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A couple of posts back, a guy wrote in asking for advice on how to read when a woman is interested in him versus simply being friendly. As I talked about in that post, telling the difference is no easy feat. Some men overestimate a woman’s interest, while others underestimate it. But have you ever wondered why some men assume a woman is interested (or wants to sleep with him) simply because she’s nice or friendly to him? Well, it turns out that some scientists have taken a look at this very question!


The Study

The study, which I found on Science Daily, was published in Psychological Science and entitled The Misperception of Sexual Interest. They examined 96 male and 103 female undergraduate students, who engaged in a “speed meeting” exercise where, like speed dating, you sit and talk one-on-one with a member of the other sex for 3 minutes at a time. Before the speed meeting, subjects filled out questionnaires that had them rate their own attractiveness as well as their desire for a “short term” sexual encounter. After meeting, each subject then rated the people they met on attractiveness and on how interested they thought their “dates” were.


The Results

There were a few interesting findings:

  • Men looking for a hookup were more likely to overestimate the women’s desire for them.
  • Men who thought they were hot also thought the women were hot for them — but men who were actually attractive, by the women’s ratings, did not make this mistake.
  • The more attractive the woman was to the man, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest.
  • Overall, women tended to underestimate men’s desire.

In other words, the more a guy wanted NSA (No Strings Attached), the more attracted he was to a woman, and the higher he estimated his own attractiveness, the more likely he was to overestimate a woman’s interest in him. It’s like being really horny can interfere with a man’s ability to assess women properly 🙂

It seems that the ego plays a role here as well: the men who overestimated their own attractiveness tended to assume women were more interested than they were.

The study’s creators had an interesting interpretation of these results: that the men who overestimated their own attractiveness and a woman’s interest may be more likely to keep trying and eventually get the date/sex they’re looking for. Perhaps in dating, where you face rejection on a regular basis, a little wishful thinking could be what it takes to motivate you to keep going!

What do you all think of these results, and the authors’ interpretation? Are they consistent with your experience or that of your friends?


Further Reading

Christie’s Books

Science of Dating and Mating article archive