Why do men prefer nice women? Responsiveness and desire

People’s emotional reactions and desires in initial romantic encounters determine the fate of a potential relationship. Responsiveness may be one of those initial “sparks” necessary to fuel sexual desire and land a second date. However, it may not be a desirable trait for both men and women on a first date. Does responsiveness increase sexual desire in the other person? Do men perceive responsive women as more attractive, and does the same hold true for women’s perceptions of men? A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin seeks to answer those questions.Femininity and AttractivenessResearchers from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, the University of Rochester, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collaborated on three studies to observe people’s perceptions of responsiveness. People often say that they seek a partner that is “responsive to their needs,” and that such a partner would arouse their sexual interest. A responsive person is one that is supportive of another’s needs and goals. “Sexual desire thrives on rising intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time,” lead researcher Gurit Birnbaum explains. “Our findings show that this does not necessarily hold true in an initial encounter, because a responsive potential partner may convey opposite meanings to different people.”In the first study, the researchers examined whether responsiveness is perceived as feminine or masculine, and whether men or women perceived a responsive person of the opposite sex as sexually desirable. …

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Brain’s ‘sweet spot’ for love found in neurological patient

A region deep inside the brain controls how quickly people make decisions about love, according to new research at the University of Chicago.The finding, made in an examination of a 48-year-old man who suffered a stroke, provides the first causal clinical evidence that an area of the brain called the anterior insula “plays an instrumental role in love,” said UChicago neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo, lead author of the study.In an earlier paper that analyzed research on the topic, Cacioppo and colleagues defined love as “an intentional state for intense [and long-term] longing for union with another” while lust, or sexual desire, is characterized by an intentional state for a short-term, pleasurable goal.In this study, the patient made decisions normally about lust but showed slower reaction times when making decisions about love, in contrast to neurologically typical participants matched on age, gender and ethnicity. The findings are presented in a paper, “Selective Decision-Making Deficit in Love Following Damage to the Anterior Insula,” published in the journal Current Trends in Neurology.”This distinction has been interpreted to mean that desire is a relatively concrete representation of sensory experiences, while love is a more abstract representation of those experiences,” said Cacioppo, a research associate and assistant professor in psychology. The new data suggest that the posterior insula, which affects sensation and motor control, is implicated in feelings of lust or desire, while the anterior insula has a role in the more abstract representations involved in love.In the earlier paper, “The Common Neural Bases Between Sexual Desire and Love: A Multilevel Kernel Density fMRI Analysis,” Cacioppo and colleagues examined a number of studies of brain scans that looked at differences between love and lust.The studies showed consistently that the anterior insula was associated with love, and the posterior insula was associated with lust. However, as in all fMRI studies, the findings were correlational.”We reasoned that if the anterior insula was the origin of the love response, we would find evidence for that in brain scans of someone whose anterior insula was damaged,” she said.In the study, researchers examined a 48-year-old heterosexual male in Argentina, who had suffered a stroke that damaged the function of his anterior insula. He was matched with a control group of seven Argentinian heterosexual men of the same age who had healthy anterior insula.The patient and the control group were shown 40 photographs at random of attractive, young women dressed in appealing, short and long dresses and asked whether these women were objects of sexual desire or love. The patient with the damaged anterior insula showed a much slower response when asked if the women in the photos could be objects of love.”The current work makes it possible to disentangle love from other biological drives,” the authors wrote. Such studies also could help researchers examine feelings of love by studying neurological activity rather than subjective questionnaires.The full article can be found online at: https://hpenlaboratory.uchicago.edu/sites/caciopponeurolab.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Cacioppo%20et%20al_Current%20Trends%20in%20Neurology%202013.pdfStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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What falling in love does to your heart and brain

Getting struck by Cupid’s arrow may very well take your breath away and make your heart go pitter-patter this Valentine’s Day, reports sexual wellness specialists at Loyola University Health System.”Falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions,” said Pat Mumby, PhD, co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM). “This internal elixir of love is responsible for making our cheeks flush, our palms sweat and our hearts race.”Levels of these substances, which include dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine, increase when two people fall in love. Dopamine creates feelings of euphoria while adrenaline and norepinephrine are responsible for the pitter-patter of the heart, restlessness and overall preoccupation that go along with experiencing love.MRI scans indicate that love lights up the pleasure center of the brain. When we fall in love, blood flow increases in this area, which is the same part of the brain implicated in obsessive-compulsive behaviors.”Love lowers serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders,” said Mary Lynn, DO, co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, SSOM. “This may explain why we concentrate on little other than our partner during the early stages of a relationship.”Doctors caution that these physical responses to love may work to our disadvantage.”The phrase ‘love is blind’ is a valid notion because we tend to idealize our partner and see only things that we want to see in the early stages of the relationship,” Dr. Mumby said. “Outsiders may have a much more objective and rational perspective on the partnership than the two people involved do.”There are three phases of love, which include lust, attraction and attachment. Lust is a hormone-driven phase where we experience desire. Blood flow to the pleasure center of the brain happens during the attraction phase, when we feel an overwhelming fixation with our partner. This behavior fades during the attachment phase, when the body develops a tolerance to the pleasure stimulants. …

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Raising adopted children: How parents cooperate matters more than gay or straight

July 13, 2013 — A study suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple is linked to fewer behavior problems in their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.A new study by psychology researchers suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple and support each other in parenting is linked to fewer behavior problems among their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.Rachel H. Farr at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Charlotte J. Patterson at the University of Virginia report their findings from this first empirical examination of differences and similarities in co-parenting among lesbian, gay and heterosexual adoptive couples and associations with child behavior in the July/August issue of Child Development.Farr, who led the study, says, “While actual divisions of childcare tasks such as feeding, dressing and taking time to play with kids were unrelated to children’s adjustment, it was the parents who were most satisfied with their arrangements with each other who had children with fewer behavior problems, such as acting out or showing aggressive behavior.””It appears that while children are not affected by how parents divide childcare tasks, it definitely does matter how harmonious the parents’ relationships are with each other,” she adds. She and Patterson also observed differences in division of labor in lesbian and gay couples compared to heterosexual parents.The study suggests that lesbian and gay couples may be creating new ways to live together and raise children outside of traditional gender roles, the authors say, and results are important to adoption professionals and others who work with adoptive families. Further, the research is informative for those debating legal, political and policy questions about family dynamics and outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples.For this study, Farr and Patterson recruited families from five adoption agencies across the United States. In total, 104 families agreed to participate, 25 headed by lesbian partners, 29 by gay male partners and 50 by heterosexual couples. Their adoptive children had been placed with them at birth or within the first few weeks of life; at the time of the study the children were all around three years old.Parents were asked to report on the division of child-related labor between them and on factors of their child’s adjustment. They were also observed by researchers who coded their co-parenting behavior during videotaped parent-child play sessions along scales rated for “supportive” and “undermining” interactions, using an established test.The researchers discovered that lesbian and gay couples were more likely to equally share childcare tasks, while heterosexual couples were likely to specialize, with mothers doing more work than fathers in these families. In addition, Farr says, from the videotaped observations of family interactions, “it was clear that other aspects of co-parenting, such as how supportive parents were of each other, or how much they competed, were connected with children’s behavioral problems.”Parents’ dissatisfaction with division of child-care labor, not the actual division of these tasks, was significantly associated with increased child behavior problems. As the researchers had expected, supportive co-parenting interactions, such as greater pleasure and engagement between parents, were associated with positive child behavior for all three types of parents.Overall, whether parents shared child care tasks or had a more specialized division of this work was not related to children’s adjustment. …

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One in four patients with newly-diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man

June 6, 2013 — In a recent analysis of one outpatient clinic, one in four men seeking medical help for newly-developed erectile dysfunction (ED) was younger than 40 years, and nearly half of young men with the condition had severe ED. While larger population-based studies are needed, the findings, which were published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggest that erectile dysfunction in young men may be more prevalent and more serious than previously thought.Erectile dysfunction is a common complaint in men over 40 years of age. Prevalence increases with age, but the prevalence and risk factors of erectile dysfunction among younger men have been scantly analyzed. The research that has been done paints a vague picture, reporting prevalence rates ranging between two percent and nearly 40 percent.To provide more clarity, Paolo Capogrosso, MD, of the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, in Milan, Italy, and his colleagues assessed the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of 439 men seeking medical help for newly-developed erectile dysfunction between January 2010 and June 2012 at a single academic outpatient clinic. Of the 439 patients, 114 (26 percent) were aged 40 years or younger. Compared with older patients, younger patients had a lower average body mass index, a higher average level of testosterone in the blood, and a lower rate of other medical conditions. (Only 9.6 percent of younger patients had one or more concomitant medical conditions compared with 41.7 percent among older patients.) Younger ED patients smoked cigarettes and used illicit drugs more frequently than older patients. Premature ejaculation was more common in younger men, whereas Peyronie’s disease (bent erection from scar tissue) was more prevalent in older patients. Severe erectile dysfunction was found in 48.8 percent of younger patients and 40 percent of older patients while the rates of mild, mild-to-moderate, and moderate erectile dysfunction were not significantly different between the two groups.”These findings, taken together with those of other studies showing the importance of erectile dysfunction as a potential “sentinel marker” of major diseases, outline the importance of taking a comprehensive medical and sexual history and to perform a thorough physical examination in all men with erectile dysfunction, irrespective of their age,” said Dr. Capogrosso.”Erectile function, in general, is a marker for overall cardiovascular function — this is the first research showing evidence of severe erectile dysfunction in a population of men 40 years of age or younger” stated Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. …

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Specific changes in brain structure after different forms of child abuse

June 1, 2013 — Different forms of childhood abuse increase the risk for mental illness as well as sexual dysfunction in adulthood, but little has been known about how that happens. An international team of researchers, including the Miller School’s Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has discovered a neural basis for this association. The study, published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, shows that sexually abused and emotionally mistreated children exhibit specific and differential changes in the architecture of their brain that reflect the nature of the mistreatment.Share This:Researchers have known that victims of childhood abuse often suffer from psychiatric disorders later in life, including sexual dysfunction following sexual abuse. The underlying mechanisms mediating this association have been poorly understood. Nemeroff and a group of scientists led by Christine Heim, Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Charité University of Medicine Berlin, and Jens Pruessner, Ph.D., Director of the McGill Center for Studies in Aging at McGill University in Montreal, hypothesized that cortical changes during segments of mistreatment played a role. To study these potential changes, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of 51 adult women who were exposed to various forms of childhood abuse.The results showed a correlation between specific forms of maltreatment and thinning of the cortex in precisely the regions of the brain that are involved in the perception or processing of the type of abuse. Specifically, the somatosensory cortex in the area in which the female genitals are represented was significantly thinner in women who were victims of sexual abuse in their childhood. Similarly, victims of emotional mistreatment were found to have a reduction of the thickness of the cerebral cortex in specific areas associated with self-awareness, self-evaluation and emotional regulation.”This is one of the first studies documenting long-term alterations in specific brain areas as a consequence of child abuse and neglect,” said Nemeroff, who is also Director of the Center on Aging. …

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Men, women lie about sex to match gender expectations

May 28, 2013 — People will lie about their sexual behavior to match cultural expectations about how men or women should act — even though they wouldn’t distort other gender-related behaviors, new research suggests.

The study found that men were willing to admit that they sometimes engaged in behaviors seen by college students as more appropriate for women, such as writing poetry. The same was true for women, who didn’t hide the fact that they told obscene jokes, or sometimes participated in other “male-type” deeds.

But when it came to sex, men wanted to be seen as “real men:” the kind who had many partners and a lot of sexual experience. Women, on the other hand, wanted to be seen as having less sexual experience than they actually had, to match what is expected of women.

“There is something unique about sexuality that led people to care more about matching the stereotypes for their gender,” said Terri Fisher, author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.

“Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn’t meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman.”

Fisher discovered how people would honestly respond to questions about sexuality and other gender-role behaviors by asking some study participants questions when they thought they were hooked up to a lie detector machine.

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Sex Roles.

Participants were 293 college students between the ages of 18 and 25.

The students completed a questionnaire that asked how often they engaged in 124 different behaviors (from never to a few times a day). People in a previous study had identified all the behaviors to be typical of either males (such as wearing dirty clothes, telling obscene jokes) or females (such as writing poetry, lying about your weight). Other behaviors were identified as more negative for males (singing in the shower) or more negative for females (poking fun at others).

But some people filled out the questionnaire while they were attached to what they were told was a working polygraph machine or lie detector. (It was actually not working.)

The others were connected to the apparatus before the study began, supposedly to measure anxiety, but the machine was removed before they completed the questionnaire.

In general, the results showed that both men and women tended to act as would be expected for their gender. Men reported more typical-male behaviors and women reported more typical-female behaviors, regardless of whether they were attached to the lie detector or not.

But for non-sexual behaviors, the participants didn’t seem to feel any added pressure to respond in stereotypical ways for their gender.

In other words, women who were hooked up to the lie detector and those who weren’t were equally likely to admit to bench pressing weights — a stereotypical male activity.

“Men and women didn’t feel compelled to report what they did in ways that matched the stereotypes for their gender for the non-sexual behaviors,” Fisher said.

The one exception was sexual behavior, where, for example, men reported more sexual partners when they weren’t hooked up to the lie detector than whey they were. Women reported fewer partners when they were not hooked up to the lie detector than when they were. A similar pattern was found for reports of ever having experienced sexual intercourse.

“Men and women had different answers about their sexual behavior when they thought they had to be truthful,” Fisher said.

This result confirms what Fisher found in an earlier study, back in 2003 — with one important difference.

Back in 2003, women went from having fewer sexual partners than men (when not hooked up to a lie detector) to being essentially even to men (when hooked up to the lie detector.)

In this new study, women actually reported more sexual partners than men when they were both hooked up to a lie detector and thought they had to be truthful.

“Society has changed, even in the past 10 years, and a variety of researchers have found that differences between men and women in some areas of sexual behavior have essentially disappeared,” she said.

Fisher said the results of the study may actually be stronger than what was found here. Although half the participants were not hooked up to the lie detector while completing the questionnaire, they had been hooked up before they started.

“Some of the participants may have been made uncomfortable by being attached to the lie detector at first, and that may have led them to be more forthcoming and truthful than they otherwise would have been,” she said.

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