I stood on the stage looking out at a sea of beautiful, successful but single women. All were there to find love. As I talked about the science of love, I stopped, took a pause, stood up straight, looked from one side to the other, and then uttered, “All women lie.”
I then watched as these lovely faces transform. One woman tilted her head as her mouth gaped. Another’s brow wrinkled in confusion while a few eyes narrowed in contempt. These were educated women who just paid good money to hear me speak and I was calling each and every one of them a liar. The air of “how dare she” wafted up to the stage.
As I waited a moment for effect, I then added, “And they don’t even know it.” I paused again to allow this last statement to sink in. A few of the scowls slowly turned into intrigue and one audience member let out a sigh of relief. Women began to shift in their chairs leaning forward as if to say, “I’m listening.”
I then asked, “How many of you would like to date a nice, sweet, kind man?” Hands started going up. I then said, “Let me put it another way. How many would like to date an arrogant, flashy guy?” The hands went down. In fact, not a single woman raised her hand. I pointed this out stating, “Not one of you raised your hand and that’s why you lie.” I then said, “But here’s the problem. You don’t even know you’re lying.” Researchers have found discrepancies in what a woman says she wants in a dating partner and the man she actually picks to date.
For example, researchers at Rice University wanted to know if a man flaunting a flashy red Porsche would get more dates than a man in a more economical car like the Honda Civic.1 They conducted a study asking a woman to pick whom she would most likely go out on a date with, the Porsche guy or the Civic guy. The researchers found that most women picked the Porsche guy. But there is a catch. A woman was most likely to select the Porsche guy for a date, but the Civic guy was more desirable to marry.1
In another study from University of British Columbia, participants were asked to rate pictures based solely on gut sexual attraction and not which person would make the best boyfriend or girlfriend.2 The researchers asked over 1,000 women to rate the pictures’ sexual attractiveness and found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men. This is contrary to what women say they want in a relationship. For example, in an online survey of more than 1,000 American women between the ages of 21 to 54, the women were asked to rate their top personality traits for men. They stated that the most desirable trait was a sense of humor. Yet when selecting men from the pictures these women were more attracted to men who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed – characteristics often displayed by the iconic “bad boy” types.
My audience knew I had busted them. One woman even slunk down in her seat hoping to be invisible. A few nodded in agreement and one even elbowed her friend as to say. “Hey that’s you.”
A woman will say she wants a sweet, happy, sensible guy, then walk right past him and jump into the flashy red Porsche driven by a brooding bad boy. And that’s no lie.
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1Sundie, J. M., Kenrick, D. T., Riskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., Vohs, K. D., & Beal, D.J. (2011). Peacocks, Porches and Thorsten Veblen: Conspicuous consumption as a sexual signaling system. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 664-680.
2Tracy, J. L., & Beall, A. T. (2011). Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 11, 1379-1387.
Dawn Maslar, M.S. - Website
Dawn’s focus is on how love evolves over time, and how that affects finding and maintaining a relationship. She is an award-winning author of From Heartbreak to Heart’s Desire: Developing a Healthy GPS (Guy Picking System) and an adjunct biology professor. She worked with the TED Education division (Lessons Worth Sharing) to create The Science of Attraction video, and she also blogs and vlogs about romantic love and attraction on her website. Her work has been featured on South Florida Today, Pittsburgh Tribune and NPR. Follow her on twitter @DawnMaslar.