Well said J. L. Lewis!: In ‘Chantilly Lace’ J. L. Lewis sings ‘There ain’t nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl / to make me act so funny make me spend my money / Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose / Like a girl oh baby that’s what I like’! J. L. Lewis could not have put it better if he had been an Evolutionary Psychologist! He was spot-on about the effects of Women [W] on Men [M] – more of that in another article. What he failed to point out however is that apart from all the other effects, the presence of ‘a big-eyed girl’ may well release the artist in a guy…
‘The Science of Lust’: What happens in this experiment is very revealing: One by one, a group of guys are led into a waiting room where they are kept waiting for some time and then taken to another room where they asked to express themselves on a canvas. Then the same thing happens with a second group, only this time there is a difference. As each man is led to the waiting room, he is introduced to Kate, a young, sexy girl in a figure-hugging top and hot pants… (Kate may or may not be a ‘big-eyed’ girl… I never seem to be able to focus on her eyes… 🙂 ) Kate flirts with him a little and only then is the man taken to the room and asked to paint. A picture is worth a thousand words – a video, even more:
The results: …So the question is this: Does ‘romantic priming’ make any difference to the quality of the work the M produce? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’! An art expert is called in to assess it and the work of the two groups is displayed in two rows. Even an ignoramus such as myself can easily see that the work of the second group is far more exciting. Obviously the ‘excitement’ the M felt after their short session with Kate was channeled into their creations!
Another experiment: Here is another one: Professor Kenrick (Kenrick 2011) got together two groups of M. The M of the first group were ‘romantically primed’ by looking at pictures of highly attractive girls, choosing one and imagining what a first date with her would be like. The men of the second (control) group were asked to imagine walking down a street and looking at the windows. Both groups were then asked to write a paragraph about an abstract painting or a picture of two friends chatting together at a café. The paragraphs were then shown to a third group of people who rated them independently for such traits as ‘creativity’ / ‘originality’ etc. He then repeated the process with two groups of W – again, there was the control group and the one where the girls were ‘primed’ with pictures of handsome guys.
The results: So – would there be a difference? Once again, the M outdid themselves after imagining a date with the likes of Megan Fox or Beyonce Knowles. In a different study it was found that such M also scored highly in standard creativity tests. But what about W? No! Fantasising about a date with Antonio Banderas or Brad Pitt obviously failed to bring out the artist in them… (ibid.)
So what can we make of all this?: Natural Selection goes for sensible designs and has a sense of proportion. The adaptations we have in order to survive are practical, no-nonsense ones. And then you get the peacock’s tail – there is no way such a thing aids survival. It is clearly meant to impress the peahens! Whenever one sees ‘extravagance’ and ‘waste’ in nature, the culprit is almost certainly Sexual Selection (Miller 2001). It is all about the struggle of males (in 95% of the cases) to impress females. Creativity is a good case in point – the amount of effort, dedication and energy that people are willing to invest in order to give an outlet to their artistic urges defies all calculation!
But why should it be so? Well, it is the W’s preferences which determine what trait M will develop! And studies have shown that creativity and originality are highly valued by the fair sex (Buss 2009). Not only that; research has also shown that during their fertile days W’s preferences shift – they prefer better-looking guys, dominant guys AND guys who are more creative! (Thornhill & Gangestad 2008). Another study focusing on traits W find attractive found that during the luteal (infertile) phase of the month 40% of W asked found ‘wealth’ appealing, while only 8% went for creativity; on their fertile days however, this preference was reversed! (5% and 30% respectively! (Miller, G. ‘Sex, Mutations & Marketing’ YouTube) There is no doubt about it; W find artistically-inclined M sexy…
The Godfather connection: Now if creativity is connected to mating effort, then we would expect it to decline with the years. And this is exactly what we find! Kanazawa looked at the lives of 280 top scientists and found that 68% of them made their greatest contributions before their mid-30s! Not only that, but there was a clear decline in the originality of their output once they had got married! (Fisher 2004) As Kurzban points out (2012) different modules in our brain kick in at different stages in our lives. Having children reconfigures our brain (Brizendine 2010) and we switch from mating to parental mode. What is truly astonishing is that the male creativity curve coincides almost exactly with the male criminality curve!! (Miller & Kanazawa 2008) According to this view, they both represent different ways males employ to acquire resources and/or status… in order to impress W! Once they have settled down, the tendency towards both criminality and creativity fades…
What about Women? We saw earlier that the prospect of dating Johnny Depp does not create in W an irresistible urge to try their hand at sonnet-writing. Yet it does have an effect on them. Remember what we said earlier? The two sexes have co-evolved and like good business people both M and W are prepared to offer their would-be significant other what the latter wants. Now this would normally mean that romantically-primed W would change physically to look more like Kate – alas that is a little too difficult. But there is something that M want in a long-term partner, that W can offer: kindness. In the same programme Vlad Griskevicius conducts another experiment where after flirting with a handsome guy, W become exceptionally helpful to strangers – even though the M is no longer present! Here is what happened:
Now you know…: So if you ever need to send male creativity soaring, you know what to do… Imagine for instance you are a teacher, you have an all-boy class and you would like them to enter the ‘Creative Essay’ competition; no problem! Just invite that sexy teaching assistant from the other building to join you in your next lesson… that should do the trick… In a more professional context, say you are working for an advertising agency and you again have an all-male team… All you need to do is hire some pretty girls for the promo clip… (mind you, judging by the output of advertising agencies, I think they already know this!! 🙂 )
Brizendine, L. “The Male Brain” Bantam Books 2010
Buss, D. “Evolutionary Psychology – The New Science of the Mind” Pearson 2009
Fisher, H. “Why We Love” Holt 2004
Griskevicius, V. “The Science of Lust” YouTube
Kenrick, D. “Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life” Basic Books 2011
Miller, A. & Kanazawa, S. “Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters” Pedigree 2008
Miller, G. “The Mating Mind” Vintage 2001
Miller, G. “Sex, Mutations & Marketing” YouTube
Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S. “The Evolutionary Biology of Human Female Sexuality” Oxford 2008