Last week I presented the findings (results) of a psychology experiment in which women from healthier countries preferred men with a more feminine look, while women from less healthy countries preferred more masculine-looking, “manlier” men. Now I will give you the researchers’ explanations or theories on why this is the case.
The key to (solution, main point of) this finding can be found in evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary refers to the process by which life forms (such as animals and humans) on earth change or “evolve” slowly over time, a theory proposed by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. Part of the theory of evolution says that organisms (life forms) that are better adapted (better matched, more suited) to their environment are better able to survive and therefore to have descendents (children, offspring). Over many thousands (and perhaps millions) of years, organisms that have the characteristics and qualities that are the best “fit” for their environment will be the ones that survive. Evolutionary psychology tries to explain the way people act today by looking at the characteristics of those actions which might have contributed (helped) in the past to the survival of the human race (human beings).
There can be no future for any organism that does not reproduce — that is, have children. But men and women have significant differences when it comes to (related to) reproduction. A man can have several sexual partners each year, and with each partner (woman, in this case) have a child. In other words, he can have as many children as he has sexual partners. A woman, however, can only have one child (excluding twins for the moment) every nine months, regardless of how many sexual partners she has had. A woman therefore has a strong motivation (a good reason) to be much more selective, much more careful about choosing her sexual partners if she wants the father of her children to help support and protect her and her offspring. It is in a woman’s best interest (beneficial or advantageous to her) to find a high-quality sexual partner who will be a good father to her children. While modern society has attempted to separate the sexual act from procreation (having children), evolutionary psychology shows that women (and men) are still guided today by these basic instincts or tendencies that we have inherited from our ancestors (our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.).
So what does the health of a society have to do with all of this? The answer is found in the hormone (certain chemicals that regulate your body’s activities) testosterone. More masculine-looking men tend to have more testosterone, and are often in better physical shape, look more healthy, are more fertile (able to produce more children), and are perceived as being “stronger” than men with less testosterone. If you are woman living in a society where illness and disease are common (that is, a less healthy society), physical health is an important part of your survival. You will want to find a man who you believe is himself very physically healthy, who won’t easily get sick, and who will thus (therefore) be able to protect you and your children.
High levels of testosterone can have some negative effects as well, however. Men with high levels of testosterone are more likely to be aggressive and unfaithful (have sex with someone other than his or her husband/wife/partner). The more “manly” man is more likely to get divorced, have problems in his marriage, be less interested in parenting (taking care of the children), and be physically abusive to (hit or harm) his wife. (Of course, these are just generalizations, and it does not mean that all men with high testosterone are unfaithful and hit their wives.) In healthier societies, where physical health is not as important for survival, women are more likely to be attracted to the more feminine-looking men, who are generally kinder, more faithful, and more interested in being a father. These women thereby (by doing that) avoid the negative aspects that come with being with men who have high testosterone levels.
Countries that are considered to be on average the healthiest by the World Health Organization, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, are more likely to have women who will choose the more feminine-looking men for a husband or partner. The United States is one of the least healthy countries, and women here tend to prefer the more masculine-looking men. Based on this information, we can presume (guess, assume to be true) that if Obama’s healthcare plan is successful in making Americans healthier, women will start preferring more feminine-looking men — that is, girlie men!
One potential problem in this study is that some countries have a wide disparity (difference) in their population when it comes to how healthy the environments are in which people live. The United States has some very rich areas, but it also has many very poor areas. It is possible, then, that the “average” level of healthiness is not a very good indication of what a “typical” American woman might prefer in a man. It may be, for example, that women from richer, healthier places in the U.S. prefer more feminine-looking men, and those in the poorer, less healthy areas prefer more masculine-looking men. The study did not look at this issue.