Lovers, beware candlelight’s allure

Psychologists established as far back as 1965, in a classic study of pupil size and attraction, that men found women’s faces to be more attractive when the pupils were rendered larger, a finding that has been reliably replicated since, reported Britain’s Financial Times Feb. 11. But just before you take a couple of low wattage bulbs to your favourite restaurant, the latest research by psychologist Selina Tombs (BA ’95, MA ’98, PhD ’03) and Irwin Silverman, professor emeritus in psychology at York’s Faculty of Arts, found that while men prefer dilated pupils in women, most women prefer only moderately dilated pupils in a man.

Their argument for this intriguing finding, recently published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, uses evolutionary theory to suggest that male reproductive success is mainly limited by access to willing, fertile females. Women are much more cautious, perhaps because a liaison always involves the risk of pregnancy and all the emotional and physical costs that entails. So men have been programmed by natural selection to respond without much equivocation to female sexual arousal. Evolutionary theory therefore predicts that an obviously enthusiastic woman is much more attractive to a man than vice versa.

If men are willing to mate without as much emotional investment, a woman’s interests are probably better served by moderate levels of male arousal at the beginning of a relationship, argue Tombs and Silverman. In our evolutionary past, overzealous sexual attention on the part of men may have presaged forced copulation, over-possessiveness, excessive sexual jealousy and/or promiscuity, all of which can operate to the detriment of women’s interests. Thus, Tombs and Silverman suggest that women have been programmed by natural selection over many generations, to prefer “steady moderation” in the sexual attentions and arousal of prospective suitors.

Romance doesn’t hinge on common interests

Conventional wisdom says the best strategy for getting lucky in love is pursuing your own interests, not surfing the Net, suggested the Toronto Star Feb. 12. But the only thing very likely to bring two people together is their physical attraction for one another, says Michaela Hynie, Chair of the Atkinson Faculty Psychology Department at York. “It’s not surprising, and yet it’s a bit discouraging because we like to think that we see beyond that.” So, despite all that advice about following your heart to find true love, common interests are not that important for romantic relationships, says Hynie, who researches and teaches about relationships and sexuality.

Misadventures in dating

Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Not from what I’ve been reading, wrote Christine Sismondo, who teaches humanities in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a Toronto Star review Feb. 13 of two books. The first is Bittergirl: Getting over Getting Dumped, a light-hearted self-help book about the painful process of, well, getting dumped. The other offering is Amy Cameron’s Playing with Matches: Misadventures in Dating. While it’s neither a self-help book nor a guide to getting through the dating scene, it’s probably better therapy to read some of the more calamitous tales of bad dates curated by Cameron, a Toronto journalist, if only to reassure yourself that you’re not alone out there. Worse dates have happened.

The best gift for your guy is one that you’ll love, too

How many women can woo their man with corner-store carnations and confections, asked the Toronto Star Feb. 14. “Men are, in general, more difficult to buy for,” said Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business. “Men are stereotyped less, in terms of gift-giving. Other than the beer-drinking jock.” It’s just coincidental that the woman will benefit from the ideal guy gift, too. But there isn’t anything wrong with that – you’re simply maintaining the Feb.14 tradition. “Valentine’s Day was developed around chivalry,” said Middleton. Tradition calls for a woman to receive tokens of her love’s affection.

The government we deserve

“Bruce Garvey is obviously right about the sleaze reflected in the sponsorship scandal and its toll on ‘the country’s grotesquely overburdened taxpayers,’” wrote Eric Lawee, a humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a Feb. 14 letter to the National Post. “But let us not forget where the blame for such sleeze ultimately lies: with the very same taxpayers, who invite and exculpate such abuses by sending Liberals to Ottawa in election after election.”

Take a ride in Istvan Kantor’s exhibit

Machinery Execution, Istvan Kantor’s latest exhibition, is not for weak stomachs, began a North York Mirror feature Feb. 13 about the current show at the Art Gallery of York University. The award-winning contemporary artist is known for his controversial, unapologetic and high-energy pieces. This new installment, Spielraum (Playroom in English), is no exception. Playroom is one of the most interactive pieces of the exhibit. It features dozens of dented filing cabinets, a slide, three flat-screen televisions and a filing cabinet that, when opened and closed, can control the images displayed on the screens. For Elizabeth Yiannoulis, an art major at York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the exhibit couldn’t have been described more accurately. She, along with many other York students, was present at the opening of the exhibit. “I loved it,” she said. “I thought it was a very interactive (piece) that didn’t give away the context right away. It was serious but it still had an element of play.”

Will they come to Downsview Park?

It’s now 11 years since then-finance minister Paul Martin declared in his budget speech that Canadian Forces Base Downsview would close and that its 644-acre site in North York would become a huge park, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 14. Brochures and the official Web site boast the park is easily accessible by subway, but both federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister John Godfrey and Downsview Park Chair David Bell express concern that the rapid transit is on the east, the park focuses west onto Keele and the nearest TTC station is a bleak, three-kilometre hike from the main entrance. “We need to do everything we can to encourage people to bike and take transit,” said Bell, a former dean of York University’s faculties of Graduate Studies and Environmental Studies, who hopes plans for eventual extensions of the Spadina and Sheppard subways can be realigned to meet at what would be a new GO station on CN tracks that run through the park.

Bell even acknowledges that Downsview, which is billed as “Canada’s first urban national park,” is actually suburban, meaning its relationship with the car also poses big headaches. “Parking is kind of a conundrum for us, but we definitely won’t let asphalt become dominant,” he said, adding that the world’s great urban parks were established before the car was king. Toronto officials don’t have an estimate for the number of residents able to walk to Downsview within 10 minutes, but it’s likely fewer than 10,000. New York officials say there are 750,000 residents and 36 subway stations within a 10-minute walk of Central Park. Hundreds of thousands more work in the area. “Project ahead 25 or even 100 years,” Bell said when presented with the comparison. “When Central Park was proposed, it was way the hell out in the boonies.”

Young homosexuals still face fear, isolation

Support services have multiplied, but growing up gay can still be a lonesome and frightening ordeal, reported Canadian Press in a Guelph Mercury story Feb. 12. Chris Jai Centeno of Toronto recalls feeling like there was no one else like him in the world. “It can be hard and it can be isolating,” said the 21-year-old managing editor of York University’s Excalibur newspaper. “When I was just coming out in Grade 9, I felt like I was the only gay person there was, even though I was going to school with 2,000 people.” It was worse at home. “I was dealing with a lot of homophobia at home. I come from a very Catholic family.”

Variable mortgage rates can help family save

The Toronto Star’s Portfolio Doctors cited a 2002 study by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business in a column about painless ways to cut five per cent out of a household’s annual budget. Consider a variable mortgage rate, they said. According to Milevsky’s study, variable or floating rates saved borrowers money 88.6 per cent of the time over the previous 50 years.