Health

Do men really overestimate women's sexual interest?

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Photo: flickr/nostri-imago

If you've ever been to a bar, you've probably witnessed this scenario: a man flirts with a woman, maybe even buys her a drink, but she is clearly not interested. So why is this guy wasting his time? Is he just fooling himself? Or maybe he's knows something we don't, and the woman's indifference is just an act. Well, according to this study, he might be right after all. These researchers surveyed men and women using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to test whether "women understate their sexual intentions and that men's assessments of women's intentions are generally accurate." In a series of surveys, they found that men don't seem to consciously overestimate women's sexual intentions; however, women believe that other women are understating their sexual intentions. The researchers suggest that this means that men might not be foolishly chasing uninterested women, but rather are compensating for women's downplaying, leading to what only looks like overconfidence in romantic encounters. As if dating weren't complicated enough!

Do Men Overperceive Women’s Sexual Interest? "Substantial evidence comparing men’s perceptions of women’s sexual intentions with women’s own reports of their sexual intentions has shown a systematic pattern of results that has been interpreted as support for the idea that men overestimate women’s true sexual intentions. However, because women’s true sexual intentions cannot be directly measured, an alternative interpretation of the existing data is that women understate their sexual intentions and that men’s assessments of women’s intentions are generally accurate. In three studies, we (a) replicated the typical sex difference in sexual-intent ratings, (b) showed that men maintain their ratings of women’s sexual intentions even when incentivized to tell the truth, and (c) showed that women believe that other women are understating their sexual intentions in self-report measures. Taken together, these results imply that men might be accurate in perceiving and reporting women’s sexual intentions and that men might be managing errors through biased behavior rather than biased beliefs." Related content: Which sexual fantasies are the most (and least) popular? Science finally weighs in!Men’s attraction to women’s bodies changes seasonally.Why are humans the only animals that flirt?

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