Flirting with Flirtation
When a woman meets an attractive, available guy, she tends to use the experience as an opportunity to shore up her existing relationship. When a guy meets an attractive, available woman, though, he suddenly takes a dimmer view of his female partner.
But chins up, gals: with a little training, our fellas can learn to do better.
That's the gist of a study in the new issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology conducted by researchers at McGill University in Montreal.
The team set up seven lab experiments to see how men and women in committed relationships behaved when they encountered tempting people of the opposite sex. The study included 724 college-age, heterosexual men and women.
In one experiment, 71 men were introduced individually to one of two attractive women. About half met a woman who was presented as being single and who flirted with the guy. The other half met a woman, said to be unavailable, who ignored the dude at hand.
Right after these encounters, the men were asked how they would react if their romantic partner had done something to tick them off, such as lying about her reasons for canceling a date. Those who'd met the attractive and available woman were less likely to forgive their partners for those transgressions than were the men who'd met the aloof and off-limits woman.
When the tables were turned, though, of 58 women set up in similar encounters, those who met an attractive and available man were much MORE likely to forgive their menfolks' crummy behavior.
John E. Lydon, the study's lead author, said in this account of his research that he thinks men might simply not see attractive women as threats to their relationships. Women, he suggests, are more likely to view encounters with hunky, unattached men as potentially harmful to their committed partnerships and thus to take steps to preserve those partnerships.
That's where practice comes in! In one of the seven experiments, 40 men were tested to see if they could resist flirting with attractive women by planning ahead. Half of these men were told to visualize an encounter with an attractive woman and then to devise a strategy -- "When I am approached by the attractive girl, I will then _____ to defend and protect my relationship." The guys in this group were indeed found to keep their distance from the alluring women they came across in subsequent virtual-reality sessions.
You can read the full study here.
And then let's hear from you. Do the study's findings ring true? Or do they simply sustain stereotypes?
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