[Readings] Show Ponies, By Daniel J. Kruger | Harper's Magazine

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[Readings]

Show Ponies

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From an article titled “Phenotypic Mimicry Distinguishes Cues of Mating Competition from Paternal Investment in Men’s Conspicuous Consumption,” which was published in April in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The experimental stimuli are shirts with small and large versions of a luxury brand’s logo. Participants rated the unseen owner of each shirt and were expected to intuitively distinguish the life histories and related characteristics of the two shirt owners. Participants viewed images of two classic-fit Polo shirts, one with a “signature embroidered pony at the left chest” and one with a “signature embroidered Big Pony at the left chest.” Results indicated that mating effort and parental investment scores were inversely related. The owner of the large-logo shirt was also rated more attractive to women for a brief sexual affair, and less attractive to women for a long-term committed relationship.

Participants inferred that both shirt owners experienced relatively stable and supportive environments in childhood. This is not surprising given the style of shirt used for the stimuli. The conservative styling may be associated with a relatively more affluent upbringing than other types of shirts, such as a T-shirt imprinted with a design featuring human skulls and flames.

Men were most likely to select the large-logo shirt when they were attempting to attract a sexual partner. Men were least likely to select the large-logo shirt when meeting potential in-laws.


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