PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. COPYRIGHT 2017 SUSSEX PUBLISHERS LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC./Knight Features Ltd

By Matt Huston

A man might choose to shave or grow out his beard to assert maturity, obey cultural rules, or defer to a partner's wishes. But with a recent paper in Evolution and Human Behavior, anthropologist Barnaby Dixson and colleagues argue there might be additional, more primal factors involved in these grooming choices.

To explore them, the researchers first measured the preferences of women from around the world for clean-shaven or bearded faces, then gauged the prevalence of facial hair in samples of male Facebook users in 37 countries. Demographic measures were also analyzed.

On average, women in lower-income countries preferred beards more strongly--and where women's preference for beards was greater, more men sported them. Why might the appeal of beards be more pronounced in less prosperous places? One possibility is that women evolved to favor beardedness under those circumstances, Dixson suggests: Studies indicate that beards boost perceptions of dominance, so a man's having one may send a message to women that he is able to acquire resources.

Beards were also more widespread among men in more populous cities. The increased anonymity of big cities may play a role. "In small-scale societies, everyone kind of knows one another, their family lineage, whether they own quality resources," Dixson explains. "In a big city, you have to step out into the world without any of that bolstering your social standing." In the most jam-packed places, facial hair may serve as a handy advertisement of masculinity, helping bearded men stand out in the crowd.


MY PET WORLDby MARC MONROE Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC./Knight Features Ltd

Q: I am a vegan who has lots of pets but it seems like every pet I have, except for my bunny, needs to eat meat. I know you can feed a dog a vegetarian diet but my vet advised me that it was not a good idea. I feel sad when I read the ingredients on the dog food and see chicken as the first one. I know you love animals and I was wondering how you deal with the issue of some of the pets that we keep needing to eat other animals? — Bonnie Williams, Hartford, CT

A: This is not an easy question to help you with as there is no right or wrong answer. You are correct about dogs — some can live on a vegetarian diet but not all of them can. Cats, ferrets, most birds and reptiles need to have a diet either entirely of animal protein or at least supplemented by it. There is even animal protein in goldfish food.

It is the natural order of things that some animals eat others, and if you ever see this happen in nature it is an extremely cruel and wretchedly unfair process.

In a perfect world we humans would do better than animals in the procurement of our food. The same respect and consideration we show a pet dog or parrot should be given to a pig or a turkey that we are going to kill for us or our pets to eat.

Why is a dog more worthy of humane treatment than a pig or a turkey? We justify it by saying that pigs and turkeys are dirty and stupid, but they are just as smart and nice as a pet dog or parrot. It turns out they just taste better to our palates, so we have to create some sort of justification for our treatment of them.

However, to raise animals that we eat or feed to our other pets in a humane manner and to end their lives with dignity and respect costs a lot more money than we want to spend. This cannot happen until we as a society evolve enough to realize that the animals we eat are worthy of the same care as the animals we share our homes with.

So as you see I cannot give you any answer that may help you here. Perhaps if the animal rights groups would use their resources to petition laws to ensure the humane care of animals that we eat then it may do a lot more good than just preaching to other people not to eat meat at all.

However, you as an individual who chooses not to eat other animals have helped to end the suffering of a few chickens and turkey and cows. It may not be many but it is a start and you should be proud of it.

You should not judge other people who choose to eat meat or your pets that need to eat meat to survive, as it is the natural order of the world we live in. And truth be told, sometimes the world is just not as nice a place as we would like it to be. The important thing is to be aware of it and do the best you can.

Q: We have two parakeets and they are both 4 years old and seem just fine. However one does not chew on its cuttlebone or the toys that we have in the cage and his beak seems much longer than the other bird. How can we encourage him to chew more so that his beak gets worn down to the same length as his partner’s? — Wendy Montalbano, Portland, OR

A: This situation actually has nothing to do with chewing on the cuttlebone or the toys in the cage, some mature parakeets will suffer from a metabolic disorder that causes a rapid abnormal growth of the beak. This means the beak gets long and slender and has a pithy feel to it.

This situation will not go away by itself and you need to take the bird to an avian vet to determine the cause and the vet will be able to trim the beak down to it’s proper length.