Eye Contact

My Eyes are up Here!  (Courtesy of Arrested Development)

My Eyes are up Here!                                      (Courtesy of Arrested Development)

It is an old joke that men cannot look a woman in the eyes, especially if she is wearing a low cut top.  And let’s be honest girls, how many of you have played to the balcony and used your assets to good effect to gain the upper hand in situations?

Men do drop their eyes when they meet women.  But the reason why may come as a surprise.

Humans have the ability to make very rapid assessments of certain situations.  Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink” gives a good review of the ability of people to make snap “gut instinct” decisions that are very accurate.  One of the areas where we are able to make a snap decision is in mate selection.  Love at first sight may not be such a bad idea!

We don’t know all the elements that contribute to finding the “perfect” mate, but we do know of some of them.  I suspect that there is a huge body of work that remains to be done on how the human olfactory system can decode the scent of a potential partner to yield triggers to compatibility.  But that is for another day.

Today I am looking at the difference between the way men and women carry out their first visual inspection of each other.  A woman looks at a man in the eyes and scans horizontally across his face.  A man drops his eyes and looks downwards, scanning vertically.  So why the difference?

Both men and women are scanning for markers of fitness (ability to provide), health (ability to procreate healthy children).  Men are also scanning for preparedness, the signs that a woman is in the fertile point in her menstrual cycle.  The shortcuts for these markers are very different between men and women.

In men facial symmetry is a very strong indicator of fitness and health.  In both sexes facial symmetry is equated with “beauty”, but in men it carries even more powerful cues for women.  A symmetrical face is a map of good genetics, nutrition and development.  This is a kid who was born with good genes, was well fed as a child and has matured in a healthy manner to adulthood.  In practical terms this means he can run fast and catch food.  He is also likely to have a healthy sperm count.  Olympic sprinters, for instance, have very symmetrical faces.

The key elements you need to scan to assess facial symmetry are the eyes, the ears, nose and mouth.  When a woman meets a man for the first time she looks at his eyes, then scans left and right to measure the position of his nose, ears and mouth in relation to the line of his eyes.  What the man sees is a girl looking him in the eyes.

The key markers that men seek in women are different.  The first is waist to hip ratio.  Almost everywhere across the world a ratio of 0.7 waist to hip is seen as ideal.  Why?  Believe it or not women with this ratio have ideal oestrogen balance, better fertility, higher pregnancy rates and are less susceptible to diseases such as diabetes.  A woman with an ideal waist to hip ratio is more likely to give a man children.

The next important marker is spine curvature.  When the spine is curved at the ideal angle it accentuates a woman’s behind and makes it attractive to men.  What is so attractive about a prominent butt?  Studies have shown that women with a certain curvature of the spine remain mobile for longer in the later stages of pregnancy.  In primitive and nomadic societies (most of man-kinds history) they can forage for food later into their pregnancy.  They also have fewer problems in childbirth.  What is more, women with good levels of hip and buttock fat have been shown to raise children with higher IQ’s.  These qualities have become encoded in human brains over thousands of years to equate with “attractiveness”.

For a man to assess waist to hip ratio and spine curvature he simply must drop the eyes and “check her out”.  This is very obvious to women.   So if it is all about the hip area, why is he ogling her breasts?

This is where we move from “fitness” to “preparedness”.  When women are ovulating the hormonal changes in their bodies can have some interesting effects.  First off it makes your breasts more symmetrical.  Yes, every month they even up a bit better for a few days.  They also fill out a bit.  So do the lips, which become redder as a result.  Skin clears up and can develop a healthy glow and hair becomes fuller and shinier.  The cosmetics industry makes a fortune by replicating exactly these effects.

When these changes occur women feel more body confident.  They preen by exposing more flesh, wearing lower cut tops, higher cut skirts etc.  They are effectively advertising the fact that they are “in heat”.

So when a man drops his eyes, he is not ONLY ogling your breasts.  He is checking out the deeper and more telling signs that you are going to make a good mom.

When you wear that bright red lipstick and the low cut top with the push-up bra you are telling him that you are ready for a baby!

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