Monday, September 20, 2010

Something to Show the Bigots

There was more coverage recently of a study that shows familial attraction is not unnatural or uncommon.

Freud may have been partially right when he said we were all repressing incestuous urges.

In a new study, people were more attracted to faces that resembled their own or that were preceded by a subliminal image of their opposite sex parent.

But rather than suggesting we all secretly want to have sex with our family members, the results instead point to the power of familiarity in shaping who we find attractive.

While romance, dating, sex, marriage, etc. don’t always result from attraction, attraction can lead to such things.

They also cast doubt on the idea that people have an innate repulsion toward incest.

Some people clearly have a repulsion, whether it is innate or not. But others don’t have such a repulsion, and they should not be attacked because they don’t. Some of the repulsion expressed vehemently by some people may be in denial of their latent feelings.

However, not all researchers are convinced the new results have such far-reaching implications.

You can always find more than one opinion.

Inbreeding brings together rare mutations that can cause severe birth defects.

Can’t have an article like this without throwing that in. Breeding always carries the risk of birth defects.

The article then gets into Freud and Westermarck.

But other evidence indicated that people were actually attracted to mates who resembled their parents. In another study published in 2004 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, people shown images of women's adoptive fathers were able to guess the spouses of the women based solely on the spouse's appearance. In other words, the women married men who resembled their adoptive fathers.

So that would be modeling or imprinting, instead of genetics.

"Westermarck's ideas suggested that certain factors, such as familial resemblance or growing up with someone, tend to inhibit attraction because they trigger evolved incest avoidance mechanisms," study researcher R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told LiveScience. "However, a lot of data in social psychology suggest that these very same factors tend to facilitate attraction between people. We hoped to better understand why those two streams of thought were in opposition to one another."

Generalities can be studied, but individual examples all have their own circumstances. What are the family dynamics? What have been the dynamics between the individuals, such as between a brother and sister?

Fraley and his colleague Michael Marks of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces conducted a series of experiments using college students. In the first experiment, students were asked to rate images of strangers for attractiveness, but unbeknownst to them, the images were preceded by subliminal snapshots of either the rater's opposite sex parent or someone unrelated to them. The students rated the images more attractive if they were shown an image of their opposite sex parent first.

And in the case of siblings, your sibling is likely to share some of the looks of your parent.

In the second experiment, the researchers created the images by morphing different faces together. Some students were shown faces that were morphed with their own face by up to 45 percent. The more the face resembled their own, the more attractive they rated it.

And you tend to share looks with your family members.

In a final experiment, Fraley and Marks told some of the students they would be viewing images that were morphed with their own faces, which was a lie. The images were actually composites of other people. In that case, the students rated the images as less attractive than those not given that false bit of information.

They know what they look like.

The results argue against Westermarck's view, the researchers wrote in the July 20 issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. If students were subconsciously evaluating the images for relatedness to themselves, the presence of their parent's face or elements of their own face should have triggered disgust.

Moreover, the students who were told they were looking at images of themselves should have rated those images more attractive than they did - because the images were actually unrelated to them.

Another researcher points out that Westermarck is about siblings, not parent-child.

Attraction can be complex. Different people are attracted to different personalities, intellects, body types, skin color, hair color, facial features, and on and on.

Whether family members are raised together or not, there could be any number of reasons two or more of them fall in love, and if people are good to each other and not breaking up homes, those relationships should be encouraged, certainly not punished by law.
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