Men and Women are attracted to each other it’s no secret. Throughout processes of complex social interaction Men and Women must be able to properly gauge the interest of one another; it’s actually a complicated process. There’s more going on than meets the eye and you might not be as competent as you tell your friends you are. Such a process is not surprisingly riddled by inaccuracies and we can see one of the sexes doing more poorly in this respect. It has been shown that males are culpable of committing consistent errors in their perceptions of attraction from females. Remarkably, most of them think females are much more attracted to them than what’s actually the case, an unexpected finding indeed! The actual case is that, men are committing a specific type of bias on a consistent and regular basis. The first study to observe the effect was by Abbey in 1982. Findings showed that men found women more promiscuous and more seductive than did their female counterparts; observed in 5-minute conversations.
A multitude of studies explored this idea further and a theory was set forth to try and rationalize the phenomenon. The most popular theory, namely Error Management Theory, posits an evolutionary mechanism in regards to possible errors that could be made by Men. For example, a Male can make the critical error of missing a sexual opportunity. Therefore, a bias arose in order for Men to make the error of over perceiving attraction from women as opposed to under perceiving, that way there would be no missed opportunities for sex. In other words, underestimating a Woman’s sexual interest in them may cause a costly missed mating opportunity.
There is another piece to this puzzle though. Certain males are more likely to engage in the bias. Presumably upon reflection it can be reasonably assumed that men who think they are less worthy a mate may be more likely engage in the biased behavior right? This makes sense using the ideas of error management, where a male that is less attractive to females has much more to lose when missing a sexual opportunity; the following study attempted to find out.
The study first gauged the men’s ratings from a jury of 10 females; they viewed and rated males in terms of attractiveness. They then asked the males all sorts of questions about what they think of themselves and their attractiveness. The male opinions of female interest were measured by asking men to respond to an ambiguous situation that stated:
“In a nightclub, you notice a group of girls across the room. One of them particularly catches your eye. There is something about her that you feel drawn to. As you are looking, she turns round and catches your eye. Rather than look away, she holds your gaze and smiles at you ... “ (Kohl, 2014).
Depending on the answer, researchers could tell whether the men thought the female was into them. The researchers believed that men who assumed that they weren’t very attractive would have been most likely to think that the females were attracted to them. They were wrong.
It turns out that males who were assured of their attractiveness and masculinity, were most likely to mistakenly believe Women were interested in them. However, the same men were fairly accurate at judging their own looks as the study showed their ratings to be fairly close to the female judge ratings. The researchers were surprised that their predictions were wrong.
What could lead to such an effect? Why were the more attractive males more likely to overstate female interests in them? It is thought that these males were more successful in the past, reaffirming their own ideas about their looks. These past experiences led them to believe in the fact that they were attractive, so they are more likely to think women are more attracted to them than they actually are. It’s a sad reality for countless Men but in the evolutionary sense, maybe it’s best. All jokes aside, these findings are not meant to dictate the way we should live, they are just insights into evolutionary workings and not meant to guide our behavior. It could even be problematic when men cross boundaries set by females. They sometimes mention females are playing “hard to get” and continue to persist even though there are clear signs. Maybe this finding will help some men realize when to back off.
Kohl, C., & Robertson, J. (2014). The sexual overperception bias: An exploration of the relationship between mate value and perception of sexual interest. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 8(1), 31-43. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0097247