Overconfidence: When we think we're more attractive than we are. 14 Jul 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 Rob 2 Comments

Many of us wish we were more confident, but is self-assuredness or arrogance attractive? Is it possible to be overconfident when it comes to love? And is there a male propensity to overestimate how attractive we are to women? We find out in this episode.

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Are We Attracted to Arrogance?
Do Men Overestimate Women’s Sexual Interest?

Don Draper is the epitome of the overconfident man. But do women find overconfident (or arrogant) men attractive?

The articles covered in the show:

Murphy, S. C., von Hippel, W., Dubbs, S. L., Angilletta Jr., M. J., Wilson, R. S., Trivers, R., et al. (in press). The role of overconfidence in romantic desirability and competition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Read summary

Perilloux, C., Muñoz-Reyes, J. A., Turiegano, E., Kurzban, R., & Pita, M. (in press). Do (non-American) men overestimate women’s sexual intentions? Evolutionary Psychological Science. Read summary


Anonymous said...

What about all the signals men miss? Women often complain that men don't pick up on the signs of interest they give.

If seducing women was vitally important for ancestral men wouldn't they have evolved to be extremely aware of the signals women give them? Maybe the way mating worked in ancestral times was very different to how it happens today.

Rob said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree that the mating market must have worked differently in the Pleistocene. For one thing, there was no Tinder back then. Except the kind that cavepeople used to invent fire. Ho ho.

Of course, there are layers of culture on top of biology. And culture changes a lot faster than our biology does. But I think we can make sensible guesses about how mating worked way back when. It's probably always been the case that men do better (evolutionarily speaking) if they take advantage of any and every opportunity for sex. For women, not so much. This is less a human thing than an animal thing. The less investing sex (normally males, unless you're a seahorse or other weirdo) tends to prefer short-term flings.

I see what you're saying about it making sense for men to pick up on signals accurately, and there has probably been evolutionary pressure on them to do that. But overperceiving interest makes sense too. Accuracy isn't always the best option. Take Robert Trivers' work on self-deception. He argues that it's better to self-deceive than to straight out lie, because humans are rubbish liars and we're more likely to convince others that something untrue is true if we convince ourselves first.

In the case of detecting signals, a man who kept badgering a woman he thought might be interested would be more likely to succeed (on average, over time) than a man who occasionally abandoned a sure thing he thought was a long shot. This unfortunately means that our ancestors were creepers. Nice thought...