A study recently looked at east-west differences in attitudes about and experiences of love. Researchers questioned over 1,000 men and women in the US, Lithuania and Russia. Among the differences noted was that participants from the east saw love as temporary and inconsequential, a view not endorsed by the Americans. They also said it took less time to fall in love than the American respondents did. For example 90% of Lithuanians said it took less than a month to fall in love, whereas about 60% of Americans said it took between two months and a year. Americans also differed from their Eastern counterparts in saying they experienced ‘friendship love’ and ‘comfort love’. This was rarely experienced by the Eastern Europeans.
Posts archived in Psychology A2
It seems that you can tell whether a person is promiscuous or monogamous just by looking at the fingers! Well, maybe it doesn’t work for individuals but researchers curious about human evolution have used finger length to make an educated guess about some of our distant ancestors’ mating habits.
According to evolutionary theory male characteristics such as aggressiveness and competitiveness are more likely in promiscuous species than monogamous ones. Looking at fossil skeletons we can therefore suggest that Australopithecus, which lived three to four million years ago was monogamous whereas an even earlier group, Ardipithecus, was highly promiscuous – all because of their finger length!
Of course it isn’t the finger length that causes sexual behaviour – it is levels of the male hormone androgen. Higher aggression and competitiveness in males is related to intrasexual selection (the more androgens the more competitive) and is also related to higher levels of androgens. An effect of higherlevels of androgens is that they cause a short forefinger and longer ring finger. This means that males high in androgens have a low forefinger to ring finger ratio whereas males low in androgens have a high ratio.
Finger length ratios have been linked to lots of other things, such as numeracy and literacy (see The A2 Complete Companion page 288).
Women in our culture generally have richer social networks than men, and this observation has been used as part of the explanation for women coping better with stress and living longer. Now a meta-analysis has shown that a low number of friends, family, colleagues etc. in a person’s social network has similar negative effects on health and longevity as smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle or over-use of alcohol. The researchers say that their analysis was not able to differentiate between positive and negative social relationships, so having a good number of positive ones might give an even stronger effect on living healthier and longer!
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 2010; 7 (7):
Some of you may not be aware of the wonderful BPS research digest which presents short descriptions of recent research. It is published fortnightly. You can subscribe to it or just have a look here.
The most recent digest published details of research by Arne Mukamel et al. (2010) which seems to have produced the first ever direct glimpse of mirror neurons in humans. The researchers made use of investigations being conducted on patients with severe epilepsy. These patients had electrodes implanted into their brains to identify the location of their seizures – this meant the researchers could record the acivity of individual cells. Mukamel et al. arranged for 21 of the patients and his colleagues recruited 21 of these patients to look at videos of hand gestures or facial expressions on a laptop, or to perform those same gestures and expressions. Most of the 1177 cells that were recorded showed a response either to the execution of an action or the sight of that action, not both. However, 8% of the cells responded to both i.e. were ‘mirror’ neurons. The observed cells were located in the front of the brain, the region involved in planning and controlling actions, abstract thinking and memory.
Past research suggested that mirror neurons existed in the regions of the brain involved in performing actions so this new research may support the idea that mirror neurons are important for empathy. The ultimate test would be to block the activity of mirror neurons and see if a person could still understand the actions of another person.
Research due to be published this autumn in the USA journal Cancer suggests that too much stress can impact on surviving cancer. This study was a meta-analysis of 3.8 million people, cancer sufferers diagnosed between 1973 and 2004. Married people were found to have a 5 year survival rate of 63% compared to a 45% rate for those who were separated. The explanation offered is that the stress of a break-up in a serious relationship interferes with healing and recovery, and hence survival rates. The researchers suggest that the love and support of a partner is a key factor in battling illness, even one as serious as cancer, and their findings are supported by many previous studies. Of course, important other factors are also relevant – how many can you think of?