By Matthew Hutson, published on January 1, 2009 - last reviewed on November 20, 2015
Men who have a way with words may also have their way with women. Intelligence is a sign of genetic fitness, and able minds often come equipped with large vocabularies. A study has revealed that men may flaunt their linguistic peacock feathers as a sexual display.
Psychologists at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. asked students to imagine a romantic encounter with an attractive member of the opposite sex or a casual conversation with someone older. Then the students wrote an essay on an unrelated topic. The romance-primed men unknowingly used more unusual words in their essays. Female subjects didn't show the same effect, but a previous study found that women do show creativity spikes when primed with thoughts of attracting a long-term partner.
Don't go dropping 10-cent words willy-nilly on your next date unless you know what they mean, though. Richard Tunney says he'll next explore the effectiveness of bogus erudition. If men have evolved to impress women with flashy displays, women should have evolved to detect their deceptive deployment.