Thursday, 28 February 2013

Breaking the Ice, approaching and talking to Girls and Guys

Jeremy Nicholson who calls himself the “Attraction Doctor” wrote an interesting article a couple of years ago regarding, approaching and talking to people you find attractive. These are essentially persuasion techniques that can be used in the dating game.

Social and Personality Psychologist Jeremy Nicholson suggests that approaching someone is difficult because you are often opening yourself up for evaluation. Essentially, you’re saying "I like you"...and asking "do you like me"? This gives the other person all of the "power" and "influence" in the situation. They are in a position to "take you" or "leave you", without you having much more say in the matter.

Considering this, it is no wonder breaking the ice and making the first move is so hard. Who would knowingly want to put themselves in a position of vulnerability? That is the reason why many women prefer to be "attractive" and try to motivate the man to approach them. It is also the reason why many men refuse to do so.

Fortunately, there are other ways to approach and start a conversation without feeling vulnerable opening yourself up to evaluation. In fact, sometimes these techniques are even more persuasive than the "direct approach".

1) Make a Statement (Probably the best for approaching someone you haven’t met before).

This is simply saying something to the other person or about the general situation, without desiring a response from them at all. It is just you expressing your opinion (but keep it positive).

Simple examples..…."I love the coffee here"! "It is a great day today". These are pretty lame conversation starters, but said with confidence and a slight smile, carry a lot of weight. And if the other person is at all interested, he or she will continue the conversation with another statement and if you’ve done it well- a smile (then you’re golden!). If they are not interested and say nothing, no worries because you haven’t risked anything- no vulnerability. You were just being a nice guy or girl. You have simply made a statement.

2) Evaluation (better for approaching someone you kind of know)

Most approaches go wrong because the person is trying to impress. They are trying to "earn" the other individual's interest or attraction. Essentially, they are opening themselves up to "being judged"...rather than evaluating or screening the other person.

So, rather than letting them evaluate you, evaluating them instead! Ask them something that will qualify them as a partner and see whether they pass. For example, ask them how they take their coffee (and tease them if it is gross). Ask them why they are shopping on a Sunday afternoon. Ask them if they can make an omelette. Ask them what music they like. Just keep it somewhat fun, flirty, and a bit evaluative of THEM. You're NOT asking what they think of YOU in any way.

It puts them out there to impress you while you get to judge them and essentially gives you all the power (which is attractive). But be careful, don’t question them on the materialistic stuff (like their clothes, car or watch), that’s stuff that can be compared quite quickly and obviously to your wealth and can put them back in the power seat if they are loaded (a bit plastic but sadly true) or it can make them feel a little unsettled if you are better off. So keep it more personal. Also some people do question others to excess (you know those types..). So, when someone answers your question, give them a little back in return!

3) Ask a Favour (better for approaching someone you sort of know).

Rather than putting yourself out there for a vulnerable evaluation, get the other person to invest a little first. Ask them to do something for you. Make a request. This could even be something small like, "could you grab me a straw"? Or, "could you watch my stuff for a minute while I get a coffee"? Frankly, any small request will do the trick.

This psychological technique of persuasion known as the Ben Franklin Effect, it is the phenomenon where people like others more when they do a favour for them (Jecker & Landry, 1969). That is, when the OTHER PERSON does a favour for you, THEY like you more. So, forget about buying them the drink as an opener...and ask for one instead!


It is possible to get to know someone else, without throwing yourself at their mercy. In fact, the approaches above demonstrate you are strong, confident, attractive...and not in need of their judgment or validation. So, rather than believing some stranger is "great" and you need to "earn" them, use one or more of the techniques above. The basic idea is to keep your "footing" of power, and have a better shot at getting a date!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Love Sick or Limerence?

It seems that “Love sick” is a genuine psychological condition. “Limerence” – some psychologists call "Affection Deficit Disorder" is closer to obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction than puppy love. Left untreated it is agonizing, even fatal and few treat it because few take it seriously.

Albert Wakin, Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University at Fairfield, Connecticut notes that that individuals diagnosed as limerent think about the object of their love up to 98% of the time. A very constant type of love sick. The addictive part of limerence is very powerful because it is an addiction to a person, not a substance.

How it works

Typically, the beginning of a healthy/normal relationship is marked by the "honeymoon period," whereby both people have obsessive-compulsive-like thoughts about the other, and experience high intimacy and passion to tear each other’s cloths off. This honeymoon stage of a relationship is marked by feelings of intense euphoria and the release of our reward-activation neurotransmitters like dopamine (a pleasureable neurotransmitter), oxytocin (the "bonding" chemical released during sex), and elevated levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, all triggered by the sheer novelty of the relationship. So, if you have ever found yourself in a trance-like state whereby your person of interest is the only thing on your mind and you engage in 20-minute conversations with friends, but haven't heard a word they've said, there is scientific evidence to support that you are experiencing a normal stage of love.

Importantly then, in a healthy relationship, usually after around six to twenty-four months the aforementioned hormone levels and feelings of intense euphoria dissipate to a normal degree, which is actually beneficial for both your productivity and sanity. However, those who suffer from Limerence are permanently trapped in this stage of euphoria and it’s associated hormone level. As such, their cognitions and behaviours become obsessive and compulsive.

"In healthy relationships, these hormone levels go back to normal after roughly six to 24 months, but a person suffering from limerence is stuck in the infatuation stage," says Wakin.

Those afflicted with limerence basically never leave the honeymoon stage of their infatuation with someone, high on a “hormonal cocktail” of oxytocin, dopamine, and elevated levels of estrogen and testosterone. Never coming down from that high can cause heart palpitations, loss of sleep, and chest pains, not to mention the truly horrible feeling of loving someone who doesn’t love you back and not being able to get over them.

Wakin emphasizes that you don’t have to be in a relationship to experience it. Also, age and gender do not matter (although it tends to start around age 25 since adolescent and early adulthood experiences of love are hard to distinguish from limerence). Limerence is not about sex, although sexual relations will intensify the feelings. “Men are real suffers of it. Women are likely to tell friends and get support. Men feel that opening up about it is a sign of weakness,” Wakin says.

Although recovery research on this condition is relatively undeveloped, individuals can undergo a combination of medication and therapy to combat symptoms of Limerence. Those who are impacted can enter treatment involving cognitive behavioral therapy as well as take antidepressants, which inhibits the part of the brain that is responsible for obsessive thoughts.

In taking immediate action, if you believe you are suffering from limerence, minimize all contact. Wakin aims to enter the condition into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is due for renewed publication in 2013. According to his estimation, 5 percent of the country's population suffers from limerence.

Is it a real condition?

However, the condition of Limerence is ripe with room for dialogue. First and foremost, is this an actual condition or are we merely giving people an excuse for letting their thoughts go into overdrive? I know I have felt lovesick before, but thinking about the other 98% of the time probably didn’t happen nor did I experience any of the other extreme symptoms Wakin talks about.

 Secondly, since some antidepressant medications have shown to work in inhibiting the obsessive thoughts, is Limerence actually an extension or unique sub-type of depression? Can disconnecting from the person of interest really eliminate these maladaptive symptoms?

Furthermore, it is imperative that individuals do not equate "infatuation" with "Limerence" as the two are distinct experiences and although euphoria may play a role in both, it is Limerence that leads to deleterious consequences, whereas more pleasant emotions are derived from "infatuation."

Women Are Beutiful Wearing Red

Girls look hot wearing red! Psychological research from the University of Rochester has demonstrated that men find women more attractive in red. Interestingly, men are unaware of the subliminal role the colour plays in their attraction.
From the red-light districts to the red hearts on Valentine's Day, the rosy hue has been tied to passion and romantic love across cultures and time. But the Rochester study was one of the first to scientifically document the effects of colour on behaviour in the context of beauty and relationships.

The Study
In the research study, men were shown pictures of women wearing or framed by different colours. Men rated women in red significantly more attractive and sexually desirable than the exact same women shown with other colours. One question asked: "Imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?" . When wearing red, the woman was also more likely to score an invitation to the prom and to be treated to a more expensive outing.

Just beautiful on the outside!

The red effect extends to perceptions of attractiveness. Red did not change how men rated the women in the photographs in terms of likability, intelligence or kindness. Also, red did not increase attractiveness ratings for females rating other females.

More recently Schwarza and Singerb (2013) went further by conducting  a study using a sample of young males average age of 25 and older males average age 53 and how they perceived young females average age of 24 years and older females average age of 53 years on a white or red background.
The results showed that only the young female was perceived as more sexually attractive against the red compared to the white background. Background colour had no effect on the sexual attractiveness of the older target. The young and old men didn’t differ in sexual attractiveness ratings. Again they found men were unaware of this psychological “red effect”. The researchers concluded that red enhances men's attraction to young, but not menopausal women.

But why Red?
Although this aphrodisiacal effect of red may be a product of classical conditioning alone (pairing red with valentine’s day and sexy stuff); researchers argue that men's response to red more likely stems from deeper biological roots. Evidence shows that nonhuman male primates are particularly attracted to females displaying red. Female baboons and chimpanzees, for example, redden conspicuously when nearing ovulation, sending a clear sexual signal designed to attract males.

It is argued that there are parallels in the way human and nonhuman male primates respond to red. As such, we can confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed –men act like animals in the sexual world. Men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner. However, it appears that to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, bluntly put, primitive.

The current findings have clear implications for the dating game, the fashion industry, product design and marketing.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Which hair colour is the most attractive?

 Intuition suggests beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And so surely hair colour comes down to personal preference? However, according to psychological research there is a general consensus among the public regards which hair colour is preferred and considered most attractive.
Nicolas Guéguen from the Université de Bretagne-Sud, in France, has recently published a research paper in the academic journal ‘Psychological Studies’ entitled 'Hair Colour and Courtship: Blond Women Received More Courtship Solicitations and Redhead Men Received More Refusals'.

In Guéguen's study, a female subject sat in a night club for one hour, and the number of men who approached asking for a dance was measured. The experiment was carried out on 16 different nights in a four-week period. Each subject tested four different wigs four times (in order to make sure men were not approaching women for other attractive qualities/variables). In that decisive hour, overall, 127 men approached the women wearing a blond wig, 84 men approached the brown wigged lady, 82 went up to the black haired woman but only 29 approached the red haired lady.
Considering that women are supposed to be less impressed by mere physical appearance, when evaluating how attracted they are to men, how would different hair colour fare on men when it came to women's desire in a similar night club scenario? Four 20 year old male confederates were instructed to ask a woman for a dance. 27.5% of the women said yes to men wearing a blond wig, 30% for the men with a brown wig, 35% acceptances for the invitation to dance were received for men wearing black hair, but only 13.8 % for men who donned a red wig.

Although psychologists argue that women are less interested in men's physical characteristics when it comes to what determines attractiveness, (compared to men's preferences in women), it seems that red hair is associated with dramatically less responsiveness to men's courtship requests from women.

While redheads are considered significantly less attractive in both studies. Greater variation exists in the female wig wearing condition. Guéguen cites previous research into blond female door-to-door fundraisers receiving more donations, than their brunette counterparts. Another prior study found waitresses with blond hair got more tips. Probably more comprehensively, research, which included more than 12,000 American men using a popular dating website, found that men showed a preference for blondes over other hair colours. In yet another previous study, female confederates in their early twenties, were asked to hitchhike while wearing a blond, brown or black wig. Blond, compared to brown or black hair was associated with more male drivers stopping to offer rides, whereas no effect from hair colour was found on female drivers who stopped.

Previously Viren Swami and Seishin Barrett, psychologists at the University of Westminster, London, had earlier conducted a similar experiment to Gueguen’s. In their study the female subject, a natural brunette, dyed her hair blond and red. She sat in various nightclubs over many weeks, and the experimenters observed and counted how many men approached her during a one hour period. When she was blond, 60 men came up to her, while brunette the figure dropped to 42 and then when red, male interest languished at 18 approaches.

Very interestingly, Swami and Barrett also surveyed men in these same nightclubs probing them on attitude to female hair colour, using pictures of the same female confederate with different hair colours. In the study (entitled 'British men's hair colour preferences: An assessment of courtship solicitation and stimulus ratings'), when she was brunette the woman was actually rated as most attractive from her image. So how come men approached her more, when she was blond?

One theory Swami and Barrett propose is based on the fact that their female confederate in the experiment was also rated as more 'needy' by men when she was a blond in the photographs, than when she was a brunette or redhead. The study has recently been published in the 'Scandinavian Journal of Psychology' and argues blonds being perceived as needier may have encouraged men to make approaches, possibly because it induced greater feelings of dominance or confidence in them, which in turn reduced their inhibition.
Perceptions of the blond confederate as being needy may have reduced men's fear of rejection or fear of a hostile response. This of course increased their behaviour in approaching her as a blond.

Interestingly men rated the brunette in the pictures as most intelligent compared to all the hair colours, but also the most arrogant. The red head picture was rated as the least shy, the most temperamental and the most sexually promiscuous of all hair colours. And they might be right about the promiscuous part. A University of Hamburg study found that redheads have more active sex lives than brunettes and blondes!

Guéguen reports previous research which found over 80% express a dislike for people with red hair, and also that the skin colour of most redheads was the most disliked of the eight skin colours proposed in a prior experiment.

Takeda and colleagues pose an interesting question in their paper published in 2006 in the academic periodical, 'Journal of Human Behaviour in the Social Environment' - should hair colour be included in the anti-discrimination legislation? They point out if selection of CEOs is partly based on hair colour, as their research indicates, does it constitute discriminatory prejudice?

The authors note that in the US, for example, colour as currently defined in the statutory basis for non-discrimination in employment, refers to the shade of a person's skin, and not race alone. This is because within a race, a variety of skin colours can exist. There is well-documented bias in favour of lighter skin so US discrimination laws refer to skin colour, but, in the light of recent research, should they now also include hair colour?