You're either bobblehead or you're not

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Ladies, is your man more T&A than A&E? More bobblehead than Biography?

Guys, when she gazes at you, are those stars in her eyes or dollar signs? Did she say she is a fan of the NBA or your MBA?

Who wears the tank top in your family?

To learn more about these and other pressing issues, you may be interested in this news nugget from Reuters which purports to shed additional light on the differences between men and women.

Norman P. Li, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, and his colleagues studied two groups of undergraduate men and women who were given a budget of "mate" dollars and told to spend the appropriate amount on the qualities most important to them.

As it turns out, size does matter, whether it's the man's wallet or the woman's, uh, physical attributes.

When under budget constraints, women spent most of their mate dollars on intelligence or kindness and yearly income/social level. Men went right for beauty and intelligence, the investigators report in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

But the researchers are quick to hypothesize that the stereotypical idea that men are interested in a woman's beauty while women are interested in the size of a man's wallet is too simplistic. Though attractiveness and income are factors of interest, qualities such as kindness and creativity are also very important, researchers report.

"Everyone really wants a well-rounded mate, but physical attractiveness matters first and social status matters first to men and women, respectively," Li told Reuters.

When given additional income to spend on "luxuries," men and women did not allocate more dollars towards physical attractiveness and social status, respectively, but rather added qualities such as creativity and special nonwork talents.

"At a low budget you really can't have it all," Li said, so "you tend to spend money on necessities; when you start getting more money, you spend towards luxuries."

The investigators conducted a third study in which they asked 58 undergraduates to participate in a computer activity to choose the qualities most essential to them in a mate.

Similar to the previous two study findings, women chose social level first, with kindness as a close second. For men, physical attractiveness and kindness topped the list, according to the Reuters report.

What surprises me about these findings is that anyone would find this report groundbreaking or worthy of a doctoral dissertation or scholarly journal.

Mr. Li would have been wise to turn his mate dollars over to those unerring behaviorists and social arbiters -- fourth-grade girls.

This is the sort of thing that we girls used to figure out on the playground with "cootie catchers," or "fortune tellers," depending on where you grew up.

A "cootie catcher" is a complicated, folded-up piece of paper that I can't for the life of me remember how to create, but any 9-year-old can whip up in a jiffy. It's a no-fail predictor of marital bliss, at least as long as you and your sweetheart remain in fourth grade.

After you figured out how to fold the paper, you wrote down all kinds of information. Think of it as a prehistoric computer database. You could list your favorite color, your boyfriend's name, the color of his eyes and hair, his economic bracket and social status, the number of kids you would have, where you would live and in what kind of house.

To get started, you picked a number, and the rest, as they say, was romantic history.

But, back to Mr. Li and his "mate dollars."

He concluded, not surprisingly, that overall, for both men and women, a person's physical attractiveness, social level and kindness were key to their being accepted or rejected as a potential mate. Men also considered a woman's liveliness as a crucial factor, the report indicates.

"If you want to find a mate, you don't have to be the most physically attractive or the richest," Li told Reuters.

But, as any fourth-grade girl will tell you, it helps.

Sheila Gardner is the night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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