Femme Fatale (Part III) :The Science of Attraction

Read Femme Fatale Part I. and Part II.

So far we have established (not really in scientific way) that the phenomena of femme fatale exists and is present in the case of my dear friend Pippin. We are getting closer to the roots of the very problem. Now, I will attempt to answer the difficult question: Why did he fall for her? Or in general, why do we fall for someone? In order to answer this I will have to SCIENCE THE SHIT OUT OF THIS.

(btw I hated chemistry back in high school)

The science of attractions suggests that we choose our partners based on hormone markers (Alvergne & Lummaa, 2010; Johnston, 2006; Miller & Todd, 1998). This is easier said than understood. It is not like we read each other’s hormonal profiles just like that. There must be a hint so that Pippin goes crazy about Mary. One of the hints are Mary’s facial features. There is an evidence suggesting that “female beauty depends upon specific highly visible hormonal markers that indicate high fecundity”(Johnston, 2006). It has been repeatedly shown that female faces with small narrow chins, large eyes and fuller lower lips are rated highest in beauty across many different cultures(Cunningham, Roberts, Barbee, Druen, & Wu, 1995; Perrett, May, & Yoshikawa, 1994).

Now we know what is generally attractive for men. We do not really know why Mary seems so attractive to Pippin. One of the way how to link the knowledge about hormonal markers and mate choice with femme fatale is to hypothesize that Pippin’s hormone levels match Mary’s to the extent of creating a superhuman offspring. Before I can give Pippin a ‘go-ahead’ to createanother Clark Kent, we should dig into the cognitive explanation of mate choice.

It seems that Pippin is ready for a long-term relationship. Why? Looking at it from a classic theory derived from economics we could conclude that Pippin is looking for a mate as the costs of further search outweigh the benefits that could be gained by being single and chase random bitches.

Why Mary? Here is one possible explanation: Humans have adapted to the social evolution and are favoring sexual cues of psychological rather than physical quality (Miller & Todd, 1998). This means that if Pippin analyzes Mary’s intelligence, creativity, generosity and linguistic expressiveness, then all of these traits might have evolved partially through sexual selection(Miller & Todd, 1998) Hence, by studying Pippin’s cognition, we may be studying the evolutionary products of mate choice (Miller & Todd, 1998). Somehow, Mary fits Pippin’s cognitive analysis, therefore she appears so attractive to him.

At the end of the day we are still animals. We might come a long way from our caveman predecessor but we still have its brain. Hormones play a crucial role and this cannot be denied. A study involving an analysis of women on contraception has concluded that “effects of pill use on the processes of partner formation have important implications for relationship stability and may have other biologically relevant consequences” (Alvergne & Lummaa, 2010).Long story short; the pill changes female’s mate preferences (probably in a manner which is unfavorable from evolutionary standpoint). The question that lacks answer is to what extent does use of contraception alter male preference towards women.

I walked trough hell and back to provide you this exhausting analysis of human mate preferences. One thing is still missing. Why is Pippin falling for Mary? Why is she the femme fatale. Perhaps we are a step closer in understanding what drives our choice. Hormones. Is that the answer? Is it all about hormones with Pippin and Mary? Shouldn’t that Mary’s feelings be automatically reciprocated? If she is perfect for him he should be perfect for her. Hmmmmmmm.


Alvergne, A., & Lummaa, V. (2010). Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 25(3), 171–179. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2009.08.003
Cunningham, M. R., Roberts, A. R., Barbee, A. P., Druen, P. B., & Wu, C.-H. (1995). “Their ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as ours”: Consistency and variability in the cross-cultural perception of female physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(2), 261–279. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.68.2.261
Johnston, V. S. (2006). Mate choice decisions: the role of facial beauty. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(1), 9–13. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2005.11.003
Miller, G. F., & Todd, P. M. (1998). Mate choice turns cognitive. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2(5), 190–198. http://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(98)01169-3
Perrett, D. I., May, K. A., & Yoshikawa, S. (1994). Facial shape and judgements of female attractiveness. Nature, 368(6468), 239–242. http://doi.org/10.1038/368239a0