The Evolution of Attraction: Extra Resources

Travis DixonBiological Psychology, Teaching Ideas

The "sweaty t-shirt study" is just one of many that could be interesting to explore.

The study of attraction is definitely one of my favourite topics. Because there’s so much interesting research in this field, I thought I’d create this post to “dump” some extra resources that you might find interesting.

WARNING FOR STUDENTS: Many of the “studies” in the videos below have been replicated for the purposes of TV entertainment. They are to be used to begin an exploration into these topics – they should not be cited as empirical evidence. As much as possible I’ve tried to link at least one original publication for your reference.

Trav’s Teaching Tip: At the end of my Love and Marriage unit I like to allocate two lessons for student choice of activity. They can either (a) use materials on this post to do some further research into stuff they find interesting, or (b) if they’re not that interested in finding out extra stuff, they can review the existing content in the chapter/unit. 

BBC Documentary: Human Instincts

This is an excellent documentary hosted by Robert Winston that covers things like MHC-genes, male/female differences in response to sexual offers and infidelity.


Male and Female Differences in Response to Sex

An interesting study replicated in the BBC video above is Clark and Hatfields study on male and female differences in responses to sex. You can find the full article here. This could be used as an example of an evolutionary explanation of behaviour. I also like to use this study (as it’s shown in the BBC documentary) as a hook in my Love and Marriage lesson 5.1 (c).

Female Competition

Procreation is often about competition. In this study about competition between females the researchers look at how females act “bitchy” towards a sexy female, yet barely notice the same female when she’s dressed normally.

beautiful multi ethnic woman of asian and hispanic descent weari

It seems to be girls that if want to have girlfriends, you’d better be careful of how you dress.

Thanks go to Jon Kent for making me aware of this research.


Here’s another replication of a famous experiment done for the purposes of TV. You can find the original study here.


The Science of Sex Appeal (US Discovery Channel)

Similar to the BBC documentary above, this film explores some various studies in the origins of sexual attraction.

You can find extracts from this document on the discovery channel’s website.

The Halo Effect

This short clip shows the effects of the Halo Effect: how one trait can affect our interpretation of a person.


Like many of these resources, this is a replication of other research that is being carried out for the purposes of entertainment. It’s important that you treat these examples as exactly that – popular entertainment. If you want to use research similar to those shown in these videos, you need to track down original articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Here’s one original study that looks at the halo effect and attractiveness.

You can find more videos from the science of attractions’ youtube page here.

The Sexy Son Hypothesis

The “sexy son hypothesis” has always interested me. Perhaps it’s because I’m the youngest of four boys? Anyway, you can read more about it here in this psychology today article. 

Here’s a published article on the sexy son hypothesis.

Voice Pitch

Here’s an interesting article about how and why we’re attracted to voice pitch. You can find an original study published here about the Hadza tribe and how the depth of voice pitch in these men correlates with the number of offspring they father. This study is mentioned in the US video “The Science of Sex Appeal.”

Biological Origins – Various

This article explores some various biological origins of attraction.

There’s plenty of more research out there, so feel free to post links to interesting resources in the comments.