Can a computer predict romantic chemistry?

By Seriously Science | January 18, 2018 7:59 am

Keyboard with red heart on button, close-up

Romantic attraction is complex and hard for humans to quantify. That’s why these scientists turned to machine learning to see if computers can do a better job. They asked participants to fill out a questionnaire with “more than 100 self-report measures about traits and preferences that past researchers have identified as being relevant to mate selection,” and used those to train the computer models. They then had the participants speed-date each other for 4 minutes at a time and had the models predict potential couples. The result? While the computers could generally tell which people might be more popular in the dating world, they did a terrible job of guessing potential romantic matches. Maybe next time, they need to program in more je ne sais quoi.

Is Romantic Desire Predictable? Machine Learning Applied to Initial Romantic Attraction.

“Matchmaking companies and theoretical perspectives on close relationships suggest that initial attraction is, to some extent, a product of two people’s self-reported traits and preferences. We used machine learning to test how well such measures predict people’s overall tendencies to romantically desire other people (actor variance) and to be desired by other people (partner variance), as well as people’s desire for specific partners above and beyond actor and partner variance (relationship variance). In two speed-dating studies, romantically unattached individuals completed more than 100 self-report measures about traits and preferences that past researchers have identified as being relevant to mate selection. Each participant met each opposite-sex participant attending a speed-dating event for a 4-min speed date. Random forests models predicted 4% to 18% of actor variance and 7% to 27% of partner variance; crucially, however, they were unable to predict relationship variance using any combination of traits and preferences reported before the dates. These results suggest that compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.”

Related content:
Facial attractiveness is predicted by parental income during childhood.
People are attracted to the body odor of others with similar political beliefs.
Men’s attraction to women’s bodies changes seasonally.


Flashback Friday: Playing the Lottery on a Rainy Day Could Pay Off

By Seriously Science | January 12, 2018 7:00 am
Image: Flickr/Images Money

Image: Flickr/Images Money

When it comes to playing the odds, there are times when gambling feels more enticing than others. But is there a pattern to when people indulge in games of luck and when they abstain? Well, according to this study, there is! Apparently, when other circumstances dictated by “luck” are going well, people are more likely to play the lottery. Specifically, they found that people are more likely to play the lottery during a long string of sunny days, or when a local sports team is playing well. So, if you don’t want to share the pile of money with another winning ticket, your best bet may be to play when the weather’s bad or the Yankees are losing.

Unexpected but Incidental Positive Outcomes Predict Real-World Gambling

“Positive mood can affect a person’s tendency to gamble, possibly because positive mood fosters unrealistic optimism. At the same time, unexpected positive outcomes, often called prediction errors, influence mood. Read More

Does porn actually help men donate semen faster?

By Seriously Science | January 9, 2018 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/EvelynGiggles

Image: Flickr/EvelynGiggles

Giving a semen sample is pretty high up on the awkward scale. Common sense says that pornographic magazines should help set the mood.
But are they actually necessary? A team of researchers from down under (Sydney) found out by conducting a study of 1520 men who were giving semen samples in a hospital. Turns out that men given dirty magazines were actually SLOWER at semen production (enjoying the reading material, perhaps?) unless they were told that they were in a study. Then all the men took about the same amount of time to, er, produce. 

Randomised controlled trial of whether erotic material is required for semen collection: impact of informed consent on outcome.

“Semen is collected to evaluate male fertility or cryostore sperm preferentially in laboratories but such collection facilities have no standard fit-out. It is widely believed but untested whether providing erotic material (EM) is required to collect semen by masturbation in the unfamiliar environment. To test this assumption, 1520 men (1046 undergoing fertility evaluation, 474 sperm cryostorage, providing 1932 semen collection episodes) consecutively attending the semen laboratory of a major metropolitan teaching hospital for semen analysis were eligible for randomization to be provided or not with printed erotic material EM (X-rated, soft-core magazines) during semen collection. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?

Flashback Friday: Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans

By Seriously Science | January 5, 2018 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/zoetnet

Many people believe that our perceptions of human beauty are primarily determined by societal norms. But could there be something innate in our brains that influence whether we think a face is beautiful? Here, a group of researchers tested this hypothesis by determining whether chickens have any innate preferences for certain human faces. To do so, they trained chickens to react to either an average human male or female face. They then showed the chickens a series of faces of different levels of attractiveness (see Figure 1 below) and measured how much the chickens pecked at each face (a measure of their preference for the face). Surprisingly, they found that the chickens preferred the same faces as did human volunteers (in this case university students asked to rate the faces for attractiveness), suggesting that something about these faces makes them inherently more attractive to our nervous systems. So there you have it: the next time you want to know which photo to use for your profile picture, consider asking a chicken.

Chickens prefer beautiful humans.

“We trained chickens to react to an average human female face but not to an average male face (or vice versa). In a subsequent test, the animals showed preferences for faces consistent with human sexual preferences (obtained from university students). Read More


People Who Swear Are More Honest

By Seriously Science | January 4, 2018 1:01 pm

Swearing-at-work-1It’s hard to tell which came first with this study – the title or the study itself. Either way, these authors set out determine whether the use of profanity is associated with honesty or dishonesty. Using a series of three studies, including a linguistic analysis of more than 70,000 interactions on Facebook, they conclude that “profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level and with higher integrity at the society level.” But wait! Another group of researchers later responded to this paper, questioning its conclusions and suggesting that “Lie Scales are correlated positively rather than negatively with trait honesty and the relation between profanity use and trait honesty is likely to be negative.” Well, damn!

Frankly, We Do Give a Damn: The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty

“There are two conflicting perspectives regarding the relationship between profanity and dishonesty. These two forms of norm-violating behavior share common causes and are often considered to be positively related. On the other hand, however, profanity is often used to express one’s genuine feelings and could therefore be negatively related to dishonesty. In three studies, we explored the relationship between profanity and honesty. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: holy correlation batman!

From Pornography to Lime Disease, the Best of ‘Seriously, Science’ in 2017

By Seriously Science | December 29, 2017 6:00 am

124912234_796570e7ab_z2017 is (finally) ending, and that can only mean one thing: the Seriously, Science? Top 10 of 2017, as voted on by you, our dear readers (and by “voted,” we mean “clicked”). Here are your top 10 favorite posts from 2017: apparently, y’all love sex, cute animals, and disgusting things… as do we! (Yes, these are exactly the same topics as 2015 and 2016–some things never change.) Happy New Year!


11. As the weather warms up, watch out for lime disease.
“If you dare, check out the image of the poor woman’s fingers linked to below. It’s… intense.”

10. People with wider faces have a higher sex drive.
“So the next time you go on a date, you might want to bring your ruler…trust us, it will be worth it. “

9. Monkey on Deer Sex: It Happens.
“Not only do Japanese macaques like to ride deer (!), but according to this study, at least one male Japanese macaque likes to have sex with them… and some of the deer let him do it. “

8. Android vs. iPhone: what your phone choice says about you.
“In comparison to Android users, we found that iPhone owners are more likely to be female, younger, and increasingly concerned about their smartphone being viewed as a status object.”

7. Which state Googles “porn” the most? The answer might surprise you.
“higher percentages of Evangelical Protestants, theists, and biblical literalists in a state predict higher frequencies of searching for porn, as do higher church attendance rates.”

6. Yes, cats really do have facial expressions.
“Be sure to check out the figure for a handy guide to cat expressions!”

5. Turns Out Trypophobia Isn’t a Phobia
“If that tree makes you feel horrible, there is nothing you can do about it.”

4. A new thing to fear: sinus “fungus balls”.
“We thought we hit rock bottom with intranasal leeches and intranasal teeth.”

3. All mammals take ~12 seconds to poop.
“In this study, published this week in the journal Soft Matter (yes, seriously), scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology report their detailed studies of the pooping habits of a wide variety of mammals. Using video recordings of the fecal extrusions and measuring the resulting turds, they deduce that “Despite the length of rectum ranging from 4 to 40 cm, mammals from cats to elephants defecate within a nearly constant duration of 12 ± 7 seconds (N=23).”

2. Scientist finally figures out why holes feel larger with your tongue than with your finger.
“He found that it’s the “pliability” of the appendage used to probe the hole in question that determines how big the hole seems: the highly pliable tongue is more accurate and perceives larger sizes than the less pliable finger or toe.

1. Scientists analyzed orgasms in the 50 most-viewed videos on PornHub. Here’s what they found.
“These heroic scientists… watched the top 50 most-viewed videos on PornHub, and recorded ‘the frequency of male and female orgasm, orgasm-inducing sex acts (and whether activity inducing female orgasms included some form of clitoral stimulation), and auditory (verbal, vocal) and visual (bodily) indicators of orgasm.'”

Related content:
The top 10 best-clicked posts of 2016: from infidelity to poop-eating sloths, and some moist places in between!
The top 10 best-clicked posts of 2015: from gorillas to female ejaculation!
The top 10 best-clicked posts of 2014: from fart germs to conception by oral sex, and some odd places in between.
The year in silly science: the top 10 posts of 2013… and beyond!
Top 10 most popular posts of 2011!
Top 10 most popular posts of the year! (2010)
Top 10 absurd papers of 2009.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blog business

Sexting doesn’t lead to riskier sex… if you are of a certain age.

By Seriously Science | December 27, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Mike Licht

Image: Mike Licht

For obvious reasons, research on sexting has generally focused on young people. These studies, often done using university students as subjects, suggest that sexting is associated with risky sex. But are these findings generalizable to mature populations? These researchers set out to to answer this question. Turns out that, no, sexting by older adults is not associated with risky sex. So go for it, grandma!

Sexting Leads to “Risky” Sex? An Analysis of Sexting Behaviors in a Nonuniversity-Based, Older Adult Population.

“Since few researchers have analyzed sexting behaviors in nonuniversity-based adult samples, we sought to determine if sexting is associated with negative psychological correlates and risky sexual behaviors in this population. Analysis of individuals who indicated having vaginal or anal sex in the past 12 months and who identified as single (n = 377) showed that condomless sex is independent of sexting behaviors. Results for those in committed relationships (n = 374) and having had vaginal or anal sex in the past 12 months also demonstrated condomless sex and sexting behaviors were not related. Furthermore, alcohol consumption and relational health were predictive of sexting behaviors in adults in committed relationships. These findings demonstrate that while risky sexual behavior and negative psychological correlates are associated with sexting and younger populations, the same might not be true for a nonuniversity-based, older adult sample.”

Related content:
Scientific proof that Facebook is making you sad.
Sex burns 3.6 calories a minute.
When eating nuts and having sex don’t mix.

Flashback Friday: Straight women would rather get dating advice from gay men than other women.

By Seriously Science | December 22, 2017 6:00 am

alg-will-and-grace-jpgThe “gay best friend” has become a common fixture in pop culture, from Will on “Will and Grace” to Titus Andromedon on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. These researchers set out to define exactly why straight women find friendships with gay men to be especially valuable. Based on a series of scenarios presented to female college student volunteers, the scientists found that straight women trust gay men more in dating scenarios because a) the men are not competing with them for mates (unlike other straight women), and 2) the gay men are not interested in mating with the women themselves. This lack of ulterior motives made the men more trustworthy with regard to dating, but not other contexts. Maybe this also explains why the reverse relationship (lesbian women and straight men) is not really a thing?

Why (and When) Straight Women Trust Gay Men: Ulterior Mating Motives and Female Competition

“Previous findings indicate that heterosexual women experience a greater sense of comfort and trust in their friendships with gay men than in their friendships with heterosexual individuals. In the present studies, we tested a hypothesis that not only explains why women exhibit increased trust in gay men but also yields novel predictions about when (i.e., in what contexts) this phenomenon is likely to occur. Specifically, we propose that gay men’s lack of motives to mate with women or to compete with them for mates enhances women’s trust in gay men and openness to befriend them. Read More


Children think birthday parties cause aging.

By Seriously Science | December 19, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Olga

Photo: flickr/Olga

If you have been around young kids, you have likely heard some of their interesting–and surprising– interpretations of everyday events, often arrived at because no one ever thought to explain things otherwise. Here’s a prime example: according to this study, young kids (age 3-5) in America apparently think that birthday parties actually *cause* you to get older. If only this were actually true – then I would just keep having my 25th birthday party forever!

Now I’m 3: Young Children’s Concepts of Age, Aging, and Birthdays

“In two studies, we examined 99 3- to 5-year-old American children’s concepts of age, aging, and birthdays. Previous research has shown that preschool-age children understand that all living beings grow, and that growth is a biological process. Humans, however, are distinct from other living things in that we attach great significance to the aging process. Specifically, in Western cultures, we have an annual ritual to celebrate the day we were born—the birthday party. Thus, although the biological mechanism of aging is continuous and invisible, it is marked by discrete yearly celebrations. We examine the proposal that, in part due to its salience as a cultural ritual, children interpret the birthday party as playing a causal role in the aging process. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?

Flashback Friday: Scientists catch male spiders giving oral sex.

By Seriously Science | December 15, 2017 6:00 am

Darwin’s bark spiders are hands down the best spiders: they make giant webs that can span 25-meter-wide rivers, their silk is one of the strongest materials known to man, and, according to this study, male Darwin’s bark spiders give their mates oral sex. That is, if you define oral sex as “salivat[ing] onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation.” I know I do.

Spider behaviors include oral sexual encounters.

“Several clades of spiders whose females evolved giant sizes are known for extreme sexual behaviors such as sexual cannibalism, opportunistic mating, mate-binding, genital mutilation, plugging, and emasculation. However, these behaviors have only been tested in a handful of size dimorphic spiders. Here, we bring another lineage into the picture by reporting on sexual behavior of Darwin’s bark spider, Caerostris darwini. This sexually size dimorphic Madagascan species is known for extreme web gigantism and for producing the world’s toughest biomaterial. Our field and laboratory study uncovers a rich sexual repertoire that predictably involves cannibalism, genital mutilation, male preference for teneral females, and emasculation. Surprisingly, C. darwini males engage in oral sexual encounters, rarely reported outside mammals. Irrespective of female’s age or mating status males salivate onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation. While its adaptive significance is elusive, oral sexual contact in spiders may signal male quality or reduce sperm competition.”

Related content:
In beetles, it’s the female genitalia that need to be hard.
To avoid sexual cannibalism, praying mantis males choose well-fed females.
Study finds that male fiddler crabs are a**holes.


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

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