Science And Mechanics – What turns you on? (Feb. 1970)

Posted: February 15, 2019 in Life, News, Politics

What Turns You On (Feb 1970) (1)

Science And Mechanics – What turns you on? (Feb. 1970) – LINK 

This old article was recently dug up and shared by some friends. I both hate and love these, but not quite for the reasons you might think. 

One of the more scam-like things from science (junk science) from the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s could be found in things like this. Sadly, it’s a kind of scam that still lives on now. A husband and wife team of psychologists, Jerry and Nancy Wiggins, tested the proposition that the measure of a man can be worked out by looking at his girl friend’s measurements. They even got a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for this mess.

I like science, but I primarily like actual science. There are some things that may take a stab at following the scientific method or may claim to be a serious study that falls somewhat short of actual science. A lot of that falls into the area of “scientifically” designating what certain things mean if we like one thing over the other. Unfortunately, this kind of stuff makes for more entertaining reading for most people than stuff like a lot of numbers and equations looking at projected models, so it’s what has been historically the primary material for popular publications. 

I’ve always found this kind of junk science, particularly with behavioral studies, fascinating. It’s the “science” equivalent of being a psychic medium. If you’re not really paying close attention, you tend to get answers that make you go, wow, that’s bang on target. But, if you actually pay attention, you discover that it’s a bit like shooting at a target with a shotgun filled with buckshot from 30 yards away. Sure, so long as you point the thing in the basic direction you should put some shot on the target, but far more of your shot will have missed hitting the paper than will have hit it. It’s not like you can accurately compare yourself to someone who can hit center mass on the target from the same distance with 100 out of 100 rounds from a rifle. They’re throwing a lot of stuff out here, and some of it seems to cover all bases for all answers. 

What Turns You On (Feb 1970) (2)

They didn’t just look at how men responded to an overall figure, they started there and broke it down after that. There are four categories of answers. It’s here that they turn their study into a bit of psychic medium gaming. 

I’m going to bring up some seemingly unrelated studies for a moment. The reason will become clear, though. 

In the past few decades, there have been a number of studies giving birth to a lot of articles about how we find symmetry to be attractive in a potential mate. It’s a trait they find interesting as, while a common finding with most studies, it doesn’t seem to serve a biological purpose when compared to other natural triggers that seem to relate to signs of health or other factors that would go into the natural preservation and continuation of the species. While a number of studies focused on the face, they also noted, as does this article, that this appeal extends beyond the face and even beyond looking for a potential mate. We simply seem to like symmetry more often than not. 

I find that bit of information interesting when looking at the findings discussed here. If most of us find various levels of symmetry in a potential partner to be a physically appealing thing, the way this study breaks its findings down comes across more like the aforementioned psychic mediums than it does science. 

Take a look at the page with the three figures- figure A, Figure B, and Figure C -on it. You’re asked to choose what you like more with four categories. Which figure fits what you find to be more attractive in a woman overall? Then, breaking down the body parts, which figure has the breasts, buttocks, and legs you find most attractive on a real woman? 

As anyone who has met my wife can probably easily figure out, I was a “Figure C” person for the first answer. When moving on to the next three categories, I found myself wondering how many people didn’t simply choose whatever they chose for the overall figure on at least two and likely all three remaining options. It goes back to the symmetry thing. 

Here’s what you were supposed to read after you made your choices. If you can’t read the print in the photo, the link provided at the start of this will take you to an archived blog of the article’s contents. 

What Turns You On (Feb 1970) (3)

Here is everything they say for “C” answers. Oh, and “B”- what they called the Ideal American Girl figure -was the #1 answer on overall figure. “A” was at the time apparently the most unpopular with those who participated in the study. I guess Twiggy was really lucky about when her modeling career hit the big time. 

“Preference for ample figure “C”, liked by few members of the test group, was associated with a need for achievement. A significant number of those who preferred “C” reported that they drink alcoholic beverages.”

“Men who preferred large breasts (“C”) have masculine interests, date frequently, smoke and drink, read Playboy and sports magazines, are not especially generous, tend to be independent and relatively free of fears and worries, lack perseverance in their work, and are exhibitionists. They tend not to be from the upper class.”

“Preference for large buttocks (“C”) was characterized by a need for order (neatness, organization) and a tendency to feel guilty and inferior. This group tended to be business (accounting) majors.”

“Abstinence from alcoholic beverages is the most substantial correlate of large-leg (“C”) preference. Those who preferred heavy legs tend to be intraceptive, non-aggressive, self-abasing, and characterized by a slow personal tempo. They’re inhibited and restrained in social situations and are not usually business majors. If they had to make a choice, they would choose their mother over their father.”

There’s also this bit. 

“No correlates were reported for those who preferred medium-sized “B” body components. Perhaps it’s the mark of a moderate.”

Answers for “A” were likewise all over the place and somewhat psychic medium in nature. Okay, I just realized I haven’t explained why I keep referencing psychic mediums.

Those people who sit down in front of you and talk to your dead relatives? Spoiler alert- They’re frauds. They throw dozens of wrong “hits” at a person (who is typically not in critical thinking mode at the time) and then when they get a “hit” that the person responds to they build on that and repeat the process. By the time a reading is done, the person has been so focused on the things they saw as right or true statements about a departed loved one they tend to not notice the psychic medium threw out far more garbage comments that were totally off base as they were fishing for the responses they could build on.

I’ve noticed over the years that people tend to do the same with articles such as this. They’re reading in casual interest what they’re told are the results of a study. It’s entertainment reading, and, as such, they’re not telling themselves to scrutinize the findings or think critically about them as they casually look over the article and compare their own answers to the findings. 

My answers- I like Figure “C”, so I have a need to achieve and I drink alcohol. But one of the primary meanings to liking “C” larger legs is abstinence from alcoholic beverages while liking “C” larger breasts says I lack perseverance in my work. Liking “C” larger breasts makes me an exhibitionist but answering “C” for legs means I’m inhibited and restrained in social situations and “C” for buttocks means I’m likely to be a business major who feels guilty and inferior.

The entire thing is all over the place even if you mix and match. I’m sure you can point to any number of men (and a few women) who tend to be an “A” person for hips and buttocks but lean towards “C” on breasts. This makes them people who don’t need to be the center of attention and don’t read sports magazines but are exhibitionists who read sports magazines. 

The findings in this study- and, frankly, the findings in many studies to follow it over the years even if not on this topic or one like it -are really little better than a reading with a psychic medium. The findings only seem specific and precise when you don’t pay attention to how vague they actually are. People make mental notes of their answers and check for where they fall in the findings. They tend to read four things that don’t match their personalities for every one or two that do, but it’s the one or two that do they remember. They also tend to not notice the conflicting data because they’re not really making a serious mental note of items that don’t apply to them. Between the four answers, they end up with a list of at least five or six things they think describes them and call it a success. But, the thing is, they could mix and match wrong answers with right answers and still probably get a list about that long they feel describes them. 

Well, except for the thing about what major you might have taken. The other thing with this was their pool of participants. They questioned 95 male undergraduate students at the University of Illinois. I have a feeling the same sized group from different schools in other regions would net differing results from study to study. 

But, with the results, that’s the scam of psychic mediums. That’s the- occasionally intentional and occasionally unintentional -scam of some social and “scientific” studies. That’s the scam with many other things out there. For me, it’s also one of the most interesting forms of scamming people.

 Why is it, for me, one of the most interesting? Because, when you break it down and look at it, it should not work. It certainly shouldn’t work anywhere near as often as it does or on some of the people it works on.


Pretend for a moment that I walk up to you in a park with a basket full of various flowers under my arm. I bring you over to a table and start placing a dozen or more different types of flowers in front of you. I then ask you what your favorite flower is. You answer that you prefer roses. I put everything but the roses back in my box, tell you the roses are yours, and leave. The odds are fairly good that you won’t tell your friend an hour or two later that I simply walked up and handed you roses while saying I knew you liked them best. That’s probably due to the fact that there’s a strong visual element to what I would be doing and our brains tend to work a bit differently when we have something like that in front of us. 

But words are funny things, the power of wanting to believe is funnier still, and both sometimes influence even those who shouldn’t fall for some things as easily as they do. Someone who is just casually reading something for a moment’s distraction is not going to catch on to the fact that they may be falling for a scam. They’re not actively working towards engaging in critical thinking. Someone torn apart by grief and wishing with everything they have that a loved one is still by their side even after death is not only in a place that makes them very susceptible to a scam of this design, but they actively do not want to think critically or skeptically. Worse still, as James Randi proved all those years ago when debunking renowned fraud Uri Geller, a lot of people whose jobs and training should help them not get conned can fall for this or similar scams even as they’re actively observing what’s happening. 

But as easy as this type of con should be to catch, it’s even easier to adapt and use. That’s probably why it’s become so common across so many walks of life and forms of it pop up in so many places. 

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. He has in the past contributed to websites like Needless Things, Nerdy Minds Magazine,  Gruesome Magazine, and others while occasionally remembering to put up the odd musings on his own blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, on Decades of Horror, and on the Nerdy Laser. He is also a regular co-host on The Assignment: Horror Podcast as well as the primary writer for its affiliated blog.






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