I came across this article under the headline, "Being rich lowers men's attractiveness to women." Huh, I thought, sounds interesting enough. Totally contradictory to what I was lead to believe, I'd like to read more about that.
This potentially interesting topic was presented as this:
|Empirical evidence concerning human mate-choice preferences suggests that females should select partners on the basis of cues to genetic quality and/or ability to contribute resources to childcare. Paradoxically, while high levels of both factors should be an attractive combination to females, they might also dissuade females from entering into a relationship with such males since, by definition, they are likely to be highly attractive to other females, and therefore might increase the likelihood that such a male may cheat or desert the relationship. If so, females should be wary of entering into long-term relationships with physically attractive, high status males as compared with males of lower physical attractiveness or status. We asked females to rate a number of different males in terms of attractiveness as a long-term partner. Females were presented with attractive, average and unattractive male faces paired with lonely-hearts advertisements implying high, medium or low socio-economic status. Highest ratings were consistently given to attractive males of medium status rather than high status. We suggest that females see physically attractive, high status males as being more likely to pursue a mating strategy rather than parenting strategy. Under particular circumstances, high socio-economic status in males can be subtly counter-productive in terms of attractiveness as a long-term partner.|
How far did you make it before you zoned out? I got to "genetic quality." On the second attempt, I made it to "paradoxically." These words are tip-off that this is going to be one long, boring article. It also sounds like the writer is putting on airs to impress their peer group, of which I am not a member. That's awesome, I love that. If there is one thing I want when I'm reading, it is to be alienated.
Let's relive that barnburner of a lead-in one more time:
|Empirical evidence concerning human mate-choice preferences suggests that females should select partners on the basis of cues to genetic quality and/or ability to contribute resources to childcare.|
Seriously, who the hell talks like this? And if there are people who talk like this, who wants to hang out with them? The use of this stilted language is the reason Americans are hostile to intellectuals.
Now, I'm not utterly stupid. I know what "paradoxically" and "dissuade" mean. But to throw "empirical" with "human mate-choice preferences" and "genetic quality and/or ability to contribute resources" into the same sentence is to make a soup by throwing every ingredient in the kitchen into the pot.
There are two ends of the spectrum in bad writing, Hollywood hackery and academic hackery. If Hollywood is sometimes guilty of building enormous commercial enterprises around the most vapid of subjects (ex. "The Simple Life", "The Anna Nicole Show"), academia is sometimes guilty of taking potential interesting topics and making them arcane and inaccessible, bleeding them dry, embalming them in a textbook, and sealing them up in an ivory tower. I attack Hollywood hackery by writing movie reviews of movies I have not seen and I attack the obscuration of interesting information here at the DeJargonator.
There is a rule in writing - if you are having fun writing it, more likely than not, it will be fun to read. The reverse of this rule is also true (ie. if it's fun to read, the writer had a good time writing it). Judging by the amount of fun I had reading this article, I would guess the author wrote it while imprisoned at Abu Ghraib with electric shocks being applied continuously to his genitals.
And as far as impressing the scientist's peer group, this kind of tortured prose is completely unnecessary. Richard Feynman was one of the most brilliant physicists in history. The man helped invent the atom bomb and his recorded lectures are still used by physics students everywhere. Here's a key line explaining why he was loved and widely read from his Wikipedia entry:
|"Feynman is sometimes called the "Great Explainer"; he took great care when explaining topics to his students, making it a moral point not to make a topic arcane, but instead accessible to others. His principle was that if a topic could not be explained in a freshman lecture, it was not yet fully understood."|
Here's my attempt at rewriting the above paragraph. It communicates the same ideas but loses significant Scrabble points:
|To most observers, it would appear women select mates based on the genetic qualities the man can pass onto their children (good looks, physical strength, etc.) and the amount of resources he can contribute in raising children. However, it is possible these traits turn away women as these attractive qualities make these men more attractive to more women and consequently raise the likelihood the man will cheat or break off the relationship. If this is true, women should be careful to enter relationships with good looking, high status men (now there's some shocking advice). |
To test this conjecture, we asked several women to rate a number of different men in terms of attractiveness as a long-term partner. The women were presented with attractive, average and unattractive male faces paired with lonely-hearts advertisements implying high, medium or low socio-economic status. Highest ratings were consistently given to attractive males of medium status rather than high status.
Based on the results of this experiment, we suggest women see physically attractive, high status men as being more likely to pursue a mating strategy rather than parenting strategy. Under particular circumstances, high socio-economic status in males can be subtly counter-productive in terms of attractiveness as a long-term partner.
Not bad. Still not overly smooth but it's functional. I even used "conjecture" which sounds science-y. To be fair to the original writer, I lifted the last couple sentences from his work verbatim. Those were actually usable. I only discovered them after pushing my way through the muck.
Also, please, as a rule, don't use the word "empirical" as the first word of your essay. Think of the children.