Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Getting a Date for Valentine's Day: A Scientific Approach (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of Getting a Date for Valentine’s Day: A Scientific Approach. This will make sense if you haven’t read Part 1, but to enjoy the full impact of this V-Day themed explosion of scientific knowledge, I suggest you read both. If that cramps your style then here’s a summary: (1) Just Ask, (2) Get Your Foot in the Door, and (3) Gaze Without Being Creepy. Now, let’s move on…

4. Make Them Laugh

How often do you hear that what people really want is someone with a sense of humor? Yeah, pretty often. There is some evidence that humor is related to sexual attraction, that people with a good sense of humor are preferred as friends and partners. This is especially true when men exhibit a sense of humor or use humor in their social interactions with women. A study published in 2010, again, by Nicholas Guéguen, looks at the sense of humor at the initial stages of a relationship. Does a man’s sense of humor make him more desirable to a woman he approaches to ask out? This study included young women sitting alone in the sidewalk area of different bars. Guéguen had male confederates sit near a woman and, so she could overhear them, start a benign discussion about their summer jobs. After three minutes of this some of the men would switch to a “Humor Condition” where one man in the group would tell three funny jokes while the other men at his table praised his humor. While this script was playing out, the confederates would take note if the woman was laughing or not. After his other confederates left, the joke-teller (or non-joke-teller in the No Humor condition) would then approach the female and say, ““Hello. My name’s Antoine. I noticed you when I arrived here. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have an appointment now, but I was wondering if you might give me your phone number. I could phone you later, and we could have a drink together someplace to get to know each other.” He would then wait 10 seconds while smiling and gazing at the woman to see if she gave him her number. Afterwards, the woman was asked to participate by answering a questionnaire. Guéguen found humor to “positively affect a woman’s interest in a man who expresses a sense of humor.” Additionally, higher sociability and intelligence was associated with the humorous male. Attractiveness was found to be insignificant between the Humor and No Humor groups. If we are connecting the dots then perhaps if humor = intelligence, intelligence = high status and success, high status and success = attractive to women, then attractiveness to women = humor. It’s simple logic really.

ResearchBlogging.orgGuéguen, N. (2010). Men's sense of humor and women's responses to courtship solicitations: an experimental field study Psychological Reports, 107 (1), 145-156 DOI: 10.2466/pr0.107.1.145-156

5. Red is Sexy, Wear Something Red

I tend to think of red as an overly commercialized Valentine’s Day ploy. And it is. But, as it turns out, there may also be some actual, scientific validity to the color of love. In nature, red is often a warning color (a prey-on-me-and-die adaptation) but with humans (and some other species, like primates), red may serve as an aphrodisiac, carrying a sex and romance connotation. I’ve come across two studies, one about men the other about women, that help shed some light on this “romantic red” hypothesis. Let’s start with the men. A study published by Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta in 2008 investigates this red-sex link for men’s evaluation of women. Their experiment was relatively long, but to boil it down, they asked men to rate photos of women, examining whether or not the presence of red affects attractiveness. The results showed strong support for the “red effect.” Even a brief glimpse of red was shown to enhance men’s attraction to women. Red was found to enhance sexual attraction but not general positivity and characteristics (likeability, kindness, intelligence).

Now for the ladies. A study published in 2010, also by Elliot’s group, investigated how red influences how women view men. For women, red has been linked to love and passion, carrying the meaning of sex and romance. Okay, got it, red equals attractive, right? Well…women are complicated creatures, and study upon study has shown that women don’t just take something as simple as attractiveness into account when choosing a partner. They also look for such things as authority, wealth, and status. But research has shown that red is linked to strength, power, high status, and competitive dominance, appearing historically as symbols of these traits. Put together, this means that the color red should enhance women’s attraction to men by increasing their perception of the man’s status and therefore her attraction to him. That is exactly what Elliot et al.’s study tested. Again, I’ll boil down their long experiment: They asked female participants to respond to a photo of a man. These photos were manipulated for color in either the background or on the clothing of the man. The results showed that women who viewed men with red (background or clothing) perceived him to be more attractive and were more sexually attracted to him. Women who viewed a man wearing red also perceived him to have higher status and higher status potential, and women who viewed a man described as high in status perceived him to be more attractive. What did we learn from these studies? That red is a sexy color for both men and women, so try a little red in your wardrobe.

ResearchBlogging.orgElliot, A., Niesta Kayser, D., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R., Maier, M., & Liu, H. (2010). Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139 (3), 399-417 DOI: 10.1037/a0019689
ResearchBlogging.orgElliot, A., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men's attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95 (5), 1150-1164 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.5.1150

6. Say it With and Near Flowers

Show your love, give them dying flower genitalia. Setting aside the fact that a bouquet of flowers is just a bunch of reproductive organs, flowers are used to reflect our emotions and moods, usually in a positive way and especially with women. Given this, a study by (you guessed it!) Nicholas Guéguen in 2011 examines how women respond to men with flowers. He wanted to know if physical attractiveness, sexual attractiveness, and dating potential would be influenced by the presence of flowers. He found that the simple presence of flowers in a room was enough to have women show more interest towards a man, and women who were exposed to flowers were more likely to say yes when asked out. Guéguen published a follow-up study in 2012 where he had men approach and ask out women in a shopping mall. He found that women approached near a flower shop were more likely to accept a date than women approached near other types of stores. So, as it turns out, flower genitals really are your ticket to love, or at least a first date. Perhaps you shouldn’t mention the word “genitals” though.

ResearchBlogging.orgGuéguen, N. (2011). ‘‘Say it with flowers’’: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior Social Influence, 6 (2), 105-112 : 10.1080/15534510.2011.561556
ResearchBlogging.orgGuéguen, N. (2012). “Say it … Near the Flower Shop”: Further Evidence of the Effect of Flowers on Mating The Journal of Social Psychology, 152 (5), 529-532 DOI: 10.1080/00224545.2012.683463

We have come to the end of our sciency guide to solicitation (the legal kind) success. What have we learned? You should stake out some flowers (I never said you had to buy them) in your red shirt, skirt, tie, or whatever. Then you should tell a good joke before walking up to your potential date and opening with a unique request, segueing into an offer of a date. Simple, right?

Obviously this isn’t the be-all and end-all to this discussion (or Nicholas Guéguen would be out of a job), and so if you have any other studies you love on this topic please share them in the comments below.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(image via staggered)
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