Males miss danger signs while women work on relationship, study finds
The Toronto Star
Jul 16, 2008 04:30 AM
It’s official: Men are oblivious when it comes to the dangers of flirts.
Social psychologists at McGill University have discovered that different beliefs between men and women about the power of flirting can hurt committed relationships.
Men simply do not see the same danger as women when a flirt strikes, says Prof. John Lydon, lead author of the study in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
But there is an almost immediate negative impact on the relationship, researchers discovered in a series of experiments involving 724 heterosexual college students involved in serious relationships.
Lydon, a relationship expert, says the team studied flirting because they are surrounded by students as subjects. If they were studying people in their 40s, he says, they’d have looked at problems with in-laws or conflict resolution.
In one experiment, a meeting with an “available, attractive alternative” was closely followed by the discovery their partner had done something that irritated them, such as reveal an embarrassing detail to others. The men got angry. The women, however, became more loving and forgiving.
According to Lydon, these young women recognized the danger presented by an attractive flirt and worked to shore up the committed relationship they already had. The men didn’t have a clue what was going on, he says.
“One of the undergraduate males (in the study) asked, `Does this mean men are pigs?’ said Lydon, adding that it only means men are self-focused and “not making the connection.”
In another test, men and women were just asked to visualize meeting a sexy flirt of the opposite sex.
The men also failed to connect the dots.
When presented with the letters LO(space)AL, men wrote “local” while women chose “loyal.”
Similarly, BE(space)A(space)E was ” became” to men, and “beware” to the women.
Lydon says women are just more proactive at saving the relationship, using skills honed over centuries of being warned of the perils of flirtatious men.
“Women are just more likely to have guys coming on to them,” he says, adding that this kicks in a defensive response, “Oh, I’ve got to watch out for the relationship.”
Men, who are considered able to handle themselves in the face of an aggressive female, aren’t raised with relationship-saving tricks, says Lydon, adding that it is possible to “train the men up.”
Simply having men visualize meeting a hot babe and then come up with strategies, such as ignoring her or mentioning their girlfriend, helped the study subjects actively work on keeping their committed relationship safe, he says.