Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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Men, women still want you – but only if you are perfect!

Women only want Mr Perfect!

If you thought the chick-lit era was over, with no more searching for Mr Right a la Bridget Jones or Sex in the City; or that WAGS were now irrelevant –  then you were right, but oh so wrong! At least according to Amy Turner’s piece in the Sunday Times a while ago (which I just found in my draft box); “Mr So-So has no chance with the SAS girls”. That was 7 years ago; has anything changed?

Because it seems that then women still wanted to meet the man of their dreams – Civitas think tank found that 70% of women aged 20 – 35 want to get married – but only if they found Mr Right. In particular so-called SAS women: successful, attractive and single – say they are happy enjoying themselves.

As one SAS women, described as having “endless legs and sparkling repartee” (sycophant-speak for skinny public school girl) said; “I’m fabulous and I want someone equally as fabulous to join my party“. Not much narcissistic self-referencing there then and hardly suggesting an equal partnership (see “Princess on board…”).

Not for them Lori Gottlieb’s advice in; “Marry him: the case for settling for good enough”. As my management consultant colleagues might say, SAS women are taking a “six sigma” rather than just a “fit for purpose” approach and as one of my guest bloggers pointed out recently; “Male modesty doesn’t pay”.

But why should women settle for less now that they are increasingly holding the purse strings? Experts  in the USA think that by 2024 women will be earning more on average than men , particularly in Law, Medicine, and in academia.

There are already more females than males graduating and higher education is the best predictor of future financial success. And the trend is pretty much the same in the UK with more females than males graduating in Law and Psychology for example.

In America five years ago only 1 in 4  women in dual-income households earned more than the men; now it is up to a third and if that trend continues more women in middle-income jobs like teaching and healthcare will overtake men.

In America female graduates have flocked into cities such as New York and Dallas to find “gender-blind” jobs with the result that women in their 20s are now earning 20% more than their male counterparts.

A number of factors have influenced these trends: a sharp decline in the birth rate in cities where more women go to college, more men losing their jobs than women (women occupied more part-time jobs) in the recession (the “mancession“), and an increase in family-friendly – which usually means women-friendly – jobs.  And you could probably add to that the feminising of education.

So what do you think? Will women today settle for second best?


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Baby blue eyed boozers get bossed

Mexican faceApparently blue eyed people are seen as less dominant than brown-eyed people – regardless of whether or not they are attractive (see my earlier post; Take me to your (tall and probably attractive) leader).

But it’s not just because of the eye colour. Czech researchers think it might be because people with blue eyes are treated as children longer and become conditioned to being more submissive.

And according to economics writer Chris Dillow in The Times (2/6/10): binge-drinking is more common in northern than southern Europe. Researchers at the Universities  of Oslo and Wyoming say that it’s in the genes and because blue-eyed people, more common in the North, are shyer they drink more to loosen their inhibitions.

Back in December 2010 it was reported that Scientists had discovered a gene, HTR2B, which can make people more susceptible to bouts of sudden aggression when under the influence of alcohol. Research with violent criminals in Finnish prisons found they were three times more likely to carry an abnormal variant of the gene than ordinary people.

Although not the full answer as to why people engage in spontaneous and motiveless violence it explains how it can be triggered by other genetic and environmental factors.

This Q20* gene mutation is only found in Finns, and in only 1% of them, and as most of whom are not violent so there is no point in screening for it.

And it doesn’t explain what happens in the UK. But research at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published in Nature shows that genetic factors coupled with drug and alcohol abuse can lead to impulsivity and spontaneous violence.

The Finns were chosen for the prison study because they are genetically distinct but they also appear to have problems with depression and drinking, maybe due to the long hours of darkness. The first time I was in Helsinki it was still Winter yet there were a number of people lying in the streets in a drunken stupour in the freezing cold. Passers-by just checked to see if they were OK and moved on as if it were quite normal.

And the last time I was in Helsinki wandering round a supermarket I couldn’t find the section for wines and spirits. I eventually asked a local who pointed me to a separate Alco section (the beer was with the bottled water so it shows their take on what constitutes an alcoholic drink)She explained that it was for their own good as alcohol-related problems are in their genes. Seems like she was right.

Despite that particular problem Finland is one of the most highly rated countries in the world on a range of measures and a popular one for people who want to live elsewhere.

First version posted June 2010


Green-eyed monster at work

Danger - Jealousy at work

Jealousy and envy are closely related but jealousy is usually when you wish you had something someone else has got eg a pay rise, or a plum project, and envy is when you haven’t got it and when you wish they hadn’t either.

Envy is also about feeling inferior, being resentful, and wishing ill-will to others. It also tends to be more about being competitive.

Jealousy can be aspirational or inspirational in encouraging you to better yourself so that you can also achieve what the other person has.

Research in USA by Professor Robert Vecchio suggests that 3 out of 4 people have witnessed jealousy at work and up to 50% of people get involved in it in some way.

If you feel envious of others at work you are more likely to use “social loafing” (not pulling your weight, spending time on the internet etc) to even up the score. You are also more likely to be looking for other jobs.

Generally woman are more likely to be jealous about social relationships; men to envy others in a competitive way.

Lack of consideration by supervisors can lead to jealousy and it is more likely to happen in a small office where it’s easy for unskilled bosses to develop favourites. If you work in large offices you tend to assume that unequal treatment is because of bureaucratic inefficiency.

If you feel you are the object of jealousy or envy:

  • Focus on the good things in your job (count your blessings) to bolster your self-esteem
  • Be humble – don’t flaunt your success
  • Don’t get involved in the drama
  • Help others to achieve and be as successful as you

Guest post adapted and reblogged with permission from sganda


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Take me to your (tall and probably attractive) leader!

The pygmy posting is worrying me now (see: What’s in a (politically correct) name?) because I’ve been reminded about some research on tallness. I first came across this a few years ago and mentioned it in a leadership workshop in Sweden – along the lines of biological impact on leadership eg good looks, tallness, first born etc. The Swedes were a bit sceptical, especially when I said some of the research had been carried out in Norway – not much Scandinavian sisterhood that day.

But there’s not much doubt about it. Research across the world by psychologists and economists show that every extra inch of height is worth between $500 and $1000 a year. So a 6′ person earns up to $6,000 a year more than a 5′ 6″ person (or $12,000 a year more than someone an anthropologist would class as a pygmy). UK research showed that tall men earn 5% more than average men and 10% more than short men.

There is some good news amongst the bad for diversity campaigners: fat men don’t earn less than thin men – although fat women earn less than thin ones. And good looks seem to effect both men and women equally with unattractive people earning up to 15% less than their more attractive counterparts.

It may be that we give more respect to taller people or think they are smarter because they look down on us. Historically military leaders would come from aristo backgrounds where they were better fed and likely to be taller than the peasants or local villagers. And there were always tall military headpieces to enhance any natural advantage.

And back to what’s in a name? There was a letter in the Times this week about 50% of recent UK Prime Ministers having names beginning with A, B, or C (and about a third of recent US Presidents also follow that pattern). I wondered if they got fed in alphabetical order at public school and got bigger portions, or perhaps were picked as team leaders more often?

Anyway the bottom line is: Tallness = Leaders = higher earnings and Attractiveness = higher earnings.

Not much joy then  if you are short and/or ugly. Let’s see how HR sort that one out when they are practising non-discriminatory recruitment.

It seems that it’s not just Prince, the Hamster, and Nicolas Sarkozy who can be found wearing height-enhancing heels. Men’s heels or “Meels” are back in fashion. Some are obviously cuban-heeled/glam rock throwbacks but “status shoes” offer a more subtle look. A visible heel of 1.25″ can hide an extra lift of 1.5″ – or at least £500 worth of  height-related earnings!

Updated 2 August 2010: It might help shorter people (but not fat women) to feel better knowing that scientists have shown that midges – the mosquitoes of the North which feast on human blood in the Scottish Highlands during the Summer – prefer tall men and large women.

Tall men because midges fly 6′ above the ground, and large women because they produce a greater quantity of moisture, CO2, and heat (did I say hot air?).

Professor Jenny Mordue, leading the study, said; “Larger people would provide a more substantial visual target for host-seeking midges”.  So pygmies would be safe in Scotland then?