Wishful Thinking?

Men's perception of women's sexual interest is probably still off.

By Matt Huston, published November 2, 2017 - last reviewed on April 17, 2018


Dating is, in part, a game of dropping hints. "Inviting someone up to your apartment for a drink clearly has value as a signal," says Priya Raghubir, a marketing researcher at NYU. But such signals aren't always clear: What message is sent if a date cooks you dinner or touches your thigh? When presented with intimate scenarios like these, men tend to rate a hypothetical date's interest in sex as greater than actual women report said interest to be, evolutionary psychologists have found

Are men overly optimistic? Or, as other researchers have suggested, do women taking part in such studies understate their own interest in sex? Raghubir and colleague Isabelle Engeler sought to elicit more honest answers from women by asking some to rate what they thought other women's intentions would be in these scenarios before rating their own. They found evidence that women play down their sexual intentions and that men anticipate more interest than is really there—though the perceptual gap between men and women appears to be less wide than previously thought.