The Surprising Sign a Woman Finds You Attractive, New Study Says
Researchers offer a glimpse into how women experience attraction differently.
We all know the feeling of romantic attraction—that tantalizing, nerve-racking feeling of a possible new connection—but according to recent research, there are fundamental differences in how women process that attraction compared to men. A study published last month in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that for women, attraction can have a significant effect on time perception.
So, do good dates linger longer, or does time fly when you're having fun? Read on to learn the strange sign that a woman is attracted to you, and how it may change her feelings toward your date.
Several studies have assessed how different situations affect one's perception of time, and most have found that the more cognitive processing is required for a task, the slower time seems to pass. For this reason, researchers have long suspected that processing attraction to a potential partner might, too, affect time perception.
The Frontiers study used a speed dating experiment to determine the impact of attraction on time perception. Working with a sample of 37 volunteers—18 women and 19 men—they issued questionnaires before and after the dates that gave insight into their levels of attraction toward their date. Afterward, they were asked to estimate the length of the date itself.
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The team found that when women were matched with a date they reported to be attractive before and after the date, they tended to overestimate how much time they had spent together. This suggested to the researchers that women's perception of time slows when they are attracted to someone.
"When a woman perceives a potential partner as physically attractive she pays attention to several other characteristics of that man in order to make a reasoned choice (e.g., economic resources and intelligence), allocating many mental resources in that assessment. The use of these cognitive resources would make the perceived duration of the date longer," the team explained.
While the researchers found that women's perception of time slowed when faced with an attractive partner, they determined that men's perception of time accelerated. They attributed the difference to women processing more information than men over the course of the date. "Males tend to be less selective than women and they may feel attracted to potential partners based mostly on their physical attractiveness," the team concluded.
They also found some truth to the old adage that "time flies when you're having fun"—for men, at least. Those who were most "interested and motivated" by a potential partner more consistently underestimated the lengths of those dates. Less mentally taxed by consciously or subconsciously assessing their date as a long-term prospect, they reported that time passed more quickly.
To explain the gender gap they observed, the researchers pointed to a 1972 theory by the evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist Robert Trivers. The "parental investment theory," as it's called, "predicts that the sex that invests more in its offspring will be more selective when choosing a mate, and the less-investing sex will have intra-sexual competition for access to mates." According to this theory, women have more evolutionary incentive to choose a high quality partner for reproductive reasons, making them "the more investing sex."
Of course, as with any pattern in dating, there will be countless women and men who buck the trend. Still, it's a good reminder that your perception of a first date is highly subjective and likely colored by your own motivations—even more so when attraction is involved.