Science of sexual misperception

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 12:22 27/03/2013
george
HEY LADIES: "George Costanza stands a chance of landing the supermodel he's coveting because a) he has a crack and b) she isn't aware of her own 'value'."

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"Our results strongly support the hypothesis that men possess a sexual over-perception bias."

Yes ladies and gentlemen, science has done it again. We now know for sure what most of us have long suspected - men think women want to have sex with them more than women actually do.

But wait - there's more. According to this (actually very comprehensive and amusing) study published in 'Psychological Science' there are few other factors influencing sexual misperception than, well, your sex.

For instance, the more attractive a man thinks he is, the more likely he is to believe a woman wants to sleep with him. And his sense she's a sure thing escalates the better-looking he thinks she is. Indeed a women's attractiveness, as rated by men, emerged as a key forecaster of both women's propensity to be misperceived by men, and women's tendency to "underperceive" men's interest.

These findings, drawn from an examination of the speed-dating methodology employed by a collection of American college students aged 24 years-old and above, are probably bringing to mind a series of circumstances where the theory has played out in real life or in the life of George Costanza.

However it was this pearler that jumped out at me:

"...men who were judged to be attractive by women actually under-estimated women's sexual interest."

Does this go some way to explaining a phenomenon I like to call 'hot chicks and douche bags?'

You see it all the time. Beautiful, lovely women who generally make very sensible life decisions sometimes wind up with lads who, to the outside world, don't appear to be their equal. Why? Are they trying to fix him? Are they attracted to his hopelessness? Do they not know their own value?

Their relationship is puzzling to onlookers. It's puzzling because the pairing seems to run counter to that old idea about birds of the same feather. Sure, some degrees of difference are generally accepted to be a good for relationships. But 'hot chicks' and 'douche bags' are two entirely different species. Hence the common protestation: "but she could do so much better!"

Back to the study:

"If men's sexual over-perception bias functions to provide men with self-confidence and motivation to approach desirable targets and to enhance men's apparent mate value, this pattern of results may reflect a suite of adaptations designed to promote positive illusions among lower-quality men," the authors write.

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"Such adaptations might include tendencies among less desirable men to overestimate their value as mates and to overestimate women's sexual interest. Perhaps, contrary to the reasoning we outlined earlier, men who are objectively attractive to women do not need to form positive illusions about their desirability because they are already desired by women."

In other words, George Costanza stands a chance of landing the supermodel he's coveting because a) he has a crack b) she isn't aware of her own 'value' and c) her 'equal' - Marky Mark - is too busy sitting back and being attractive to bother making his feelings known. Hence, 'lower-quality men' (read: douche bags) can still play, and possibly win 'the game'.

Of course, interesting (and inflammatory) as all this is, it's important to remember that there's a big difference between what works when it comes to securing a mate and what works when it comes to making that mating a satisfying, rewarding, life-long exercise. We won't go into that here, now, because we've so thoroughly picked over it before.

Instead, I'm looking to hear your thoughts on the notion of misperception and the mismatching that ensues. Have you observed so-called hot chicks with douche bags and wondered how and why?

Did you really need science to tell you some men overestimate their attractiveness and the interest they inspire in women they're attracted to? And have you ever fallen foul of misperception - had a guy tell you his heart was breaking because you didn't realise he was in love with you, or a woman say 'yes' only to later change position 'oh hell no'...?

- FFX Aus

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