She’s Just Not That Into You. Really.

Love is in the air this week and so I noticed with some interest the results of a study done by a group at Indiana University about whether third party observers can tell the level of interest (or disinterest) in the interactions of a man and woman meeting each other for the first time.
The experiment involves watching the interactions (no sound) between couples doing a speed-dating experiment.  Men and women were then asked if: a) the man was interested in the woman or not, and b) if the woman was interested in the man or not.  The hypothesis was that in this “Mars and Venus” world of ours, men would be better able to guess male interest and women better able to judge female interest.  It turns out however that:
It doesn’t take long to figure out.  People did just as well with 10 second video clips as with longer ones.  This goes to the idea you don’t have to take a long time and make a checklist and weigh pros and cons to see if someone is interested.  Strangers can see it in a moment – so why can’t you?

Men are easier to read than women.  Really?  This surprised anyone?  Both men and women intuited men’s interest better than women's.  I always find it interesting when single women I know get confused about guys.  The idea that guys are complicated is as preposterous as the one that suggests “he” might not be “into” Jennifer Aniston.  Or Jennifer Connelly.  Or Scarlett Johannsson.
Women are equally hard to read by both sexes.  I think this was a bit of a surprise to the folks that did the study.  Women’s interest was harder to gauge for both women and men – and both groups over-estimated the women’s interest level.  And I thought that only happened after I'd had a couple of beers.

The Outlier Women are scary.  There were 5 women (out of 24) that nearly everyone got wrong.  80% of responders (both men and women) said these women were interested in the guy when they had no interest whatsoever.  The authors claim they don’t understand how (or why) the Outliers so completely fooled the onlookers.  Collectively, they are known as The Girls Steve Was Interested In During College.
The authors claim that there is a social utility to eliminating potential mates because they’re “into” someone else, but really I think it was just an excuse to do what we do best — watch people across the room and judge them.  You can take an online extension of the research here.  FWIW, I was slightly above average gauging women and average gauging men.  Go figure.

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20 thoughts on “She’s Just Not That Into You. Really.

  1. I gave up part way through. After wading through the nineteen photos to begin with, and then being given only the photo of the person he was talking to, and asked to judge her response based on his? whatever. The videos I saw were so dark, it was hard to judge much at all without craning my neck and squinting.
    Interesting results, though. As a guy going through the test, did you see photos of guys and videos of women or did you see the same as I did – just vids of the guys and photos of the women?

  2. I had to photo-judge the women, then judge their response in the video (which was okay for me…). I couldn't see the guy — just saw their pic — so maybe its no surprise that I couldn't guess them very well.

  3. Actually, I don't think it's that much of a surprise that women can't pick out the real from the fake, since I never saw the women reacting at all, I just saw their photo. It's not at all what I expected, and makes me suspect they are studying something else entirely.

  4. I did the test and predicted men better than women, but only by 10 percent. I don't understand why I couldn't see the men also. That annoyed me and probably made me think less about my answers. I'm sure they have a reason, but I didn't like it. :)
    I think women probably do try to be nice, and that's why it's harder to tell for them.

  5. I think the test that we took is sort of an extension of judging the people first by photo and then again after seeing the video. The paper about their data made it clear that both men and women had viewed the whole speed-dating interaction. It is sort of confusing though and I think that's why I scored the guys worse — all I had was a pic.

  6. Exactly, I think you would have scored guys a lot more effectively (and women in my case) if you could have seen their video. The test we took seemed a lot more to do with judging a potential mate based on a video as opposed to a photograph. However, since half the photographs were practically mug shots, it seemed very biased to me. There were a few in the partial test that I actually did, where I wouldn't have known the photo and the video were the same guy unless they had told me.

  7. Haha, great post. Frankly, I'm one of those women who reads other women easily, but simply can't know for sure if a guy's into her until he spells it out (and we all know how much that's good for anyway, don't we!). I just can't figure it out. And I panic and worry and finally assume that it's all platonic and he wants me to be some sort of "good friend" until I am pleasantly surprised by information to the contrary. Heh.Doing the test thingy now, just finished the set of photos. Not sure I'll last through all the videos!

  8. I enjoyed this post too. It would be great if there were a fixed set of signals that meant guys/women were interested in you. Maybe there are a few tendencies, but these may not always be true from person to person. I might do the test later. Thanks.

  9. LC — hah! You just described nearly every relationship I've had with the friends-or-more-than-friend-no-they-don't-like-me-that-way dilemma! Good to know it hasn't gone out of style… ;)

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