In a classic study published in 1989, Russell D. Clark III and Elaine Hatfield found that men and women respond in astonishingly different manners when approached by a stranger of the opposite sex and asked if they are interested in having a sexual liaison. Across two studies, 0% of the women accepted the offer whereas 75% and 69% of the men accepted the offer in studies 1 and 2 respectively. For a replication of this effect but with a slightly higher acceptance rate by women, see the 2005 paper by Voracek, Hofhansl, and Fisher. Of note, Conley (2011) questioned the nature of this otherwise robust sex difference (I'll probably put up a post regarding this last article at some future date).
In today's post, I'd like to discuss a recent paper by Nicolas Guéguen (a French psychologist whose research I have covered in several of my previous posts; see here, here, here, here, and here). In Guéguen's study, one of four possible confederates approached members of the opposite sex and asked one of two questions: "Would you come to my apartment to have a drink?" or "Would you go to bed with me?" Two of the solicitors were male and two were female. Furthermore, within each sex, one of the solicitors was highly attractive and the other was average looking. Hence, the purpose of the naturalistic experiment (120 men and 120 women were approached) was to gauge the compliance rate to the two questions as a function of both the sex of the person approached, as well as the attractiveness of the solicitor. Here are the findings (expressed as percentages of individuals who accepted the given request):
Request for drink in apartment
Average looking male solicitor: 23% (7 out of 30)
Highly attractive male solicitor: 57% (17 out of 30)
Average looking female solicitor: 80% (24 out of 30)
Highly attractive female solicitor: 97% (29 out of 30)
Request for Sex
Average looking male solicitor: 0% (0 out of 30)
Highly attractive male solicitor: 3% (1 out of 30)
Average looking female solicitor: 60% (18 out of 30)
Highly attractive female solicitor: 83% (25 out of 30)
Two worthy findings: (1) As expected, women are much less predisposed to engage in casual sex with strangers. As a matter of fact, only a single woman accepted the offer for sex, hence replicating previously obtained findings albeit in a different cultural setting (France versus the United States). I should mention that I am unaware of single culture where such a sex difference will not be uncovered. If anyone is able to identify such a culture, you'll be famous. Get to work on finding it! (2) As expected, the attractiveness of the solicitor carried much more weight for male participants than it did for their female counterparts (across both types of requests). If anyone is aware of a culture where this effect would be reversed, please share your data. Great fame awaits you.
The reality is that these findings are undoubtedly universally true precisely because they are rooted in evolutionary-based sexual dimorphisms as relating to human mating. No process of cultural learning or other forms of socialization could reverse these ubiquitous mating effects.
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