Transcript: Feb 11, 2008 Part 1

Justin: Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer. Following hour of programming does not represent the views or opinions of the University of California, Davis, KDVS or its sponsors, at least right now it doesn’t.

Still, time has a way of finding us in places we never expected we would be — like right now. If you look around you, I’m sure you can think back to a time when your current circumstance would seem very unlikely.

But somehow, chance, opportunity, hard work or persistent passiveness have led you here, to this moment, the “now” moment. And as always, this is moment which you can do, the moment in which action is possible. That moment has come again, and now it’s gone again. But wait! Look out, it’s back. And so it goes, again and again, over and over, until once again you find yourself listening to This Week In Science, coming up next.


Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin.

Justin: Happy pre-Valentine’s Day episode.

Kirsten: Oh, why, thank you. Yes, happy pre-Valentine’s Day, the wonderful Hallmark holiday.

Justin: [Laughs] It’s a holiday for lovers.

Kirsten: It is a holiday for lovers…and hormones.

Justin: Huh?

Kirsten: Huh?

Justin: Hormones on Valentine’s Day, why, that’s impossible.

Kirsten: That’s all I got to say is – while love is one of the strongest human emotions apart from fear and anger… it’s all based on hormones, baby.

Justin: Really?

Kirsten: Yes. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone is a big important one, come this time of year.

Justin: For some people, they’re into that.

Kirsten: Yes, the bonding?

Justin: Yes.

FH. Yes.

Justin: Some people need that intimate human interaction – not me.

Kirsten: Not you?

Justin: I’m over it.

Kirsten: You’re over it? You’re like, I don’t need bonding…

Justin: I don’t need the bonding.

Kirsten: I don’t need love.

Justin: No. Over it.

Kirsten: Over it?

Justin: Been cured.

Kirsten: Hmmm. Right, yes. I doubt it.

Justin: I’m not your type, you’re not my kind. Still we’re the closest the other one can find. While love may be blind… jumping right into science and business…

Kirsten: Oh, good.

Justin: While love may be blind, beauty continues to rule the human heart.

Kirsten: Beauty, yes.

Justin: Beauty! Who would think? That one’s looks…

Kirsten: What is it about the way we look that really makes people swoon?

Justin: I don’t know but physical attractiveness is seemingly important in choosing whom we date. Good-looking people are popular targets for romantic pursuits, or so I’ve heard.

Kirsten: I think I’ve heard that too.

Justin: Kind of makes sense, right? Attractive people themselves tend to flock together with other attractive people.

Kirsten: Birds of a feather?

Justin: According to the story, yes. Although I suppose there is a possibility that like the less attractive people are like, somehow collectively ignoring attractive people, and leaving them no actual choice but to flock with each other.

Because…Yes, there is like, I think, probably, like you know, some level of not trying to, I don’t know, hit on somebody who you think is way too attractive, like a fear of rejection that attractive people have to deal with, where they don’t actually get pursued by people…

Kirsten: What?

Justin: I would think that would make sense, that they would only be pursued by other attractive people who weren’t afraid of being rejected. I don’t know; that’s me. This isn’t in the story, there’s an actual science here…

Kirsten: Justin’s postulating.

Justin: There’s an actual science here and I’m contemplating why it is women never come on to me. I’m trying to figure out. Is it, am I too good-looking? Is that the problem? Am I just too attractive? Oh, my goodness!

So, Columbia University marketing professor, Leonard Lee and colleagues George Lowenstein, Dan Early, and James Hong and Jean Young of decided to get together and test this theory in the realm of online dating.

Kirsten: Hotornot. So funny.

Justin: This site,, allows members to rate others on their levels of physical attractiveness. So they analyzed two sets of data from hotornot, one containing members’ dating requests and the other containing the attractiveness ratings of other members.

Both data sets also included members self-rating their own attractiveness and the attractiveness as rated by other members. Okay.

So, basically what they found – people with similar levels of attractiveness indeed tend to date each other, regardless of where -with more attractive people being more particular. The more attractive you are, the more particular you are about the physical attractiveness of your potential date.

Kirsten: Interesting.

Justin: That’s kind of curious.

Kirsten: Interesting. So I guess on Valentine’s Day, be on the lookout for the really attractive couples…

Justin: ‘Cause maybe they have nothing in common?

Kirsten: Yes, other than looking good.

Justin: Compared to females, males are more influenced by how physically attractive their potential dates are, but are less affected on how they choose based on how they’ve rated themselves. So even if a guy rates himself a little bit low, he’s still you know, going to rate…

Kirsten: He’s still going to look for a pretty highly-rated hottie.

Justin: Regardless of how attractive people themselves are, they seem to judge others’ attractiveness in similar ways, supporting perhaps the notion that we have like, a universal standard for beauty.

The results indicate that people’s own attractiveness does not affect their judgment of other people’s attractiveness, so people of different…so basically, regardless of your attractiveness, high, low, wherever you may be, sideways, maybe you’re off, you know…maybe you’re one of those unique looks that you can’t really peg as attractive or not …

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …which is kind of why I can’t stop looking. But we all sort of rate each other very similarly.

The colleagues did a follow-up when speed dating in which more attractive people placed more weight on physical attractiveness in selecting their dates, while less attractive people placed more weight on other qualities such as sense of humor. Hmm…okay. Does that mean women I’ve flocked with over the years … let me see… is it ‘cause I’m funny?

No, because then that would date all… no, I don’t know, I’m not really sure.

Kirsten: We’re not, we’re just not going to like, we’re not going to analyze. We’re not going to analyze your dating habits.

Justin: Well, I’m just wondering, like … I’m going to have to go put all my exes on and see what comes up.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: I don’t know.

Kirsten: Who knows?

Justin: I always think I’m very attractive but I don’t like, I don’t make eye contact with myself in the mirror, so how would I really know?

Kirsten: I don’t know but maybe that’s because you have a high enough self-esteem that you don’t need to constantly check yourself out in the mirror.

Justin: Could be. It could be.

Kirsten: Yes, if you feel good about yourself regardless, who cares?

Justin: I don’t want to flaunt my beauty. I’m too humble. I don’t want to flaunt my beauty in front of myself even.

Kirsten: [Laughs] Well, whether or not it’s flaunting, barnacles seem to go the greatest lengths of all animals in the animal kingdom to find a mate. Yes, well, humans, we might take a girl out for dinner, or you know, whatever, you try and woo a woman with your scathing wit or your debonair style of whatever it happens to be. However…

Justin: Or my husky chest hair

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: And gold chain. You see how they go together, so nice.

Kirsten: However research published in the proceedings of the Royal Society B, conducted at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center on Vancouver Island found that barnacles and I quote, “Barnacles appear to have acquired the capacity to change the size and shape of their penises to closely match local wave conditions.

Justin: Wait, wait, wait…

Kirsten: Okay, yes, okay. Barnacles in the water. They have to attach to a rock to you know, they attach themselves to some substrate, they stay there and then they hope to find a partner in the passing waves or next to them and in very challenging water conditions.

So in intertidal zones, where there’s heavy waves or lots of, you know the waves crashing against the rocks, they tend to have longer penises and they change the shape better. Whereas in more calm waters their penises are shorter and you know, what they need in a particular situation, they are able to provide in order to continue the mating of their species.

Justin: I don’t know what’s more incredible. I didn’t know that barnacles had … you know to begin with?

Kirsten: A mating organ. A reproductive organ.

Justin: Let alone one that’s … that’s some control, man.

Kirsten: Yes, they reproduce by extending their reproductive organ to find and fertilize distant mates, they’re hermaphrodites, so they can mate with either males or females, whatsoever happens to be nearby.

But what they think it suggests that sexual selection, the competition with other males, female choice, sexual conflict between males and females is not required to explain the variation in the genital formation. It appears to be driven by the hydrodynamic conditions experienced under breaking waves.

It’s very interesting…the animal kingdom is more, it’s just more and more surprising.

Justin: I think if I was a hermaphrodite, I’d probably have sex with myself.

Kirsten: Ugh.

Justin: Well, it just seems like, I expect, in this situation, it’d be so much more convenient. And then…

Kirsten: That doesn’t work for – that’s not a hermaphrodite.

Justin: Oh. Then I…

Kirsten: That doesn’t – you have to have. I mean you have the different sexual or both sexual organs within yourself, but that doesn’t work. That would basically be creating a clone or it doesn’t work. Hermaphrodites do not do that. You mate with another individual.

Justin: Hmmm…I don’t know…

Kirsten: Reproductively, that’s not how it works.

Justin: I don’t know. I think my social life binds itself much more to… Self-mo or not so, this study tells you what you might not know. Research tends to focus on the positives of self-monitoring. A personality characteristic that accounts for how attuned we are to the societal conventions, sort of our like people who have a sort of natural finishing school-ness about them.

Kirsten: Mm-hmm.

Justin: So we respond with different degrees to which appropriateness, you know appropriateness controls behavior of the self-monitoring person. They’re very aware of what’s going on, the situation. If someone sneezes, they’re more likely to say you know, “bless you” or something like that.

Kirsten: Or “Gesundheit” or “à tes souhaits” or …

Justin: “à tes souhaits”

Kirsten: Yes, it means like a tissue in French or something like that.

Justin: Hmmm. It sounds like a “Ping! Ping!”

Kirsten: To your sneeze! À tes souhaits! No, to your health!

Justin: À tes souhaits!

Kirsten: À tes souhaits!

Justin: À tes souhaits!

Kirsten: That’s right. To your health, in French.

Justin: I’m going to learn French one day, when I get my maid. High self-monitors are social chameleons, says Northwestern University researcher Michael E. Roth, because they are quick to pick up on social cues, they are socially adept, and unlikely to say things upsetting to others.

They are generally well-liked and sought-after. Research finds them to be excellent negotiators and far more likely to be promoted at work than the low self-monitoring peers.

But there’s a downside.

Kirsten: Oh, no!

Justin: The high self-monitors, when it comes to their romantic relationships…

Kirsten: Uh-huh.

Justin: High self-monitors may appear to be the kind of people who want to have relationships but they themselves are less committed to, less happy in their relationships than the low self-monitors.

Kirsten: Interesting. Maybe because they’re always paying attention to everything around them and how they relate to that. They’re probably, I don’t know, maybe they’re less able to get into one particular person as a relationship.

Justin: Maybe. The dark side of self-monitoring, how self-MO’s view their romantic relationships is in the Journal Communication Reports right now, I guess. They did a study with 97 single adults. Desire to alter one’s personality through probably fit a given situation or social climate prevents high self-monitors from presenting their true selves even during intimate interactions with their romantic partners. So, they’re still sort of, filling in the … like, what would be…

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