What kind of men and women do we pay the most attention to?

Results from two experiments suggest that observers selectively attend to male, but not female, targets displaying signs of social dominance. Participants overestimated the frequency of dominant men in rapidly presented stimulus arrays (Study 1) and visually fixated on dominant men in an eyetracking experiment (Study 2). When viewing female targets, participants attended to signs of physical attractiveness rather than social dominance. Findings fit with evolutionary models of mating, which imply that dominance and physical attractiveness sometimes tend to be prioritized preferentially in judgments of men versus women, respectively. Findings suggest that sex differences in human mating are observed not only at the level of overt mating preferences and choices but also at early stages of interpersonal perception. This research demonstrates the utility of examining early-in-the-stream social cognition through the functionalist lens of adaptive thinking.

Source: “Selective attention to signs of success: social dominance and early stage interpersonal perception.” from Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Apr;34(4):488-501. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Here’s another great book that addresses those fundamental issues of why men and women are the way we are. I also highly recommend Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are and The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature.

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