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Poster E35, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Men who compliment a woman’s appearance using metaphorical language are more creative and masculine and attractive to women

Zhao Gao1, Qi Yang1, Xiaole Ma1, Yang Li1, Becker Benjamin1, Keshuang Li1, Keith Kendrick1;1University of Electronic Science and Technology of China

From an evolutionary perspective, language complexity is assumed to signal mate quality in a courtship context and in men may also be modulated by prenatal testosterone influencing early brain development. However, it remains unclear whether the language men use to pay women compliments may covertly serve the purpose of mate selection and how the signals of sexual interest and mate quality communicate through the form and/or topic of such compliments. In this study sixty-four men created compliments to impress unfamiliar women they chose to be with in different contexts (work vs. dating) and additionally provided hand scans to compute 2D4D ratio as a proxy for prenatal testosterone exposure. All compliments were coded in terms of form (literal vs metaphorical) and topic (appearance vs non-appearance), with metaphorical ones being subsequently rated by 112 women for psycholinguistic features, intelligence impression and interpersonal relation to assess their effectiveness in displaying mate quality. Results showed that in a dating context more metaphorical form and/or appearance topic compliments were produced compared to the working context. In the dating context the production of metaphorical compliments targeting appearance was positively associated with men’s art creativity, but negatively associated with 2D4D ratio. Context modulated the correlation between 2D4D ratio and the production of literal compliments targeting appearance as a mediator variable. The women preferred establishing a short-term romantic relationship with the men who produced metaphorical compliments in a dating context. Findings suggest that compliments which use metaphorical language targeting a woman’s appearance can signal male mate quality. Male artistic creativity is particularly signaled by the figurativeness of metaphors and masculinity by use of metaphors targeting appearance. The evolutionary implications of these findings are also discussed.

Topic Area: Meaning: Prosody, Social and Emotional Processes

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