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.