Saturday, June 18, 2011

Does Driving a Porsche Make a Man More Desirable to Women?

New research by faculty at Rice University, the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Minnesota finds that men's conspicuous spending is driven by the desire to have uncommitted romantic flings. And, gentlemen, women can see right through it.

The series of studies, "Peacocks, Porsches and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System," was conducted with nearly 1,000 test subjects and published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"This research suggests that conspicuous products, such as Porsches, can serve the same function for some men that large and brilliant feathers serve for peacocks," said Jill Sundie, assistant professor of marketing at UTSA and lead author of the paper.

Just as peacocks flaunt their tails before potential mates, men may flaunt flashy products to charm potential dates. Notably, not all men favored this strategy -- just those men who were interested in short-term sexual relationships with women.

"The studies show that some men are like peacocks. They're the ones driving the bright colored sports car," said co-author Vladas Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.

According to the researchers, women found a man who chose to purchase a flashy luxury product (such as a Porsche) more desirable than the same man who purchased a non-luxury item (such as a Honda Civic). However, there was a catch: Although women found the flashy guys more desirable for a date, the man with the Porsche was not preferred as a marriage partner. Women inferred from a man's flashy spending that he was interested in uncommitted sex.

"When women considered him for a long-term relationship, owning the sports car held no advantage relative to owning an economy car," said co-author Daniel Beal, assistant professor of psychology at Rice. "People may feel that owning flashy things makes them more attractive as a relationship partner, but in truth, many men might be sending women the wrong message."

Though often associated with Western culture, extreme forms of conspicuous displays have been found in cultures across the globe and throughout history.

While finding that men may use conspicuous consumption as a short-term mating signal, the researchers discovered that women don't behave in the same manner and don't conspicuously spend to attract men.

"Obviously, women also spend plenty of money on expensive things," Sundie said. "But the anticipation of romance doesn't trigger flashy spending as it does with some men."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Men and women are unconsciously attracted to the opposite sex when they wear red.

A new study, published in the latest issue of the journal Emotion, finds that when humans see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful. And people are unaware of the color's intensifying effect.

The findings may have applications for sporting and other activities in which a brief burst of strength and speed is needed, such as weightlifting. But the authors caution that the color energy boost is likely short-lived.

"Red enhances our physical reactions because it is seen as a danger cue," explains coauthor Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and a lead researcher in the field of color psychology. "Humans flush when they are angry or preparing for attack," he explains. "People are acutely aware of such reddening in others and it's implications."

But threat is a double-edged sword, argue Elliot and coauthor Henk Aarts, professor of psychology at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. Along with mobilizing extra energy, "threat also evokes worry, task distraction, and self-preoccupation, all of which have been shown to tax mental resources," they write in the paper. In earlier color research, exposure to red has proven counterproductive for skilled motor and mental tasks: athletes competing against an opponent wearing red are more likely to lose and students exposed to red before a test perform worse.

"Color affects us in many ways depending on the context," explains Elliot, whose research also has documented how men and women are unconsciously attracted to the opposite sex when they wear red. "Those color effects fly under our awareness radar," he says.

The study measured the reactions of students in two experiments. In the first, 30 fourth-through-10th graders pinched and held open a metal clasp. Right before doing so, they read aloud their participant number written in either red or gray crayon. In the second experiment, 46 undergraduates squeezed a handgrip with their dominant hand as hard as possible when they read the word "squeeze" on a computer monitor. The word appeared on a red, blue, or gray background.

In both scenarios, red significantly increased the force exerted, with participants in the red condition squeezing with greater maximum force than those in the gray or blue conditions. In the handgrip experiment, not only the amount of force, but also the immediacy of the reaction increased when red was present.

The colors in the study were precisely equated in hue, brightness, and chroma (intensity) to insure that reactions were not attributable to these other qualities of color. "Many color psychology studies in the past have failed to account for these independent variables, so the results have been ambiguous," explains Elliot.
The study focused exclusively on isometric or non-directional physical responses, allowing the researcher to measure the energy response of participants, though not their behavior, which can vary among individuals and situations. The familiar flight or fight responses, for example, show differing reactions to threat.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

'Controlling' partners suffer more conflict with sexual desire

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People who feel secure in in their relationship with their partner have a more satisfactory sex life and are more able to be sensitive in the affection they give. However, people who are insecure, who tend towards anxiety or avoidance and are compulsive or controlling in their affection experience more conflict in their sexual desire and are less happy in their relationships, according to a study by the University of the Basque Country.

"Our results show that insecure people (anxious-ambivalent) tend to be compulsive in their care for their partners, while people prone to avoidance tend to be controlling and to exhibit greater conflict in their sexual desire", Javier Gómez Zapiain, a professor of the psychology of sexuality at the University of the Basque Country and lead author of the study, tells SINC.

Gómez Zapiain's research group studied the level of conflict in people's erotic desire, their degree of satisfaction with their sexual life and other factors related with sexual behaviour and care, based on a sample of 211 long-term couples in the Basque Country. They distributed individual questionnaires at random among various groups of professionals from the education, healthcare, public services and private business sectors.

"The objective of this study was to study the relationship between three essential relationships in human conduct – sexual, affective and caring behaviour. We tried to obtain empirical evidence that harmony between these three systems contributes to the quality of a couple's relationship", explains Gómez Zapiain.

The respondents were divided into two large groups according to their affective model – secure and insecure. The insecure people were then subdivided into anxious and ambivalent types.

"Anxious people react by clinging to their partner and caring for them compulsively, while avoidant types react by evading their relationship. Their philosophy is that 'it's better not to have than to have and to lose'. These people also have more problems in the area of intimacy", the researcher explains.

Out of all the respondents, 116 were women and 95 men, aged between 20 and 65, with an average age of 37.36. Some 44.3% of these people were single, while 46.7% were married, 4.9% in a relationship and 4.1% divorced. Out of the sample, 88.7% described themselves as heterosexual, 5.6% homosexual and 5.6% bisexual.

Out of the whole sample, 89.5% had a stable partner at the time of the study, with the average length of their relationships being 13.52 years. "It was very important for us that the people taking part should have an affective bond within a couple that had existed stably for a minimum period of time", adds Gómez Zapiain.

The most conflict-ridden couples – anxious vs. avoidant

The combination of different styles of affection in a couple can explain the degree of conflict within it. "Each partner must have the ability to support the other when they are feeling down and need emotional support. Similarly, they must be able to place themselves in what we call a 'position of dependency', in other words they must be able to recognise their own need for support and to express this in times of anxiety", the expert explains.

An individual who is psychologically healthy can change flexibly from one position to another. The experts hypothesise that people who display security in their affection are able to do this, but that insecure types (anxious-ambivalent or avoidant) are clearly incapable.

"It is very interesting, from the perspective of a couple, to see how styles of affection combine within the relationship. The most explosive combination occurs when one of the partners in the couple is anxious and the other avoidant. This combination has more likelihood of ending up with the couple seeking help, or even breaking up", says Gómez Zapiain.