Thursday 15 October 2015

Are bright men sexy?: Author Lars Penke replies

Having looked at the abstract of the conference presentation, and his further and more detailed particulars,  I sent Lars three comments on 12th October, and uppermost in my mind was whether the experimental set up was a fair match with real interactions.

Are there any methodological reasons to doubt the applicability of the results?

“Make me laugh” seems a very fair test of the “g is sexy” hypothesis, so your experiment seems a strong refutation.

However, the German abitur examination is at quite a high level, so if two thirds of them have achieve that, could there be a restriction of range which would reduce the intelligence effect?

Lars replied:

Of course you can always design a better study in some way, but I think we made a substantial effort to get exactly at the Mating Mind hypothesis. I discussed this study quite intensely with Geoffrey Miller (who is a friend of mine), and he agrees that it is getting at what he originally proposed.

German Abitur rates in the population are close to 50% nowadays. So yes, the sample is not completely representative, but we made a good effort to get other guys than the standard students into the lab. I have no doubt that very low IQ is unattractive, and those guys are missing from our sample. But I think we capture the normal range decently well. It is close to impossible to get a completely representative sample into a psychology video lab for an extensive study, unless you can pay them a lot. None of the men studied psychology,  by the way.

All the female raters were students, most of them psychology students. Psychology admission in Germany is highly dependent on very good grades, so the female raters were most likely above average and above the male sample in IQ. Crucially this means that assortative mating for intelligence did not bias our results, as this would have only strengthened any tendency for high IQ to increase attraction, which we did not find.

Just saw your blog: "Women were unacquainted with men" did not mean they were virgins, but that they did not personally know any of the men they rated! We did not assess their sexual history, but given their demographics it is safe to assume that most if not all of them had sexual and dating experience.

One unexpected problem with this sample is that g correlated negatively with self-reported Extraversion, which it usually doesn't. This is likely a sampling bias: The extraverted non-students were more likely to come to our lab. All we could do after the fact was statistically controlling for Extraversion.

Comment: I think this covers my questions very well. The procedures were accepted as a fair test of the “bright men are attractive” hypothesis, of which “make me laugh” is a crucial component, and the qualification levels of the target men are not all that much higher than the general population.

I think it also covers most of the other comments, but over to you on that score.


  1. "most of them psychology students": ah well, it sounded good until then.

  2. Not quite on topic (but not sure how to pass this on, otherwise), but you may be interested to learn that Australia's new Prime Minister has been heckled by the opposition over his (earned) wealth.

    The new PM is reckoned by all to be very bright, and was speaking about his good fortune. He said "This country is built upon hard work, people having a go and enterprise. Some of us will be more successful than others, some of us are fortunate in the turn of business, some of us are fortunate in the intellect we inherit from our parents…"

    Interesting to see a senior politician veer from the 'blank slate' script, you do not hear these things said out loud, very often.

  3. A welcome mention of intelligence!

  4. It's good to see a wealthy chap who's intelligent enough to mention one of the several ways that luck plays a part in getting wealth: "fortunate in the intellect we inherit". Mark you, he is a bit of a twat.

  5. Maybe ''smarts types'' (scores iq 120-130) are collectively-comparatively more attractive than ''less smarts types'' (scores iq among 80-90) and ''smarter-iq types'' (scores above 140) who will tend to be average and lower-average. Beauty correlates with health and not directly with ''intelligence''.

    Other problem, beauty is not relative, is diverse and tastes also will be diverse.
    Women don't choice men, on average, just or fundamentally by facial/physical appearance but also by status, personality.

    Seems more plausible ask for men and not for women, if they prefer intelligent women because men are more attracted by appearance than any other trait/cultural element.

    In terms of cultural elements, AVERAGE women will be more attracted by ''AVERAGES'' cultural elements and biological traits on men OR average ''iq'' men.

    If average women or based on western context ''average iq= 97-105'', are majority of population, then majority of women will not be attracted by highly-iq-smart men.

    When men talk he's attracted by ''women intelligence'', he's being objective, while for women ''intelligence'' have many meaning, like status, same ideology... women are more subjective in their tastes.

    Above average ''iq'' women seems to be attracted by men with same cultural, educational background, those with certain personality types, conformist and neurotypical.

    Aparent or exterior health maybe little different than biological health. Centenarians were beautiful in their youth**

    Other thing, analyse beauty based on facial proportion and search for correlations with ''higher iq'' and not just ask for students what they think about it.

  6. Could there be a correlation-between the samples effect? For example, suppose there is, in truth, a mild tendency for able women to take a fancy to men with an IQ advantage of 5 to 10 points. Now take an unrepresentative sample of cleverer-than-averge women, and an unrepresentative sample of rather less clever men. Then you might find that an attractiveness advantage, as averaged over the whole of both samples, doesn't show up. What you'd want to do is record that attractiveness recorded by each woman for each man, and then look for evidence of patterns of behaviour there. But then perhaps they did so.

  7. Nature is beautiful, almost animals are handsome, gorgeous... beauty or just symmetry tend to correlate strongly with health. Human beings without artificial selection or self domestication could had been selected for ''symmetry''. Human intelligence is not the same than beautyness, obviously. Is also important to ask ''what smart type who are/tend to be more beautiful**''. Verbal types, general iq-intelligence types, spatial types**

  8. Aside from the evolutionary absurdity of trusting ratings from just about the most unbiological and maladapted group of people in the history of the species! (viz modern Western female students - whose reproductive success will probably be less than one child per woman *by choice*)...

    ...The main problem here is that sexual selection is supposed to work *not* by the choices of young woman, but the choices *of her parents* - since the evidence is that (in pretty much all historical societies studied) the choice of a mate/ husband is made mainly by the woman's parents

    Since they did not choose their won mates; this implies that women are *not* *adapted* to choose their long term mates (and, with the stratospheric child mortality rates of all historical societies, above fifty percent and probably nearing a hundred percent among the poorest, such as single mothers) unless a baby was born and raised in a long-term marriage type relationship with a resource-providing man, the child would almost surely die before maturity.