Should Men Play Hard To Get?
Who are women most likely to find attractive right at the beginning of a relationship?
- men who strongly like them
- men who may like them
- men who show disinterest in them
On the one hand, plenty of psychological research says we tend to like people about as much as they like us. But what if we don’t know whether someone likes us or not? How does uncertainty affect things?
Psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard wanted to know. So Erin Whitchurch, Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert set up an experiment. They told 47 women college students that they wanted to see if Facebook could work as an online dating site. Each was shown (fake) profiles of four “likeable, attractive” men.
Some were told, “These men liked you the most.” Others were told that the men had rated them “average.” A third group was left wondering as researchers explained that the men might either like them “the most” or “an average” amount.
Finding: The women were attracted to the men who found them attractive, just as prior research predicted. But they were most attracted when they weren’t sure how much the men liked them.
Keep in mind that these uncertain women didn’t have to worry that the men found them unattractive. They knew the men thought they were either average or very attractive. When there is a possible negative outcome – being seen as unattractive or ridiculous — women turn off.
So why would women feel more attracted with ambiguity than when attraction is strong?
A couple of things may be happening. When we respond strongly to positive experiences but then adapt, we get used to it. But when we are uncertain we spend more time thinking and trying to understand. So we never adapt.
But also, when we spend a lot of time thinking about someone we figure we must like them a lot.
But consider that this study only applies to the earliest stage of online dating. And the researchers looked only at women. Men have been found to be most attracted to women who are interested in them and not other guys. They are less attracted to women who are either “hard to get” (not interested in anyone) or women who are “easy to get” (they’re happy to date several men).
And as Psychologist, Adoree Durayappah points out:
(These) participants did not meet the men in person, and this was at the start of a relationship. Thus, we are uncertain if women keeping men guessing about their interest increases attraction or if keeping one’s partner guessing as the relationship develops would be advised. My personal hunch is that keeping one’s partner guessing about one’s interest during a growing relationship probably isn’t the best strategy for building a close connection.
Makes sense to me.
And if you don’t want to play games, be yourself and find someone who doesn’t want to play games either.