Now that the holidays are winding down, you may be wondering what to do with some of the less-than-desirable presents you received this year. Despite Santa’s good intentions, are you ever going to wear that gaudy scarf? And will you ever actually take that awkward foot bath out of the box?
A practical solution would be to regift these items—to pass them on to someone who would appreciate them more than yourself. But that pesky taboo surrounding regifting makes you think twice. What do you do? Researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and the London Business School analyzed the psychology behind regifting to determine what people really think about it, and how much the social stigma comes into play. Their results, published by the Association for Psychological Science earlier this year, suggest that with a little rebranding, regifting may not be such a bad idea after all.
A new study out in the American Association of Wine Economist’s “Wine Economics” journal suggests that monogamous societies are bigger drinkers than those in polygamous societies. Does this mean that being stuck with only one partner drives us to the bottle, or does drinking make us more likely to settle down?
Actually the answer is most likely neither. Both monogamy and drunkenness seem to be related to economics, or at least, that’s why both seem to have blossomed during the industrial revolution. Jo Swinnen, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times Freakonomics blog (which seemed to have missed the actual conclusion of the study) that he noticed the correlation over, unsurprisingly, a glass of wine:
The inspiration came from a casual observation (over a glass of wine) that the two social/religious groups that do allow polygamy ((parts of) Mormonism and Islam) also do not consume alcohol. So we wondered whether this was a coincidence or not.
While many studies have compared alcohol and cultural traits, this is the study to look at its relationship with polygamy. The researchers compared the marital style and “frequency of drunkenness” of 44 well-documented pre-industrial societies (24 of which were polygamous; 20 monogamous) and found that monogamy was indeed positively correlated with drunkenness. The paper (pdf) says:
If you are a single male, please answer the following questions:
Repellent body odor? No?
Superfluous and abundant body hair?
Socially awkward? No again…?
Then why are you still single? And what are the odds of you finding a girlfriend this year?
Economics grad student Peter Backus of the U.K.’s University of Warwick pondered that question, and put his mathematical skills to good use to calculate his chances of hooking up in 2010. As Backus found, the odds of him finding an appropriate love interest on any given night out are 1 in 285,000. Backus used the Drake equation to calculate these odds of finding love and wrote it up as “Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK.”
As New Scientist explains:
For the uninitiated, the Drake equation was set out by Frank Drake, one of the founders of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It estimates the number of alien civilisations we should expect to find in our galaxy.
Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer is married to the Berlin Wall. Like any couple, they’ve had their ups and downs, but over the years, they’ve been able to meet each other’s spiritual and emotional needs. “We even made it through the terrible disaster of 9 November 1989, when my husband was subjected to frenzied attacks by a mob. But we are still as much in love as the day we met,” Berliner-Mauer said last year.
Berliner-Mauer (the German name for the Berlin Wall, which she has taken as her last name) has since defined her love under the term “objectum sexual,” or OS—in other words, a person who falls in love with inanimate objects. As an animist, she, along with a growing group of others, believe that inanimate objects are sentient, intelligent beings.
Take Erika Eiffel, who is married to the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel says she recalls being attracted to objects even as a child, and realized she was different only when she saw other people at school dating each other, while she was dating a bridge.
To study the intimate dialogue between romantic partners, psychologists have turned to parsing instant messages. In a new study [pdf], researchers report that the words couples send each other across cyberspace are good indications of relationship health.
The researchers asked 68 dating couples (not surprisingly, the average age was only 19) to submit transcripts of their IMs to each other over a ten day period. The couples were also asked to rate their relationship satisfaction and report six months later whether they were still dating or not.
After analyzing pages upon pages of IM conversations, the team concluded that women who often use the word “I” in IMs are more likely to be in happy, stable relationships. Guys also seem to dig gals who say “I,” reporting greater satisfaction when dating women who referred to themselves in the first person. The researchers explain this correlation with the usual “women tend to be more emotionally expressive.”
Millions of Americans can’t smell, and there’s no treatment or cure for it. And if you’re on the pill, you may even have trouble sniffing out a good mate! But new research shows that falling in love can also alter a woman’s sense of smell, suggesting that smell serves as an evolutionary mechanism that reinforces monogamy.
Johan Lundstrom, primary investigator at the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at Monell Chemical Senses Center, found that when women are deeply in love, they lose some of their ability to differentiate the smells of their male friends.
To test this theory, Lundstrom took 20 female volunteers and measured how in love they were by having them fill out a questionnaire called the Passionate Love Scale. The women were asked to rate their feelings on a scale of 1 to 9 for questions such as:
I sense my body responding when [BOYFRIEND] touches me.
Sometimes I feel I can’t control my thoughts; they are obsessively on [BOYFRIEND].
I’d get jealous if I thought [BOYFRIEND] was falling in love with someone else.
Lundstrom then gave a T-shirt to each of the women’s boyfriends, one female friend, and one male friend, in order to collect body odor samples.
What do John McCain, Seal, and Harry Potter have in common? Facial scars and, according to a new study, an advantage in attracting women—but only for a fling. Researchers from the University of Liverpool report that women prefer men with facial scars as short-term partners over men without facial scars. For long-term relationships, however, scars don’t make a difference.
The researchers came to this conclusion after showing 147 women images of men’s faces with mild scarring or without, and asking the women to rate the men as potential short-term or long-term mates. Previous research has shown that women prefer men with square jaws and well-defined brow ridges for short-term mates and more feminine facial features for long-term mates. The researchers offer an explanation for their new results in the press release:
“Women may have rated scarring as an attractive quality for short-term relationships because they found it be a symbol of masculinity, a feature that is linked to high testosterone levels and an indicator of good genetic qualities that can be passed on to offspring. Men without scars, however, could be seen as more caring and therefore more suitable for long-term relationships.”