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When possibility of sex looms, people more likely to tweak truth

People will do and say just about anything in order to make a connection with an attractive stranger.

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Photo by Gabriel Matula from Unsplash.com

In a world of seemingly endless opportunities for finding a mate, competition for a partner can be fierce. Not all that glitters is gold, as the old adage goes. If you’ve long suspected that people fudge the truth when it comes to presenting themselves to a potential partner, here’s the research to back you up.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, two researchers from the University of Rochester’s Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya conclude that when the possibility of sex looms, people are more likely to change their attitudes and engage in deceptive self-presentation. In other words, they conform, embellish, and sometimes lie.

The duo of Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC Herzliya, and Harry Reis, a professor of clinical and social sciences in psychology and Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at the University of Rochester, hypothesized that sexual thoughts–or, in the researchers’ more precise terms, the activation of an individual’s sexual system–would increase a person’s efforts to manage first impressions, bringing with it deceptive self-presentation.

Sex on the brain

What laypersons might describe as having sexual thoughts, researchers refer to more precisely as the activation of the sexual system or sexual priming. The phrase, Harry Reis explains, “means getting people to think about things in a sexual way. Technically it means activating a certain set of concepts in the brain. So, the parts of the brain that represent sexuality are being activated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are getting genitally aroused.”

They tested that hypothesis on 634 students–328 female and 306 male–with an average age of nearly 25, all identifying as heterosexual. Over the course of four studies, the psychologists exposed one group to sexual stimuli and the control group to neutral stimuli. Study participants, all students at an Israeli university, then interacted with an opposite-sex stranger.

Study 1 asked two study participants at a time to solve a dilemma faced by a fictitious third person–whether to accept a job offer abroad or to reject the offer to stay close to family and friends. Both participants were assigned one specific position–one for and one against the move abroad–to argue in a face-to-face interaction.

Afterwards, participants rated the extent to which they outwardly expressed agreement with the other participant’s position during the interaction. Compared to participants in the control group (without prior sexual stimuli), participants who had been sexually primed were more likely to express agreement with a contrary opinion advocated by an opposite-sex participant. The researchers interpret this behavior as a strategy to make a favorable impression with the stranger, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting closer to this person.

Study 2 examined whether study participants would actually change their declared preferences to conform to a stranger’s ideals. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed their preferences in various life situations (such as “to what extent does it bother you to date someone who is messy?” or “do you like to cuddle after sex?”). Next, participants were subliminally exposed to either a sexual or a neutral picture prime.

Participants were then told they would be part of an online chat with another participant, who in reality was an insider–an opposite-sex member of the research team. They looked at an online profile that purported to present the insider’s preferences on various subjects. After viewing the profile, participants were asked to create their own profile to be emailed to the other participant, and asked to complete their profile by rating the same items that had been presented in the insider’s profile.

The researchers found that even a non-conscious sexual stimulus (such as showing an erotic picture in a flash frame inside an otherwise neutral video) led participants to conform more to a potential partner’s preferences across various life situations.

“The desire to impress a potential partner is particularly intense when it comes to preferences that are at the heart of establishing an intimate bond,” writes the team. “Such attitude changes might be viewed as a subtle exaggeration, or as a harmless move to impress or be closer to a potential partner.”

Studies 3 and 4 addressed whether participants would lie about the number of past sexual partners. The researchers hypothesized that people would reduce the actual number of partners so as to appear more selective–or less promiscuous–to a potential mate. To test the hypothesis, researchers had participants talk about the total number of sexual partners they had had during a chat with an attractive study insider. Then they were asked the same question in anonymous questionnaires to provide a true baseline for the researchers. The findings were clear: study participants who had been sexually primed were more likely to lie, reporting lower numbers of previous sexual partners to a potential mate compared to the group without sexual priming.

The researchers found that both men and women (all of whom were sexually primed) tended to decrease the reported number of past sexual partners when chatting with an attractive stranger. (By the way, around seven previous partners was the magic number that most people reported in their doctored answers).

Interpreting the findings

Interestingly, Birnbaum and Reis, who have collaborated for decades (Birnbaum was a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Rochester in 1998-99) have slightly different takes on what the findings ultimately mean.

“People will do and say just about anything in order to make a connection with an attractive stranger,” says Birnbaum. “When your sexual system is activated you are motivated to present yourself in the best light possible. That means you’ll tell a stranger things that make you look better than you really are.”

But, says Reis, “a lot of it is not necessarily what you’d call a bald-faced lie. Even though it’s clearly not the truth, it’s a way of people finding ways to emphasize different parts of how they see themselves.” And yet: “I think there’s some degree to which it is finding ways to shade one’s perception of the truth. It still counts as a lie, there’s no question about that.”

Love Affairs

Feeling frisky makes you see what you want to see

Sexual activation increased a participant’s romantic interest in the other participant, which, in turn, predicted perceiving the other as more interested in oneself. Having active sexual thoughts apparently arouses romantic interest in a prospective partner and encourages the adoption of an optimistic outlook on courting prospects with a partner.

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There’s something to rose-tinted glasses after all.

A group of psychologists at the University of Rochester and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya discovered that we see possible romantic partners as a lot more attractive if we have what the scientists call “a sexy mindset.” Under the same condition we also tend to overestimate our own chances of romantic success.

The researchers examined what would happen if a person’s sexual system is activated–think “feeling frisky”–by exposing test subjects to brief sexual cues that induced a “sexy mindset.” Such a mindset, the team found, reduced a person’s concerns about being rejected, while simultaneously inducing a sense of urgency to start a romantic relationship.

The US-Israeli team noticed that people often have overly optimistic views when it comes to a potential partner and their own chances of landing a date. Their latest research, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, sought to explain the biased perception. It’s precisely this bias, the team concluded, that may provide people with the necessary confidence to worry less about rejection and instead motivate them to take a leap of faith to pursue a desired romantic relationship without hesitation.

“If people anticipate that a partner shares their attraction, it is that much easier to initiate contact, because the fear of rejection is lessened,” said co-author Harry Reis, a professor of psychology and the Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester.

“People are more likely to desire potential partners and to project their desires onto them when sexually aroused,” said lead author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC. “Our findings suggest that the sexual system prepares the ground for forming relationships by biasing interpersonal perceptions in a way that motivates human beings to connect. Clearly the sexual system does so by inspiring interest in potential partners, which, in turn, biases the perceptions of a potential partner’s interest in oneself.”

Evolutionary principles at play

Having evolved over millennia, the sexual behavioral system of humans ensures reproduction and survival of the species by arousing sexual urges that motivate us to pursue mates. Success depends on targeting the right potential partners who are not only perceived as desirable but also as likely to reciprocate our advances. In previous studies the researchers found that people often refrain from courting desirable possible partners because they fear rejection.

“Forming stable sexual relationships had, and continues to have, a great deal of evolutionary significance,” said study Reis, also a professor of psychology and the Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester. “If people anticipate that a partner shares their attraction, it is that much easier to initiate contact, because the fear of rejection is lessened.”

He added: “One of the main purposes of sexual attraction is to motivate people to initiate relationships with potentially valuable, and valued, partners.”

Testing the effects of a sexy mindset

Across three experiments the team discovered that sexual activation helps people initiate relationships by inducing them to project their own desires onto prospective partners. In other words–you see what you want to see if you’ve been sexually primed.

To test the effects of a sexy mindset, the team exposed participants across three separate studies either to sexual (but not pornographic) stimuli or to neutral stimuli. Next, the participants encountered a potential partner and rated this partner’s attractiveness and romantic interest in them. Participants’ interest in the partner was self-reported or evaluated by raters.

Sexual activation increased a participant’s romantic interest in the other participant, which, in turn, predicted perceiving the other as more interested in oneself.

In the first study, 112 heterosexual participants, aged 20 to 32, who were not in a romantic relationship, were randomly paired with an unacquainted participant of the other sex. First, participants introduced themselves to each other by talking about their hobbies, positive traits, and future career plans while being videotaped. Then the team coded the videotaped introductions for nonverbal expressions of so-called immediacy behavior–such as close physical proximity, frequent eye contact, and flashing smiles–that indicates interest in initiating romantic relationships. They discovered that those participants exposed to a sexual stimulus (versus those exposed to the neutral stimulus) exhibited more immediacy behaviors toward potential partners and perceived the partners as more attractive and interested in them.

For the second study, 150 heterosexual participants, aged 19 to 30, who were not in a romantic relationship, served as a control for the potential partner’s attractiveness and reactions. Here, all participants watched the same prerecorded video introduction of a potential partner of the other sex and then introduced themselves to the partner while being videotaped. The team coded the videotapes for attempts to induce a favorable impression. Just as in the first study, the researchers found that activation of the sexual system led participants to perceive potential partners as more attractive as well as more interested in a romantic relationship.

In the third study, the team investigated whether a participant’s romantic interest in the other participant might explain why sexual activation affects perceptions of others’ romantic interest in oneself. Here, 120 heterosexual participants, aged 21 to 31, who were not in a romantic relationship, interacted online with another participant, who in reality was an attractive opposite-sex member of the research team, in a get-to-know-each-other conversation. The participants rated their romantic interest in the other person as well as that person’s attractiveness and interest in them.

The researchers found again that sexual activation increased a participant’s romantic interest in the other participant, which, in turn, predicted perceiving the other as more interested in oneself. Having active sexual thoughts apparently arouses romantic interest in a prospective partner and encourages the adoption of an optimistic outlook on courting prospects with a partner, concluded the researchers.

“Sexual feelings do more than just motivate us to seek out partners. It also leads us to project our feelings onto the other person,” said Reis. “One important finding of the study is that the sexual feelings need not come from the other person; they can be aroused in any number of ways that have nothing to do with the other person.”

Yet, there’s also the obvious possible pitfall: when sexual feelings are present, people tend to assume that the other person shares their attraction, whether warranted or not, notes Reis. “Or you end up kissing a lot of frogs,” said Birnbaum, “because a sexy mood makes you mistake them for princes.”

Having active sexual thoughts apparently arouses romantic interest in a prospective partner and encourages the adoption of an optimistic outlook on courting prospects with a partner.

Birnbaum and Reis spent the last few decades studying the dynamics of human sexual attraction. In a 2019 study, the duo found that when people feel greater certainty that a prospective romantic partner reciprocates their interest, they will put more effort into seeing that person again. Furthermore, people will rate the possible date as more sexually attractive than they would if they were less certain about the prospective date’s romantic intentions.

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Love Affairs

New study explores if flirting is real and shows it can work

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

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Photo by Dede Avez from Pexels.com

“She was totally flirting with you,” my friend told me after the hosts left our table.

“No, she wasn’t. She was just being polite,” said another friend.

Misunderstandings about flirting can potentially result in awkwardness or even accusations of sexual harassment. How can we figure out what other people mean when they smile at us? Is there a unique, identifiable facial expression representing flirting — and if there is, what does it convey, and how effective is it?

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

Now, a new paper by researchers based at the University of Kansas has been published in the Journal of Sex Research examining if flirting has a particular facial cue effectively used by women to indicate interest in a man.

“There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon,” said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at KU, who co-wrote the paper. “None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects.”

Gillath’s collaborators were lead author Parnia Haj-Mohamadi, a doctoral student in psychology at KU, and Erika Rosenberg of the University of California-Davis.

The researchers found internal states — such as being romantically or sexually interested in someone — can be conveyed to others nonverbally through facial expression.

In other words — flirting works.

Some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Gillath said. “It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression.”

In the studies, women — some professional actresses and some volunteers from the community — were asked either to spontaneously pose a flirting expression (similar to what they’d use at a bar to get attention from a potential mate) or to follow instructions based on existing anthropological literature for what researchers define as flirting.

The team found some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

The researchers used the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to classify the morphology of highly recognized flirtatious facial expressions. The coding showed the most effective flirting cues include a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned forward toward the implied target.

After identifying these most recognized expressions of flirting, the researchers used them in experimental studies.

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation,” Gillath said. “For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships and sex.”

The new paper puts flirting in the same category as other well-studied emotions and provides researchers with tools to further study the functions of flirting. It can also give sometimes-clueless men, like the one in the example above, a more concrete way to figure out if a woman is truly flirting.

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Love Affairs

5 Top tips for a fantastic anniversary with your partner

From thinking of the small details to planning a grand gesture, here are some top tips to ensure that both you and your partner have an enjoyable anniversary that will rival your big day itself.

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Whether you love the thought of celebrating your anniversary or are dreading the attention, there are many ways that you can enjoy your special day and ensure that it is an unforgettable occasion. From thinking of the small details to planning a grand gesture, here are some top tips to ensure that both you and your partner have an enjoyable anniversary that will rival your big day itself. 

1. Get Your Loved One a Romantic Gift 

Gift-giving can be difficult at the best of times, especially if you feel that you are running out of unique presents to give your partner between birthdays and the holiday season. When you are planning your anniversary gift, it is the thought that counts rather than the price tag, and some of the best presents are those that can keep the romance going on your anniversary and beyond. For instance, Scent Magic offers a cologne subscription box that can make your partner feel loved every month of the year, and that can spruce up your date nights. You should also pair this gift with a beautiful card that contains a personal message affirming your love for them and your hopes for the future.

2. Choose a Romantic Anniversary Event 

Whether you are planning a big do or are simply trying to find a personal way to say, ‘thank you’, finding a celebration that is perfect for your relationship is important. One of the best ideas is returning to the place that you first met, trying something different, or traveling to a location, such as a restaurant or a bar, that you both loves. If you want to travel further afield to enjoy your anniversary away from the chaos of everyday life, why not plan to go on a vacation for your special occasion? Taking some time off work to spend together can help to cement your love and can allow you to remember what you originally saw in one another.

3. Celebrate with Family and Friends 

However, family and friends are an integral part of your relationship, and even the strongest couple will have needed their support throughout their partnership. Then, if possible, you should try to get your family and friends involved and show them that they are appreciated. You can do this by planning an anniversary party with an extensive guest list, or even just by hosting a meal at your favorite restaurant. 

4. Consider Staying In 

For all the fireworks and splashy, Instagram-worthy events that many couples decide upon, there is also something special about staying in for your anniversary and spending your day in absolute comfort. There is no reason why staying in cannot be perfect, though, and re-watching your wedding video or even cooking a candle-lit dinner can help to make the occasion stand out. 

5. Discuss the Occasion with Your Partner

Whatever you do, it is paramount that you can discuss the occasion with your partner. There is no point in simply planning something that you will enjoy or deciding to throw them a huge surprise if they are not likely to enjoy it. Then, you must sit down before your big day and discuss what you would both like to do for your anniversary until you reach a compromise that suits both of you.

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Lifestyle & Culture

How to choose a dating site that works for you

There are hundreds of sites to choose from and millions of people using them from all around the world. So, how do you choose the right dating site for you?

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Online dating can be a really easy and fun way to meet new singles and put yourself in with a chance of finding a great relationship. Today, online dating is one of the most popular ways to meet somebody new, and every year thousands of partners meet online. Whatever kind of relationship you’re looking for and no matter what stage you’re at in your life, online dating can be a great way to find what you want. However, online dating can also be quite overwhelming.

There are hundreds of sites to choose from and millions of people using them from all around the world. So, how do you choose the right dating site for you?

Be Clear on What You’re Looking For

Knowing what you’re looking for in a relationship before you get started will make it easier for you to find the right dating site for your needs. If you’re not sure what you want, this #1 trusted dating site in San Jose ticks all the boxes and offers a wide range of features to suit everybody. Whether you’re looking for a casual fling or want to eventually get married, find a site that caters to those needs and is likely to attract people who are looking for the same thing as you are. 

Consider Your Location

It’s a good idea to consider your area when choosing a dating site. The last thing that you want is to end up signing up to and potentially paying for a site that isn’t very popular with singles in your area. If you’re not sure then it’s a good idea to sign up to a site that’s popular in many different areas so that you can be sure you will meet local singles. You can sign up for Meetville here: https://meetville.com/catalog/us/ca/95631/woman

Check the Reputation

Don’t waste your money on a dating site that doesn’t have a good reputation. Before choosing the right site for you, take some time to research your options and find one that is well-known for bringing successful couples together. There are some other important considerations to make, too, such as the level of security on the site and how seriously any untoward messages or abuse towards members is taken. 

Try it Out

The good news is that many good dating sites and apps offer a free version or a limited free trial that you can take advantage of before you decide to commit to paying. Sign up for as many free trials as you can find so that you’ve got a good chance of finding a site or a couple of sites that work better for you than others. Remember, if you find a few different dating sites that you like there’s nothing wrong with using a few different once at the same time to get even more matches. 

The world of online dating can be a fun way to meet new people when you’re single and potentially find your perfect partner. Keep these tips in mind and find a dating site that works well for you. 

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Love Affairs

Interesting things to know about open relationships

Open relationships are becoming commonplace that even the elite in the entertainment business are opening up to what they believe in. Whatever makes the other party happy, that’s what we’ll roll with. That has been the motto of modern relationships.

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Gone are the days when everyone believed that relationships were between males and females. Well, you can thank the traditional upbringing for that. Today, you have relationships that to a naive eye, can seem kind of weird. But let’s face it, it’s not about what they think about you but it has everything to do with what makes you happy. You have all these types of relationships and to be honest, there has never been a better time like this day and age where you’ll never have to hide your sexuality. 

Open relationships are becoming commonplace that even the elite in the entertainment business are opening up to what they believe in. Whatever makes the other party happy, that’s what we’ll roll with. That has been the motto of modern relationships. 

What’s An Open Relationship

Whether you are gaslighting or bread crumbing, an open relationship could open you up to possibilities that you’ve never experienced before. But then again, you’ll still want to be careful about your safety by using protection whenever you are engaging in sexual activities with strange characters. 

An open relationship is one where a couple mutually agrees to involve and engage with other partners either sexually and/or romantically. Some of the reasons to get involved in an open relationship include:

  • Unparalleled libidos between you and your partner
  • The desire to have more sex
  • Exploring sexual fantasies
  • There’s lots of love to go around 

Enough said, here are interesting things that you need to know about an open relationship. They include: 

1. More Spice In Your Love Life 

Do you desire more intimacy, love, romance, and more orgasms? This shouldn’t be a question but a confirmation of what your love needs to be like. Unfortunately, the intimacy in your bedroom can become stale due to dwindling sex drive, time, or the fact that you’ve grown out of love with your partner. It’s time to get back your intimacy and spice your once romantic relationship by getting a partner with whom you can break that boredom. Having another partner can help you – as a couple – act out all those cuckold fantasies that you’ve always locked deep inside.

An open relationship could be the gateway through which you can revamp your sex life. But as earlier mentioned, ensure that you practice safe sexual interactions and it’s also wise to mention this to your partner. 

2. Honesty And Open-mindedness

Just like in any other relationship, honesty is an important pillar to help strengthen and grow your relationship. You should be honest with your partner – the one you are in a relationship with – especially before you decide to introduce the element of an open relationship. To avoid the aspect of cheating and ruin your existing bond, communicate early enough with your partner, and present them with all the info you might think is necessary. Equally, be open-minded if they don’t share your enthusiasm or your line of thinking. After all, open relationships aren’t for everyone.

3. It’s Not The Solution

An open relationship has its many perks such as spicing up your relationship, sharing love, and helping in communication. Be it as it may, an open relationship is not the solution to the many issues ailing your relationship. Spicing up your marriage by bringing in the extra partner will only spice things up but this should not be used to correct all those mistakes from the past. Instead, you may consider going to sex therapy or talk it out with your partner to get things straightened out. 

4. Get Ready To Be Jealous

Jealousy and fear are all-natural and understandable human emotions. On date nights, your partner could be going on a date that can probably end up in hot steamy sessions of lovemaking in the shower. It’s okay for you to be jealous of them. But then again, think of them having fun. The best thing is to communicate your feelings openly before they get the best of you. 

An open relationship can be great when done right. While you are at it, its imperative to always practice safe sex to prevent and protect yourself and your partner from infections and unwanted pregnancies. If you think you are up for it, have a sit down with your partner and come up with ground rules. It’s about time you brought your sexy back!

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Love Affairs

Small towns have highest risk of intimate partner violence

“We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

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Photo by Sydney Sims from Unsplash.com

Despite common perceptions that big cities have more violence, women living in small towns are most at risk of violence from current or former spouses and partners, according to a recent study by Washington State University criminologist Kathryn DuBois.

For the study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DuBois analyzed the responses of more than 570,000 women from the National Crime Victimization Survey from 1994 to 2015. She found that women from small towns were 27% more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) than women from the center of big cities and 42% more likely than suburban women.

“In criminology, we often have this urban bias. We assume big cities are the worst and paint other places as idyllic,” said DuBois, associate professor at WSU Vancouver. “We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

The National Crime Victimization Survey collects information through a large sample of interviews about a range of personal crimes committed every year. Part of the intent of the survey is to uncover the “dark figure” of crime, DuBois said, those crimes that may not be reported to police.

While the survey defines many locations as simply urban or rural, DuBois analyzed the data by population density to delineate urban, suburban, small town and rural areas. Small towns were defined as urbanized portions of non-metropolitan counties with populations up to 50,000. They are distinct from suburban areas that exist just outside of big cities.

“Many surveys assume that everyone in those nonmetropolitan counties are the same, but there’s a lot more heterogeneity across them,” Dubois said.

DuBois originally undertook the study to try and reconcile the inconsistency between national surveys, which typically find rural areas have less or similar rates of IPV to urban areas – and ethnographic research, in-depth qualitative studies that have indicated that rural isolation can exacerbate gender-based violence.

Many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

While the study data cannot reveal the reasons behind the violence, the finding about the high rate of IPV in small towns indicates that there may be a different set of factors at play, DuBois said.

“Small towns have populations large enough to have the difficult problems of a big city, while at the same time these are some of the hardest hit areas economically, so they don’t have specialized services and policing needed to deal with family violence,” DuBois said.

IPV is also a big issue in the LGBTQIA community, even if this doesn’t particularly get as much attention.

In June 2020, for instance, a study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and IPV were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.” In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

Earlier, in July 2018, another study noted that abuse among gay couples stems from stress factors that also apply to heterosexual couples, such as money issues, unemployment, and drug abuse. However, gay couples are said to face additional stress from internalized homophobia, which may also contribute to IPV.

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