Men overestimate a woman's desire

A man who is interested in a certain woman often overestimates the signals she is sending back to him, new research has shown. Published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the study revealed the more attractive the female is to the male, the more he wrongly decrees her own interest to be.

The investigation was carried out by Williams College psychologist Carin Perilloux and Judith Easton and David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin - founded in 1883 - and found sexual clues can often be ambiguous, resulting in many guys reading them incorrectly.

According to the study, men in search of a quick hook-up are prone to think a member of the opposite sex is more interested in them than she really is, while guys who believe themselves to be attractive are more likely to think a lady is into them.

Ms Perilloux warned males: "Know that the more attracted you are, the more likely you are to be wrong about her interest."

Dr George Fieldman, Chartered Scientist, commented: "This is an interesting study. Clearly, when one individual has a sexual interest in another, it will always be uncertain, and not necessarily apparent, as to whether their interest is reciprocated or not. 

"The finding that heightened interest in men, especially men who consider themselves to be attractive, is associated with a tendency to overestimate the degree to which their interest is reciprocated is important. It would be interesting to know if women possess a similar bias. 

"Of course, sexual interest is rarely an on/off or a static phenomenon. It is likely to be continuously variable both within and between individuals. 

"From an evolutionary anthropological perspective, it is interesting to speculate upon what adaptive advantages there may be to the bias this study highlights. Let us say that person A expresses a sexual interest in person B, but person B does not immediately reciprocate. Provided that person B does not find the expression of person A's interest inappropriate per se, it may be that person A's overestimation that their feelings are reciprocated may serve to keep up person A's efforts to win over person B's affection.

"If this were the case, then it is easy to see how such a bias may have been selected for across evolutionary history. Furthermore, as other research has indicated, both affection and sexual interest can grow with familiarity between individuals, which would be a further reason for person A not to give up hope immediately.

"Provided we are referring to behaviours that are both non-intimidatory and consensual, I'm not sure men need to be warned about this finding, as suggested, But if the findings were replicated it might be helpful to inform both men and women about its conclusions."