Previous studies have shown that men tend to overestimate women's interest in them. But new research shows that some men are more likely than others to assume that chick was totally into them, even when she wasn't.
According to MSNBC, researchers put 200 straight undergraduates through a "speed meeting" experiment (they weren't actually set up on dates). They asked the participants to rate how interested they were in each other, and how interested they thought others were in them. They also had participants rate their own attractiveness. Unsurprisingly, guys who thought they themselves were sexy were most likely to overestimate women's interest in them. And they were most likely to say a woman was interested when they found her attractive. Guys rated as attractive by women, however (as opposed to by themselves), tended to be more accurate at judging women's interest. And women, in general, underestimated how interested men were in them.
The study authors theorize that some men's tendency to overestimate has an evolutionary basis. Study author Carin Perilloux tells ScienceDaily,
There are two ways you can make an error as a man. Either you think, 'Oh, wow, that woman's really interested in me' — and it turns out she's not. There's some cost to that. [The other error:] She's interested, and he totally misses out. He misses out on a mating opportunity. That's a huge cost in terms of reproductive success.
Perilloux explains that "the kind of guy who went for it, even at the risk of being rebuffed, scored more often — and passed on his overperceiving tendency to his genetic heirs." Actually attractive guys, on the other hand, had no need for "overperceiving."
The study's findings are interesting — and depressing, from the point of view both of mistaken men and the ladies being hit on by them. But it's worth remembering that the study authors didn't actually test their evolutionary argument directly. And there are also social explanations for some of their findings — women, for instance, are heavily conditioned not to "brag" about male interest in them, which may cause them to actually underestimate it. And men may learn over the course of their lives that acting like all the girls like them gives them the confidence they need to approach women, even if they get shot down some of the time. This lesson could very easily be absorbed in a few years of bar-crawling, rather than a few millennia of evolution. Of course, that doesn't mean that average-looking dudes haven't evolved the ability to assume babes are into them — but there are certainly plenty of social forces helping them out.
All It Takes Is A Smile (For Some Guys) [ScienceDaily]
The Hotter The Woman, The Better Men Think Chances Are [MSNBC]