Category Archives: Psychology

Are women attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes?

Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes claims a research which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent. This made me ponder on my attitude towards benevolent sexism. 

The concept of benevolent sexism was first developed in 1996 by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Peter Glick is a psychologist who studies benevolent sexism — “the paternalistic belief that women are pure, fragile flowers in need of men’s protection.” Benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, feels positive and well-intentioned. According to the research, the warm feeling surrounding benevolent sexism come at a cost – and that cost is gender inequality.

So does that mean opening the door for a woman, paying the bill for a dinner, pulling the chair for the lady to sit – a display of benevolent sexism? Well the old-fashioned way of describing this exact behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry! It reminds me of the SRK style of wooing women (and of course the women adored it :))  But things have quite changed with the millennials and Gen Z in terms of the gender equation and expectations. The good ol’ SRK wooing style would probably freak out the millennial women. Check the two videos below and one can find the transition in  the male – female equations. SRK in the first one is flattering while Irfan in the second one seems much more relatable, vulnerable and hence more authentically humane. You get the vibes of an equal relationship between the characters in the second video.

The old-fashioned way of describing this exact same behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry!

But according to the research  women are still attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitude.The study proposes an explanation drawn from evolutionary and socio-cultural theories (parental investment theory) on mate preferences. As biologically woman’s reproductive success is tied to her ability to complete months of gestation and lactation –  she is wired to choose a mate who was able and willing to assist in this process – by providing food or protection from aggressors to increase her reproductive success. Evolution, therefore, shaped female psychology to prefer mates whose characteristics and behaviors reveal the willingness to invest (i.e. protect, provide and commit). Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Hence there is a conflict between the evolutionary response to benevolent sexism and her current state of autonomy. Probably that’s why women tend to send conflicting signals on how they would like to be treated.This leads to confusion for many men. Should they pay the bill  on a dinner date or should they go dutch? Should they open the door or should they not? Would she feel being treated as less equal or would she consider it being rude? 

Recent studies show men are acting less like a “gentleman” and that has to do with the conflicting signals they receive from the society and women. 

The new generation of independent women certainly are not expecting a knight in a shining armor. So should we consider chivalry to be dead?  Probably yes in the way it used to be defined earlier but chivalry could be redefined.  It could be redefined as kindness and thoughtfulness. Holding a door for someone with hand full of grocery irrespective of the gender is chivalry. Being emotionally supportive and supporting her growth can be the new age chivalry. Chivalry now may look a lot less like FLATTERY but more like genuine RESPECT – oh boy! that definitely is attractive.

What are your thoughts on this? Would like to hear from you.

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SoulCafe : Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships



Understanding the Quiet Ones

We all know someone in our respective circles who would prefer a quiet weekend reading books, someone who often makes an excuse when asked to join an office party, someone who seems to have ideas but isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the loudest in a brain storming session. We often call them the “serious types”, the loner or even a snob. They are the introverts amongst us. And believe me, most of them are used to being misunderstood, misinterpreted and probably have been asked to change their behavior since an early age.

Our school system favors and promotes extroversion making introversion seem like a personality flaw. Extroversion becomes the standard that all of us feel we need to conform to. To put things into perspective, until recently left handedness was also frowned upon, and left handed kids were forced to become right handed (sounds weird now)! Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

It becomes important to understand where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum – because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature. When we make life choices that are congruent with our temperament, we unleash vast stores of energy. With a misunderstanding about introversion and the social conditioning of extroversion being a desirable behavioral trait, most introverts end up spending their life emulating extroverts to fit in. The stress of not being “true to yourself” results in a feeling of void.

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. – Laurie A. Helgoe, Introvert Power

Understanding Introversion

Neither is introversion shyness nor are introverts anti-social or arrogant people. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Elon Musk, Emma Watson and Mark Zuckerberg are all introverts. It just proves that – you don’t have to be the loudest personality in the room to be at the top of your game.


Carl Jung brought the terms `intro vert’ and `ex trovert’ into the spotlight in the 1920s. He defined an introvert as a person who gets his energy from within. An extrovert, however, is charged due to external stimuli. So while introverts need solitude to think things through, extroverts are stimulated by activities, people and places around them. As per Jung’s clinical studies, there are no pure extroverts or introverts – most people fall in different ranges of the spectrum.

Recent scientific research have found that the brains of introverts and extroverts are activated  differently. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they need more of it to feel happy. While introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so too much of it makes them feel overstimulated. Also, the Introverts prefer to use a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to pleasure; the difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward.

 Introverts & Relationships

One of the gifts of introversion is that we have to be discriminating about our relationships.  We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.

~ Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power

It’s a misconception that introverts are not interested in people or relationships. The truth is they actually crave intimacy more than extroverts do. They are built for deep connections. They usually avoid small talk. They  love to share emotions, feelings and ideas.

Does an introvert – extrovert relationship work? Yes, it can. An introvert – extrovert combination can be a complimentary relationship as long as the extroverted partner understands the introverted partner’s need for recharging and downtime and the introvert partner respects the extrovert partner’s need for significant social interaction.

Relationships make everyone happier and that very much includes the introverts too.

Here is a TED talk from Susan Cain who is the author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is also the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, which empowers introverts for the benefit of everyone.

Loving the “Work- In-Progress”.


“What do you want to become?” – a question I have been asked often as a kid, and for me it was an easy answer – just that my answer changed as every year passed. The response held true for my state of being at that point in time. The reason why my response changed wasn’t because as kids one is so fickle minded, but rather my inability to accurately predict my future self. Honestly, this is the most irrelevant question we ask kids who are  sometimes as young as 3 years of age. 

I find it irrelevant because I have come to a point where I strongly believe I would never “BECOME”, but my whole life is a process of “BECOMING”. The moment I start believing I have “ARRIVED” would be the point where I literally put a “full stop” to my BECOMING. To quote Leanardo Da Vinci – Art is never finished, only abandoned. So is the case with us humans. The moment we start believing we have figured it all out is the moment we stop giving life the chance to change our minds and evolve beyond our “current” comprehensions.  

Psychologist Dan Gilbert states that “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change”. We are all work-in-progress.

Accepting ourselves as “Work in Progress” also means accepting our imperfections, accepting a bit of confusion that just hangs in there, accepting uncertainty, impermanence and the unknowns in our lives. The reason we find it challenging to accept ourselves as “Work in Progress” is also because the ego soaked society values the illusion of perfection – the so called “arrived/ figured it all out” state and not the imperfect evolution phase.

To accept individuals as “Work in Progress” is critical in relationships as well. We all are bound to evolve – shedding our barks, growing deeper roots, spreading our branches and sprouting new greens. Understanding that people change has to be a basic component of our emotional intelligence. Letting people shed their barks, spread their branches, grow deeper roots and evolve becomes part of the relationship. Expecting people to stay the way they are forever is quite similar to having a “Bonsai” tree at home.  

Waiting for a perfect state of self or waiting for the perfect person to get into a relationship is a delusion. As individuals we are always a “work in progress”, there is no perfect state – we are always in the process of  BECOMING. So when someone says, “I am working on becoming something or somebody before I settle down in a relationship” – Relationship just seems to be a point when you quit your “Becoming”.  This is a “fixed” mindset and it’s always better to have the “growth mindset” in a relationship. Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”. It’s not just unnatural its highly stressful if one is loved for one’s perceived “state of perfection” that needs to be kept in tact forever.

Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”.

Like mentioned before, we are bad at predicting our own future self. We don’t know the extent of change that would happen to us. Hence relationships often fail when the love is for a certain “fixed state of a person” – ultimately breaking up because one has outgrown the “fixed state”.

Our inability to predict our future self  has been studied by a group of psychologists and they term the phenomenon as “End of History Illusion”. “End of History Illusion” states that while we remember our past selves to be quite different from who we are today, we nevertheless believe that we won’t change much at all in the future and hence take bad decisions for our future self based on our current projections.

When we are bad at predicting our future self, let’s be in love with the “work in progress” we are, accepting it wholly devoid of the illusion of perfection. Like in agile development, let’s have a “forever beta” mindset – evolving into something better iteration after iteration. And when in love – accepting being part of each other’s BECOMING, embracing the “Work In Progress”.

The Psychology of your Future Self – TED Talk – Dan Gilbert
















The “Feels Too Much” Tribe in a “Just Chill” World.

Have you felt like a sponge soaking up all emotions around you – from people around you, characters in a movie you just watched, the books you read or a tragic news you heard? You carry these feeling as your own and it takes you hours or sometimes days to get over it. When you have tried explaining your state of mind to someone you would have quite often been advised to – “Just chill”.  In a generation that considers the “chill” factor as a mark of being uber cool and is considered as an attribute most desirable, you sometimes tend to feel like a total misfit and you wonder – “Is something wrong with me?”. You might even have tried forcing yourself to play along being the “uber cool” but deep inside it doesn’t feel quite “you”.  And that is simply because you are a special breed called the “empath” – and there is nothing wrong being one.

Just like some people have better hearing or vision, empaths have a more acute sensitivity to emotional signals – which indeed is a strength. But every strength comes with its own complexities.

According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic. She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions than the rest of the population.

Empaths tend to feel a lot more, compared to other people –  the highs as well as the lows. Many great artists, writers and authors have all been empaths. Their art becomes their medium to pour these emotions. You will find empaths working with people, animals or nature with a true passion and dedication to help. They are often seen as great teachers, healers, volunteers for causes and are ready giving up personal time to help others without any pay or recognition. Empaths may be excellent storytellers with their endless imaginations and can be hardcore old romantics at heart. They are the greatest listeners you would ever find in life. Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about their most personal matters.

Now, those of us who are familiar with the movie – this might sound like the character sketch of Dulquer Salmaan straight out of the Malayalam movie “Charlie”. Yes, the empaths look really good in movies – the storytellers, the arty free thinkers, the volunteers. We see Charlie helping the suicidal doctor, celebrating birthday with the HIV positive sex worker, rescuing the little girl about to be sold into prostitution, and more – absorbing the traumas of each one them as if the pain were his own.

This sponge like absorption of emotions makes being an empath quite emotionally draining. Empaths see the world differently from the majority of the population leading their heart to get broken constantly for cruelty, injustice and inequalities that they see around them. To recoup, and keep their emotional balance they need their  “alone” time  – and probably that’s why we see Charlie drifting out of people’s lives after an emotional event, leaving no trace of his where about.

The crazy wise maverick  – that was Charlie’s highlighted characteristics in the movie and that’s probably because we as viewers only come to know about Charlie through Tessa’s (the actress) search for Charlie leading her to people who tell their experiences with him which are absolutely magical. But that’s a one dimensional magical persona created. The rest of him for everyone is a mystery and not quite elaborated in the movie. There were only very subtle hints of him too having his needs for help.  Charlie as a child never had a real father-son relationship. This to a large extent resembles real life, the childhood of an empath could be very challenging because quite often their parents or teachers don’t understand the nuances of the child’s emotional framework and are unavailable to guide them. Often times as a child their abilities go overlooked, left to cope with overwhelming emotions and asked to fit in.

It’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned.

So to all the Tessas or the ones in love with an empath – it’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned. But what one needs to understand is that along with the magical connection is also a human being who could be just drained out absorbing feelings from all around. Here is a person who would hardly prioritize their self-care. Someone who is always on the giving end and the last one to ask. Someone who has chances of turning to addiction like alcohol or drugs to tone down their life. So loving such a person would mean – reminding them of prioritizing their self care, showing them your love because they might never ask for it, giving them their extra space in a relationship for them to balance out their emotions, giving them the extra time to heal. The one thing they would need from you is to be  authentic and honest  to the core because they can easily see beyond the superficial.


And to all the  empaths out there, it’s okay if you feel too much. That’s just how you are and a self awareness of your highly sensitive emotional construct will help you handle it. Make peace with it – “Just Chill” , I mean “Just Feel”  🙂

f5 – A Long Term Soul Relationship starts here.

Psychology of Love – The Triangular Theory

Have you for once wondered why a friend whom you have known for years remain a friend with no romantic attachment, while you instantly feel romantic about someone whom you met only for a short while? Why does romantic love not always end up in commitment and can a relationship that just starts with pure commitment end up having romantic love?

Can psychological theories explain the all elusive feeling called love and answer our questions? Would theories  help us understand the direction a relationship is trending towards, or what is it that makes us feel a certain way in a relationship?

 To some extent we definitely could get answers from psychological theories  and one such theory is the “Triangular Theory of Love” that was first put forward by psychologist Robert Sternberg.

The theory considers three key aspects in a relationship – Intimacy, Passion and Commitment.  The first component intimacy is the feeling of attachment, closeness and connectedness. The second component is the passion, the firey depth and intense feeling you get when you like someone. The third one is Commitment – that ties the two together for short or long term.  Any relationship could have one of these attributes, two, or all the three at a given time. The type of love relationship we have, can be associated to the key factor(s) that bond us together. It could be a very close friendship where the key factor is “intimacy”, or a very strong infatuation where the driving factor is “passion”. Below are the different combination of the factors and the associated love types.

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Romantic love  – Intimacy + passion

Companionate love –  intimacy + commitment

Factuous Love – Passion + Commitment

Infatuation – Passion alone

Liking – Intimacy alone

Empty love – Commitment alone

Consummate Love – Intimacy + Passion + Commitment

This theory also helps us understand how our relationship is progressing. When all the three factors co-exist in a relationship, it is called Consummate Love.

There are instances where arranged marriages that start off with just commitment, but trend towards having passion, and later builds intimacy. Hence an example of relationship that moves from empty love to factuous love to companionate love or even consummate love. Do all arranged marriages follow the pattern? Not necessarily  – It could just start and end as empty love.

There are love relationships that start with only passion (infatuation), later adds intimacy to become romantic love, and then leads to commitment. Similarly a friendship that just has intimacy, adds in commitment to become companionate love or adds in passion to become romantic love.


Its dangerous when a romantic or companionate love turns to empty love – This isn’t rare in our society but rather common where you hear people admitting that they are in the relationship just for the kids or the society.

It is very important that at the very least two of these factors co-exist at a given time, and the relationship  progresses towards adding the third one. If its reducing from three factors to two or then to one – its time for the couples to watch out and make sure they are addressing the problem. Ups and downs in a relationship are natural but if its just a downward spiral, it definitely needs attention.


Opposites don’t attract unless we are talking about magnets

There are times I wonder about relationships, and the secret to finding and making them long lasting. I would have liked to crack that secret code. I study people behavior and from the confirmation bias to frequency illusion to the default syndrome, I have analyzed quite a bit to figure that one magic potion, if you will.

“It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.”
—Nick Hornby

And this is so true. Bingo. That’s it. The secret to long lasting relationships is being comfortable in our own skins with each other and loving one another’s company as if that all we ever wanted. Two people who have their thoughts synced up, desires matched, personalities tallied up, and hearts in tow, minds put together and souls intertwined will make the best couple ever. So, sorry, opposites don’t attract unless we are talking about magnets. Or let me put it in a more milder tone –  in human relationships opposites tend to attract and these tend to be our short term crushes. When it’s about love for life,  like-minded  partners work better.

I have seen people bicker, fight and fall out because of clashes and differences. Because they couldn’t agree on tomato sauce or potato fries. Because he wanted something and she totally hated it. Well, the common societal solution for this is compromise. Great one if the compromises were just about a tomato sauce or potato fries :). For matters more serious it sucks the joy out of life. Turns things mundane. Sets a routine. And rituals rob the fun out of everything.

But if there were two people who could agree on tomato sauce for one and the other can make art on the plate with it because it is something not of their favorite, we have got the alchemy of relationships in these two. Seriously, the best relationships revolve around finding someone who complements you. This is because unconsciously we look for someone who can improve us; so the person could be  different than us – “different” in a  good way – someone who complements us but not our polar opposite. Absurdly true!

I would like a partner with whom I can sync up in every manner possible. Funny pick-up lines to serious courtship – They need to believe and enjoy them equally. A universal appeal to facilitating a great love connection lies in how we can hold each other’s attention. Nothing like enjoying the same book series, TV shows, music genres, theatrical appearances, travel pursuits and the list goes on. Even in evolutionary and mating decisions perspective, there is always a look out to match (and not differentiate) on social, economic, physical attractiveness and emotional compatibility. The keyword being a “Match”. There is proven research that people are likely to prefer the same characteristics in their partner when considering sexual selection.

They are best friends first and everything else next. They can tell each other anything and everything and for any situation they go to each other first. They can never be bored because they are hanging out with someone who knows them well and understands them. People who cannot connect at the same wavelength almost fall out at some level or the other. They are genuinely attracted to one another. In each other’s eyes, they are the best anyone could ever be. They know exactly what they want in a relationship and they are courageous to wait and go after their hearts.

Some differences is common, acceptable. But a varying degree of differences is more harmful than being any attractive in a given relationship. A good sense of humor that both enjoy can be a highly attractive tactic in keeping the passion alive in a relationship. They are always laughing. Of course they have serious moments and life runs on those as well. But they can be so comfortable with one another that they learn to keep things lighthearted. They have their own set of funny jokes and one-liners. They continue to flaunt their funny and charming side all through out to keep the relationships alive. They respect and value each other and the traits that brought them together in the first place. They have a unique boundary of sorts on outside influence. They are sanctuary of togetherness in their own rights and standing surrounded by mutual admiration and respect.

There will necessarily be difference of opinion and they will each have their own sense of individuality. However, those will be very much shadowed by the illuminance of the things they both enjoy and the beautiful togetherness they share. Yes, that is the secret to long lasting relationships. Be with someone with whom you can enjoy the sunset in the same way as the other. The rest will fall in place on its own.

Life is but feeling at home with oneself and with the universe

Life is but feeling at home with oneself and with the universe. What better way to enjoy the feeling with someone who can relish life the same way as you do. Find the one who can walk with you, run with you and fly with you as you soar the skies of life.

Shameless Plug 🙂 :  At SoulCafe we recommend complimentary personality matches and that is someone who “gets you” – someone who will not make you feel an outsider in your own world and someone who could be slightly different from you but “different” in a good way!




The Shifting “Relationship Needs”

This article tries to explore how the “motivation” behind getting into a committed relationship has changed over the years. This change also brings in different set of expectations in a relationship. Associating Maslows need theory to the need for a relationship gives insights into changing patterns in society and changing needs in relationships.

Have you for once wondered – why couples deeply in love and committed for years grow out of it after a point of time? Was the relationship equation in older generation very different from ours? Do we demand too much and give too little in a relationship? What’s with the new generation – are we totally confused? How does one find the right partner – arranged vs. love? Did I say “right” – who knows what’s right ?

It’s interesting and insightful to associate Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory to “relationship needs” – and one could also find probable answers to the above questions. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. This theory is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental/basic levels of needs at the bottom and the ultimate need for self-actualization at the top of the pyramid. The most basic level of needs must be met before the individual can have strong desire for higher level needs. The 5 levels of needs from basic to higher are – Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem and Self Actualization.


Now, let’s delve into the motivation for getting into a committed relationship. In an era where women were economically dependent and men didn’t do house hold chores, the motivation for marriage was at the basic level – for safety, security and settling down. (Many relationships still are at this level.) The expectations were to meet the basic needs. The expectations were low and hence the satisfaction was high. Couples were dependent at the basic levels. When women became economically independent and household chores became automated or outsourced – the motivation for marriage moved beyond fulfilling the basic safety, security and settling down needs.

The next level of need is love, affection and sense of belonging. Individuals at this level want “love/liking” to be a criteria for their committment. Expectations are obviously higher than  the earlier type and hence efforts have to be taken by partners to have the emotional connectedness in tact as they move along.

Let’s move a step further and that’s where this generation is headed, and that’s where growing relationships should also head – from love to fulfilling self actualization needs. The need is to find a partner who truly “partners” in his/her  journey of self actualization. A partnership that helps each partner become the best version of themselves.

This certainly is the highest level of need, and having such a relationship is highly rewarding. The  expectations from relationships  are higher than ever before.  Even though such partners seem to look very independent – as they are quite independent fulfilling their basic needs, but they still need to relate to each other at emotional, intellectual and spiritual level to fulfill each other’s self actualization needs.

With this co-relation, it becomes pretty clear why some couples who were deeply in love grew out of it over time. The couples were at the “love” need when they committed, and years later when one moves up to self actualization need, the other may not be ready or they just do not relate to each other’s higher needs.

One size doesn’t fit all – arranged marriage could work for some, love marriage for others.  What’s important is – the clarity on your need to get into a committed relationship. What “need level” are you trying to fulfill? – This helps you figure out what you need to look for.

If your need for a relationship is at the self actualization level – it is very important that beyond  emotional connectedness, you have insights into each other’s real self. It’s not just emotional  compatibility  but intellectual as well as spiritual (spiritual is not religious) compatibility that is important for “self actualization couples”.