Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Science - Because It’s Fun (and could get you date!)

Ok, I’ve pontificated from my computer about making sure you’re hitting the gym, ironing your shirt, going out with an open mind, smiling (extra emphasis on this), networking, not telling your date about how late you were out drinking the night before (or discussing your partying habits in general) …

Some of the pointers above may seem obvious (though, I have seen far too often they are surprisingly not followed) so I thought I would share some not-so-obvious information that may give the resourceful single a little extra ammunition in his or her search for the “One” (after all, it’s a jungle out there).

This week’s blog brings fun facts from a field of research that most everyone finds fascinating (gotta love alliteration) and which is constantly evolving: the science and psychology of attraction. Indeed, the more you learn about what makes people attracted to one another, the more you realize that there are an abundance of factors at play, the majority of which we are barely cognizant … Considering the business I'm in, I make it a point to stay current with everything that's out there on this topic, and I thought it might be fun to share some highlights with my loyal SAN readers. Next week, we’ll go back to the pressing questions of singledom, but for this week how about some helpful tips which also make for some good cocktail party trivia?

For starters, did you know that something as basic as the color we are wearing can make a person more attracted to us. For example, when men see a picture of a woman surrounded by, or wearing, red, they're more likely to want to (1) ask her on a date, (2) spend more money on the date and (3) have sex with her?[1] (if I start seeing a lot more red scarves, skirts and tops around town, I guess I know my readership is increasing!). Another interesting one - spicy floral fragrances can make women appear on average 10-12 pounds slimmer.[2] Talk about the next fad diet!

Also, an interesting piece of information for the single women out there – men find women’s voices sexier when they’re ovulating.[3] A small incentive to schedule your dates strategically?? In fact (not surprisingly) men find a lot of women’s physical traits sexier when women are ovulating. Consider pupil size. In one study where men were shown pictures of women that were identical in every way except the women’s pupil size, the men overwhelmingly found the women to be prettier and more feminine in the pictures where the women’s pupils were larger (in case you didn’t know, women’s pupils dilate widest around ovulation).[4]

For the guys, there’s plenty of science to help out there too. Did you know that research has found that the release of adrenaline enhances feelings of attraction? Therefore, if you plan a date that has an element of excitement or danger to it, you can increase your chances of securing a round two. Meeting for a midnight picnic in Central Park might be overdoing it, but whitewater rafting or bungy jumping could do the trick. Ok, I know, we’re in Manhattan – how about ice skating?

Another helpful tidbit for the guys … you can also get some serious mileage from a favorably disposed wing woman. In one study, researchers gauged the impact of an attractive female’s approval on how other women perceive men’s attractiveness and the results were fascinating. A quick recap of the study: researchers showed women photos of two men side by side and asked them to rate their attractiveness. They then showed the women one of the men’s photos again but with a twist – on the second go around they showed the man talking with an attractive woman. In half the photos the woman wore a smiling, engaged expression and in the other half, she wore an unsmiling, or neutral expression. I’m sure my intelligent readers can guess that the men were found to be more attractive in the photos where the women were smiling at them, but would you have expected that the female judges rated them at least 15 percent higher? And if they were the recipient of the sullen look – a downgrade of 10 percent on average.[5]

This study makes me think of a good friend who, when he sees a woman of interest at a bar, gives me a nudge and asks me to focus on talking to him for a minute. I always end up smiling and engaged not only because he is a friend, but because he is incredibly funny. Pretty intuitive of my friend for a finance guy (sorry about the shot, finance guys, I know you are all not like that!).

There is so much information out there on this topic, I could write a 100 blogs on it – uh oh, I guess I should have titled this Science: Part 1. If you want more on this topic, speak up (how is that as a transparent ploy to get more comments posted? Shameless, I know…)

[1] Approximately a year ago, Regina Nuzzo wrote a great article for the LA Times which provides fun tips for using the science of attraction to maximize the chances of meeting your soul mate during the holiday party season. No reason not to apply these tips to socializing year round! See http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-mating82008dec08,0,1461407.story?page=1

[2] Andrew Trees, Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction (New York: Penguin Group ( USA ) Inc., 2009). Simply put, this a great book. It’s not a “how to” dating guide but a serious, scholarly evaluation of research that shines a whole new light on dating and the search for a mate.

[3] The Discovery Channel has a short video on this called “Voice on Estrogen” which really illustrates this tidbit of scientific information nicely. See http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/science-of-sex-appeal-ovulating-voices.html. If you have a few moments, watch a few of the other videos on The Science of Sex - I also liked the video titled “Dating and Mating Pool” and the related “Out of Your League” video, as well as the one called “Unsexy Scents” which deals with the issue of how sense of smell helps humans pick the best partners, genetically speaking. Amazing stuff.

[4] Jena Pincott, Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes, Bodies, Behavior and Brains ~ The Science Behind Sex, Love & Attraction (New York: Delacorte Press, 2008). This book on behavior answers all the pressing questions like “what body language do women use to express interest?” (Answer: it’s in the gaze) to “why does creativity get men laid?" (I’ll let you read the book or ask me offline if you want this answer!) Over 100 such questions that will really get you thinking (and staring, and creating…)

[5] Id.


  1. Very good info, Marni. I have always thought there must be more going on beneath the surface when it comes to attraction than just looks.

    In college I pursued a very cute girl that despite hitting it off as friends, we could not make the transition to dating - due to her resistance. What was incredibly puzzling (and annoying) was that over the next 2 years she dated two guys who were both well below average in looks and always had a basically disshelved and sloppy appearance. She was way out of their league. (Not to be boastful, but I considered myself well matched for her good looks). Graduation day arrived and my family took me out to a restaurant to celebrate ... who is at the next table - but this girl. I went over to say hello and met her father for the first time - all my questions were answered - those 2 guys she had dated were younger versions of her father. C'est La Vie!

  2. Great topic!
    There is great book Called "The Mating Mind" by Geoffrey Miller. It is actually a thesis on the subect at hand. In fact, it was recommeded reading by Maxim Magazine. . .

  3. Glad you both liked the topic. Yes, "The Mating Mind" is another good one on the subject. It is fascinating research.

    Thanks, so much for the comments (and vignette!)

  4. Hey Marni, you often make references to platonic friends you have in your blogging. In reference to the man who asks you to talk to him so he can catch the attention of a woman of interest to him is just a plain waste of your time as a single woman! I think male platonic friends for single woman over all erodes her self esteem, even if she isn't interested in that man romantically, who wants to constantly hear about how appealing other woman are to him? a better investment of her time is socializing with single men who find HER attractive, not someone else!

  5. Red makes women more appealing?

    I had my first date w/ a woman I recently met this past weekend. Asides from the positives: attractive, warm smile, educated, intelligent, elegant, feminine voice, and very nice... she wore a red blouse.

    So THAT'S why I haven't stopped thinking about her. Marni, I am so hoping she wears red again tonight.

    - Ex-Syosset Brave, Class of '91