The Dr. is IN: error-management theory


Relationships: they're always a bit sticky, sort of like the outside of a honey jar. Even more sticky than an actual relationship can be the getting INTO a relationship. Does she like me? Does he think I'm fat? Why is she staring at my receding hairline? Am I wearing too much makeup?

Well here's some new scientific advice for all those looking to start relationships lifted straight from an old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song: RELAX.

According to this article in The Economist on a study recently published in Evolution and Human Behavior by Sarah Hill, a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin, people of both sexes think the sexual competition they face is stronger than it really is.

Dr Hill showed heterosexual men and women photographs of people. She asked them to rate both how attractive those of their own sex would be to the opposite sex, and how attractive the members of the opposite sex were. She then compared the scores for the former with the scores for the latter, seen from the other side. Men thought that the men they were shown were more attractive to women than they really were, and women thought the same of the women. Dr Hill had predicted this outcome, thanks to error-management theory—the idea that when people (or, indeed, other animals) make errors of judgment, they tend to make the error that is least costly.

This explains why most men think a woman is coming on to them when all she is doing is being friendly. Trying but being rejected comes at little cost, except getting the old feelings hurt a bit. Whereas mistakenly believing she's not interested, and NOT trying to seduce her means, evolutionary speaking, the end of the human race.

The study also concluded that women undervalue signs that men are interested in commitment. "That, the idea goes, is because a woman who guesses wrongly that a man intends to stick around could end up raising a child alone."

So take heart followers of the _floss! And take some someone else's' heart while you're at it. The Dr. is out"¦