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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

High heels and evolutionary psychology

I saw a post today in Scientific American - 5 Ways to Make Progress in Evolutionary Psychology: Smash, Not Match, Stereotypes. Here's a bit from it ...

Evolutionary psychology, the study of human psychological adaptations .... is trying to take on an incredibly challenging task: understand what of human behavior is adaptive and why. We can better circumvent the conditions that lead to violence, war, and hatred if we know as much as we can about why we are the way we are. What motivates us, excites us, angers us, and how can evolutionary theory help us understand it all? Because of this, there are consequences to a bad evolutionary psychology interpretation of the world. The biggest problem, to my mind, is that so often the conclusions of the bad sort of evolutionary psychology match the stereotypes and cultural expectations we already hold about the world.


5. Just because it works today, doesn’t mean it worked back in the day

To illustrate my final point, I turn to a recent post from Scicurious on the supposed significance of wearing high heels. It’s a classic Sci takedown, and it’s worth a thorough read.

Sci details a paper that demonstrates a positive relationship between wearing high heels and perceived attractiveness. The researchers had women walk with and without high heels, then used point light displays to demonstrate walkers’ gait without revealing their appearance. The methods certainly seem carefully constructed to avoid some kinds of bias.

Where the researchers lost Sci – and me – was where they contended that walking in heels is sexier, and represents a “super-stimulus” (think red lipstick to emphasize feminine lips, breast implants to enhance boobs). Part of the reason they make this assertion is that they claim high heels have a long history of being used to emphasize women’s assets. And of course, this is where they’re very wrong, since high heels have a long history of being worn by men ...

The bad parts of evolutionary psychology confirm what we think we already know about the world. And confirming stereotypes and calling it science tends to keep women and GLBT folk as perpetual second class citizens in this world, rather than the amazing, vibrant contributors to society they are and can be ...

Louis 14th ;) ...


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