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article imageAre females more attracted to artistic men?

By Conor O'Brien     Sep 12, 2014 in Science
A recent study by an Italian postgraduate student claims that art and creativity is a masculine representation of one's genes in the context of selective mating in humans, and therefore makes males more attractive.
Many artists use art as a way to display their inner emotions, whilst others use art as a way to describe themselves in a way that they cannot verbally explain. Henry Ward Beecher famously quoted: "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures." He probably couldn't have been more right.
Researchers are now suggesting that art has an extra motive, one that is not so obvious to the creator or the beholder. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that art is a manifestation of the masculinity of a man, and his ability to be evolutionarily successful. This may be difficult to fully comprehend, but to Danae Crocchiola from the University of Messina in Italy, this made enough sense to investigate.
An innovative piece of research by Geoffrey Miller in 1999 suggested that artistic displays are male-predominant behaviours, and are reflective of an advantage in the ongoing fight for survival in adaptation and evolution. Miller suggests that men usually show their fitness and adaptation to the environment as a tool to improve their chances of reproductive success, as part of his courtship model.
So where does art fit into this? Although creativity it is not entirely necessary as a defining attribute when selecting a mate, evidence suggests that women find this trait very attractive in males. Miller believes that consequently, the performance of creativity in sexual displays is a sensation exclusive to male mating rituals. According to an abundance of research papers, females have been known to be more attracted to more androgynous individuals with higher levels of testosterone, so there could be a possible link between artistic ability and testosterone levels.
Crocchiola decided to look into this in more detail by investigating the model proposed by Miller in 1999 and comparing it with testosterone levels to see if there is any link between creativity and masculinity. In order to establish testosterone levels in a male, the common and reliable method of comparing the 2nd finger digit to the 4th finger digit was used. Overwhelming evidence suggests that a lower 2nd digit to 4th digit ratio in males indicates a higher level of testosterone, where the 4th digit is considerably longer than the 2nd digit. Those with higher ratios, and thus more similar lengths, are more likely to have lower testosterone levels.
Crocchiola gathered 50 Caucasian visual artists from an art gallery in New Mexico, consisting of 25 males and 25 females, as the artistic group. She also gathered 27 non-artists from Las Cruces, and 23 non-artists from Italy, consisting of 25 males and 25 females, all of which were also Caucasian. Caucasians were chosen due to previous evidence suggesting that Caucasians have a higher 2nd digit to 4th digit ratio than Hispanics. Crocchiola took the ratio measurements of each of the participants so that they could be statistically compared for significance.
The results of the study showed that artists had a lower 2nd digit to 4th digit ratio, suggesting that the male artists showed higher levels of testosterone. This essentially makes them "more masculine" from an evolutionary perspective. The further investigations of this study also showed that there was no significant correlation between decreasing 2nd digit to 4th digit ratio and artistic ability or number of artworks sold, suggesting that a male artist with a lower digit ratio than others is not necessarily a better artist.
In discussing these results, Crocchiola suggests that her findings could imply that artistic abilities are therefore typically considered as male traits that are unconsciously selected over generations by female mate-seekers. Essentially, art and creativity is used by males to manifest their ability to produce strong offspring by advertising his strong genes. As high levels of testosterone are regularly linked to attractiveness and reproductive success, the study demonstrates a reliable link between artistic ability and male attractiveness from an evolutionary point of view. Further studies discuss other implications, such as how women are much more attracted to artistic traits in certain stages of the menstrual cycle, and preference for creativity in short-term mating relationships.
So what can be concluded from Crocchiola's study on artists and attractiveness? Well, there are a lot of assumptions made by linking theoretical bases and models with research evidence, but she may have a point. A lot more research will probably be needed in this area before a certain conclusion can be made. However, her simple but strong study does highlight what could be a very interesting take on the attractiveness of art and creativity in the world of human evolution and reproductive success. What hasn't been investigated as of yet is whether testosterone levels affect art ability, or whether art ability affects levels of testosterone.
Whilst we wait to find out, I suppose there's no harm in trying to develop my artistic skills.
More about Psychology, Evolutionary psychology, Art, Artist, Creativity
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