We all know that cuffing season is a thing — science even says so. (Really, though, your testosterone levels literally spike in fall and winter.) But, beyond the fact that we crave partners in the colder months, do the qualities we look for in those partners shift with the seasons? In other words, does attraction change during winter? I've been wondering.
"The short answer is no," says Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University. "If the weather mattered, our preferences would be so variable that it would be impossible to function. [They] would be changing so rapidly all of the time."
Which is sensible enough. I mean, imagine if your 'type' changed with the temperature. You'd be swiping right on a person one day, and feeling disgusted by them the next. It would be anarchy. Anarchy, I say! But beyond drops and rises in temperature, there are a few factors that impact how and why we seek out partners in the wintertime.
Here's a look at three ways our relationship preferences might change in colder weather. Welcome to your science lesson of the day! Feel free to whip out these fun facts the next time first-date jitters get the best of you.
We want to see that our partners are healthy.
"There are some well-known studies in biology linking climate to mating behaviors," says David Frederick, Assistant Professor of Health Psychology at Chapman University. "In warm climates, there are more parasites. This means there will be more unhealthy birds. So across millions of years, females develop a preference for males who have signs that they are healthy... The famous example is the peacock's tail."
Basically, only super healthy male peacocks could invest the time and energy necessary to grow a long, healthy tail — and lady peacocks took note. Turns out, humans tend to do the same kind of thing.
With or without realizing it, we look for signs that our "mates" are healthy. And during the cold-and-flu-filled winter months, we're likely seeking out guys or girls who aren't spewing mucus (naturally!) or have especially fancy plumage. Or both.
We might be more open to casual sex in winter.
OK, so obviously we're on the hunt for healthier partners year-round. But did you know that you might be more open to having casual sex in a colder environment because, well, your body is less afraid of contracting disease?
"People place greater importance on health and physical attractiveness in a partner when they [live in] areas with a higher prevalence of pathogens, which tend to be in hotter climates, particularly near the equator," Frederick explains (FYI: pathogens refer to any bacteria that can cause disease). "In a study of 48 cultures, people [were] less open to casual sex [in these warmer environments], which makes sense if there is a greater chance of contracting diseases from bodily contact."
If you live in an environment where it snows, you're inherently less concerned about pathogens, and therefore, way more likely to get it on (just, be sure to get it on safely, OK?).
Culture plays a greater role than climate.
Yes, there are definitely biological factors at play when it comes to phenomena like cuffing season. But it's not really biology or ecology pulling at our heart strings and pushing us to search for relationships in winter — it's cultural pressure.
"It isn't really about the weather itself, it's about how people feel in colder months," Swami says. "[Craving companionship] has way more to do with cultural pressure about when you should be alone and when you shouldn't be alone."
So, the desire to find a date to your holiday party in December, a midnight kiss on New Year's Eve, and a Valentine in February are probably influencing our hunt for a companion more than anything else.
Bonus points if that companion is disease-free and has some nice tail feathers, I guess?
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