Why We All Suck at Gauging Interest

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Scientists have known for a long time that dudes — ever optimistic about their odds of getting some — overestimate women’s interest in them. (Just ask a girl about the last time a boy at a bar wouldn’t take a hint and leave her alone. It was probably…last weekend.) Girls have some trouble figuring out who’s into them, too, but studies on them have been a mixed bag.

So some intrepid psychologists at Williams College and the University of Texas at Austin decided to suss out once and for all the who, how and why of our terrible people-reading skills. They had a bunch of students rate their own attractiveness and reveal how keen they were on NSA sex, and then do a round of speed-dating, pausing to gauge their dates’ looks and interest in them in between three minute stints of presumably awkward conversation. Behold:

*Men looking to hook up overestimated the women’s desire for them.

*Men who thought they were hotties also thought the women were hot for them…

*…but men who were actually attractive, per the females’ ratings, didn’t make this mistake.

*The more attractive the girl was to the guy, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest.

*Ladies underestimated men’s desire for them.

It sounds like a hot mess, but researchers think these findings actually make sense from an evolutionary perspective. If a guy goes for it with a way-out-of-his-league woman, the worst thing that can happen is a bruised ego (or a drink in the face, I suppose). But if he makes the opposite mistake, thinking she’d never be into him, he could miss out on mating with the bearer of some damn fine genetic material. So the overconfident men got more tail, had more kids and passed on this genetic tendency.

This is especially true for the casual sex seekers, who (remember, evolutionarily) are trying to spread their seed like Johnny Apple: The more consenting partners they can find, the better, all the more reason to overestimate their chances. Only actual Adonises don’t need rose-colored glasses to win big in terms of reproductive success.

So, lesson time: Men, know that the more into her you are, the blinder you are to her desperate glances toward her friends. And women, be as clear as possible when you’re not interested. Oh, and don’t sell yourself short. That hottie in the corner? He could totally be checking you out right now. [via ScienceDaily]

[photo credit: 80s Purple]