Male university students are shallower than their female counterparts - when it comes to sex, suggests a new study.
Researchers found physical attractiveness plays a much larger role for university-aged men than women when making decisions about the other party’s sexual interest.
Female students instead notice style of clothing styles and emotional cues, according to the study.
Around 500 students were asked to give their first impressions about the current sexual interest of women in a series of photographs.
Both men and women focused on non-verbal emotional cues when making snap decisions.
Participants - 276 female and 220 male students - were presented with photographs of different women and had to express their first thoughts on whether the women showed sexual interest or not.
Half of the participants received instructions beforehand on certain nonverbal emotional cues, such as body language or facial expressions.
Researchers found that the students who received instruction on non-verbal cues before assessing the photographs were more likely to note emotional cues than aspects such as clothing and physical beauty when making their judgments.
All participants also completed an assessment about their attitudes towards rape, and students who held more rape-supportive views relied less on the photographed women’s emotional cues and more on their attire and their attractiveness.
These attitudes are hostile to rape victims, including false beliefs about rape and rapists, for example women enjoy sexual violence.
These appearance-related cues, such as clothing and physical beauty are less accurate nonverbal signals of a woman’s current (or momentary) sexual interest in a particular man than the woman’s nonverbal emotional cues.
The study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, found that while quick assessments about sexual cues are part of the dating game, these are easily misinterpreted and in extreme cases may play a role in unwanted sexual advances and even rape.
And lead author Dr Teresa Treat, of the University of Iowa in the US, says through cognitive training, male students can however be taught how to “read” the right sexual cues better.
She said: “The current work significantly advances our understanding of the operation and malleability of sexual-perception processes and their links to rape-supportive attitudes among both male and female college students.”
Dr Treat believes that cognitive training, including feedback on the accuracy of judgments, ultimately may play a useful role as part of sexual-assault prevention efforts.
Such training could also include aspects about the types of social settings associated with sexual advances, such as bars, house parties or in a bedroom rather than sidewalks, classes or office spaces.