TIME relationships

Sigh: Men Think Women Who Listen to Them Are Sexier

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Listening woman Image Source RF/Wonwoo Lee—Getty Images/Image Source

A new study shows that men think women who are aware of their feelings are attractive, but it didn't necessarily work the other way around

Dusty Springfield was right all those years ago when she said the best way to a man’s heart was to “show him that you care.” A new study shows that men are more sexually attracted to “responsive” women who tend to their needs, but the same can’t be said about what attracts women to men.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that after just meeting, men were more likely to be sexually attracted to a woman who was “responsive,” which meant “aware of what I’m thinking and feeling” or “listening to me.” Men perceived responsive women as more feminine, and therefore more sexually attractive.

Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, one of the authors of the study, said that “responsiveness” could also indicate which women would be viewed as long-term partners vs. short term hookups. “A responsive partner may be perceived as a warm and caring and therefore a desirable long-term partner,” she said in an email.

Unsurprisingly, the female attitude towards male “responsiveness” was more complicated. On the one hand, some women saw responsiveness as an indication that the man would be a desirable mate, while others suspiciously viewed it as a ploy to manipulate them into sex. Still others thought that “responsiveness” was un-masculine, and therefore not sexy.

So there might be actually some science behind the whole “nice guys finish last” thing.

What a bummer.

TIME Dating

OkCupid Relaunches OkTrends: A Beloved Blog That Tracks Online Daters’ Fascinating Habits

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OkCupid relaunched OkTrends after 3 years off Getty Images

After a three-year hiatus

In 2009, OkCupid gave the people of the Internet a beautiful gift. No, not eternal love. A peek into the its massive treasure trove of user data — exposing everything from strange overshares (How much do Twitter users masturbate?) to serious issues (How does race impact the messages you receive?).

The observations and statistics were catalogued in the blog OkTrends, written by OKC co-founder Christian Rudder, which started accumulating some 1 million unique views per post. But in April 2011, the web favorite went dormant, leaving its fans questioning, what’s REAL “stuff white people like” today?

Until now. Monday marked the relaunch of OkTrends.

“We always said we were going to relaunch the blog,” Rudder says. “I put it on pause because I was working on a book… but with that being finished and about to come out, it was time to restart.”

All hail.

Since the OkTrends lull occurred two months after Match.com bought OkCupid, Rudder says some people floated conspiracy theories that Match shut it down. “They absolutely did not,” he says. “In fact they were sad we had to take time off from it.”

But with his book Dataclysm: Who We Are set for a September release, Rudder says he’s back and ready to write a new OkTrends post once every four weeks.

This month’s post proudly declared “We Experiment on Human Beings!” — appropriate given the collective freakout over Facebook’s June emotional manipulation study — and chronicles times the dating network used its users as guinea pigs. For example, OkCupid once told people with a 30% compatibility rating that they were a 90% match, just to see what happened.

Even though Rudder says OkCupid only gets an estimated 1,000 people to sign up after a post goes live, “the effect is more simmering than that.”

For example, if a woman reads an OkTrend piece when she’s in a relationship, she might remember a particularly insightful post several months later when she’s single again and sign up for the service.

“It was more of a long game for us,” Rudder says. “It’s like a billboard in Times Square for Coke. I don’t think people walk past it and are like, ‘I’ve gotta go get a Coke right now.’ It just puts it in their mind and then, when they’re thirsty, they go get a Coke.”

 

TIME Internet

Facebook Isn’t the Only Website Running Experiments on Human Beings

OKCupid proudly cops to the trend

+ READ ARTICLE

It was the Facebook study heard ’round the world. In June, the social network revealed that it had briefly tweaked its algorithm for a lucky (or unlucky) 698,003 users to make them feel happier (or sadder) based on what they see on their Newsfeed. The reaction to human experimentation—creepy emotional manipulation! mind control!—came out so strong, that Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked the FTC to investigate.

Christian Rudder, the co-founder of dating site OKCupid, was shocked by the internet’s shock. “It’s just a fact of life online,” he says. “There’s no website that doesn’t run experiments online.”

And so, Rudder posted OKTrends’ first blog post in three years Monday to announce to the world, “We experiment on human beings!”

Rudder relaunched the site with the revelation that “OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing,” which is why it uses human guinea pigs. And to be honest, “If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site.”

For example, OkCupid decided to run an experiment in which it told people who were bad matches (30%) that they actually had a compatibility score of 90%. And the result was that they were far more likely to exchange four messages — aka an actual “conversation” — with a bad match they thought was good than with a bad match they knew was subpar.

OkTrends

Luckily, OKC investigated further and found that all online daters aren’t just sheep. Matches were far more likely to have conversations with people they were actually matches with as opposed to people they were told they were good matches with.

OkTrends

Other experiments can be found in the OkTrends blog post.

Rudder argues that some online experiments can lead to offline life changes, like when Facebook tests out a new layout on a small percent of users to see if it’s more effective. “My wife’s Facebook was ordered differently than mine,” he says. “You know, I’m not saying that we are now totally different people, but she saw some news that I didn’t see and she reacted to it and whatever.”

Or the changes can be bigger, Rudder says. “On OkCupid, when we make a change, even a mundane one, that changes who people talk to, who they flirt with, who they go on dates with, and I’m sure in some cases who they get married to.”

At the end of the day, Rudder thinks, “If you like Facebook or think that Reddit is a good thing or OKCupid is a good thing, then almost by definition experiments can be good. That’s the only way you get from Facemash, which Mark Zuckerberg made in his dorm room, to Facebook.”

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.

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