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Men Often Misread Women's Sexual Cues: Study

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Men often have difficulty accurately reading a woman's level of interest in them, a new study finds.

In what should come as no surprise to any woman who's spent time in the dating world, a certain type of guy tends to think all women want him, while other guys just can't seem to pick up on the cues.

The study included 96 male and 103 female U.S. college undergraduates who took part in a "speed-meeting" exercise that involved talking for three minutes to each of five members of the opposite sex.

Before the exercise, the participants rated their own attractiveness and were assessed for their desire for a short-term sexual encounter. After each conversation, the participants rated the other person on a number of measures, including physical attractiveness and their perceived sexual interest.

The researchers found that:

  • Men who wanted a short-term sexual encounter were more likely to overestimate a woman's desire for them.
  • Men who believed they were "hot" also thought the women were hot for them, but men who were actually considered attractive by women did not think this way.
  • The more attractive a woman was to a man, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest.
  • Women tended to underestimate men's desire.

The study appears in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"There are two ways you can make an error as a man," study author Carin Perilloux, a psychologist at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., said in a journal news release. "Either you think, 'Oh, wow, that woman's really interested in me' -- and it turns out she's not. There's some cost to that," such as embarrassment.

The other male error is failing to realize that a women is interested in him.

"He misses out on a mating opportunity. That's a huge cost in terms of reproductive success," Perilloux explained.

When it comes to human evolution, it's likely that males who overestimated their appeal to females and pursued them even at the risk of being rebuffed were more likely to reproduce and pass this trait to their genetic heirs, the researchers suggested.

More information

Visit the Nemours website for more on sexual attraction.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Psychological Science, news release, Dec. 13, 2011

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