In my books The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption (2007) and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature (2011), I discuss extensively how products are used by men and women to ameliorate their lot on the mating market. I’ve also tackled this topic in several of my Psychology Today articles using a wide range of products including cars (see here, here, and here), makeup (see here), clothes (see here, here, and here), and high heels (see here). See my post here for a discussion of how rappers use brand placements in their song lyrics as a form of sexual signaling.

In today’s post, I discuss a study that explored yet another product as a potential sexual signal: the guitar. In a paper authored by Sigal Tifferet, Ofir Gaziel, and Yoav Baram and published recently in Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, the researchers conducted a simple experiment to gauge whether a man posing with a guitar would be judged as more desirable than when he is posing without it. Some readers might remember my earlier post (see here) wherein I discussed a study that had found that successful artists reap substantial reproductive rewards (greater number of sexual conquests). Bottom line: male musicians are often viewed as quite desirable by a large legion of women. 

Tifferet and her colleagues sent Facebook friendship requests to 100 single women studying at one of two Israeli universities with the following message included: “Hey, what’s up? I like your photo.” As a side note, I should mention that I am collaborating with Sigal and two of her colleagues on a project in which we explore the evolutionary underpinnings of gift giving practices at Israeli weddings; see my post here for a discussion of the key findings. Returning to the current study at hand, 50 women received a photo of a smiling man holding a guitar and the other 50 received a photo of the same smiling man without the guitar. The number of positive versus negative responses was counted. Examples of positive and negative responses were “I like yours too” and “I have a boyfriend” respectively. If a reply was not received within a week, it was counted as a negative response.

Main finding: The “no guitar” and “guitar” photos yielded 10 percent and 28 percent positive responses respectively (p = .03). The guitar effect nearly tripled the number of positive responses! I was surprised to see that the authors did not report (collect?) a more obvious metric, namely the number of women who accepted the request in each of the two conditions. I’ll have to ask Sigal to explain this glaring omission!

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About the Author

Gad Saad

Gad Saad, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Concordia University and the author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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