Nov 16, 2011

Wikisocion Needs a New Admin

Wikisocion may have a hoster lined up but still needs an admin to perform relatively frequent security updates.

Note from current admin:

"The version of mediawiki used for wikisocion is version 1.15.5, and the latest version of mediawiki of 1.17.0. I already had written a script that I used to update 1.15 versions, but this probably won't work for upgrading to 1.17, so that needs to be done manually, and it's a bit of work to find out what needs to be done."

Nov 5, 2011

Interactions Between Male and Female Attractiveness

The previous two posts raise many questions that need to be addressed separately. I will mention them briefly in the post to avoid potential misunderstandings and to suggest some interesting avenues of thought:

  • Do people choose partners who are at a similar place in their lifetime graph of overall attractiveness?
  • If men reach peak attractiveness on average X years later than women, why is the average age gap between the sexes at time of marriage only Y years? Does X = Y? If not, does this suggest my models are off?
  • What more can we find out if we begin graphing not attractivenes relative to an individual's peak, but "absolute" attractiveness relative to other people? For instance, can we identify possible causes of a pattern of older men remarrying younger women, but of lower status/stature than previous wives? Or can we identify moments when the overall attractiveness of a couple begin to diverge, creating potential for problems?
  • Here we have looked at sexual attractiveness, but what about the role of friendship in choosing a mate? Friendship likely tends to be easier with someone of roughly the same age. Does this temper differences in absolute attractiveness and attractiveness relative to one's lifetime peak?

Nov 4, 2011

Female Attractiveness Over Time

UPDATE Jan. 2013: If I had to redo the graph today, I would extend the peak of psychological qualities through to at least 30. This would probably produce a combined peak around age 24-27. It's hard to define "attractiveness" though. If you're in a bar or night club, men will judge based on mostly appearance alone. In a situation where you get to know people over a longer period of time, the woman's psychological characteristics will play a greater role in defining her attractiveness. So the 50:50 ratio in the weighting of these two traits is a kind of compromise. 

In comparison to male sexual attractiveness, female attractiveness over time is easier to model and exhibits less variation. This is probably because the biological constraints on reproduction for women are greater than for men in light of their far greater energy investment in offspring. Again, this model is an oversimplification, but I think female attractiveness over time can be effectively modeled based on 2 rather than 3 (for males) factors:

  1. Physical qualities: sexual maturity and fertility, physical maturity, health and fitness level, probability of surviving childbirth and critical years of childrearing
  2. Psychological qualities: confidence, flirtatiousness, independence, ability to manage complex family relationships and responsibilities
Part of the second set of qualities could be separated into a third category, but this would reduce the comparative weight of physical qualities, which are important enough to deserve half the weight of the overall attractiveness index.

In contrast to men, a woman's physical attractiveness goes through ups and downs as she becomes pregnant, gives birth, recovers, and is once more physiologically ready to give birth. Likewise, her psychological attractiveness goes through swings as she becomes correspondingly more or less flirtatious. One can imagine such "wiggles" on the graphs below instead of smooth curves.

A woman's graph of attractiveness over her lifetime depends in part upon decisions such as when and how many children to have. A woman who has many children successively may in effect "squander" her attractiveness more quickly than one who has just one or two, because of the greater physical toll of having multiple children close together. Also, a woman who begins having children later can enjoy more years of peak attractiveness than one who starts early. However, by having children when the body is most equipped to have them, the woman who starts early might do better at preserving her health in the long run.

In terms of difficulty of childbirth, risk of death during childbirth, and the physiological toll of having offspring, I believe Homo Sapiens takes first or near first place among the Animal Kingdom, with our unusually large-headed offspring, long gestation, and lengthy period of breastfeeding. This heightens the importance of physiological fitness and in effects skews the attractiveness curve of a woman towards her early childbearing years when she has the most strength and has not yet put her body through the ordeal of childbearing. In other species the age of the female may be less important as long as she is fertile.

One might suppose that a woman would become entirely sexually unattractive upon reaching menopause, since she can no longer reproduce. However, at least in modern societies, this is clearly not the case. As reproduction becomes a more and more of a secondary "goal" of intimacy (thanks to medical advances, contraception, and a host of related phenomena), post-menopause women become comparatively more and more attractive than they were before. Also, as populations age, there are fewer and fewer young women to focus sexual energy on, and older women and their sexuality have become increasingly "normal."

There are many individual variations in the graph below depending on individual factors such as how quickly and completely a woman's body recovers from childbirth, however, the graph below seems to be fairly accurate for women in modern societies in general.

It is rare for a woman's peak overall attractiveness to extend beyond age 30. This might occur if she has a very youthful appearance and matured late as an individual, with complexes or lack of experience at age 20-25 finally giving way to spontaneity and flirtatiousness by age 30. In primitive societies peak attractiveness might come as early as age 18. Not too long ago this was the average age of first pregnancies in many traditional societies.

Once again, as in the previous post, we find that sexually attractive psychological qualities are expressed in approximately the degree to which a woman senses she is attractive to the opposite sex. Are these qualities a cause or an effect? Probably a bit of both. With physical attractiveness comes confidence, but with age may also come greater freedom to be oneself, greater spontaneity, etc. These qualities may enable a woman to remain attractive to potential mates well into middle and even old age, even though her peak attractiveness was still somewhere back around age 25.

Male Attractiveness Over Time

UPDATE Jan. 2013: All three graphs are somewhat optimistic in assuming that a man more or less has his life together. If this is not the case (early weight acquisition, bad attitudes, poor career prospects, etc.), the peak could come as early as 25.

I am also dissatisfied with the idea of "attractiveness" in the first place. Attractiveness for a short-term relationship, longer-term, or marriage? It's also not that practical to readers other than giving some older guys hope:) It's more practical to realize that there are things you can do to increase your individual attractiveness, and to try to do them.

I've attempted to model male attractiveness over time by looking at how 3 sets of qualities and their sum evolve over a person's life. Naturally, this model is somewhat arbitrary, but it seems to fit my observations well. The basis of this model is:
  • observation of countless actual men and their attractiveness to the opposite sex
  • research and reflection on the evolutionary basis of qualities feeding into attractiveness
I've divided qualities determining male attractiveness into 3 groups:
  1. Physical qualities: sexual maturity and potency, physical maturity, health and fitness level, probability of surviving through critical years of childraising
  2. Psychological qualities: self-confidence, charm, mental sharpness
  3. Ability to support a family materially: income, financial independence, social status and standing, capacity for work, ability to focus on productive activity
"Attractiveness" shall be defined as the sum of these three qualities.

Instead of comparing different people to each other, I've chosen to look at an individual male's level of attractiveness over his lifespan. To do this, the number 100 shall represent a person's peak level of a given set of qualities.

At some point in life a man will reach his physical peak, psychological peak, and peak ability to support a family — often at different moments. Generally, the physical peak comes first, followed by a psychological peak and later a peak in his ability to work for and feed others. Obviously this differs from person to person, but there are some general patterns.

In the first example we'll look at a man who enjoys professional success and good health and takes good care of himself. Here's the graph generated:

As you can see, this person reaches peak attractiveness at 40-45 years of age and enjoys a 15-year-long "hump" from 35 to 50 years of age.

It's possible to imagine a "rich celebrity" version of the above with a peak of wealth, fame, and ability to provide for a family as late as age 70. Presumably, such a meteoric rise in wealth would also powerfully affect the person's confidence level (psychological qualities), leading to a later peak in those as well. This would delay the period of peak attractiveness to 55 years in this model, with a broad hump from age 45 to 70. At age 80 the man would be just as attractive as at age 25 despite a substantial loss in physical strength and sex drive. Here's the graph for that:

Next we look at someone who doesn't take care of himself and/or has health problems and thus has an earlier peak in physical attractiveness. This might affect psychological attractiveness as well, as confidence may be on the decline from an earlier age, and mental sharpness might be affected. We'll assume also that this man has a relatively "aimless" career whose success depends not so much on building upon what has come before, but the person's energy level and ability to jump into new jobs. This implies an earlier peak in ability to provide for others. On the whole, such a man "burns out" more quickly than the previous cases and reaches peak attractiveness at 30-35. Here's the graph for that:

The above graph might also be close to the typical pattern for men in subsistence economies where surviving and thriving depends in a much greater measure on physical strength and health, and yet the physical conditions of life may take a greater physical toll. In such a situation a man's peak ability to provide for others might come a bit earlier than in the graph above — say, at age 30-35. This would shift the man's hump of overall attractivess to 25-40 years of age, which seems to fit with my experiences of traditional subsistence cultures.

In complex societies with developed economies a man's peak attractiveness generally comes later in life since it takes more time to acquire the experience and skills to be effective in a complex system. In general, the more successful a man, the later in life his peak occurs. This holds true in societies of any degree of complexity.

In summary, we've looked at 4 different situations with broad peaks in overall sexual attractiveness occurring at different times — 35-50, 45-70, 25-45, and 25-40 years of age.

As I reread this post I noticed that on each of the 3 graphs peak attractiveness was reached at the same time as the person's peak psychological attractiveness. This was inadvertent and led me to consider whether psychological qualities might not be an independent factor, but basically derived from physical qualities and material success. Perhaps a man's attractive psychological qualities rise and fall in complete sync with his overall attractiveness and depend almost entirely on his internal gauge of how desirable he is as a mate? Something to think about.

Additional publicity
One of my graphs was discussed at a more popular blog. The comments there may be of some interest. And here's another blogpost that will make older guys feel good about their prospects but really only applies to successful guys.