough to take her shiny new ring to a jeweler to find out whether it's a diamond before she commits to him.

"Two generations ago, Japanese couples did not bother buying diamond engagement rings. Then the De Beers diamond cartel, through an intensive advertising campaign in the 1970s, convinced Japanese women that they deserved a ring just like Western women. A new standard was imposed: Japanese men must spend at least two months’ salary on a colourless lump of carbon to demonstrate their romantic commitment. Japanese marriages are probably no happier than a generation ago, but De Beers is richer," says Geoffrey Miller in his award winning essay Waste: A Sexual Critique of Consumerism.

Switched to New Blogger

I finally made the switch to the new blogger after being prompted for weeks (maybe months) about switching.

I didn't need to have a gmail account which is great because I already have enough email accounts and passwords to keep track of. Now that I think of it, I have three different academic accounts collected from the various teaching positions I've held. One of those is probably totally defunct but I wouldn't know because I haven't logged in a long, long time. My password still works for the purpose of online journal access which is FANTASTIC because sometimes when I can't access a journal at one of the other two, I can at that one. Yeah! Another account is a shared home account and I have yet another that I communicate with friends through. I think that makes at least five different places I can be emailed.

The big switch was hardly noticeable at all. It took a few minutes and voila! Everything still looks the same. Plus, on the start-up page I found an old blog I started back in Sept to be more anonymous if I want to be... I don't have a problem with people knowing who I am but I do feel consigned to write mostly academic posts. I would blog a mean streak if I could be assured that I was totally anonymous, but I don't think that can ever truly be achieved. So, I carry on as if I am identifiable. I think it makes life easier. I never have to worry about whether someone from my department, a job prospect, a student, etc finds me out. I am thinking about deleting the other one.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mammals May Share Vocal Communication Pattern

"What do dog barks have in common with bird tweets and human baby cries? All appear to communicate basic emotions, such as fear, aggression and submission, in somewhat the same acoustic way, according to a new Applied Animal Behavior Science study that suggests a primitive communication system may unite virtually all mammals."

Read more here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Disruptive Innovation

Will the Internet put newspapers out of business?

That's a question that's been at the top of mind for me these last few days. My husband has worked in the newspaper industry for roughly ten years and I have made moves very recently to get into the business too (I even had an interview yesterday). But, given that newspaper circulation and readership have been reliably declining and even the best papers with the most name recognition have been losing money, it hardly seems like a intelligent career move.

Why? The Internet can be considered a disruptive innovation - a new way of getting a job done that renders the previous way obsolete. Consider what effect it's had on the travel industry. Now, you can search online for cruises, airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, and even villas to rent for a week in Tuscany. You no longer need a travel agent.

Craigslist is a perfect example of a disruptive innovation, and, it's one that spells demise for the classified advertising wing of newspapers, a major source of revenue. Why pay for an ad in the newspaper when craigslist will do it for free?

When it came time to collect data for my dissertation, I set my study up online. What's more, I could have hired the newspaper to help me recruit participants but elected not to. I recognized that people would not go online after seeing my ad, but they might participate if they were already online. So, I placed ads in a different city each week for a year through craigslist. I paid nothing and have 4,000 participants to show for the small investment of time. If my local newspaper had a newsletter it emailed to subscribers, I would have considered placing an ad.

Unfortunately for the local paper, craigslist arrived in the nearest city within the last month and should be in Walla Walla very soon. Then what?

As much as a might consider myself a depressive realist, I am at my core an optimist. I think newspapers can turn things around.

The most exciting ideas for how to do this come from Newspaper Next, a product of the marriage of the American Press Institute with Innosight, a consulting firm.

One of the recommendations that comes out of this report (and I unabashedly admit I am a biased reader here) suggests that hiring bright, creative outsiders will keep newspapers from becoming dinosaurs. It will be interesting to see what develops!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

iPod meme

How many songs: 1477

First song: (Don't Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Last song: Zombie ~ The Cranberries

Shortest: 16 sec. language lesson - saying "I" and "you" in Arabic
(shortest piece of music: Njarka by Ali Farka Toure - 44 sec.)

Longest: 30 min. Pimsleur Arabic language lesson
(longest piece of music: Alice's Restaurant Massacree (18:36)

Five most played songs:

Aïcha - Khaled (115) A love song in French and Arabic. He offers to give her all sorts of romantic gifts but all she wants is the same rights he enjoys.

Mohammed's Radio - Warren Zevon (106) I still don't know exactly what he means by "Mohammed's Radio" but the closest thing I've come to hearing Mohammed's Radio might be the calls to prayer of the muezzins I heard in Tunisia.

Oran Marseille - Khaled (99) A song about the struggle of French-Algerian immigrants in Marseille. I love the rapped parts. I only get bits and pieces of it though because it flies by so fast.

Le Juge Ment - Foy-Foy & Kwal (91) Recorded at the Festival of the Desert in Mali. When I first heard this, I was impressed by how fast the guy can rap and go without pausing to take a breath. It's truly amazing. I only understand words here and there. I would love to go the festival someday.

32 Flavors - ani difranco (90) I love the lyrics, especially the line "god help you if you are a phoenix - and you dare to rise up from the ash - a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy - while you are just flying past."

First song that comes up on "shuffle”: Pastures of Plenty sung by Odetta, written by Woody Guthrie (after that: Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 - I love the version they did in the rain for the dedication of Clinton's library. You should hear it, and you can here or at the end of this post.)

Number of items that come up when searching for:

"sex": 3

"death": 0

"love": 48

"you": 130

"me": 280

"cry": 5

If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Will your mate cheat on you?

Will your mate cheat on you?

That depends on whether the two of you share a particular set of genes known as MHC. Research released in the October issue of Psychological Science suggests that the likelihood your mate will cheat increases with greater genetic similarity in a certain region of chromosome 6. Women, but not men, whose partner's MHC matches their own tend to find their partner less sexually interesting, especially when ovulating. They are also more strongly attracted to other men.

MHC codes for chemical markers on the surface of immune cells that help catch foreign cells - those that could potentially cause illness or disease. The more kinds of MHC genes a person has, the more germs he or she will be able to fend off. Individuals who have similar MHC genes are more likely to produce a child whose immune system can't detect and fend off as many kinds of germs.

When women are paired up with a men whose immune system genes are similar to their own, they tend to find other men more sexually appealing about the time they are likely to become pregnant. This appears to be a behavioral mechanism to avoid inbreeding.

So, why don't men show a similar effect? The authors of the paper don't get around to talking about this, but the glib answer would be that men are attracted to women other than their mates already anyway. They don't need any extra help from an inbreeding avoidance mechanism to spread their seed when it's so cheap, so to speak.

A woman's egg is comparatively rare and expensive, so the onus is on her to choose a mate wisely. This view suggests the smart choice is on someone who is genetically very different. That person isn't always the one who turns out to be a reliable life partner for raising children cooperatively. Other research has found that men with diverse MHC genes tend to be symmetrical, physically attractive, and also promiscuous. They tend to be cads rather than dads.

Cheating may present a way for women to have their cake and eat it too. By securing a dependable but less sexy partner, then cheating on him and becoming pregnant by a genetically better man, a woman can secure for her baby the good genes for a healthy immune system *and* a reliable dad. That is, if the cuckolded dad never figures it out.

On average, 1 in 10-25 children are born this way. It's no surprise then that a study published in Nature a few years ago found at that maternal relatives are more likely to say that a newborn looks like her dad. It's in their interest to try to convince the dad that the child really is his.