A New Study Says the Potential to Have Sex Might Make You a Liar
Apparently, the mere potential to get laid turns us all into dirty, dirty liars. Or, at least, it ups the odds that we’re going to massage the truth in order to make a hot person want to romantically and passionately lick faces.
According to a new study out of the Journal of Experimental Psychology from researchers out of the University of Rochester in New York and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, people are more likely to lie about themselves while trying to impress a sexual partner. If you’ve ever been a human who has made propositions of sex with other humans, this probably isn’t all that much of a shock.
In four studies on heterosexual participants, researchers set out to see if the subjects who were “sexually primed” (read: made to think about things sexually) were more likely to lie, adjust or bend the truth about themselves than folks who weren’t primed to think that way.
In the first study, participants were asked to argue with a stranger of a different sex about the solution to a fictional dilemma. The sexually primed subjects, per the study, were more likely to agree with their debate partner’s point of view. (This is like when you think someone has an Awful, No Good, Very Bad Opinion about a book or TV show or the tax code, but they also have good eyebrows and nice hands and are otherwise perfectly delightful; so you say something like “totally, I see how you could think that” and move along.)
The second experiment compiled relationship preferences from the subjects on questions ranging from cleanliness they’d want in a partner to movie taste to a whether or not they were into snuggling. Subjects were exposed to either neutral or more “sexually priming” stimuli and then were exposed to a similar dating profile of a potential conversation partner. Researchers found that when they were given the chance to create their profiles again, the sexually-primed group were more likely to change their answers to align with the partner’s profile they’d just viewed.
While lying in order to get a person to have sex with you is bad (and coercive in extreme cases), the researchers note that “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. Such attitude changes might be viewed as a subtle exaggeration or as a harmless move to impress or be closer to a potential partner.”
So fudging truths about wanting to cuddle post-coitus, your willingness to sit through that sportsketball game or whether you’re actually put off by their messy apartment might just be a case of wanting to leave space to forge that sexy connection you’re already feeling without a pesky thing like some of your more malleable preferences getting in the way. Besides, compromise and concessions are a thing. Right?
The last two experiments focused more on people being open about the number of sexual partners they’ve had — first in conversation with people they’d find sexually attractive and then in anonymous questionnaires. They found that sexually-primed participants were more likely to give a lower number than non-sexually primed people. (And It should be noted that the stigma surrounding that number of sex partners can be a deeply complicated thing for people to be forthcoming about —especially for women who are culturally conditioned not to have all the sex they want whenever they want.)
But, ultimately, researchers just foundd that these ever-so-gentle maneuvers around the truth when you’re sexually primed are about “impression management” — trying to present a version of yourself that is sexually desirable to a potential partner.
Does that kind of courtship leads to a lasting and fulfilling partnership based on mutual goal-setting and admiration? Unclear. But it’s probably fine if you put “loves hiking” in your online dating profile when you mean “likes trees, sometimes” — we’re all just trying to spit-shine ourselves in just the right way to find love.
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