It’s a scene from countless movies and television shows. A pretty woman standing in a bar, drinking a drink. A hapless gentleman sees her from across the room. She spots him, and shows a smile. The gentleman takes this as an invitation and comes over to say hello. What happens next depends on how attractive they view one another.
At least, that’s the findings of a new study produced by Williams College and the University of Texas at Austin.
Self-Perception Plays A Big Role
Using 200 college students, the study examined attractiveness and attentiveness of possible mates. Before the three minute meeting, similar to a speed-dating setting, each participant rated themselves on their own attractiveness. The scale used for both aspects of the test ranged from 1 (low) to 7 (high).
If a man was looking for a quick hookup, he was more likely to rate her interest level high. The higher the man’s self-rating, the more likely he was to make this error. The men that the women rated as attractive were less likely to overrate the level of interest. The higher a woman’s attraction rating, the more likely the man was to overestimate her interest. Women tended to underestimate the interest from men of all levels of attractiveness.
How large were these differences in estimates between the sexes? Carin Perilloux, lead researcher on this study, told Decoded Science:
Men were guilty of over-perceiving women’s interest by a full point on our scale, women were making mistakes too: they underperceived men’s interest by almost a full point on the scale!
Age, Sexual Orientation Not Tested
The study looked at straight participants who averaged 19 years of age. The variables for same-sex couples and older couples was not examined. When asked about potential follow-up studies, Perilloux replied,
We would absolutely love to run a similar study on older participants and non-university samples. However those samples generally cost a lot more to run but we are looking into funding options for that.
It would be wonderful to conduct a study with a non-heterosexual population. That is a more difficult sample to obtain for a speed-meeting type of event but we are certainly interested in examining whether or not non-heterosexual individuals show similar biases in this realm.
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