There is no greater power of persuasion than that of the right woman in the right place at the right time. Sure we all know it’s true, but how do you provide evidence for this?
According to New Scientist, attractive women scramble men’s ability to assess the future. Scientifically, it’s known as “discounting the future.” Seen frequently in animals, it means preferring an immediate, lesser reward to a greater reward in the future.
Here’s an example: If someone offered to give you $10,000 now or the same amount five years from now, you would choose to take the money today because there is no value in waiting. But if someone were to offer you $10,000 today or $50,000 in five years, you would probably opt to wait for the higher amount. This is called “rational discounting.” If you were to take the $10,000 today, it’s called “irrational discounting.”
The study: McMaster University researchers Margo Wilson and Martin Daly wanted to find out if sexual mood influenced discounting behavior. They showed 209 male and female students pictures of attractive and not-so-attractive people of the opposite sex. Each was then offered a chance to win a prize. They could accept a check for between $15 and $35 tomorrow or one for $50 to $75 at some point in the future.
The results for the men: After a man viewed pictures of women who were of average attractiveness, they made a rational decision about the prize money and accepted the larger amount to be received in the future. But when they had just seen pictures of beautiful women, they discounted the future value of the reward in an irrational way and opted instead for the immediate and smaller cash outlay. In other words, after seeing a very attractive woman, the men were more likely to make dumb choices.
The results for the women: Viewing the photographs of men–whether they were sexy hunks or just run-of-the-mill guys–had no effect on women’s ability to make rational decisions.
Why the difference? Wilson and Daly don’t know, but they suspect that viewing pictures of pretty women is mildly arousing for men. If that’s the case, it would activate neural mechanisms associated with cues of sexual opportunity. Tommaso Pizzari, an evolutionary biologist at Leeds University, offered another possible explanation to New Scientist: “If there’s the prospect of getting a very attractive partner it may pay a man to take more risks than if an average partner was available.”
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