April 22, 2008

Is This How I Got Unreasonably Lucky?

I've often wondered how I got a woman as lovely as my wife to marry me. Some guy at the University of Tennessee has a reasonable-enough sounding explanation. Basically, women seek out partners who will be supporting of them while we superficial men look for hotties, which is a bromide so widely-distributed in gender-relations talk as to be a cliche.

What's interesting, though, is that the researchers at UT found that support for one's spouse increased as the woman in the partnership became more attractive, and decreased as the man becomes more attactive -- and that was true for both genders:

Overall, wives and husbands behaved more positively when the woman was better looking.

The finding "seems very reasonable," said Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at MIT's Program in Media Arts and Sciences and Sloan School of Management. "Men are very sensitive to women's attractiveness. Women seem to be sensitive to men's height and salary," said Ariely, who was not involved in the recent study.

In couples with more attractive husbands, both partners were less supportive of one another. McNulty suggests wives mirror, in some ways, the level of support they get from husbands.

That last sentence is the one that really sticks out for me. It suggests that ultimately, the tone of the relationship is set by the man's perception of his mate's attractiveness. And that doesn't quite make sense -- especially if you buy into the idea that the woman is looking for support from her spouse. If she gets support, she gives it back? Yes, if she's a nice person, but if she is, she'll support her husband anyway. This is a concept that needs more fleshing out. At minimum, this looks like an incomplete picture.

No comments: