Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guppy behaviour

Though most women that I meet, these days, know that I am a long-married man, they continue to stare at me longingly and invitingly. I have always been puzzled by this behaviour. Most embarrassing it is at times and quite difficult to explain to the wife.

Now, I know the reason. Damn interesting. Apparently, this is due to ‘the guppy syndrome’.

To observe the effect one takes a large tank filled with female guppies, and adds about the same number of relatively indistinguishable male guppies. It doesn't take too long for the guppies to get adjusted to the new environment and, like any society, they soon begin mating. As is true with most species, it is the females who determine who gets to score, and an odd thing occurs: despite the fact that the males are all pretty much alike, some guys get all the luck, and others are spurned.

What is the explanation? Maybe the females assume that the male's previous partner had discovered some inconspicuous yet crucial quality that made him a superior mate. Or perhaps practice is the key to being a good mate, and females will always pick the male they know has put in some hours.

So, can we extrapolate this behaviour to humans?

An experiment was conducted where women were shown a series of photographs and asked to indicate which man they preferred. The moderately creepy cards had similar men's faces on the left and right, and a woman's face in the center; in each she was looking at one of the men, and wearing either a smile or a neutral expression. After perusing the array, the women generally indicated that the men receiving the virtual positive feminine attention were the more desirable.

So it seems there is some guppy in us and our mating techniques, though it's hard to say just how much.

That’s why I have a better chance of getting noticed by women when I go out with my wife than when I go alone.

I hope all you guppies out there get the point.

4 comments:

dipali said...

I think my husband will agree with your theory. He always thinks he's looking very dashing when he goes out with me. (But I don't know what he thinks when he's out without me- if he thinks he looks even more dashing on his own then I'm in trouble!)

Guru said...

Dear Raj,

There is a similar discussion in the book Economic naturalist; the argument is that among the many potential mates, where it is difficult to decide which guy might be OK, the guy who is already with a girl is the best bet since somebody had already interacted with him and found him good enough to go out with.

Raj said...

dipali, remember that the theory is true for either spouse,

Guru, thanks. That's s good news for married men!

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