Posted on Nov 05, 2019, 6 p.m.
Dating deception: it may come as no real surprise, but a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has revealed that when sex is on our minds, lying comes naturally.
First impressions are important, and when it comes to dating this may apply even more so. Most want to be seen in the best light by potential new flames or sexual partners, and when it comes to doing the bump and grind some people will say just about anything. At some point a little embellishment can turn into a flat outright lie, and if you have felt that person you just had to meet isn’t being completely honest to improve the chances of making a connection, odds are you are probably right.
This study from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the University of Rochester researchers suggests that whenever the possibility of a romantic or sexual encounter reveals itself people, of both genders, are more likely to present themselves in a deceptive manner in order to appear as attractive as possible in hopes to attract the potential new mate. As our sexual systems are activated in the presence of a potential mate it is common for people to embellish, conform, change their attitudes on certain topics, and outright lie to make a good impression.
The term activation of the sexual system does not actually entail physical sexual arousal, rather it refers to when the brain first becomes aware that we are attracted to someone and begins to formulate sexual thoughts and inclinations.
A series of four experiments were conducted to test if people naturally lie and embellish when sexaully activiated which involved 634 heterosexual students with an average age of 25; across all 4 experiments one group was exposed to sexual stimuli in the form of videos, and another groups was exposed to non-sexual content, then both groups were prompted to interact with a member of the opposite sex.
During the first experiment pairings were asked to debate a fictitious situation face to face, with each participant being assigned to take a specific stance. Those exposed to sexual stimuli beforehand were revealed to be much more likely to express agreement with a member of the opposite sex during debates compared to the control group.
The second experiment investigated whether participants would contradict a stance or opinion they had written out to appease an attractive person’s ideals. Each student was asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding dating preferences, then they were exposed to either a subliminal sexual picture or a neutral image. Following this they were told they would be engaging in an online chat with an attractive person, and were given a profile of that person which included some of their written opinion and preferences. Those exposed to the sexual images were much more likely to conform their tastes to that of the chat partner, and in many cases those tastes directly contradicted what they had recorded in their questionnaires.
“The desire to impress a potential partner is particularly intense when it comes to preferences that are at the heart of establishing an intimate bond,” the study reads. “Such attitude changes might be viewed as a subtle exaggeration, or as a harmless move to impress or be closer to a potential partner.”
The remaining experiments focused on whether or not people would lie about their number of past sexual partners; it was theorized participants would reduce their number in order to appear less promiscuous and more selective. Following the same video protocol as the previous two studies after watching participants were asked to talk about their sexual history with an attractive person before being asked to document their sexual history once more with an anonymous questionnaire. Those exposed to sexual stimuli were much more likely to lie and report lower numbers than they had written in their questionnaires; both genders tended to report lower numbers in the presence of an attractive person, and the most common false number given was seven previous sexual partners.
“People will do and say just about anything in order to make a connection with an attractive stranger,” said study author and social psychologist Gurit Birnbaum. “When your sexual system is activated you are motivated to present yourself in the best light possible. That means you’ll tell a stranger things that make you look better than you really are.”
“A lot of it is not necessarily what you’d call a bald-faced lie. Even though it’s clearly not the truth, it’s a way of people finding ways to emphasize different parts of how they see themselves,” adds co-author Professor Harry Reis. “I think there’s some degree to which it is finding ways to shade one’s perception of the truth. It still counts as a lie, there’s no question about that.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.