TIME Dating

Is That a Look of Love, or Lust? Science Has the Answer

Smiling Couple Dating
A close-up of a smiling couple is shown. Sam Edwards—OJO Images RF/Getty Images

A wife and husband research team finds different eye movements for love and lust

Scientists may have found a way to answer a question so many people have when they’re dating: “Where is this going?” All you have to do, according to researchers at the University of Chicago, is watch a potential partner’s eyes.

A new study found that eye movements could reveal whether a person was in lust or in love. Their results, collected from male and female students at the University of Geneva, showed that participants fixated more on the face when they perceived an image to evoke romantic love but that their gaze shifted to the rest of the body when an image seemed indicative of sexual desire.

“Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers,” said the study’s lead author Stephanie Cacioppo.

Cacioppo is becoming somewhat of an expert on the biology of love. Earlier this year, she conducted research finding that feelings of love and desires for sex were located in different parts of the brain. “This distinction has been interpreted to mean that desire is a relatively concrete representation of sensory experiences, while love is a more abstract representation of those experiences,” she said in February.

Cacioppo is joined in her findings by her real-life partner in love, her husband and University of Chicago researcher John Cacioppo. “By identifying eye patterns that are specific to love-related stimuli, the study may contribute to the development of a biomarker that differentiates feelings of romantic love versus sexual desire,” he said. “An eye-tracking paradigm may eventually offer a new avenue of diagnosis in clinicians’ daily practice or for routine clinical exams in psychiatry and/or couple therapy.”

We see an eye-tracking app in the making.

TIME relationships

Young Men Want Intimacy Too

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Teen boy kissing girlfriend, portrait Ron Levine—Getty Images

A new study finds that boys want relationships, not just sex

Teenage boys have only one thing on their mind, or so the saying goes. But a new study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health based on interviews with 33 14-to-16-year-old boys suggest that adolescent males actually do desire the intimacy of a relationship over sex.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health interviewed young men recruited from a clinic for low-income, Medicaid-eligible, predominantly African American adolescents who lose their virginity at an earlier age than the national average. The researchers intentionally focused on this single demographic because African American males, according to previous studies, are more likely than white or Latino males to value “masculine norms” such as sexual aggression, a preoccupation with self-satisfaction and objectification of women.

What the researchers found was that these young men whom society would assume to be most likely to value these masculine norms, sought intimacy above all else. Sixteen of the boys were sexually experienced, and four tested positive for STIs. Yet few participants said sex was the main goal in a relationship, few boasted about the number of sexual conquests they had had and many criticized treating sex and relationships as if they were a game. Those who did boast about their sexual prowess were older, possibly, the researchers suggest, because those teens had been exposed to societal norms about male sexuality longer.

One sexually inexperienced 15-year-old said of his relationship:

I want to have that experience [of sex], but I want it to mean something. I want it to be something we both want to do, not because we just want the experience of doing it. I want to look back on that and see like, I really care for her and not look back on her like, oh, I had sex with her.

The boys told their interviewer that they felt close to a girl (all but one identified as heterosexual) when they felt they could trust her—they could share difficulties in their family situation without being judged or worrying about becoming the object of gossip. These girls were identified as “wife material.” As on 15-year-old sexually inexperienced boy put it:

It’s important to have a girl that is special, that can be your wife, that you can trust…[You can trust her] when you can tell her thing that you don’t tell other people and it doesn’t get back to anyone.

What’s more, the boys reported that women were the ones who initiated both the relationships and sexual contact. Participants said that girls generally asked the boys out or prompted the boy to ask her out (prompting often involved a mutual friend telling the boy the girl wanted to be asked out). They also were the first to initiate sex: some displayed a condom, others undressed themselves in front of the young men. The young men often said they were surprised by the initiation of sex. A 15-year-old sexually experienced male shared this anecdote:

Like one time, we was kissing and she grabbed my, my penis, and …Well it was a surprise to me because I never really had it done to me, I wasn’t really expecting her to do that.

However, many boys reported “getting burned” by becoming so emotionally involved with women: their confidence was betrayed by their girlfriend or the girlfriend was unfaithful. A 16-year-old sexually experienced participant said of his breakup:

I was kind of depressed because I wanted to be with her, … and it kind of hurt because that was the first time I ever sat and cried over a female and really felt that much.

Another teen described himself as “emotionless” because he “had my heart broke” and “won’t allow it [to happen again].”

The young boys did, however, subscribe to some gender roles: several males described their role as a boyfriend in terms of being a protector or caretaker: their job was to confront men who flirted with or harassed their girlfriends, listen to their girlfriends’ problems and cheer them up.

These discoveries that young men are as emotionally vulnerable as young women aren’t entirely new: a 2006 study of multi-ethnic ninth grade boys found that they ranked intimacy above sexual pleasure in terms of relationship goals. Another study from the same year found that teenage girls and boys reported the same level of emotional engagement. And a 2013 TIME feature explored the emotional lives of young boys and the sexual pressure they face.

But this study debunks some specific societal prejudices about how young African American males think and feel:

African American males have typically scored higher on masculine norms than Latinos or Whites (Gordon et al., 2013) and have worse sexual health outcomes (higher rates of HIV, STIs and adolescent fatherhood)…It is remarkable, therefore, that our study population…endorsed more relationally oriented view of masculinity and failed to endorse some of the most concerning beliefs within hegemonic masculinity.

The researchers go on to say that these findings suggest that our assumptions about masculine values and who subscribes to them may be totally incorrect. They suggest that research of other demographics to confirm that the young American male does value relationships over sex is necessary.

“Our study supports the view that hegemonic masculinity is a learned set of beliefs and suggests that early to middle adolescence is a critical development time frame for learning masculinity,” the researchers conclude. “This information may be of use to adolescent sexual health programs to foster the development of a healthier version of masculinity.”

TIME relationships

Who Talks More, Men Or Women? The Answer Isn’t As Obvious As You Think

A recent Northeastern study joins a long list of literature on the topic

A study released Tuesday sought to answer the ages-old and oft-debated question, do women really talk more than men? This most recent answer seems to be: well, it depends.

Northeastern University Professor David Lazer and his team studied 133 adult subjects in either professional or relaxed settings and gave them all “sociometers,” a device about the size of a smart phone that measures social interactions.

Their results found that the gender who spoke more very much depended on the setting. Women were slightly more likely to engage in casual conversation during a lunch hour but much more likely to engage in long conversations during an academic collaboration. However, men were more likely to dominate conversation when placed in a professional group of six or more people.

“So it’s a very par­tic­ular sce­nario that leads to more interactions,” Lazer said. “The real story here is there’s an inter­play between the set­ting and gender which cre­ated this difference.”

While Lazer might have been the first researcher to use sociometers in such a study, the question of which gender talks more has been asked many times before. A number of self-help books have cited this statistic: women utter an average of 20,000 words a day while men speak an average of only 7,000. A researcher from the University of Pennsylvania who tried to track this statistic’s origin found that it may have come from a 1993 marriage counselor’s pamphlet. The pamphlet’s numbers were, surprisingly, unsourced.

In the world of actual science, one 2007 study found that women and men use roughly the same number of words a day: 16,215 words for women compared to men’s 15,669. And while one 2004 study found that girls spoke a negligibly small amount more than boys, another from the same year found that boys spoke up nine times more in the classroom.

Above all, Lazer’s study proves that the debate on the subject roils on. However, for those who still believe women to be the more talkative sex, this old Chinese proverb may offer insight: “The tongue is the sword of a woman, and she never lets it become rusty.”

TIME Dating

Sorry, Google: Amazon’s Employees Are Hotter Than Yours

An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013.
An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013. Bloomberg—Getty Images

At least according to dating app Hinge

Amazon isn’t just a company with an attractive portfolio—CEO Jeff Bezos is worth a staggering $30 billion—it also possesses the most attractive employees, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Hinge, a dating app that matches young professionals in similar networks, found that users are 14.2% more likely to “swipe right” for Amazon employees than their counterparts at tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple. Microsoft comes in second with approval levels hitting 8.2% above average, while Apple ranks as the least attractive tech firm with a paltry percentage of 0.2.

Since 2013, Hinge has examined the most attractive firms in New York City, Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco.Different industries are represented in the lists. Two media firms top New York’s list—Women at MediaVest USA and men at Facebook boast high scores.

But are Amazon employees really more attractive than their Googlers? Amazon reported having 117,300 employees as of January, including part-time workers, while Microsoft has 99,000, Apple 80,300, Google 47,756 and Facebook with 6,337. Hinge works to connect people within their career networks, meaning that more Amazon employees may be more likely to be on the dating app, just because of sheer size. Hinge also reported Amazon as the least “picky” of the tech companies—meaning they were more likely to say “swipe right” on a profile—which could also account for the high numbers.

Amazon employees could be ridiculously good looking, or maybe they just like to lovingly look at their colleagues’ profiles in hopes for a date.

 

 

TIME Sex

The Strange Social Science of the Color Red

Women walking
Getty Images

There's plenty of research connecting the color with sex. Here's why

When it comes to sex and women, red is the first color you think of, right? Red lips, red lingerie, red dress. Studies show men perceive women who wear red on dating profiles as both sexier and more open to a sexual encounter.

Red, it seems, sends a very clear message—about sex. And now scientists add to the scarlet sex literature with this piece of data, which we reported on earlier, in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin – turns out it’s not just men, but women too who see women who dress in red as more overtly sexual and open to having sex. Not only that, women perceive other women who sport red clothing as sexual rivals (i.e. after their mates), which raises their competitive instincts and leads them to think negatively about their ability to maintain relationships and be loyal.

What? Does that mean every time I grab the red dress my female friends see me as a romantic threat who is about to move in on their partners? “I don’t think it’s the case that women who wear red are always advertising sexual interest,” says Adam Pazda, a social psychologist at University of Rochester who led the study. “But there is evidence that people make judgments about other people in general based on clothing. You can see how color might easily fit into that.”

MORE: The Science of Dating: Wear Red

Pazda says that studies have also shown that people who view pictures of female news anchors in loose or tight-fitting clothing perceived those wearing the form-fitting outfits as less competent, possibly some derivation of the idea that they were dressing for sex and therefore somehow less able to do their jobs.

One thing to remember about that study, and Pazda’s as well: You probably react differently to strangers you pass on the street than those you’re confronted with in a lab setting, where the questions the scientists are asking can’t help but be leading.

If someone sticks a picture of a news anchor wearing a loose top in front of you, asks you to rate her competence, you’re going to grasp at any possible clue to make your decision, because you have to make a decision, or a judgment. You have no other information on the anchor—you don’t know her, you don’t know her background, and you certainly don’t know her experience, which would be more reasonable measures of her competence. Instead, you’re making a snap judgment and for that, you tend to rely on your cultural experience.

And when it comes to the color red and women, that cultural background tells you that red equals sex. In Pazda’s study, he ran three experiments, one to test whether women perceived other women dressing in red as more sexually receptive than those clothed in the same outfit but in white; another to determine if that perception of being more open to sex implied sexual promiscuity, and a final experiment to test whether another color (green) and outfit changed the results.

Each participant was shown either the red-clothed image or the white- or green-clothed one, and then asked to rate, on a sliding scale, the woman’s openness to sexual encounters and her promiscuity. But since they knew nothing else about the women in the pictures. They couldn’t hear their voices, or watch their behaviors. With no other information to go on what were the participants basing their decisions on?

They were likely relying on deeply ingrained, and even unconscious biases connecting the color red to sex. “When we asked, ‘Is this person interested in sex,’ or how seductive or flirtatious is this person, they are drawing on whatever cues are available to make judgments about them,” says Pazda. “One of the only cues is using the dress or shirt color.”

That may only play a small part in people’s first impressions of others in real life, however, where they have facial expressions, behavior, conversations and other information on which to base their decision. Pazda admits that “people aren’t always making judgments about others automatically. But if we stop and make a judgment, color may influence how that judgment is processed.”

TIME relationships

Robin Thicke’s Official ‘Get Her Back’ 1-800-Flowers Bouquet Costs $350

Robin Thicke performs on stage at Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park on July 6, 2014 in London.
Robin Thicke performs on stage at Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park on July 6, 2014 in London. Joseph Okpako—Redferns/Getty Images

"Get Her Back" with flowers

Robin Thicke has managed to shock us again—and this time it’s not with his increasingly desperate public campaign to win back his estranged wife Paula Patton.

Retailer 1-800-FLOWERS.COM has partnered with the lovelorn pop star to create two bouquets named after his track, “Get Her Back” and the upcoming single, “Forever Love.” You can buy your desperation in the form of 18 long-stem red roses in the “Forever Love” bouquet for $64.99 or $89.99, or the romantic “Get Her Back” bouquet with 100 red roses for $349.99.

No word on whether the bouquets come in a vase full of Robin Thicke’s tears.

TIME relationships

Princeton Mom: “Stop Acting Like Such an Entitled Princess”

Susan Patton knows what's ruining marriages (Hint: It's the woman's fault)

Susan Patton, the Princeton mom who advised female students to spend their college years searching for husbands, is back! And now she says she has the answer to all marital woes: Ladies, you aren’t appreciating your men enough.

“Stop acting like such an entitled princess,” Patton said on Monday’s Fox & Friends. (Patton was responding to a segment from Sunday’s show that focused on what husbands should do for their wives.) “Recognize that there are many women who miss their opportunity entirely to marry and have children. If you’re fortunate enough to have found a man to marry, respect him.”

And for those less fortunate women still waiting on a ring, don’t forget that your clock is ticking. “If you are in your mid-30s or older the idea that you’re going to find yourself another husband, almost impossible,” said self-described human resources specialist and life coach. “And if you don’t believe me ask your maiden aunt, she will tell you when she’s done feeding the cats.”

In order to avoid becoming a cat lady, Patton recommends staying in a marriage regardless of happiness. “Don’t even think that divorce is an option. You work on it. You make it work,” she said. She may have some regrets in that area—the Princeton grad recently finalized her own divorce.

TIME relationships

How to Dump a Cheater: Say It With a Freeway Banner

Why get mad, when you can publicly humiliate the jerk instead?

Revenge fantasies can be fun, but are often illegal, immoral or just too complicated. But two women in the United Kingdom appear to have found a simple way to get back at their lothario — who was allegedly dating both of them at the same time — with maximum impact.

On Wednesday, a banner appeared on a bridge above a busy freeway near the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead, which read: “Steve Frazer You’re Dumped! By Both of Your Girlfriends.” A joint selfie of the two women and a photo of the (alleged) cheater were emblazoned on the banner as well.

To be clear, we have no idea what the backstory is behind the banner — nor does anyone else who’s gone public, anyway. The most obvious scenario would be that the ladies, who bare a disturbing resemblance to each other, found out that their man was dating both of them and were pissed. (Wait, wasn’t there a movie about this?)

Whatever the case, we’re pretty sure Steve was squirming in his car seat when he saw the banner, which was taken down later in the day. As one tweep noted, “Not a great day for Steve Frazer”.

TIME technology

This Map Shows What Guys Are Like in Each Major City

Lulu

#PornEducated? Yeah, that sounds like New York to me...

Since its February 2013 launch, Lulu — an app that allows women to look up potential suitors’ peer written reviews, as they would a taco shop on Yelp — has sat on a behemoth of hashtag evaluations categorizing men across the country for their good (#OpensDoors), bad (#PornEducated), and ugly (#Broverdose) characteristics.

But now, in the name of science (ish), Lulu has put its data to good use by breaking down how men differ across the country. Behold Lulu’s Map of America, characterizing the unique qualities bros (at least there are a lot of bros in Chicago and Dallas) have in different big cities.

“There’s a techie flavor to guys in San Francisco (no surprise!) with hashtags like #NerdyButILikeIt and #WorkEthic,” Lulu founder and CEO Alexandra Chong told TIME. “The party boys of Miami generally get hashtags like #AlwaysHappy and #AlwaysPays. And we see the stereotype of the gallant Texan with hashtags like #OpensDoors and #StrongHands.”

And let’s not discount the #SmellsAmazeballs men of Philadelphia. Some ladies just really love the essence of cheesesteaks.

“If you want a one-night fling, I would check out the guys in New York who get described as #PantyDroppers and #BedroomEyes,” Chong said.

Gotta love sticking to those stereotypes.

TIME Music

How to Get Your Ex Back Without Being as Creepy as Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke and Paula Patton
Paula Patton and Robin Thicke attend a Robin Thicke album release party on Sept. 4, 2013, in New York City. Andrew Toth—WireImage

Thicke's new music has been criticized as creepy — but there's a better way to woo

Robin Thicke’s new album Paula just dropped, but the verdict’s already in — and regardless of the album’s actual merits, the consensus says creepy.

Paula is, not coincidentally, also the name of Thicke’s estranged wife, Paula Patton. When the couple separated earlier this year, they said it was a mutual decision and offered no public explanation of why, but rumors flew; if his public plea at the June 29 BET Awards and his video for the single “Get Her Back” — which relies on what appear to be their text message exchanges — are any indication, it’s clear he wants to rekindle things. Though she hasn’t said anything publicly, popular opinion says that his overt play for her affections was a miscalculation: rather than sweet, listeners are finding him disconcerting.

His video for “Get Her Back” has been called “creepy, desperate” by Entertainment Weekly. Bustle put together a list of “11 creepy things that are still less creepy than Robin Thicke’s album Paula.” Slate’s Amanda Hess examined the culture behind his creepiness, and Jessica Valenti at the Guardian dubbed him a “creepy crooner.”

But it is possible to try to win back an ex without getting seeming creepy, says Dr. Sheri Meyers, a marriage and family therapist who’s written books, like Chatting or Cheating, that address rebuilding relationships. “He’s got lots of fans, he’s very popular; one would expect people would go, Awww, poor Robin,” she says. “What’s the difference between awww and ewww? [It's that] using public sympathy feels manipulative.”

It’s important, she says, to respect the other’s persons privacy, something she feels that Thicke isn’t necessarily keeping in mind. It’s not that music about real relationships is inherently problematic — Meyers acknowledges that writing someone a song and sending it privately would be more likely to seem sweet than strange — or that an artist shouldn’t use self-examination for creative material. But if the material that comes out of self-examination is for public consumption, she advises keeping the direct references (the other person’s name, for example) out of it.

“It’s that he’s doing it so publicly when it’s private. It almost feels like it’s narcissism,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like it’s for her. It’s really all about him. That’s what turns most people off.”

The analogy she draws to non-pop-star life is about post-break-up social media. Though fictional characters and celebrities have long had the opportunity to make grand public gestures, social media allows the rest of us to be tempted to indulge the same impulse. “It’s really a bad idea to use social media to negatively post to get sympathy. That’s such a big no-no and a lot of people are doing that now, because they’re gathering so much energy and attention,” she says. “Never, ever, ever, ever do that. To do posts on Facebook that are about love or lovingness or how wonderful it is to be in love isn’t a bad thing, but you cannot hound your ex. You can’t tag your ex. You can’t keep texting your ex.”

Which gets to another thing she counsels her own clients about: when to give up. You have to stop “when your partner says no, when your partner moves on, when your partner doesn’t want to talk to you”; the text messages from the “Get Her Back” video, whether real or imagined, are in direct defiance of that rule. It’s that undertone, a persistence that seems to go too far, that’s lent much of the creepiness factor to Thicke’s pursuit of Patton. (Valenti’s Guardian piece explains the problem with this dynamic well.) Meyers adds that focusing on fixing your own problems means you’ll be ready for your ex to change his or her mind, or for someone new to come along; fixating on the person who left even after overtures have been rejected is, she says, behavior more accurately described as addiction than as love.

Though it remains to be seen what will happen with Thicke and Patton — and whether the rest of the world will hear about it, perhaps in a new song — Meyers does think that the reaction to Paula is worth watching.

“There could be a lesson in this,” she says. “Unfortunately, the lesson is: don’t do this.”

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