Did How I Met Your Mother actually discover a verifiable sociological phenomenon before modern-day scientists? Was that girl really checking out your husband at the bar? The answer to both of these important questions, according to science, is yes.
Let’s be clear: Lots of not-so-scientific facts have “legitimately” been “scientifically proven,” following the precise logic of the scientific method. Based on infomercials and commercials today it almost seems like numbers and stats can be manipulated to tell any story scientists want to tell. That commercial cleaning product has “scientifically proven” to be better than the competition. This cologne is “scientifically proven” to increase your attractiveness to females. The list goes on.
That’s not to diminish the following list, but rather to preempt the predictable criticisms from the cynics among us; these bizarre facts were thoroughly analyzed, with a team of professionals ensuring sample sizes were correct, data sets were properly segmented and all stats were significant enough to draw conclusions. Sounds impressive, right? Until you realize we’re talking about things like what small changes to your wardrobe make you more attractive to the opposite sex, or whether or not writing out a to-do list is a waste of time.
Here are 7 bizarre facts that have been proven by a variety of legitimate scientific methods…
7. The universe is Beige
Well, “Cosmic Latte” to be more “scientifically” precise. Really.
According to astronomers from Johns Hopkins University, a survey of the color of all the light in the entire universe – including more than 200,000 galaxies – adds up to off-white, or a slightly beige color. If you’ve got photoshop or any other design software, you can check out “Cosmic Latte” right on your computer screen, right now. The hexadecimal RGB code for the entire universe is #FFF8E7.
Hmm. We expected the color of the entire universe to be a little less… dull. What about all the beautiful supernovas we’ve seen photographs of? How about shooting stars and Earth-like blue dots? Nope. According to science, stardust is the color of a coffee stain. Thanks, Science.
6. Girls are more attractive in groups
It’s called The Cheerleader Effect, also widely known as The Bridesmaids Paradox, Sorority Girl Syndrome and, “for a brief window in the mid-90s, The Spice Girl Conspiracy.” It was first brought to the world’s attention by Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, but was officially confirmed in a recent study by Psychological Science.
It’s true. When humans see a group of people (male or female), we automatically have a tendency to average out their facial features, often rating an individual higher when seen within a group than alone.
In order to prove the theory, scientists showed a large number of participants photographs of 100 people; some individuals were shown in a group and some were cropped out to be shown alone. The overwhelming results were that individuals were voted more attractive when shown with friends than on their own.
5. Praise is good
Clearly, from a subjective point of view this is a true fact. Nobody likes being yelled at, and everyone loves being told how awesome they are. But studies show that when it comes to employee management, positive reinforcement – meaning praise – yields much better results and higher productivity than negative reinforcement, or criticism.
Just as giving your dog a treat after doing something well is more likely to result in good behavior than punishing him after a mistake, humans respond to praise and recognition for accomplishments by performing better and accomplishing more on the job. Some studies have shown that employee recognition programs in the workplace can improve productivity and reduce turnover rates by as much as 40%.
4. Women like the ‘T’
According to science, the secret to attracting a woman is not about how much money you make or which cologne you buy: It’s all about your T-shirt.
At Nottingham Trent University in the UK, researchers discovered that men wearing a plain white t-shirt depicting a large black letter “T” on the front significantly improved their attractiveness to the opposite sex. How? The shape of the “T” subtly improves the wearer’s “waist to chest” ratio, which is a key signifier of masculinity and desirability to women.
The phenomenon was scientifically proven by showing a large group of women photographs of males wearing a plain white T-shirt, a shirt with the upright T and an inverted T. They were then asked to rate each image based on perceived attractiveness, health and intelligence.
For men who are already close to the desirable ratio, the upright ‘T’ shirts had little impact on attractiveness (although there was still a positive correlation). However, for men further from the ideal ratio, this simple psychological trick increased their perceived attractiveness and health by more than 10%.
3. The less you know, the more you think you know
One of the more ironic scientific phenomena that have actually been proven is the Dunning-Kruger effect. In essence, the more incompetent you are, the more confidence you have in your own competence. The effect was proven in a series of experiments at Cornell University in 1999.
The more you dissect it, the crueler it sounds. People suffering from this effect have a basic inability to evaluate and recognize ineptitude – specifically, their own ineptitude. As a result, they develop an “illusory superiority” in which they believe their abilities are much higher than they actually are. If you’re reading this and feel 100% confident it doesn’t apply to you, then it probably does.
2. To-Do lists make you more productive
We might believe it’s a form of procrastination to write down everything we need to do before actually doing it. But in fact, actively writing down our goals before we try to achieve them has been scientifically proven to make us more likely to fulfill them. Why? According to scientific studies, physically writing down your ‘to dos’ requires an active participation, making us more committed to actually finishing the job.
Additionally, writing down goals helps us visualize priorities and manage our time better within set periods of time. Researchers pinpoint one week as the ideal time to focus on achieving goals without overcommitting or under-committing. So go ahead, write out what you need to do this week – once you’ve got that list, you’re one step closer to actually getting it done.
1. Women want what they can’t have
The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology recently investigated which of the sexes was more likely to engage in what they called “mate poaching.” In the past, men were more commonly associated with pursuing other people’s partners; but some scientists theorized that the evidence to support this was skewed by men being more willing to admit to their behaviour. As it turns out, that hunch was right: Recent experiments prove that single women are far more likely to be attracted to a man if she knows he’s already taken.
Here’s how they tested it: Researchers asked male and female participants questions about themselves, similar to what you’d find on an online dating survey. Next, they were shown a “match” based on what they’d like in an ideal partner. While every participant of the same sex was shown the same photograph, half the participants were told that person was already in a relationship, while the other half were told their “match” was single.
The results? For men, it didn’t make a difference whether or not their match was in a relationship; their results were evenly distributed. Women in relationships displayed similar results. However, for single women the results were a little alarming: When told their match was single, less than 60% of participants were interested. When told their match was already in a committed relationship? 90% were interested.
It might be unethical, but if guys looking for a date pretend like they’ve already got a lady at home it’ll increase their attractiveness by 30% – because, science.