Research Projects

Is beauty a form of competition?

We may like to pretend, in Western society, that beauty doesn't matter anymore and that we have transcended superficiality. But in reality, both research and many of our day-to-day experiences say otherwise. Beauty has become a commodity that people use to try and get ahead in life, and competition is fierce to stand out from the pack.

Research Questions

  • Do people use physical attractiveness as a form of social capital?
  • Do concerns about status incentivize people to enhance their beauty?
  • Does status anxiety increase pressure on men look fit?
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    Blake, K. R. & Brooks, R. (2019). Status anxiety mediates the positive relationship between income inequality and female sexualization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116(50), 25029–25033. Available at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1909806116

    Blake, K. R., Brooks, R., Arthur, L., & Denson, T. (in press). Sexually motivated beautification can increase assertiveness in women. PLoS One.

    Kellie, D., Blake, K., & Brooks, R. (2019). What drives female objectification? An investigation of appearance-based interpersonal perceptions and the objectification of women. PLoS One. Available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0221388

The psychological effects of the mating market

At the ECE Lab, we are interested in how the availability of romantic partners – whether they are relatively abundant, or scare – affects a range of attitudes and experiences. We examine how the number of men relative to women in a geographic area affect political attitudes and attitudes toward gender. We also consider whether gender inequality affects psychology because it affects the mating hierarchy.

Research Questions

  • How do sex ratios affect political attitudes and dating competition?
  • Does gender equality drive some men toward intimate partner violence?
  • Does the sex ratio of occupational industries shift political attitudes?
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    Arthur, L., Brooks, R. & Blake, K. R. (2020). Female self-sexualization covaries with mate value but not mate availability. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. Link:

    Luberti, F., Blake, K., & Brooks, R. (2020). The effects of the mating market, sex, age, and income on socio-political orientation: Insights from Evolutionary Theory and Sexual Economics Theory. Human Nature. Link:

    Blake, K. R., & Brooks, R. (2018). High mate value men become more accepting of intimate partner abuse when primed with gender equality. Frontiers in Sociology. Available at https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2018.00028

Does your family composition influence your politics?

Male relatives tend to sway people toward, and female relatives tend to sway people away from conservative political attitudes. Why is this the case? Building on the idea of inclusive fitness gained through relatives (Hamilton, 1964), Gendered Fitness Interests (GFI) Theory proposes that people who can expect to gain more of their future inclusive fitness through female kin than through male kin will be more likely to hold attitudes that favor girls and women, while the reverse will be true for those whose reproductive interests derive through more male kin.

Research Questions

  • Do gendered fitness interests affect the willingness to adopt gendered stereotypes?
  • How can we best operationalize gender fitness interests mathematically?
  • Do gendered fitness interests affect the suppression of female sexuality?
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    Blake, K.R., Fourati, M., & Brooks., R. (2018). Who suppresses female sexuality? An examination of support for Islamic veiling in a secular Muslim democracy as a function of sex and offspring sex. Evolution & Human Behavior. Available athttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.06.006

    Brooks, R., & Blake, K. R. (2019). Gendered Fitness Interests: A proposal explaining how relatives affect socio-political attitudes and behaviours. Pre-print available at:

    Blake, K., Anjum, G., & Brooks, R. (2020). Family and gendered fitness interests effects on female stereotyping, attitudes toward female autonomy, and status-seeking in Pakistan. Pre-print available at:

Using 6 billion tweets to understand human behaviour

Here at the ECE Lab, we’ve compiled a database of over 6 billion social media posts and geolocated them using our geolocation algorithm. We’ve got data for 200 countries worldwide, and fine-scale granularity in the US (>5K cities, all counties, and every US state). We use these data to understand how things like income inequality, gender inequality, and climate affect important aspects of human psychology. We can also link these data to crime statistics, to see if online chatter can prospectively predict real-world crime.

Research Questions

  • What are the global socioecological predictors of eating disorders?
  • What socioecological structures predict online chatter about women in STEM?
  • Does online misogyny prospectively predict domestic violence?
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    Blake, K. R., Denson, S., Lian, J., & Denson, T. (in press). Misogynistic tweets correlate with and prospectively predict domestic violence incidents over time. Psychological Science.

How does your menstrual cycle or hormonal contraceptive affect you?

Despite being one of the most widely prescribed medicines in the world, there is a lot about the effects of the pill that we don’t know. Women on the pill are more likely to be diagnosed with depressionand less likely to adapt to fearful stimuli. Compared with non-users, pill users show substantial alterations in neural structures indicative of chronic stress, and in the areas of the brain associated with cognition and emotion. At the ECE Lab, we are interested in helping people understand the effects of their menstrual cycle on things like wellbeing, mood, and psychology.

Research Questions

  • Does the pill influence women’s willingness to engage in competition?
  • Are women more optimistic or assertive at particular points in their menstrual cycle?
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    Blake, K. R., Bastian, B., *O'Dean, S., & Denson, T. (2016). High estradiol and low progesterone positively predict assertiveness in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 75, 91–99. Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.10.008