The Loh Down On Science

Do heterosexual couples have a unique way of walking together?

Do romantic strolls serve an evolutionary function? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet anthropologist Cara Wall-Scheffler.  She studies walking.  Like, men’s tendency to walk faster than women.  Wall-Scheffler says men, being generally taller, take longer strides, so walk faster.  But what happens when men and women walk together?  Do men slow down?  Do women speed up? 

To find out, Wall-Scheffler had volunteers walk around a track, in various pairs.  Two men together.  Or two women.  Or mixed pairs of male and female friends, or couples.

What happened?  Men together walked faster than women together.  Male and female friends together?  The man slowed slightly and the woman sped up.

But when couples walked together?  The man slowed waaaaay down to match the woman!  If they held hands?  They slowed even more!

Wall-Scheffler says this stems from our hunter-gatherer past.  Walking faster than natural taxed a woman’s reproductive system.  So?  Our species seems subconsciously wired for men to stroll with their mates, to ensure reproductive success.

As for foreign movies and pina coladas?  That’s just for fun.  Sort of.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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