Sex Appeal, Debt, and Deceit: The Science of a Saturday Night
By Heath Shive
Are you the sexiest beast in town? Congratulations!
But there is also a price.
The biology that's hard-wired into our bodies drives us to action. All actions have consequences. One of the consequences is debt...as no doubt you have experienced after a weekend out.
To the science of Saturday night and its bio-economics!
Players Are Poor?
In 2008, Daniel Kruger released a paper that showed that the more sexually active a man was – thus “successful” in evolutionary terms – the more likely he had large credit card debt. The group tested was comprised of men between the ages of 18 to 45, from different zip codes, incomes, and marital status. But the results were the same. The men who admitted to the largest number of sexual encounters also admitted to having the smallest savings and higher debt.
Higher mating success correlated directly to higher financial consumption.
Mating Needs Money?
Kruger's study is cited - among many others - by psychologists Glenn Geher and Scott Kaufman in their amazing book Mating Intelligence Unleashed. Despite the goofy title, this book is the most comprehensive text on the subject of evolutionary psychology (“mating intelligence”) today!
Geher and Kaufman pointed to Kruger’s study for a reason: to show that deceit can be part of a mating strategy too.
Kruger’s study showed that “wealth signals” – expressed as higher consumption – were not the same as real wealth. By definition, someone who spends everything doesn’t have “wealth,” they have the opposite – called “debt.”
You don’t own a car or house until you make the last payment. You can lose your job. Debt can ruin your credit score. But high financial consumption still “signals” wealth and so can be an effective mating strategy.
Women Use Money and Deceit Too?
Yes, women can be guilty of deceitful mating strategies as well!
For starters, women spend much more money than men on makeup and clothing. Creams and moisturizers can hide wrinkles and smooth skin. High heel shoes lift the buttocks and tone the calves. Hair dye conceals the gray. Makeup can enhance sensuality. Provocative clothing (high heels, short skirts, décolletage, etc.) are ways of provoking a sexually exciting response…even when she herself is not in a sexually aroused state.
In another study, researchers found that women could lie about other things to provoke male desire. For example, she could lie about wanting a short- or long-term relationship, about wanting children, or even how much she likes sex!
Deceiving Is Believing?
There’s an old maxim: Fake it till you make it. And sometimes we fool ourselves!
In a study - by researchers Saad and Vongas (2008) - male subjects were given two cars to drive: a “clunker” and a Porsche. Their testosterone levels were measured afterwards. After driving the Porsche, the subjects’ testosterone levels were boosted!
Higher financial consumption is not only more attractive, it can genuinely make you feel sexier too!
So in a way, our spending can deceive us too.
Just because a strategy can be effective doesn’t mean that it’s for the best. Debt is poison to long-term finances. You need savings to build wealth.
Deceiving people with a false sexual allure is not going to be successful in the long-term either. That’s why we have reputations. Is such deceit a sound basis for a relationship?
The mating instinct drives us. What price are we really willing to pay?
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Buss, D.M. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating. Basic Books, 2003.
Geher, Glenn and Kaufman, Scott. Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Haselton, M. G., Buss, D.M., Oubaid, V., & Angleitner, A. (2005). Sex, lies, and strategic interference: The psychology deception between the sexes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 3-23.
Kruger, D.J. (2008) Male financial consumption is associated with higher mating intentions and mating success. Evolutionary Psychology, 6, 603-612.
Saad, G., & Vongas, J. (2008). The effect of conspicuous consumption on men’s testosterone levels. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 110, 80-92.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.