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How Biological Anthropology Works

        Science | Evolution

Physical appearance is a big part of how we make a match in dating. After all, aren't you interested in your potential mate's earlobe length? If you were a biological anthropologist, you just might be.
Physical appearance is a big part of how we make a match in dating. After all, aren't you interested in your potential mate's earlobe length? If you were a biological anthropologist, you just might be.
Dimitri Otis/Stone/Getty Images

Looking for a mate? Great. Let's get a few pieces of information about you first.

  • Name?
  • Age?
  • Highest level of education?
  • Introvert or extrovert?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What is your earlobe length?
  • How about neck circumference?

Dating websites each have their own algorithms for calculating how best to match people up with potential partners. If you were to sign up for one, chances are you'd get asked the first few questions we listed above, but earlobe length and neck circumference wouldn't make the cut.

Put a biological anthropologist in charge of developing the dating questionnaire, and you just might end up answering these two peculiar questions. Studies have shown positive correlation between physical characteristics like earlobe length amongst spouses [sources: Nelson and Jurmain, Steinmetz, Lusk]. Although the correlation is low, every little bit of data could be useful to make a love match. The data could help a biological anthropologist to get a better handle on how and why people mate, leading to a stronger understanding of how different populations of humans evolve and adapt.

Anthropologists study humans as members of a group and try to learn how they differ in form and behavior from other clusters of people. It's a broad field that encompasses a wide range of studies from anatomy (earlobes!) to analyses of poetry and art within a culture. Biological anthropology (sometimes called physical anthropology) sits on the science extreme of the range. These anthropologists examine two basic areas: human evolution and human variation.

Come with us as we learn more about what that all means.

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